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Servant Leaders

During those days the number of Jesus’ followers kept multiplying greatly. But a complaint was brought against those who spoke Aramaic[a] by the Greek-speaking Jews,[b] who felt their widows were being overlooked during the daily distribution of food.

The twelve apostles called a meeting of all the believers and told them, “It is not advantageous for us to be pulled away from the word of God to wait on tables. We want you to carefully select[c] from among yourselves seven godly men. Make sure they are honorable, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and we will give them the responsibility of this crucial ministry of serving. That will enable us to give our full attention to prayer and preaching the word of God.”

Everyone in the church loved this idea.[d] So they chose seven men. One of them was Stephen,[e] who was known as a man full of faith and overflowing with the Holy Spirit. Along with him they chose Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas from Antioch,[f] who had converted to Judaism. All seven stood before the apostles, who laid their hands on them and prayed for them, commissioning them to this ministry.[g]

God’s word reigned supreme[h] and kept spreading. The number of Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem quickly grew and increased by the day. Even a great number of Jewish priests became believers and were obedient to the faith!

Stephen, who was a man full of grace and supernatural power, performed many astonishing signs and wonders and mighty miracles among the people.[i] This upset some men belonging to a sect who called themselves the Men Set Free.[j] They were Libyans,[k] Egyptians,[l] and Turks.[m]

They all confronted Stephen to argue[n] with him. 10 But the Holy Spirit gave Stephen remarkable wisdom to answer them. His words were prompted by the Holy Spirit, and they could not refute what he said. 11 So the Men Set Free conspired in secret to find those who would bring false accusations against Stephen and lie about him by saying, “We heard this man speak blasphemy against Moses and God.”

12 The Men Set Free agitated the crowd, the elders, and the religious scholars,[o] then seized Stephen and forcefully took him before the supreme council. 13 One after another, false witnesses stepped forward and accused Stephen, saying, “This man never stops denigrating our temple and our Jewish law. 14 For we have heard him teach that Jesus of Nazareth will destroy the temple and change the traditions and customs that Moses handed down to us.”[p]

15 Every member of the supreme council focused his gaze on Stephen, for right in front of their eyes, while being falsely accused, his face glowed as though he had the face of an angel![q]


  1. 6:1 Or “the Hebrews” (converts from orthodox Judaism). There was one dominant language in Israel: Aramaic. However, the issue between the two groups was more than merely a language difference. Those who spoke Aramaic were natives, while the Greek-speaking minority were most likely Jews from other nations.
  2. 6:1 Or “Hellenists.” These were Jewish converts who sought to maintain a Greek language and culture and were predominantly Alexandrian Jews. These may have been Jews who were scattered throughout the Roman Empire, including Greece and Alexandria, Egypt.
  3. 6:3 The Aramaic is “select with awe,” that is, in the presence of the Lord.
  4. 6:5 The Aramaic can be translated “This proposal appeared beautiful.”
  5. 6:5 It is most likely that Stephen was not a gentile but a Jewish believer. His Hebrew name, Tzephania, is transliterated into Greek as Astaphanos (Stephen in English). Tzephania is the name of the prophet Zephaniah. Zephaniah means “Yah has treasured [him].” Stephen was not a gentile proselyte to Judaism but a Greek-speaking Hebrew. He spoke in Acts 7 and addressed his hearers as “fellow Jews and fathers.” Although he was a powerful minister of the Word, Stephen was humble to accept the task of serving.
  6. 6:5 The Aramaic can be translated “Nicholas, the hero of Antioch.”
  7. 6:6 The practice of laying on of hands indicates approval, impartation of authority, commissioning, and ordaining. As the Old Testament priest laid hands on a sacrifice and transferred the guilt of sins upon the animal, the New Testament apostles laid their hands on men and appointed them to ministry. See Lev. 16:21–22; Num. 27:18–20; Heb. 6:2.
  8. 6:7 As translated from the Aramaic.
  9. 6:8 Stephen was not an apostle, yet he worked miracles of power through his ministry. The miraculous is not for the few, but for the many.
  10. 6:9 Or “the Synagogue of the Freedmen.” Although most expositors view these as former Hebrew slaves, the Aramaic is “Libertines.” It is possible that these were pagan cult members who followed a Roman mythical hero named Liber. From this word we get the English word liberty. They emphasized drunkenness and promiscuity. They boasted in their freedom from all moral laws as the Men Set Free to do whatever they desired. They were so hedonistic that even other pagans viewed them as wicked. These Libertines were the antithesis to the true freedom that comes through Christ (John 8:36).
  11. 6:9 Or “Cyrene,” a region of eastern Libya.
  12. 6:9 Or “Alexandria,” a large Egyptian city on the Mediterranean.
  13. 6:9 Or “Cilicia” (southeastern coastal area of Turkey) and “the province of Asia” (that is, Asia Minor, comprised of western and southwestern Turkey). Both regions are included in the word Turks.
  14. 6:9 The Aramaic is “word wrestle.”
  15. 6:12 Or “scribes.” These were considered the experts in the law of Moses.
  16. 6:14 The Aramaic is “We heard him teach that Jesus the Nazarene is the one who freed our nation and changed the feasts that Moses observed.”
  17. 6:15 As he faced persecution and martyrdom, Stephen’s face lit up with heaven’s light, shining as an angelic messenger. What manifests in your life when you are opposed and falsely accused?

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