Wednesday Mar 23, 2022

Acts 6:1

Wednesday, 23 March 2022


Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Acts 6:1


Chapter 6 begins with a thought that is most probably tied in with what is said earlier in the previous chapter. It opens by saying, “Now in those days.” This could be speaking of the previously cited arrest of the apostles as a continuing narrative, or it could be referring to what was said before that short account. This is because the next words say, “when the number of the disciples was multiplying.”


That seems to more logically be connected to Acts 5:14 –


“And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women...”


The account of the arrest of the apostles is occurring at this same time. This is important because what is said in this chapter begins with continued problems for the apostles that need to be rectified as well as continued persecution for the believers by the council. In this latter event, the enmity between the truth of God in Christ and the active fighting against it by the leaders of Israel continues to be highlighted.


This is logically necessary to show why Israel’s destruction and exile came about. Hence, these undertones that are provided are not unlike the book of Jeremiah which carefully details the reasons why the Lord destroyed the nation and exiled them to Babylon.


God did not just arbitrarily punish Israel in the Roman exile, but rather, the book of Acts stands as a witness against them for having failed to accept the One sent by God to fulfill the law and reconcile the people to Himself. As such, He turned to the Gentiles –


“They have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God;
They have moved Me to anger by their foolish idols.
But I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation;
I will move them to anger by a foolish nation.” Deuteronomy 32:21


For now, it is during the time of the multiplying of the disciples that “there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists.” The word translated as “complaint” is goggusmos. It is an onomatopoeia. The sound of the word matches the sound of the grumbling. The word “Hellenists” refers to Grecian Jews. They are Jews who only speak Greek and not the language of those in Judea (Hebrew or Aramaic).


The meaning of the words is that a division had arisen between the Hebrew (or Aramaic) speaking Jews and the Greek-speaking Jews. One can imagine the Greek-speaking Jews muttering under their breath at what is taking place. Because they were of the Diaspora and returned to the land not speaking the native language, they were considered as second-class citizens.


To understand the situation and the reference to other key points that will be seen in Acts, Vincent’s Word Studies provides background information into the matter –


“The word Hellenists denotes Jews, not Greeks, but Jews who spoke Greek. The contact of Jews with Greeks was first effected by the conquests of Alexander. He settled eight thousand Jews in the Thebais, and the Jews formed a third of the population of his new city of Alexandria. From Egypt they gradually spread along the whole Mediterranean coast of Africa. They were removed by Seleucus Nicator from Babylonia, by thousands, to Antioch and Seleucia, and under the persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes scattered themselves through Asia Minor, Greece, Macedonia, and the Aegean islands. The vast majority of them adopted the Greek language, and forgot the Aramaic dialect which had been their language since the Captivity. The word is used but twice in the New Testament - here and Acts 9:29 - and, in both cases, of Jews who had embraced Christianity, but who spoke Greek and used the Septuagint version of the Bible instead of the original Hebrew or the Chaldaic targum or paraphrase. The word Ἕλλην [Hellén], Greek, which is very common in the New Testament, is used in antithesis, either to ‘Barbarians’ or to ‘Jews.’ In the former case it means all nations which spoke the Greek language (see Acts 18:17; Romans 1:14; 1 Corinthians 1:22, 1 Corinthians 1:23). In the latter it is equivalent to Gentiles (see Romans 1:16; Romans 2:9; 1 Corinthians 10:32; Galatians 2:3). Hence, in either case, it is wholly different from Hellenist.”


With this understood, the actual reason for the division is next explained, saying, “because their widows were neglected.”


The word translated as “neglected” is in the imperfect tense. It means that this was something ongoing. Being overlooked would not be unexpected in such a situation. A person who didn’t speak the language and who was alone and without anyone to speak for her would have a difficult time going forward and being listened to. Those with an understandable voice would naturally receive attention without any difficulty and the others would be overlooked.


However, the problem wasn’t that they were overlooked in getting their hair cut at the local salon. It was a much more pressing need. They were missing out “in the daily distribution.”


In other words, the money that was raised was to be distributed as needs arose. The Hebrew widows were coming forward and were receiving what they needed, but the Greek-speaking widows were being overlooked, and that habitually. As such, they were truly alone, with no support, and even the distribution by the church – which they depended on to simply survive – was not being fair towards them.


Life application: It is always easy to take the path of least resistance. When someone speaks another language or has a different way of doing things than we do, it is easier to overlook them and sidle up to those we are more comfortable with. In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with this, but when it causes a division in the church, it needs to be addressed.


People come into a local church to be a part of it. If they don’t receive any care or attention, it will be perceived as if their needs are less important than the others.  But needs are needs, not wants. It is important to identify what true needs are and then address them in all of those we fellowship with.


It is right to be attentive to all, even those we may not want to be especially close to. Endeavor to look around you and see who is being left out of close and personal contact and be sure to make an extra effort to be attentive to them as well.


Heavenly Father, give us the wisdom to identify needs in others and to respond to them, even when they may have a different culture, color, or way of doing things. Help us to give of ourselves to everyone and not just isolate ourselves with those we feel most comfortable with. Help us in this, O Lord. Amen.


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