Acts 6 – More Opposition, More Growth

Acts 6 begins with a story of chosing seven men for looking over the widows. Five of these men may be the least talked about men in all the New Testament – Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch. The growth of the church has been a major highlight in the book of Acts to this point and will continue on after chapter 6. Chapter 6 is normally focused on delegating responsibility within church leadership, etc. There is more to this chapter than that. This chapter introduces Stephen who will be key in the next chapter and will show that the persecution and opposition they faced developed into more than floggings and jail. Secondly chapter 6 shows that the Christian community continued to grow despite opposition and persecution.

This is a key component to Acts that many people have missed. One scholar who has not missed the acceptance of the Gospel and the growth of the Christian community in the midst of the opposition is Jacob Jervell. His books are extremely important in any study in Acts. He debunks the popular theory that I have heard many times that goes something like this – “A Jewish rejection of the Gospel opened the door for it to be offered to the Gentiles.” What that fails to recognize, as Jervell points out, is that there was a pretty widespread Jewish acceptance of the gospel. Acts 6:7 is one of the key verses showing the growth – “The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” The Jews were accepting the Gospel with more regularity than they were opposing it. Jervell points out and I think rightly so that it was a Jewish acceptance that led to the fulfillment of prophesy which allowed the Gentiles to be offered the Gospel, not a wholesale Jewish rejection. This totally flips on its head what I have always heard of Acts and makes better use of the text than what we normally hear.

Following this statement of growth comes what we have seen so many times already, oppostion to the Christian community by the Jewish authorities. This is in contrast to the many Jews and even priests who were coming to Christ that Luke has just mentioned. Just as with Jesus, they accuse Stephen of blasphemy, they stir up the people, and they put him on trial. More opposition. More to come…

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