Acts 6:1-7:50 – Choosing of the Deacons and Stephen’s Death
SummaryStephen is chosen as one of the deacons to help serve among Greek-speaking members of the Christian community. He is singled out by opponents of the believers as a target of their anger, framed as a blasphemer, and martyred.
AnalysisThis passage gives a glimpse of the struggles internal to the community and those generated in public life. A difficulty in the distribution of the goods held in common arises. The widows rely on the community for material support. Those Greek-speaking widows, a smaller group in Jerusalem, believe that they are not receiving an adequate amount of help compared with the Hebrew- or Aramaic-speaking widows. The community chooses seven men of "good standing," full of the Holy Spirit, to see to the proper care and administration in the Greek-speaking community. It is the first experience of the expansion of community leadership to meet the needs of the growing and quite diverse group.
One of the seven men chosen to care for the Greek-speaking widows, Stephen, is so empowered by the Spirit that he is able to do signs and wonders and speak with wisdom. Drawing the attention of some hostile persons, he is set up as a blasphemer and becomes the first Christian martyr. This terrible act introduces the violence carried out against Christians in a very localized area. In addition, Stephen acts in parallel with Jesus (Luke 23:34) by calling upon God to forgive his persecutors, even as he dies at their hands (Acts 7:60). The Spirit's power flowed through Jesus and now flows in the same way through his followers.