Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost - A person every way properly fitted for his work; and thus qualified to be the first martyr of the Christian Church.
Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch - A heathen Greek, who had not only believed in the God of Israel, but had also received circumcision, and consequently was a proselyte of the covenant; for, had he been only a proselyte of the gate, the Jews could not have associated with him. On the word proselyte, see the note on Exodus 12:43. As this is the only proselyte mentioned here, we may presume that all the rest were native Jews. From this Nicolas, it is supposed that the sect called Nicolaitans, mentioned Revelation 2:6, Revelation 2:15, derived their origin. Dr. Lightfoot doubts this, and rather inclines to derive the name "from ניכולא nicola, let us eat together; those brutes encouraging each other to eat meats offered to idols, like those in Isaiah 22:13, who said, Let us eat flesh and drink wine, etc." Both Irenaeus and Epiphanius derive this sect from Nicolas the deacon. Clemens Alexandrinus gives this Nicolas a good character, even while he allows that the sect who taught the community of wives pretended to derive their origin from him. See on Revelation 2:6; (note).
And the saying - “The word” - the counsel, or command,
A proselyte - A “proselyte” is one who is converted from one religion to another. See the notes on Matthew 23:15. The word does not mean here that he was a convert to “Christianity” - which was true - but that he had been converted at Antioch from paganism to the Jewish religion. As this is the only proselyte mentioned among the seven deacons, it is evident that the others were native-born Jews, though a part of them might have been born out of Palestine, and have been of the denomination of “Grecians,” or “Hellenists.”
Of Antioch - This city, often mentioned in the New Testament (Acts 11:19-20, Acts 11:26; Acts 15:22, Acts 15:35; Galatians 2:11, etc.), was situated in Syria, on the river Orontes, and was formerly called “Riblath.” It is not mentioned in the Old Testament, but is frequently mentioned in the Apocrypha. It was built by Seleucus Nicanor, b.c. 301, and was named “Antioch,” in honor of his father Antiochus. It became the seat of empire of the Syrian kings of the Macedonian race, and afterward of the Roman governors of the eastern provinces. In this place the disciples of Christ were first called “Christians,” Acts 11:26. Josephus says it was the third city in size of the Roman provinces, being inferior only to Seleucia and Alexandria. It was long, indeed, the most powerful city of the East. The city was almost square, had many gates, was adorned with fine fountains, and possessed great fertility of soil and commercial opulence. It was subject to earthquakes, and was often almost destroyed by them. In 588 a.d. above 60,000 persons perished in it in this manner. In 970 a.d. an army of 100,000 Saracens besieged it, and took it. In 1268 a.d. it was taken possession of by the Sultan of Egypt, who demolished it, and placed it under the dominion of the Turks. It is now called “Antakia,” and until the year 1822 it occupied a remote corner of the ancient enclosure of its walls, its splendid buildings being reduced to hovels, and its population living in Turkish debasement. It contains now about 10,000 inhabitants (Robinson‘s Calmet). This city should be distinguished from Antioch in Pisidia, also mentioned in the New Testament, Acts 13:14.
Men are appointed to proclaim the truth in new places. These men must have funds for their support. And they must have a fund to draw upon for the help of the poor and needy whom they meet in their work. The benevolence that they show toward the poor gives influence to their efforts to proclaim the truth. Their willingness to help those in need gains for them the gratitude of those they help and the approval of Heaven.—Letter 32, 1903. WM 275.1
Aided From Special Contributions, Not Regular Church Income—In the sixth chapter of Acts we are shown how when men were to be selected to fill positions in the church, the matter was brought before the Lord, and most earnest prayer was offered for guidance. The widows and fatherless were to be supported by contributions from the church. Their wants were not to be relieved by the church but by special donations. The tithe was to be consecrated to the Lord, and was always to be used for the support of the ministry. Men must be chosen to oversee the work of caring for the poor, to look after the proper distribution of the means in hand, that none among the believers should suffer for the necessaries of life.—Letter 9, 1899. WM 275.2
None Suffer If God's Plans Are Followed—There is nothing, after their recognition of the claims of God, that more distinguishes the laws given by Moses than the liberal, tender, and hospitable spirit enjoined toward the poor. Although God had promised greatly to bless His people, it was not His design that poverty should be wholly unknown among them. He declared that the poor should never cease out of the land. There would ever be those among His people who would call into exercise their sympathy, tenderness, and benevolence. Then, as now, persons were subject to misfortune, sickness, and loss of property; yet so long as they followed the instruction given by God, there were no beggars among them, neither any who suffered for food.—Patriarchs and Prophets, 530, 531. WM 275.3Read in context »
Gospel ministers are to keep their office free from all things secular or political, employing all their time and talents in lines of Christian effort. 7T 252.1
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This chapter is based on Acts 6:1-7.
“And in those days, when the number of the disciples multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.” These Grecians were residents of other countries, where the Greek language was spoken. By far the larger number of converts were Jews who spoke Hebrew; but these had lived in the Roman Empire, and spoke only Greek. Murmurings began to rise among them that the Grecian widows were not so liberally supplied as the needy among the Hebrews. Any partiality of this kind would have been grievous to God; and prompt measures were taken to restore peace and harmony to the believers. SR 259.1Read in context »
Their teaching was a second edition of the teachings of Christ, the utterance of simple, grand truths that flashed light into darkened minds, and converted thousands in a day. The disciples began to understand that Christ was their Advocate in the heavenly courts, and that He was glorified. They could speak because the Holy Spirit gave them utterance (Manuscript 32, 1900). 6BC 1056.1Read in context »