Acts 6 Commentary: Understanding the Early Church and the First Christian Martyr

Acts 6 Commentary

Acts 6 marks an important point in the church’s early history, introducing the first Christian martyr and the beginning of a real persecution against the church. To set the stage:

With thousands of men, women, and children following Jesus (Acts 4:4; 5:14), the Jewish leadership has taken notice. They arrest the apostles, command them to stop teaching in Jesus’ name, and beat them (Acts 5:40). However, instead of feeling intimidated or discouraged, the apostles rejoice, knowing that if they are being persecuted by Jesus’ enemies, they must be on the right path (Acts 5:41).

So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.

Acts 5:39-41, ESV

The Two Key Sections of Acts 6

Acts 6 is divided into two main sections.

  • The first, Acts 6:1-7, addresses the early church’s growing pains and how the leadership responds.
  • While the second section of Acts 6, Acts 6:8-15, reveals that a man named Stephen is more than just an honest man “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.”

Seven Chosen to Serve, Acts 6:1-7

In Acts 6:1-7, the early church experienced great growth, leading to complaints about the distribution of food and resources to certain widows during “daily distribution.”

Jerusalem, located in Judea, was primarily inhabited by residents who spoke Aramaic and Hebrew. But many followers of Jesus in Jerusalem were not locals, and found themselves there for a great many different reasons, some including:

  • Initially coming for a short trip and extending their stay to learn more from the apostles after encountering Jesus.
  • Returning to Jerusalem to die in the land of their people, following their wishes and customs.

Many of these travelers may not have had access to their assets from back home, and the elderly may have had to leave their local synagogues that provided support.

Naturally, the Jesus-followers from Judea knew and provided for their own widows. However, the high number of Hellenist Jews (Jews living in countries and territories with more Romans and Greeks, who eventually became Jesus-followers and primarily spoke Greek rather than Aramaic) in Jerusalem led to the establishment of separate synagogues for people from different territories and resulted in their widows being neglected and feeling cast aside.

When the apostles learn about this disparity, they appointed seven men to oversee the fair distribution of food. One of these men is Stephen, “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,” the other six where:

  • Philip
  • Prochorus
  • Nicanor
  • Timon
  • Parmenas
  • Nicolaus

After they assigned the seven, great things continued for the church:

And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

Acts 6:7, ESV

What does waiting on tables mean in Acts 6?

“Waiting on tables” in Acts 6 means overseeing the daily distribution of food and resources to the needy within the early Christian community, ensuring that everyone was fairly provided for.

Stephen Is Seized, Acts 6:8-15

In the second half, Acts 6:8-15, we learn Stephen is also a skilled apologist who can expertly debate the Hellenist Jews who challenge the message of Jesus. Despite the power of Stephen’s logic and the Holy Spirit working through his words, some of these Jews refuse to accept his message (those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen, aka the synagogue of the Libertines).

Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen.

Acts 6:9, ESV

Instead, they secretly incite others to falsely testify that Stephen speaks blasphemy against Moses, God, the law and the temple. They accuse Stephen of the same crime for which was accused of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark: threatening to destroy the temple. Damaging a religious structure was against Roman law and punishable by death.

“We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’”

Mark 14:58, ESV

Stephen’s argument is more nuanced than his accusers claim but his unconventional perspective on Jewish tradition ultimately leads to his martyrdom in the next chapter.

Despite the challenges and dangers that he faced, Stephen remained steadfast in his faith. A clear conscience, cheerful hope, and divine consolations allowed him to stand firm, even in the face of adversity.

What is the main point of Acts 6?

The main point of Acts 6 is the appointment of seven deacons to address the needs of the growing Christian community, particularly the fair distribution of resources among the Hellenistic and Hebraic Jews, and the continued ministry of Stephen, who was falsely accused of blasphemy.

Key Takeaways on Acts 6 Commentary

  • Acts 6 shows the early church handling internal conflicts by appointing 7 Spirit-filled men like Stephen to distribute food.
  • The apostles stayed focused on teaching God’s Word and prayer, delegating other tasks to qualified servants.
  • Stephen powerfully preached despite opposition, being falsely accused of blasphemy by those resisting his message.
  • Acts 6 illustrates the importance of collaborative solutions, empowering others, staying true to one’s calling, and courage.
  • Stephen’s deep spiritual commitment made a lasting impact, challenging believers to pursue closer relationship with God.
  • Unity, delegation, and qualified leadership in Acts 6 allowed for growth and even priests coming to faith.
  • False accusations mirror Jesus’ experience, foreshadowing coming persecution the early church would face.
  • Stephen’s unwavering boldness in the face of adversity provides an inspirational example of surrendering fully to God.

Leadership Lessons from Acts 6

Acts 6 serves as an excellent template for leadership within the church community.

When disagreements arose among the believers, the apostles acted quickly to find a collaborative, low-drama solution instead of allowing the issue to escalate and potentially cause division. They recognized the importance of staying true to their calling and dedicating their time to teaching the Word and praying. They resisted the temptation to take on all responsibilities and, instead, delegated the task of serving the community to others who were also filled with the Holy Spirit.

This approach allowed the apostles to focus on their primary roles while empowering others to use their gifts in service to the church.

The chosen deacons were fully committed to their mission, and their obedience and dedication led to massive growth in the early church. This growth was so significant that even priests, who were once adversaries of Jesus, became obedient to the faith.

This outcome highlights the power of strong leadership and unity within the church community.

Inspiring Others Through a Deep Relationship with God

There are individuals we encounter in life who, through their deep connection to God, inspire us to strengthen our own spiritual relationship. Their passion for God’s Word, their love for Jesus, and their commitment to serving others challenge us to pursue a deeper understanding and connection with the divine.

Stephen’s story in Acts 6 is one such example. He was a man filled with the Holy Spirit, who served passionately, risked everything to follow Jesus, and boldly spoke the truth.

His life, though cut short, leaves a lasting impression on those who read his story. He was fully surrendered to God, allowing the Spirit to work in and through him and exemplify the Godliness we all hope to follow. This kind of surrender and dedication is what many Christians aspire to achieve in their own lives.

Let Stephen’s story serve as a reminder that when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, and truly surrender to God, we can make a profound impact on those around us.


Acts 6 provides valuable insights into the early church’s struggles, the importance of serving the community, and the story of the first Christian martyr, Stephen. His powerful arguments and wisdom, combined with the work of the Holy Spirit, make a lasting impact on the church’s history.

As we study Acts 6, it’s essential to remember the importance of worshiping in spirit and truth and to stand firm in our faith, even in the face of persecution.


What lessons can be learned from Acts 6?

Lessons that can be learned from Acts 6 include the importance of delegating responsibilities, empowering others to serve, selecting Spirit-filled leaders, addressing conflicts within the community, and staying committed to one’s calling.

What is the commentary on the book of Acts 6?

The commentary on the book of Acts 6 explores:

  • The process of appointing the seven deacons
  • The qualities they possessed
  • The impact of their service on the early church
  • The leadership lessons drawn from the chapter
  • And The events surrounding Stephen’s ministry and subsequent false accusations.

What problem arose in the early church in Acts 6?

Neglect of Grecian Jewish widows in the daily distribution of food and resources.

How was the problem resolved?

The apostles appointed 7 reputable, Spirit-filled men to oversee the food distribution.

Who were the seven chosen in Acts 6?

The seven chosen in Acts 6 were Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus.

What was the outcome of the seven’s appointment?

The word of God spread, disciples multiplied, and priests became obedient to the faith.

What was Stephen known for?

Being full of faith, the Holy Spirit, wisdom, grace, and power, doing wonders among people.

How is Stephen an inspirational figure?

His dedication to preaching boldly despite opposition inspires deeper surrender and service to God.

Who disputed with Stephen?

Jews from various synagogues who rejected his preaching and stirred up false charges.

What was Stephen accused of?

Speaking blasphemy against Moses, God, the law, and saying Jesus would destroy the temple.

What is significant about the false charges?

They mirrored political charges against Jesus, foreshadowing persecution the church would face.

What lessons can we learn from Acts 6?

Importance of Spirit-filled leadership, empowerment, delegation, unity, courage, and commitment.

What is the main point of Acts 6?

Appointing deacons to serve the neglected Hellenistic widows and the ministry and persecution of Stephen.

Read Acts 6, ESV

Seven Chosen to Serve
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.

And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

Stephen Is Seized
And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.