The advice of the apostles was for the believers to choose seven suitable men to solve the problem of distribution of food. It was common practice in Judaism for groups of seven men to be chosen for such tasks. There is no significance in the number, but there is in their character. Surprisingly, at least to modern ears, they did not advise the congregation to look for individuals who were involved in work connected to distribution of food or to put on the committee those who had a place of standing in the community because of wealth. There must have been many agencies in Jerusalem using such people, but the church was not directed to them even if they were members within the church. Instead, the seven had to be chosen because of their characters.
Three features were identified: good repute, full of the Spirit and wisdom. Remember these are the qualifications for a temporary committee to solve a rather mundane problem. The first is the public reputation of the individuals, both in the church and in the community. In other words, they must have a credible Christian witness.
The second qualification is that they are under the control of the Spirit. Perhaps we imagine that we cannot tell if a person is living in this way. But we can. A person who is under the control of the Spirit will reveal the fruit of the Spirit as detailed by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23: ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.’ Such a person would love the widows, serve them joyfully, bring peace into their concerned outlook, persevere until he ensures all have received their share, help them with their provision if they need assistance, do it out of loyalty to Christ in a kind manner, and put the widows before himself.
The third qualification is wisdom. I have known many Christians who lacked wisdom. Wisdom is not the same as intelligence. In everyday life, wisdom is the skill to use intelligence. When we turn to biblical assessments, the intelligence needed by the committee members was biblical knowledge. But it was not enough that they had such knowledge. In addition, they must know how to apply it in all kinds of situations.
So the church had to work out who were the seven men who had these three features. It was not good enough that they had two of the characteristics. And I don’t think it was difficult for them to work out who the seven men were. They were well-known in the congregation, although we are only aware of two of them – Stephen the first Christian martyr and Philip the evangelist.