In Acts 6:1 Grecian Jews “complained against those of the (local Jewish) Aramaic-speaking community because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.” And clearly it was a problem because “the Twelve (apostles) gathered all the disciples together” to talk about it.
The solution they came up with was the church “choosing seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them,” verse 3.
So it was over to the church to decide who the seven men would be. But how could they tell who was (or wasn’t) “full of the Spirit”? Surely, they all were, or were some noticeably “more” full of the Spirit than others? But how could people with “less” Holy Spirit know who was full of the Spirit, or that other people had more of the Spirit than them? And surely they’d have to know what being full of the Spirit was like in themselves too, to be able to recognize it in others.
But there’s no ignoring the apostles telling the church to go find seven men who were “KNOWN to be full of the Spirit,” so these men must have stood out in some way to make everyone aware of who they were, And in an obvious way too, because “This proposal pleased the whole group,” verse 5. So no one had any trouble with this solution, because it was known who was full of the Spirit. It was blatantly apparent to everyone. They could all tell.
So they must have known each other really well, and so well that identifying seven men among the “increasing number of disciples” (verse 1) who were joining them was easy. But the question still remains as to what it was that stood out in these seven men that clearly identified them as full of the Spirit.
Well, what was the situation that triggered the search for these men in the first place? It was an immediate and pressing need. Grecian Jews were complaining that their widows were being neglected “in the daily distribution of food.” It sounds like there was a communal dining hall where they all ate together, because the apostles were racing round like waiters (verse 2), and with possibly thousands of people to feed every day it must have been hectic. And in all that racing around, perhaps the local Aramaic-speaking Jewish widows were being served first because they could communicate their needs in the local language, and their needs would more likely have been known by the locals too.
Whatever the reason, what was needed was men who were known for their organizational ability, and for being really good at calming people down and resolving conflicts. Those were the two main needs, and the people knew each other well enough to know who was best suited to meet those needs.
But the one who knew best of all was the Holy Spirit, because he was the one bringing all these people into the church, including needy widows, and was fully aware that such problems would arise. And this is where we see the Holy Spirit being way ahead of the game, because he also had people who could take care of the needs too. It was he who was making it obvious who the right men were, probably because he was also equipping and gifting them for the jobs needed, just like he’d equipped and gifted the apostles for the “ministry of the word” (verses 2 and 4).
So these seven men were full of the Spirit in the sense that they were fully equipped by the Spirii for the needs at the time. And so well had the Spirit equipped them that everyone could see they were the right men for the job. Stephen, for instance, in verse 5, was “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,” but in the context of being filled with trust in the Spirit to help them out in such practical things as organizing food for the needy. And that was Stephen’s focus, and so much so it was obvious to those who knew him well.
Stephen was clearly aware of just how intimately involved the Spirit was in every aspect of the growing church, from “the word of God spreading” (verse 7) to making sure neglected widows got enough food. It was in that context that he was “full of faith and the Holy Spirit.” He simply trusted the Spirit to meet their needs, whatever those needs were.