Division in the Jerusalem Church
Acts 6:1-7 (AD 31)
(1) At that time, when the number of Jesus’ disciples were growing, the Hellenistic Jews in the Jerusalem church complained against the Hebrew Jews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. (Hellenistic Jews were Greek-speaking Jews who had adopted the Hellenistic culture and had returned from Greco-Roman lands to live in Jerusalem. Hebrew Jews were Aramaic-speaking Jews who were born and raised in Israel).
(2) So the Twelve Apostles gathered all the disciples together and said, “It’s not right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God to serve food. (3) Fellow brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you (from among the Hellenistic Jews) who are known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. We will give this ministry responsibility over to them, (4) and we will give our full dedication to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
(5) These directions pleased all the disciples. They chose seven Hellenistic men: Stephen, who was full of the Holy Spirit; Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from the city of Antioch, a Greek convert to Judaism. (6) They presented these seven men to the Twelve Apostles, who commissioned them to this new ministry by laying their hands on them and praying for them.
(7) So God’s word continued to spread, and the number of Jesus’ disciples grew rapidly in Jerusalem; even many of the temple priests became obedient to the faith of Jesus Christ.
Hellenistic Jews Oppose Stephen
(8) Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great miraculous signs and wonders (miracles) among the people.
(9) However, a tremendous opposition arose from some members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (freed slaves) as it was called; and from the synagogues of the Hellenistic Jews from the cities of Cyrene (in modern Libya in northern Africa) and Alexandria (modern Egypt); and from the Roman provinces of Cilicia (in the southeastern region of modern Turkey, location of Tarsus) and Asia (in the western region of modern Turkey, location of Ephesus).
The members of these Hellenistic synagogues began to argue with Stephen. (10) But they could not stand up against the wisdom that the Holy Spirit gave Stephen as he spoke. (11) So they persuaded some men in secret to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous things against Moses and against God.” (12) So they stirred up the people, elders, and teachers of the law of Moses.
They arrested Stephen and brought him before the Jewish governing council (the Sanhedrin). (13) They gathered up false witnesses who repeated lies against Stephen, saying, “This man never stops speaking against the holy temple and the law of Moses. (14) For we have heard him say that Jesus of Nazareth will destroy the temple and change the traditions Moses gave to Israel.” (15) All the members of the Sanhedrin looked directly at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like that of an angel.