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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Acts 6 - Stephen and the First Deacons


Acts 6

1. Hellenists were Jewish Christians who spoke Greek.

5. Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, & Nicolas were chosen by the Apostles as the first deacons. Although the word deacon never appears in this passage, it seems apparent based on later descriptions of the diaconate. Also Church tradition looks to this as the origin of the office of deacon.

Here are a summary of the lives of these men after they were chosen (taken from the OCA website).

St. Philip: Commemorated on January 4. Holy Apostle Philip of the Seventy, one of the 7 Deacons is not to be confused with St Philip one of the Twelve Apostles (November 14). This Philip was born in Palestine, was married and had four daughters who had the gift of prophecy.

After the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Twelve Apostles made Philip a deacon in the Church of Jerusalem. Along with the other six deacons, they appointed him to deal with the offerings of the faithful and attend to the concerns of the widowed, the orphaned and the needy. The eldest among the seven deacons was the holy Archdeacon Stephen. When the persection of Christians began, the Jews stoned the Protomartyr Stephen. The Apostle Philip left Jerusalem and settled in Samaria. There he successfully preached Christianity. Among the disciple's converts was the noted magician Simon, who after being baptized, continued with Philip. (Acts 8:9-13)

At the command of an angel of the Lord, St Philip set out upon the road connecting Jerusalem with Gaza. There he met an official of the empress of Ethiopia, whom also he converted to Christianity (Acts 8:26-39).

The holy Apostle Philip tirelessly preached the Word of God in many of the lands of the Near East adjoining Palestine. At Jerusalem the Apostles made him a bishop and sent him to Tralles in Asia Minor, where he also baptized many. St Philip died in old age. He is also commemorated on October 11.

St. Prochorus: Commemorated on January 4. Saint Prochorus was one of the of the Seventy Apostles, and was among the first deacons in the Church of Christ.

In the Acts of the Holy Apostles (6: 1-6) it is said that the twelve Apostles chose seven men: Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicholas, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and established them to serve as deacons.

The Holy Church celebrates their memory together on July 28, although they died at various times and in various places.

St Prochorus at first accompanied the holy Apostle Peter and was made by him bishop in the city of Nicomedia. After the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, Prochorus was a companion and coworker of the holy Apostle John the Theologian and was banished to the island of Patmos together with him. There he wrote down the Book of Revelation concerning the final fate of the world. Upon returning to Nicomedia, St Prochorus converted pagans to Christ in the city of Antioch and there he received a martyr's crown.

St. Nicanor: Commemorated on January 4. Saint Nicanor was one of the of the Seventy Apostles, and was among the first deacons in the Church of Christ.

In the Acts of the Holy Apostles (6: 1-6) it is said that the twelve Apostles chose seven men: Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicholas, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and established them to serve as deacons.

The Holy Church celebrates their memory together on July 28, although they died at various times and in various places.

St Nicanor suffered on that day when the holy Protomartyr Stephen and many other Christians were killed by stoning.

St. Timon: Commemorated on January 4. Saint Timon was one of the Seventy Apostles, and was among the first deacons in the Church of Christ.

In the Acts of the Holy Apostles (6: 1-6) it is said that the twelve Apostles chose seven men: Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicholas, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and established them to serve as deacons.

The Holy Church celebrates their memory together on July 28, although they died at various times and in various places.

St Timon was established by the Apostles as bishop of the city of Bastoria in Arabia and suffered from the Jews and pagans for preaching the Gospel. He was thrown into a furnace, but by the power of God he came out of it unharmed. The tradition of the Roman Church says that St Timon died by crucifixion.

St. Parmenas: Commemorated on January 4. Saint Parmenas, one of the Seventy Apostles, was among the first deacons in the Church of Christ.

In the Acts of the Holy Apostles (6: 1-6) it is said that the twelve Apostles chose seven men: Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicholas, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and established them to serve as deacons.

The Holy Church celebrates their memory together on July 28, although they died at various times and in various places.

St Parmenas zealously preached Christ in Macedonia. He died after being afflicted with an illness. Some are of the opinion that St Parmenas suffered under Trajan (98-117) in the final year of his reign, and suffered martyrdom.

Of the original 7 deacons, Nicholas is the only one that I can not find any information on among the lives of the saints. This does not mean that he is not recognized among Orthodox churches as a saint. I just can’t find anything on him. There is a tragic possibility. Ireneaus along some other early church sources claim that Nicholas fell into a form of Gnosticism, and that he is the originator of the Nicolaitans (Rev. 2:6,15). It was supposedly a Gnostic heresy that indulged in sexual immorality. If it is true that Nicholas was a heresiarch then his life becomes a warning to us all to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

6. “laid hands on them” this is an act of apostolic ordination. This apostolic act is continued in the Church today through the bishops. They ordain today through their apostolic authority.

9. It was not uncommon within Jerusalem to have separate synagogues based on nationality and language. Apparently this synagogue was comprised of Hellenistic Jews and Stephen must have been one of them. It was this group that rose up and became more aggressive in their persecution of the early Christians. Paul was among this group of Hellenist, and may have been present and member of this synagogue.

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