Acts 6:7

The horses at Las Colinas.

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith. Acts 6:7

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

The words now follow immediately after the choosing of seven men to handle the daily distribution. There appears to be no logical connection between the two, and so it seems as if Luke is simply moving on to a new matter now that the previous issue has been resolved.

However, Acts 6:5 and Acts 6:8 both mention Stephen. And it is he who is the focus of the narrative through all of Acts 7. As such, it appears that Luke is implicitly tying what he will now say into the ministry and testimony of Stephen. With that noted, the verse begins with, “Then the word of God spread.”

The word translated as “spread,” signifies growing or increasing. It is an imperfect verb signifying an ongoing process. For example, the same verb in the same form is used in Luke 1 to describe the growing up of John the Baptist from a child into a man strong in the spirit.

The effect of the apostles has been rather profound, but because of their being Galileans, they were looked down on by those who were more educated (see Acts 2:7). Stephen has been noted as “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit.” In the next verse, he will be noted as “full of faith and power.” And in Acts 7, he will demonstrate intimate knowledge of Scripture and of the history of his people.

Thus, it may be that Luke is now connecting some of the present growth to the efforts and knowledge of Stephen. Next, Luke records, “and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem.”

At this time, Jerusalem remains the central hub of the faith. It is a logical place for the apostles to remain because there were three annual pilgrim feasts to the city. All people were to come and rejoice in the presence of the Lord during these feasts. During the rest of the year, the city was still full and bustling with activity, and evangelism would be ongoing. With the addition of more people, especially people like Stephen, the number of believers would, in fact, greatly multiply. It is a natural consequence of such things. Concerning this growth come Luke’s next words, saying, “and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.”

This is a key point in the development of the faith, meaning the body of believers in Jesus. It is based on the faith, meaning acceptance of the gospel by the priests. The word translated “obedient” is exactly right. It signifies “to obey.” But the underlying meaning is “to believe” or “to have faith.” In other words, the priests “have faith” in “the faith.”

This is not double talk, but it is exactly what is being presented. For example, Hebrews explicitly demonstrates this –

“For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? 17 Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” Hebrews 3:16-19

The account that is cited by the author is that of Numbers 14, where the spies returned from Canaan and gave the people a bad report. The people failed to believe God, and thus they did not obey. Despite many poor translations that use the word “command” in that Numbers passage, there was no direct command spoken forth.

Rather, the word of the Lord said the people would enter, and the people simply failed to believe. Instead, they feared because of the negative report and failed to trust the Lord who had already proven Himself to them, time and again. It was because of their unbelief that they failed to enter into the promised rest.

These priests have now “obeyed” by believing. And it appears based on the placement of the verse that Stephen is to be considered a large part of this coming about.

Life application: Far too often, people take words and concepts out of their intended context, thus forming a pretext. The word “obey” has a meaning, but the substance behind that must be properly understood. If one is commanded to do something, then obedience is expected. That is the context.

However, if someone is told that they should simply trust and accept that another will safely guide him through the waters of disaster, then “obey” takes on a more subtle meaning. There was no command. Instead, there is only a hope that faith will be demonstrated.

God does not “command” anybody into salvation. He also does not “regenerate” people in order for them to believe. He set forth His proposition, and He asks us to believe: “I have sent My Son into the world. He has fulfilled the law and died for the sins of the world. I ask you to simply trust that and be saved.” That is the proposition. Obedience to it is “to believe.”

To add to that by stating that we must first believe His commands – whatever ones we decide upon – is to damage the simple message of obedience to faith (the gospel), and it is thus a false message, not given by God. It is a false gospel.

Be sure to understand these nuances of what is stated, and then effectively communicate them to others when presenting the gospel. If you tell someone that he does not have free will, and that a person must first be regenerated in order to believe (Calvinism), that person will have no idea what you are talking about, because what you are saying both makes no sense and it is unbiblical.

If you tell someone that they must obey Jesus in order to believe, and then start telling them that he has to observe the Sabbath, get circumcised, stop eating pork, quit cussing, and etc., you are presenting a false gospel of works. The gospel is about Jesus –

“that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4

Explain this message to them, and don’t turn “obey” into something that doesn’t exist or something that is unintended. Keep it simple and you will be doing what God has done and expects us to do. Despite all of the complicated theology in Scripture, the gospel is the simplest message of all. Don’t add to it or change it! If you do, then it is no longer the gospel.

Heavenly Father, thank You for the simplicity of the gospel. You have taken the thing that has complicated all other things, meaning sin, and You have made the resolution to it so simple that even a young child can understand it. And it is rightfully simple. We are prone to complicate things. And so, You have laid it out for us, and done so in the most wonderful way. You sent Jesus to do it all. All we need to do is believe. Hallelujah and Amen.