Read thru New Testament Devotional – June 23, 2017

June 23

 

Acts 6

Acts 6:1-7-The Greek speaking (Hellenistic) Jews who were followers of Jesus complained that their widows were not being properly cared for by the Apostles…while the widows of Jews who spoke Aramaic (Hebrew), were.

 

What languages were spoken and written during the days when Jesus lived and the New Testament was written (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek)?

See: http://www.letusreason.org/Biblexp177.htm;

http://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2012/06/what-was-the-original-language-of-the-bible/; http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Articles/Jesus_Hebrew/Greek_NT/greek_nt.html

 

The Apostles called a meeting and said that it was not right for them to neglect what they were supposed to be doing, their primary ministry (:4-ministering through prayer and by proclaiming the Word of God) in order to serve tables.  So, they directed the congregation to select seven men to "put in charge of this task" (:3).  These men were not necessarily to do the ministry themselves…because there was probably a large number of widows…but, they were to oversee the ministry and make certain that it was done.  They chose: Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas (all of them have Greek names).  While their job was one of service to other people…in order for the ministry to be properly accomplished these seven men were to have certain spiritual characteristics:

(:3) Good reputation

Full of the Spirit

(Full of) wisdom

Notice that Stephen exhibited additional spiritual characteristics:

(:5,8) Full of faith

Full of grace

(Full of) power

These men were not “deacons” in the sense of holding an office in the church (cf. 1 Timothy 3:8).  However, they were the predecessors and provided a template for that ministry.  The word “serve” (:1,2) has the same root word as the word “deacon”.  Many people were being saved.  Some of the priests were even being saved.

Acts 6:8-15-Stephen (one of those chosen) was performing many signs and wonders.  A group from the “Synagogue of the Freedmen” (these were Jews) tried to debate with him but were unable to deal with his wisdom and the Spirit speaking through him.

 

What was the “Synagogue of the Freedmen”?

Pulpit Commentary

The Libertines were, as Chrysostom explains it, "freedmen of the Romans." They are thought to consist chiefly of the descendants of the Jews who were taken prisoners by Pompey, and deported to Rome, who were afterwards emancipated and returned to Judaea, though some (Meyer, 1:1) settled in Rome.

Gill’s Commentary

Then there arose certain of the synagogue,...Being filled with indignation at the doctrine of Stephen, and with envy at his miracles, they rose up in great wrath, and warmly opposed him: and they be longed to that synagogue which is called the synagogue of the libertines; or free men: it is a Roman name, and signifies the sons of free men; and these were either the sons of such Jews, who of servants, or slaves, had been made "free men"; or rather such Jews whose parents were born free, or had obtained their freedom at Rome, or in some free city under the Roman government, as Paul at Tarsus; since it is not so easy to account for it, that there should be a peculiar synagogue for the former, whereas there might be for the latter, seeing they could not speak the language of the native Jews.

Were there many synagogues in Jerusalem?

There were said to have been four hundred and eighty synagogues in Jerusalem alone in the time of our Savior (Olshausen, on Matthew 4:23). But this is probably a fanciful number; only it may be taken as an indication of the great number of such places of Jewish worship. Tiberias is said to have had twelve synagogues. Ten grown-up people was the minimum congregation of a synagogue. It seems by the enumeration of synagogues in our text that the foreign Jews had each their own synagogue at Jerusalem, as Chrysostom supposes, where men of the same nation attended when they came to Jerusalem

(http://biblehub.com/acts/6-9.htm)

(also see: http://jewishstudies.eteacherbiblical.com/jerusalem-synagogue-freedmen-prof-peter-shirokov-eteacherbiblical/)

 

They then sent false witnesses against him who claimed that he had blasphemed.  They claimed that Stephen had said that Jesus was going to destroy the Temple (see John 2:18-21; Matthew 26:61) and change the religious practices that had been given by Moses.  He was brought before the Sanhedrin...and "all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel" (:15).

Prayer: Lord, please raise up men and women who want to serve You, by serving other people.  And Father, please let Your Spirit speak through me with the wisdom that You gave to Stephen.

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