December 22, 2013

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe

 

Topic #II: The Church in Jerusalem, Acts 2.1-8.3

            Subtopic D. Struggle from Within and Without (5:1-6:7)                   

                Secondary Topic 3: The First Racial Tension in the Church (6:1-7)                             

 

 

Lesson II.D.3.c: The Result (6.7)

 

Acts 6.7 (KJV)

7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

 

 

Commentary

7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.

And the word of God increased.

Satan’s strategy did not succeed in dividing the church, but the very opposite occurred; peace settled over the assembly as the deacons took charge of some areas of service formerly falling to the apostles. The gospel was preached throughout Jerusalem and was more and more successful, as it became more mighty and extensive in its influence. With such preachers as the apostles and these deacons, it’s no wonder the doctrine of God increased—became widely diffused and generally known; God thus making all things to work together for good. The following verses attest to the success of the Gospel as it was preached in the primitive church.

·         But the word of God continued to increase and spread. (Acts 12:24)

·         In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. (Acts 19:20)

·         All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth. (Col. 1:6)

And the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly.

Jerusalem is where Christ was crucified, where the apostles were scourged and treated with the utmost contempt, and where the Sanhedrin and rulers of the Jews lived. Those influential men used all their power and craft to crush the Gospel, and hinder its progress, but in vain, because the word of God increased—saints were edified by it, and sinners were converted under it; the instances of conversion were very numerous; how large must this church be now! We are informed in Acts 21:20 of how the Apostle Paul was notified of the incredible growth of the Jerusalem Church: “When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: ‘You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law.’” To be sure, God will always bless his own word, when it is ministered by those whom he has qualified to proclaim it.

And a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.

This was the crowning triumph of the Gospel and a remarkable instance of the power of the gospel, whose peaceful prosperity was now at its greatest height. The verse doesn’t mention how great this company was, but it cannot be denied that there were many priests in Jerusalem at this time; and their conversion was a striking proof of the power of truth. It is probable that they had been opposed to the gospel with as much as or perhaps even more hostility, than any other class of the Jews. And this is mentioned now, since it’s worthy of making a special record of the fact that the Gospel was sufficiently mighty to humble even the proud, and haughty, and selfish, and envious priests, and bring them to the foot of the cross. One aim of the Gospel is to demonstrate the power of truth by subduing all classes of people; and therefore, in the New Testament we have this record of its having actually subdued every class to the obedience of faith.

After Stephen's teaching and trial made it clear that priestly interests could not stand with the Gospel, such priestly conversions became rare indeed. At this time the Christian church was made up of Jews who had been educated in traditional Judaism—Christianity was new and mysterious to many of them. The Gospel contains things to be believed, articles of faith; it presents Christ as the great object of faith; but the Gospel is of no value unless it is mixed with faith: and, in order to obey the Gospel one must cordially embrace its doctrines, and cheerfully submit to its ordinances. And for the priests, and a large number of them, to do this, is very remarkable; since they were the most die-hard enemies of the Gospel, and persecutors of the saints, and converting to Christianity would rob them of their importance; but what is it that effectual grace cannot do!

This was one of the greatest miracles wrought by the grace of Christ: that persons so intent on the destruction of Christ, his apostles, and his doctrine, should at last espouse that doctrine, is astonishing; and that they who had withstood the evidence of the miracles of Christ should have yielded to the doctrine of his death and resurrection, is worthy of note. And from this we may learn that it is not by miracles that sinners are to be converted unto God, but by the preaching of Christ dying for their offenses, and rising again for their justification.

Opinions differ greatly as to whether “obedient to the faith” is to be taken as meaning faith in Jesus Christ, or faith in Christian doctrine—the Gospel; faith in the ecclesiastical sense. This passage and Galatians 1:23 [“They only heard the report: ‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’"] are the strong passages in favor of the latter view; but the general theme of the New Testament, added to the fact that in both these passages the former meaning gives a good, intelligible, and perfectly consistent sense, go to confirm the former interpretation. The following points also support “faith in Jesus Christ” as the proper meaning:

1.       In the great majority of New Testament passages faith is clearly used in the sense of faith in Jesus Christ—“the conviction and confidence regarding Jesus Christ as the only and perfect mediator of the divine grace and of eternal life, through his work of atonement.”

2.      This interpretation corresponds to expressions such as obedience of Christ [“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)], where the meaning is clearly, obedience to Christ: obedience of the truth [“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22).] Accordingly, faith, though it becomes in man the subjective moral power of the new life, regenerated through the power of the Spirit, is regarded objectively as a power—the authority which commands submission.

3.      The word "faith" is evidently used here for the "Christian religion." Faith is one of the main requirements of the Gospel [“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).] To become "obedient to the faith," therefore, is to obey the requirements of the gospel, particularly what requires us to "believe in Christ." 

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