The Solution Part 3 of 3
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
6 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.
Whom they set before the apostles.
It appears as though everything happened within a short time frame, perhaps within a single day, and without debate, and none of the candidates needing “to pray about it.” Now the seven men, having been chosen, approved and elected, must be ordained to the office of deacon. Here is all the ordination you can find in the New Testament. It is very simple, and I was ordained in the same way as these men. The Lord’s ministers, elders, bishops, deacons, and saints gather around these seven godly men, whom the Holy Ghost has called to go and work in His vineyard, and then they lay hands on them, pray for them, bless them, and send them forth. There is but one qualification specified in the New Testament for a Christian worker, preacher, officer, and that is, to be filled with the Holy Ghost.
And when they had prayed.
They did not pray without laying on of hands, nor did they lay hands on them without prayer. Therefore in the sacraments, in confirmation, and ordination, the outward sign or rite is accompanied by prayer for the thing that is signified. And God's grace is given through the sacrament or rite in answer to the prayer of faith. In Acts 8:15, 16 there is the account of Christians in Samaria receiving the Holy Spirit—“Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. (Acts 8:15-17). Peter and John laid hands on them and prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit, and their prayer of faith was rewarded by Christ sending the Holy Spirit. The Word says that “the prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” And when righteous men pray and lay hands on a child of God that simple act seems to convey a special grace and blessing (see Numbers 27:3; Deuteronomy 34:9; Matthew 19:13-15; Luke 4:40; Acts 8:17; Acts 13:3; 1 Timothy 5:22; Hebrews 6:2.)
And when they had prayed, they prayed with them, and for them, that God would give them more and more of the Holy Ghost and of wisdom—that He would qualify them for the service to which they were called, and make them a blessing to the church, and particularly to the poor of the flock. Everyone who is involved in some service ought to be the recipient of much prayer by the church, invoking the blessing of God to fall upon them in the discharge of the duties of their office.
I believe that when these seven men were set before them that the church prayed mightily that they might appear to be richly qualified for this office, and might honorably and faithfully discharge it, for their personal joy, the advantage of the church, and the glory of God.
They laid their hands on them.
Among the Jews it was customary to lay hands on the head of a person who was set apart to fill any particular office—“And the LORD said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him; And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight” (Numbers 27:18, 19; Compare Acts 8:19). The laying on of hands did NOT impart any power or ability, but the purpose was to “designate” that they received their authority or commission from those who laid their hands on them. The Savior laid hands on the sick to signify that the power of healing came from Him—“While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. (Matthew 9:18). One of the last things Jesus said to His disciples before He ascended back to His father mentioned laying hands on the sick—“They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:18). In such cases as these, the laying on of the hands in itself conveyed no healing power, but was a sign or token that the power came from the Lord Jesus.
The Seven were already "full of the Holy Spirit (vv. 3, 5)" in the ordinary sense; and therefore something more is intended here. Luke himself connected the laying on of the apostles' hands with the extraordinary gift of the Holy Spirit—“And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money” (Acts 8:18); and coupled with Luke's statement that one of the Seven did "great wonders and signs among the people" (Acts 6:8), the teaching appears to be that the apostles here endowed the Seven with miraculous powers. To view the laying on of hands as a mere ceremony of ordination is incorrect.
Ordination has been consistently performed in this way. Though the seven deacons had been chosen by the church to this work, yet they derived their immediate commission and authority from the apostles.
The early church had problems but, according to Acts, it also had leaders who moved swiftly to ward off corruption and find solutions to internal conflicts, supported by people who listened to each other with open minds and responded with good will.