Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.
The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.
If there is one notion that many Christians have that is false about the early church is that it was perfect. Far from it, it had people being people and that means there were going to be problems. In this case there is a little bit of prejudice going on in that the Greek Jewish widows are not receiving the same treatment as the native-born Jewish widows when it came to the daily allotment of food. The apostles are called in to solve the problem and their solution is pretty practical.
One of the problems one might have is looking at the apostles as lazy but the thing is they were quite busy preaching and handling the doctrinal side of the church. they were also baptizing people and doing basically the spiritual side of the church work. They see the problem of how this ministry cold take all their time and pull from the other things they are responsible for so they tell people to select some men from among them to do this job. The thing is the qualifications are still very much spiritual in nature and in the end everyone likes the idea.
The seven men selected have one interesting thing about them given the nature of the problem. All of them have Greek names which indicates that part of the process was to get people who would be sympathetic to the plight of the widows and their situation. After selected they are prayed for and go to work.
There is in interesting point to be made at verse seven that at this point not only is the church growing but now some of the priesthood were becoming obedient to the faith. This is a major switch seeing it had been these same priests that had been opposed to the apostles in previous chapters and they had some part in Jesus’ death as well. The faith has now penetrated some hard hearts at this point. The faith is largely still contained in Jerusalem although it is probably spreading by travelers. It also is confined to the Jews but events are about to be set in motion to change that.
Next: Stephen Before the Council