on Acts 6 :4
We will give ourselves continually to prayer - Προσκαρτερησομεν, We will steadfastly and invariably attend, we will carefully keep our hearts to this work. The word is very emphatic.
To prayer. - See this defined, Matthew 6:5 (note). Even apostles could not live without prayer; they had no independent graces; what they had could not be retained without an increase; and for this increase they must make prayer and supplication, depending continually on their God.
Ministry of the word - Διακονιᾳ του λογου, The deaconship of the word. The continual proclamation of the Gospel of their Lord; and, to make this effectual to the souls of the hearers, they must continue in prayer: a minister who does not pray much, studies in vain.
The office of deacon, διακονος, came to the Christian from the Jewish Church. Every synagogue had at least three deacons, which were called פרנסים parnasim, from פרנס parnes, to feed, nourish, support, govern. The פרנס parnas, or deacon, was a sort of judge in the synagogue; and, in each, doctrine and wisdom were required, that they might be able to discern and give right judgment in things both sacred and civil. The חזן chazan, and שמש shamash, were also a sort of deacons. The first was the priest's deputy; and the last was, in some cases, the deputy of this deputy, or the sub-deacon. In the New Testament the apostles are called deacons, 2 Corinthians 6:4; Ephesians 3:7; Colossians 1:23 : see also 2 Corinthians 11:15. Christ himself, the Shepherd and Bishop of souls, is called the deacon of the circumcision, λεγω δε Χριστον Ιησουν διακονον γεγενησθαι περιτομης, Romans 15:8. As the word implies to minister or serve, it was variously applied, and pointed out all those who were employed in helping the bodies or souls of men; whether apostles, bishops, or those whom we call deacons. Some remark that there were two orders of deacons:
1. Διακονοι της τραπιζης, deacons of the Table, whose business it was to take care of the alms collected in the Church, and distribute them among the poor, widows, etc.
2. Διακονοι του λογου, deacons of the Word, whose business it was to preach, and variously instruct the people. It seems that after the persecution raised against the apostolic Church, in consequence of which they became dispersed, the deaconship of tables ceased, as did also the community of goods; and Philip, who was one of these deacons, who at first served tables, betook himself entirely to preaching of the word: see Acts 8:4, etc.
In the primitive Church, it is sufficiently evident that the deacons gave the bread and wine in the Eucharist to the believers in the Church, and carried it to those who were absent, Just. Mar. Apol. ii. p. 162; they also preached, and in some cases administered baptism. See Suicer on the words Διακονος, Κηρυσσω, and Βαπτισμα. But it appears they did the two last by the special authority of the bishop. In the ancient Roman Church, and in the Romish Church, the number of seven deacons, in imitation of those appointed by the apostles, was kept up; and in the council of Neocaesarea it was decreed that this number should never be exceeded, even in the largest cities: vide Concil. Neocaesar. Canon. xiv. other Churches varied this number; and the Church of Constantinople had not less than one hundred. Deacons were ordained by the bishops, by imposition of hands. None was ordained deacon till he was twenty-five years of age, and we find that it was lawful for them to have wives. See Suicer under the word Διακονος, and see the note on Matthew 20:26.
In the Church of England, (the purest and nearest to the apostolical model in doctrine and discipline of all national Churches), a deacon receives ordination by the imposition of the hands of a bishop, in consequence of which he can preach, assist in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, and in general perform any sacred office, except consecrating the elements, and pronouncing the absolution. No person in this Church can be ordained deacon till he be twenty-three years of age, unless by dispensation from the Abp. of Canterbury. There were deaconesses, both in the apostolic and primitive Church, who had principally the care of the women, and visited and ministered to them in those circumstances in which it would have been improper for a deacon to attend. They also assisted in preparing the female candidates for baptism.
At present, the office for which the seven deacons were appointed is, in the Church of England, filled by the churchwardens and overseers of the poor; in other Churches and religious societies, by elders, stewards, etc., chosen by the people, and appointed by the minister.
on Acts 6 :4
But we will give ourselves continually - The original expression used here denotes "intense and persevering" application to a thing, or unwearied effort in it. See the notes on Acts 1:14. 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.
To prayer - Whether this means "private" or "public" prayer cannot be certainly determined. The passage, however, would rather incline us to suppose that the "latter" was meant, as it is immediately connected with preaching. If so, then the phrase denotes that they would give themselves to the duties of their office, one part of which was public prayer, and another preaching. Still it is to be believed that the apostles felt the need of secret prayer, and practiced it, as preparatory to their public preaching.
And to the ministry of the word - To preaching the gospel, or communicating the message of eternal life to the world. The word "ministry" διακονία diakonia properly denotes the employment of a "servant," and is given to the preachers of the gospel because they are employed in this as the "servants" of God and of the church. We have here a view of what the apostles thought to be the proper work of the ministry. They were set apart to this work. It was their main, their only employment. To this their lives were to be devoted, and both by their example and their writings they have shown that it was on this principle they acted. Compare 1 Timothy 4:15-16; 2 Timothy 4:2. It follows also that if their time and talents were to be wholly devoted to this work, it was reasonable that they should receive competent support from the churches, and this reasonable claim is often urged. See the 1 Corinthians 9:7-14 notes; Galatians 6:6 note.
on Acts 6 :4
6:4 We will constantly attend to prayer, and to the ministry of the word - This is doubtless the proper business of a Christian bishop: to speak to God in prayer; to men in preaching his word, as an ambassador for Christ.