Search Bible
Click for Help   Click for QuickNav   Click for Advanced Search Options
Search KJV
Version Selector Down Arrow

Search a pre-defined list

OR Select a range of biblical books



OR Custom Selection:

Use semicolons to separate groups:
'Gen;Jdg;Psa-Mal' or 'Rom 3-12;Mat 1:15;Mat 5:12-22'

Your Bible Version is the KJV
Version Selector Up Arrow
KJV King James Version
NKJV New King James Version
NLT New Living Translation
NIV New International Version
ESV English Standard Version
CSB Christian Standard Bible
NASB New American Standard Bible
NET New English Translation
RSV Revised Standard Version
ASV American Standard Version
YLT Young's Literal Translation
DBY Darby Translation
WEB Webster's Bible
HNV Hebrew Names Version
RVR60 Reina-Valera 1960
VUL Latin Vulgate
WLC Westminster Leningrad Codex
LXX Septuagint
Go to Top
Link to This PageCite This Page
Version Selector Up Arrow
Version Selector Up Arrow

Cite this page

MLA format Copy link to clipboard

Note: MLA no longer requires the URL as part of their citation standard. Individual instructors or editors may still require the use of URLs.

APA format Copy link to clipboard
Chicago format Copy link to clipboard
Share this pageFollow the BLB
Version Selector Up Arrow

Share this page using one of these tools:




Or email this page to a friend:

Version Selector Up Arrow

Follow the Blue Letter Bible on:



Or subscribe to our Newsletter:

Printable Page
Left Contextbar EdgeLeft Contextbar Edge BackgroundRight Contextbar Edge2Return to CommentariesReturn to Author BiographyRight Contextbar Edge2Right Contextbar Edge BackgroundRight Contextbar Edge1
Choose a new font size and typeface

Customize your font sizeIncrease your font sizeDecrease your font sizeReturn to default font size

Choose a Bible text color
Read the Bible in blackRead the Bible in dark blueRead the Bible in blue

Customize your text type
Arial font
Trebuchet MS font
Georgia font
Times New Roman font

Customize your Hebrew text type
SBL Hebrew font
Times New Roman font
Arial font

Customize your Greek text type
Gentium font
Times New Roman font
Arial font

Close font preferences
The Blue Letter Bible
BLB Searches
Search the Bible
Search KJV
Version Selector Down Arrow

Advanced Options

Search a pre-defined list

OR Select a range of biblical books



OR Custom Selection:

Use semicolons to separate groups: 'Gen;Jdg;Psa-Mal' or 'Rom 3-12;Mat 1:15;Mat 5:12-22'


Advanced Options

Exact Match
Beginning of the Word
Any Part of the Word
Theological FAQs
Multi-Verse Retrieval
Search KJV
Version Selector Down Arrow

Line-By-Line Order:
Line-By-Line Verse-Reference  Verse-Reference
Line-By-Line Reference-Verse  Reference-Verse
Line-By-Line Separate Line  Separate Line
Line-By-Line Verse Only  Verse Only
Line-By-Line Reference Only  Reference Only
Reference Delimiters:
No Reference Delimiters  None — Jhn 1:1 KJV
Square Reference Delimiters  Square — [Jhn 1:1 KJV]
Curly Reference Delimiters  Curly — {Jhn 1:1 KJV}
Parenthesis Reference Delimiters  Parens — (Jhn 1:1 KJV)
Paragraph Order:
Paragraph Verse-Reference  Verse-Reference
Paragraph Reference-Verse  Reference-Verse
Paragraph Reference-Only  Reference-Only
Number Delimiters:*
No Verse Numbers  No Number
No Verse Delimeters  No Delimiter — 15
Square Verse Delimiters  Square — [15]
Curly Verse Delimiters  Curly — {15}
Parenthesis Verse Delimiters  Parens — (15)
Other Options:
Abbreviate Books  Abbreviate Books
Quotes Around Verses  Quotes around Verses
Remove Square Brackets  Remove Square Brackets
Sort Canonically  Sort Canonically

* 'Number Delimiters' only apply to 'Paragraph Order'

Let's Connect

Connect on Facebook Connect on Twitter Connect on Instagram Connect on Pinterest Connect on YouTube

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Daily Devotionals

Blue Letter Bible offers several daily devotional readings in order to help you refocus on Christ and the Gospel of His peace and righteousness.

Daily Bible Reading Plans

Recognizing the value of consistent reflection upon the Word of God in order to refocus one’s mind and heart upon Christ and His Gospel of peace, we provide several reading plans designed to cover the entire Bible in a year.

One-Year Plans

Two-Year Plan

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Acts 6

toggle collapse

The Appointment of Deacons and the Arrest of Stephen

A. The appointment of deacons.

1. (Act 6:1) A dispute about the distribution of assistance to widows.

Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.

a. There arose a murmuring against the Hebrews by the Hellenists: In the Book of Acts, Satan's attacks on the church have come on many different fronts. He has attempted many forms of direct opposition and intimidation, and he has tried to corrupt the church from within. These strategies have been unsuccessful. Now Satan hopes to "divide and conquer" by raising one group in the church against another.

b. The Hebrews were those Jews who were more inclined to embrace Jewish culture and were mostly from Judea. The Hellenists were those Jews who were more inclined to embrace Greek culture and were mostly from the Diaspora (all over the Roman Empire).

i. For the most part, Hebrews tended to regard Hellenists as unspiritual compromisers with Greek culture, and Hellenists regarded Hebrews as holier-than-thou traditionalists. There was already a natural suspicion between the two groups, and Satan tried to take advantage of that standing suspicion.

c. Because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution: Apparently, some of the Hellenistic Jews believed that the widows among the Hebrew Jews were receiving better care.

i. "It is not suggested that the oversight was deliberate … more probably the cause was poor administration or supervision." (Stott)

ii. "In a congregation of that size, it was inevitable that someone's needs would be overlooked." (MacArthur)

iii. Satan loves to use an unintentional wrong to begin a conflict. The Hellenists were right in their hearts, and the Hebrews were right in their facts. These are the perfect conditions for a church-splitting conflict!

d. The daily distribution: The early church took its responsibility to help support widows seriously because they often had no other support; but they also expected these widows to serve the church faithfully (1 Timothy 5:3-16).

2. (Act 6:2-4) The apostles arrange for deacons to be nominated.

Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word."

a. It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables: The apostles explain that they should remain faithful to their central calling, which was prayer and to the ministry of the word. It would be wrong for them to spend their time administrating the practical needs of the widows.

i. They were wise in delegating these responsibilities. God has not called these apostles to be everything for the church. God has and will raise up others to serve in other ways.

ii. A pastor should not have his time consumed in tasks that are essentially serving tables. Yet there is something wrong with a pastor who considers some tasks "beneath" him.

iii. This didn't mean that the apostles considered the work of cleaning up the widow's dinner table as beneath them. This speaks of handling the practical administration of the financial and practical details relevant to caring for the widows. "A 'table' at that time meant a place where a money changer did his collecting or exchanging of money. The deacons were elected to oversee the distribution of monies and provisions to the needy among the fellowship." (Ogilvie)

b. The fact that the apostles busied themselves with prayer andthe ministry of the word shows how energetically they did those things and how consuming it is to preach and pray rightly.

i. The ministry is a lot of work, even apart from administrative headaches. A young man said to Donald Grey Barnhouse, "I'd give the world to be able to teach the Bible like you." Looking him straight in the eye, Dr. Barnhouse replied: "Good, because that's exactly what it will cost you."

ii. We will give ourselves continually to prayer: They gave themselves to more than the ministry of the word. "Therefore, pastors must not think that they have so done their duty that they need to do no more when they have daily spent some time in teaching." (Calvin)

c. Seek out from among you: The qualifications described by the apostles describe the character of the men to be chosen (of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom). The apostles are far more concerned with the internal quality of the men than their outward appearance or image.

i. Seven men: Why did they choose seven? It may have been so that one could oversee the needs of the widows a different day of the week.

d. The idea behind full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom is that these men should be both spiritually minded and practically minded. This can be a hard combination to find!

e. Whom we may appoint: The final decision rested with the apostles. They asked the congregation to nominate the men (seek out from among you), but the decision really rested with the apostles. This was not an exercise of congregational government, though the apostles wisely wanted and valued the input from the congregation.

f. Whom we may appoint over this business: Seven men will be chosen to serve tables. It was simple, practical service that they are appointed to; yet they must be well qualified for this as well, especially because of the danger of division.

i. Therefore, the men need to be of good reputation. They had to be men the church family felt confident in.

3. (Act 6:5-7) The selection of deacons.

And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.

a. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: We can't say this was a good decision only because the people liked it. Yet, God was confirming the wisdom of the apostles through agreement among the people. The apostles were being led of the Lord, not popular opinion. Yet, because they were all in basic agreement, they agreed on how the Lord was leading the apostles.

b. The seven men all have Greek names, indicating that they are probably Hellenists themselves; the people (and the apostles) show great sensitivity to the offended Hellenists by appointing Hellenists to take care of the widows' distribution.

c. In this case, the people nominated the men, and the apostles approved them by laying hands on them, after praying for God's guidance and approval.

i. Why did they lay hands on them if all they were doing was providing for the practical needs of these widows? Do you really have to be "spiritual" to do this kind of practical service? But practical service is spiritual service. The same Greek word is used for both distribution (Acts 6:1) and ministry (Acts 6:4). The idea behind the word in both places is service, whether in practical or spiritual ways.

ii. People should count it a privilege to serve the Lord in these basic, practical ways, instead of seeing it as an "unspiritual" burden. Apart from the cross, Jesus showed the ultimate measure of love by simply washing His disciples feet (John 13:1-5).

iii. Nowhere in this chapter of Acts are these men called deacons, but most consider they were the first to fulfill the office of deacon as described in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. The word deacon simply means "servant," and these men were certainly servants. They could claim the same promise for faithful service that Paul specifically makes to deacons in 1 Timothy 3:13: For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

d. Considering all that could have gone wrong when Satan tried to attack through division, everyone involved deserves much credit.

i. Those with the complaint, the Hellenists, did the right thing: They made the need known, instead of complaining and whining, and they trusted the solution of the apostles.

ii. Those of the other party, the Hebrews, did the right thing: They recognized that the Hellenists had a legitimate need and they trusted the solution of the apostles.

iii. The seven chosen men did the right thing: They accepted the call to unglamorous service.

iv. The apostles did the right thing: They responded to the need without distracting themselves from their central task.

e. And the word of God spread: Because this situation was handled with wisdom and sensitivity to those who were offended, a potentially divisive issue was defused, and the gospel continued to go forth. Even a great many of the priests came to faith in Jesus.

i. Satan's strategy failed. He tried to divide the church, and it did not work. But Satan's second strategy also failed. The apostles were not distracted from the focus of ministry God had for them.

B. Stephen's witness and arrest.

1. (Act 6:8-10) Stephen's witness for God.

And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.

a. God did great wonders and signs through the apostles, but also through others like Stephen, one of the servants chosen to help the widows. Stephen was used of God because he was full of faith and power.

b. Disputing with Stephen: Stephen debated with Jews from the Synagogue of the Freedmen, empowered by the Holy Spirit, he shows greater wisdom (they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke).

i. There is no indication that Stephen, in himself, was smarter, better educated, or a better debater than these Jews. We should attribute his upper hand in the debate to the Spirit by which he spoke.

ii. Those from Cilicia: "The mention of Cilicia suggests this may have been Paul's synagogue before he was converted. He came from Tarsus in Cilicia." (Lovett)

2. (Act 6:11-14) The opposing Jews, defeated in debate, induce false accusations against Stephen.

Then they secretly induced men to say, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God." And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council. They also set up false witnesses who said, "This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us."

a. They stirred up the people: The opponents of Stephen could do nothing until they got popular opinion on their side. Previously, persecution against the apostles had been limited because popular opinion was with them (Acts 2:47, 5:26).

i. They secretly induced men to say: The opponents of Stephen could not win a fair fight, so they used lies and secret strategies to shape popular opinion against Stephen.

ii. Popular opinion can be easily shaped. The same crowds that praised Jesus (Luke 19:35-40) soon called for His crucifixion (Luke 23:18-23); then they loved the apostles (Acts 2:47, 5:26) but now cry out against Stephen. This is why we should never let popular opinion shape the vision or focus of the church, but let it rest on God's eternal Word.

iii. How did Luke know what the opponents of Stephen secretly induced men to say? Possibly, it was because a man named Saul of Tarsus was among the opponents, because some of them were from Paul's home region of Cilicia. Saul (who became known as Paul the apostle) may have told Luke about this incident.

b. The accusers brought their charges: We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God … this man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law … Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change customs. Significantly, many of the same false accusations were leveled against Jesus (Matthew 26:59-61). You are in a good place when people are treating you like they treated Jesus!

c. Why would they make such accusations? Because Stephen was clearly teaching that Jesus was greater than Moses; that Jesus was God; that Jesus was greater than the temple; that Jesus was the fulfillment of the law; and that Jesus was greater than their religious customs and traditions.

i. Of course, Stephen would never teach against Moses and God, but his glorification of Jesus would be twisted. Stephen would never speak blasphemous words against this holy place (the temple), but he would not make it an idol as many Jews in that day did. Stephen had his words twisted, and a false accusation was brought against him.

ii. "Whatever form of words Stephen used which gave rise to the accusation that he said Jesus would destroy the temple, he certainly grasped and expounded the inner meaning of Jesus' own words." (Bruce).

d. Several commentators imply or directly state that the thrust of Stephen's message - that Jesus supersedes the temple and its localized worship - was a doctrine that the apostles themselves must have shied away from proclaiming. This is purely unwarranted speculation. The demonstrated boldness of the apostles is undeniable proof that they withheld no truth from fear that it might be too controversial.

3. (Act 6:15) Stephen's countenance when accused.

And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.

a. His face as the face of an angel: Stephen's face did not have that mild, soft, angelic look that we see in so many paintings; nor was it a look of stern judgment and wrath. Instead, his face reflected the perfect peace and confidence of one that knows and trusts his God. His face had the same reflected glory that Moses had as he beheld God intimately.

i. "The description is of a person who is close to God and reflects some of His glory as a result of being in his presence (Exodus 34:29ff)." (Marshall)

b. The face of an angel also means that Stephen was at perfect peace. His face was not filled with fear or terror, because he knew his life was in God's hands and that Jesus never forsakes His people.

© 2001 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


Bible Search

Multiverse Retrieval

LexiConc Search

FAQ Search

Browse Dictionary Topics

Bible Reference

Encyclopedias / Dictionaries

Introductions to the Bible

Topical Indexes

Charts and Outlines


Maps / Images

Bible Commentaries

Text Commentaries

Audio & Video Commentaries

Theological Resources

Articles / Books

Women's Resources

Don Stewart

BLB Theological

Creeds, Catechisms, and Confessions





Digital Books

Mobile Apps for iPhone / iPad

Mobile blb.org

BLB Offline CDs

Free Web Tools


Email Devotional Sign-Up

BLB Daily Promises

Day by Day by Grace

Morning and Evening

Daily Bible Reading Plan


Video Tutorials


Theological Questions

Website Support

iApp Support

General Questions


Sowing Circle

Co-Laboring Ministries


About the BLB

Statement of Faith




Ministry FAQs


Donation Information

Contact the BLB

Hotjar - Unlimited insights from your web and mobile sites

BLB Institute

BLB Blog

Email Newsletters



Blue Letter Bible study tools make reading, searching and studying the Bible easy and rewarding.

Blue Letter Bible is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization

©2017 Blue Letter Bible


Verse Tools Arrow

Email / username or password was incorrect!

Check your email for password retrieval

Enter Your
Email or Username




Did you forget your password?

Register a new BLB account

Why won't my login from the old site work?

Complete the form below to register  [?]

Error: That Email is already registered

Error: Please provide a valid Email

Error: Passwords should have at least 6 characters

Error: Passwords do not match

Error: Please provide a valid first name

Error: That username is already taken

Error: Usernames should only contain letters, numbers, dots, dashes, or underscores

Enter Your EmailUsername

First Name


[ Cancel ]


Passwords should have at least 6 characters.
Usernames should only contain letters, numbers, dots, dashes, or underscores.

Thank you for registering. A verification email has been sent to the address you provided.

Error: That Email / Username is not registered

Enter Your Email or Username


Return to Login

Close Login