Acts 6 – Stephen: A New Hope

Acts 6 Bible with Splendid 70 percent Cacao Dark Chocolate

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Today’s PassageActs 6

Acts 6 begins with strife between the Greek-speaking Jews and the Jews native to Judea. You may be familiar with the situation, in which those who provided meals for the needy were overlooking the widows among the Greek-speaking Jews. As I read it today, I found that I associated it in my mind with Biblical themes of compassion for the poor and opposition to racism, such as we see in Acts 2:44-45 and Galatians 3:28. But Luke includes the story of the overlooked widows to introduce a larger story: Stephen’s martyrdom.

Stephen first appears as a part of the solution to the widows’ problem. The twelve apostles have their metaphorical plates full with preaching the word of God, but they recognize the need to fill these Hellenistic Jewish widows’ literal plates as well. So they set up a group to administer meals for the poor. Stephen is one of these men, and Luke’s account singles him out as “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (6:5). The only other person on the list who gets any description beyond his mere name is Nicolas, whom Luke notes is a Gentile convert to Judaism originally from Antioch. If I got to choose between Luke chronicling either my godly character or my hometown, I’d choose the former every time.

So, as he shows up on the scene, Stephen distinguishes himself as a servant. The gospel is advancing, even several Jewish priests are becoming followers of Jesus, and Stephen is among those performing miracles by the Holy Spirit (7-8). But his activity in the public sphere draws unsavory attention from a group of men from the “Synagogue of the Freedmen” (9), who initially argue with him, then escalate to lies, slander, and false accusations before the Jewish Council when they’re unable to contend with his debating prowess.

What happens before the Council will become a watershed for Christianity, but it happens in tomorrow’s chapter. The incidents with the Hellenistic widows and the Synagogue of the Freedmen are just an introduction to Stephen’s story, and Acts 7 is its conclusion. Whoops, I gave away the ending.

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