Journey through the New TestamentBook of Acts with me. The plan is simple. Read ONE chapter a day. Blog or journal 5* things you learned that you previously didn't know and ask 5* questions about the chapter that you'll ponder all week. Let's go!
** You'll probably learn way more than 5 things and have more than 5 questions about each chapter. That's totally fine. The more the merrier!
QUESTION 1: Why was “serving tables” not as important as prayer and ministry of the word? After all, Jesus humbly served His own disciples when He demonstrated servanthood by washing their feet (John 13:1-17).
QUESTION 2: What was the practice of “laying on of hands” and what was its impact on those whom hands were laid on?
QUESTION 3: “ …and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.” Up until this moment in Acts 6:7, all who had come to faith in Jesus were lay citizens. What changed in the events of Acts 6 that suddenly impacted the religious leaders in the temple (who had previously been opposing the Gospel)?
QUESTION 4: How did the sudden inclusion of “ …a great many of the priests” into the Church change the dynamics of the Church? These priests were men who’d spent most their adult life following God in a very specific way (ceremonial laws), and who were now subject to a groups of disciples who were a mix of fishermen, zealot, and tax collector they would have considered “unclean” for temple service.
QUESTION 5: What was it about Stephen that set him apart as a man “…full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” (v.3), and a “…full of faith and power, [who] did great wonders and signs among the people.” (v.8), and a man whom his enemies could not resist because of the wisdom of the Holy Spirit by which he spoke (v.10)? Jesus, this is my prayer: Lord Jesus, grant me a heart completely humbled before you that I too might serve your Church and the world as a man full of your Holy Spirit, full of faith, power, and your wisdom!
QUESTION 6: What does it mean that the persecuting counsel interrogating Stephen “…saw his face as the face of an angel”?
WHAT I LEARNED
INSIGHT 1: The arrival of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost had drawn to Christ (in Jerusalem) Jews from every part of the known world (Acts 2:9-11), as a result, the Church was profoundly ethnically diverse. Even the apostles weren’t from Jerusalem, they were Galileans (Matthew 4:18-22) and their primary language would have been Aramaic, while the Jews from diaspora would have spoken Greek. Jesus echoed the words of the prophet Isaiah (56:7) when He said in Mark 11:17 that, "‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR THE NATIONS'", a verse that powerfully captures what the early Church was to be and do!
INSIGHT 2: Even in the healthiest of Churches, the sinful nature still rears its ugly head in believer’s attitude toward one another. The Hebraic Jews (whether intentionally or unintentionally) favored their own widows in the distribution of food over the Hellenistic Jewish widows (Jews living outside of Palestine as a result of the diaspora).
INSIGHT 3: Based on the apostles response starting in verse 3, the primary tasks (1 Timothy 3:1-7) of the leaders in the Church is prayer, ministry of the word, and the appointment of “deacons” who will faithfully serve the more practical daily needs of the Church. “Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men ” (v.3)
INSIGHT 4: The criteria for “deacons” (1 Timothy 3:8-13) in the Church... “good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;” (v.3b). This translates as:
- Men who have a good reputation among Christians in the Church and non-Christians outside of the Church in his community.
- Men whose life demonstrates a sensitivity and attentiveness to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
- Men who are well versed in the scriptures and can rightly apply it to worldly situations they face.
INSIGHT 5: Among the seven men chosen were Stephen and Philip, who would become prominent influencers later in the Church and in the Acts narrative (Acts 7; 8:26-40; 21:8-14).
INSIGHT 6: How the "laying on of hands" works:
- In Acts 8:18 and 9:17, we learn that “… through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given…”
- In Acts 9:17, we learn that the laying on of hands is connected to healing when Ananias laid hands on a blinded Paul, and “…immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once” (v.18).
- In Acts 13:3 and here in Acts 6:6, we learn that the laying on of hands is connected to the commissioning and sending off (by the Church) into the missions field for ministry.
INSIGHT 7: It would appear that from Acts, chapter 2 where “about three thousand souls were added to the Church” to this moment in Acts 6, the Church had experience such an explosive growth that the Luke (author of Acts) simply stopped keeping track of the number. Acts 6:1 says “….in those days…the number of the disciples was multiplying…” and by verse 7, it says, “Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem.” While this was an exciting and powerful move of the Holy Spirit, from a human perspective, it would have looked like a logistical nightmare, especially when you consider that many of the Jewish believers in Jerusalem were from out of town! (Acts 2:9-11).
INSIGHT 8: Acts 6:7 is a tipping point in the early Church because the Holy Spirit’s work spreads from “the streets” into the temple, the epicenter of opposition against the Church, “… and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.” It would seem that this is what triggered the violent persecution from the temple leaders that would begin shortly.
INSIGHT 9: What happens to Stephen in the closing section of chapter 6 and in all of chapter 7 is similar to Jesus’ experience, which is a stark reminder of the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:16-25 and John 15:20, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”
INSIGHT 10: Considering that Stephen was, a man “…full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” (v.3), and a “…full of faith and power, [who] did great wonders and signs among the people.” (v.8), and a man whom his enemies could not resist because of the wisdom of the Holy Spirit by which he spoke (v.10), LORD, THIS IS MY PRAYER: Lord Jesus, grant me a heart completely humbled before you that I too might serve your Church and the world as a man full of your Holy Spirit, full of faith, power, and your wisdom!
INSIGHT 11: In light of the fact that Stephen was a man FULL of the Holy Spirit, it would appear that in the final hour of his life, the Holy Spirit of God decided to visibly manifest the brightness of the glory of God on Stephen’s face as was the case with Moses after descending the mountain post-meeting with God (Exodus 34:29-30, 35). It would also explain why, right before his last breath in his stoning, it says in Acts 7:55-56, “55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 56 and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
Husband. Dad. Pastor. Nigerian American. Storyteller. Aspiring Prayer Warrior. Steak Lover. Follower of Jesus Christ reminding you that God the Father still loves you.