Posted in Gospel Doctrine 2015, Jesus Christ, New Testament

Gospel Doctrine 2015 – Lesson 29 – “The Number of the Disciples Was Multiplied”

  1. Seven men are ordained to supervise the temporal work of the Church.

Acts 6:1 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.

“…Jews of the dispersion who adopted Hellenists’ customs and who spoke Greek (Acts 6:1; 9:29) were called Grecians. New Testament references to Greeks refer to persons of Greek lineage.” (Church News: Question of the Week, LDS Church News, 1994, 10/22/94)

Acts 6:2 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.

“Was Jesus asking His disciples to respond to random requests from the crowd or to serve tables?  No! He was asking them to serve in His way. The people were not to be masters of his disciples. The Lord is their Master.

In rendering service to others, which way do we face? From the right or the left, we can only push or pull. We can lift only from a higher plane. To reach it we don’t look sideways; we look up to our Master. Just as we must look to God to live well, so we must look to God to serve well.” (Russell M Nelson)

Acts 6:3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

“But we will give ourselves continually – The original expression used here denotes “intense and persevering” application to a thing, or unwearied effort in it. It means that the apostles designed to make this their constant and main object, undistracted by the cares of life, and even by attention to the temporal needs of the church.” (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

Acts 6: 5 ¶And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:

6 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.

“Where does the Church’s practice of setting apart come from?

“The priesthood ordinance of setting apart is the formal process of giving authority to members called to labor in specific responsibilities. It involves a specific priesthood procedure, including the laying on of hands. It has been a practice of the Lord’s servants since Old Testament times, even though in some scriptural references it is not clear whether the wording refers to being ordained, set apart, or both. In fact, it may be that earlier dispensations made very little distinction between these two practices.

“…In other Old Testament passages, the word separate seems to refer to the procedure of designating someone for the Lord’s work. For example, 1 Chronicles 23:13, we read that ‘Aaron was separated, that he should sanctify the most holy things, he and his sons for ever, to burn incense before the Lord, to minister unto him, and to bless in his name for ever.’

“In the New Testament we find clearer instances of individuals being set apart. In the ancient Church when seven men were chosen to assist the Apostles, they were ‘set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.’ (Acts 6:6.) Also, when Barnabas and Saul were selected for the Lord’s work, the Church leaders fasted and prayed, and ‘the Holy Ghost said [to them], Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.’ (Acts 13:2.) The Church leaders then ‘laid their hands on them,’ after which they sent Saul and Barnabas out to do the work. (Acts 13:3.)” (Rex Allred, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Mar. 1983, 67)

  1. Stephen testifies before the Sanhedrin and is stoned to death.

Acts 6:11 Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God.

“The words indicate with sufficient clearness the nature of Stephen’s teaching. The charge was a false one, but its falsehood was a distortion of the truth, as that against our Lord had been. He was accused of blasphemy in calling Himself the Son of God; making Himself equal with God; threatening to destroy the Temple—each of the counts in the indictment resting on words that He had actually spoken. And Stephen, in like manner, was charged with offences for which there must have seemed colourable ground. He had taught, we must believe, that the days of the Temple were numbered; that with its fall the form of worship of which it was the representative would pass away, that the Law given by Moses was to make way for the higher revelation in Christ, and the privileges of the elect nation to be merged in the blessings of the universal Church. In this case, accordingly, the antagonism comes, not only or chiefly, as in the previous chapters, from the Sadducean high priests and their followers, but from the whole body of scribes and people. Pharisees and Sadducees, Hebrews and Hellenistæ, are once more brought into coalition against the new truth.” (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)

Acts 6:12 And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council,

13 And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law:

14 For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.

15 And all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.

“Emmeline B. Wells: ‘The power of God rested upon him (Joseph Smith) to such a degree that on many occasions he seemed transfigured. His expression was mild and almost childlike in repose; and when addressing the people, who loved him it seemed to adoration, the glory of his countenance was beyond description. At other times the great power of his manner, more than of his voice (which was sublimely eloquent to me) seemed to shake the place on which we stood and penetrate the inmost soul of his hearers, and I am sure that then they would have laid down their lives to defend him.’

“Mary Ann Winters: ‘I stood close by the Prophet while he was preaching to the Indians in the Grove by the Temple. The Holy Spirit lighted up his countenance till it glowed like a halo around him, and his words penetrated the hearts of all who heard him and the Indians looked as solemn as Eternity.'” (Truman Madsen, Joseph Smith the Prophet, pp. 89-90)

Acts 7:51 ¶Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.

52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:

53 Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.

“The discourse of Stephen has every appearance of having been interrupted by the clamors and opposition of the Sanhedrin. This verse has no immediate connection with what precedes, and appears to have been spoken in the midst of opposition and clamor. If we may conjecture in this case, it would seem that the Jews saw the drift of his argument; that they interrupted him; and that when the tumult had somewhat subsided, he addressed them in the language of this verse, showing them that they sustained a character precisely similar to their rebellious fathers.” (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

Acts 7: 54 ¶When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.

“They were cut to the heart.—Literally, were sawn through and through.“(Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)

stephen's vision

Acts 7:55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

“Peter and Stephen testify that they saw the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God. Any person that had seen the heavens opened knows that there are three personages in the heavens who hold the keys of power, and one presides over all” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 312).

Acts 7:59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

“Stephen was stoned, not for his preaching, nor even for his scolding of the people, but for saying he had had a vision of the Father and the Son. He was stoned for proclaiming that he had received revelation. Stephen foreshadowed the work of Paul and is the earliest person mentioned in the New Testament to imply that the law of Moses was fulfilled and that its rites and customs should come to an end.” (Robert J. Matthews, Studies in Scripture, Vol. 6: Acts to Revelation, ed. by Robert L. Millet [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987], 30.)

  1. Philip preaches and performs miracles in Samaria.

Acts 8:6 And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.

7 For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.

8 And there was great joy in that city.

12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

“Philip-saintly, valiant, a powerful preacher, a mighty worker of miracles-held only the Aaronic Priesthood! Peter and John must yet come from Jerusalem to Samaria to confer the Holy Ghost upon his baptized converts. (Acts 8:14-17.) And yet Philip, magnifying his calling, casts out devils, commands the lame to leap and the sick to rise from their beds of affliction. Miracles are wrought by the power of faith, and a righteous man need not hold the Melchizedek Priesthood to have power and influence with his Creator. As Joseph Smith said, ‘If a priest understands his duty, his calling, and ministry, and preaches by the Holy Ghost, his enjoyment is as great as if he were one of the Presidency.’ (Teachings, p. 112.)” (Bruce R McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 81.)

Acts 8: 9 But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one:

10  To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God.

11 And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.

“And bewitched – This is an unhappy translation. The Greek means merely that he “astonished” or amazed the people, or “confounded” their judgment. The idea of “bewitching” them is not in the original.” (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

Acts 8:18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,

19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.

“The chief Apostle had discerned the real intent of Simon the sorcerer’s heart. His desire for the priesthood power was not so much to bless as to impress.” (Spencer J Condie, In Perfect Balance [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1993], 68.)

Acts 8: 20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.

21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.

22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.

23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.

“The attempted grafting of foreign doctrines on the true vine of the gospel of Christ was characteristic of the early years of the apostolic period. We read of the sorcerer Simon, who professed belief and entered the Church by baptism, but who was so devoid of the true spirit of the gospel that he sought to purchase by money the authority and power of the priesthood. This man, though rebuked by Peter, and apparently penitent, continued to trouble the Church, by inculcating heresies and winning disciples within the fold. His followers were distinguished as a sect or cult down to the fourth century; and, writing at that time, Eusebius says of them: ‘These, after the manner of their founder, insinuating themselves into the Church, like a pestilential and leprous disease, infected those with the greatest corruption, into whom they were able to infuse their secret, irremediable, and destructive poison.’ This Simon, known in history as Simon Magus, is referred to by early Christian writers as the founder of heresy, owing to his persistent attempts to combine Christianity with Gnosticism. It is with reference to his proposition to purchase spiritual authority that all traffic in spiritual offices has come to be known as simony.” (James E Talmage, The Great Apostasy [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1958], 97.)

Acts 8:25 And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.

26 And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.

27 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,

28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.

29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.

“We are, in fact, all somewhat like the man of Ethiopia to whom Philip was sent. Like him, we may know enough to reach out for religion. We may invest ourselves in the scriptures. We may even give up our earthly treasures, but without sufficient instruction we may miss the meaning of all this and the requirements that still lie before us. So we cry with this man of great authority, “How can [we understand,] except some [teacher] should guide [us]?: (Jeffrey R Holland, General Conference, April 1998)

  1. Saul is converted and baptized and begins to preach the gospel

Acts 9:1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,

“Yet breathing out threatenings.—The “yet” implies a considerable interval since the death of Stephen, probably coinciding with the time occupied by the mission-work of Philip in the previous chapter. During this interval the persecution had probably been continuing. The Greek participle, literally,breathing-in, is somewhat more emphatic than the English. He lived, as it were, in an atmosphere of threats and slaughter. It was the very air he breathed.” (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)

Acts 9:2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:

4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

“In this figure of speech is captured the essence of rebellion against God; we can only hurt ourselves. If one is pricked by a goad and angered by the pain, he may foolishly strike out at the source of irritation, only to suffer even more.” (Spencer W Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 305.)

11_saul-conversion

Acts 9:6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

“On occasion individuals can have such experiences, but for the most part, conversion happens over a period of time as study, prayer, experience, and faith will help us to grow in our testimony and conversion.” (Robert D Hales, General Conference, April 1997)

Acts 9:7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.

8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.

9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.

In this account, we are told that Paul’s associates heard the voice of Jesus. However, a later account of Paul’s conversion conflicts with this version. Paul stated that they ‘saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me’ (Acts 22:9). “Evidently here is a misstatement of fact. As corrected by the Prophet, the passage in Acts 9:7 is altered to agree with that in Chapter 22. This would seem to be the reasonable conclusion for surely the voice and message of the Lord was for Paul alone, although his companions in travel might be permitted to see the light and thereby be assured of the unusual event that was taking place.” (Robert J. Matthews, Joseph Smith Memorial Sermons, p. 10)

Acts 9:10 ¶And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.

11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,

12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.

13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:

14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.

“The passage of such a train of thoughts through the mind was perfectly natural at the command to go and search out Saul. There would instantly occur all that had been heard of his fury in persecution; and the expression here may indicate the state of a mind amazed that such a one should need his counsel, and afraid, perhaps, of entrusting himself to one thus bent on persecution.” (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

Acts 9:15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:

16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.

“It is given to but few to wield a more powerful influence over Christian history than to Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor who became a prophet, the Pharisee who became the apostle to the Gentiles. The life and teachings of the Apostle Paul stand as bright reminders of the power of Christ to transform the souls of men and women, to remake the human heart, and to refocus one’s misdirected zeal into the way of the Master. When the risen Lord appeared in vision to Ananias of Damascus and instructed him to send for the stricken and blinded Saul, Ananias answered: ‘Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.’ The response that followed bespeaks the Redeemer’s insight into the wonders that would be done at Paul’s hand: ‘Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel’ (Acts 9:11-15; emphasis added)….[Paul] taught with a power, a persuasion, and a holy zeal known only to those who, like Alma and the sons of Mosiah, have gone from darkness to light and whose whole soul yearns to lead others to that same light.” (Selected Writings of Robert L. Millet: Gospel Scholars Series, p. 69.)

Acts 9:17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

“From that time Saul, who was also called Paul, became one of the most valiant and strong of the Christian preachers and defenders.” (N Eldon Tanner, General Conference, April 1969)

Acts 9:19 And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.

20 And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.

“And straightway – Immediately. It was an evidence of the genuineness of his conversion that he was willing at once to avow himself to be the friend of the Lord Jesus.” (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

Acts 9:21 But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?

22 But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.

“Already the man from Tarsus is one with the saints and has commenced his ministry as a missionary, scriptorian, theologian, a preacher of righteousness, a student of the law. Soon he will become the apostle to the Gentiles, a special witness of Christ his adopted Lord, and an author of world renown. There are yet to come visions, revelations, and heavenly manifestations equalling those of Peter and the chiefest apostles….

“Paul was a small man physically, a giant spiritually. In outward appearance he had little to recommend him; his features and physique probably repelled rather than attracted others. But because of his inward grace and goodness, and as a result of his overpowering zeal for Christ, he radiated an influence that led thousands to forsake all in the Master’s Cause. From the Prophet Joseph Smith we have received the following revealed knowledge about him: ‘He is about five feet high; very dark hair; dark complexion; dark skin; large Roman nose; sharp face; small black eyes, penetrating as eternity; round shoulders; a whining voice, except when elevated, and then it almost resembled the roaring of a lion. He was a good orator, active and diligent, always employing himself in doing good to his fellow man.’ (Teachings, p. 180.)” (Bruce R McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2: 93.)

Acts 9:26 And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.

27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.

28 And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.

29 And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.

“Disputed against the Grecians.—It will be remembered that it was as the leader of the Hellenistic-Jews of the synagogue named in Acts 6:9 that Saul had first appeared in the history of the Church. Now, it would seem, he sought to undo the evil that he had then wrought, by preaching to them the faith which he had then opposed, and presenting, we may well believe, the very aspects of the truth that had been most prominent in Stephen’s teaching, and which, therefore, now, as then, roused them to a passionate frenzy. Twice, within a few weeks, the Apostle’s life was in danger.” (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)

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2 thoughts on “Gospel Doctrine 2015 – Lesson 29 – “The Number of the Disciples Was Multiplied”

  1. Really enjoyed your commentary! Well done, and thanks for taking the time to pull this all together. I’ll visit often!

    Like

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