Stephen Summoned before Synagogue Leaders

“The reality in the first century was that the most intense persecution of the Christian church came, not from the Romans, but from the Jewish community. The Romans and the outside world viewed the Christian Community as merely a small sect of Judaism. Christianity did not s … More

Persecution

Up to this point, the sign gifts seem to have been administered only by the apostles, but now we find Stephen, a newly appointed deacon, also demonstrating these extraordinary powers. Apparently his ministry was primarily among the Hellenistic Jews, referred to here as the “Libertines” (vv. 8-9). This group engaged Stephen in hot debate over the Messiahship of Jesus and the importance of temple worship. (The Jews would see these two matters as a threat to their whole religious system). However, nobody was able to match or resist Stephen’s wisdom and power (v. 10).

Unable to defeat him in debate, they soon resorted to violence. They hired informers who began  to distort Stephen’s words in the most damaging way possible (v. 11). If the price is right you can always get people to swear to almost anything. With shrewd maneuvering, a small group can sway a whole populace. This same group did it to Jesus by getting the populace, who were basically friendly toward Him, to shout “Crucify Him"! Now they were doing the same type of thing to Stephen, having officially rejected the Spirit of God (vv. 12-15).The Sanhedrin listened to Gamaliel, and once again, after threatening the apostles, let them go.
  1. These were the men who heard God’s command, and were not afraid to obey it.

  2. Stephen insisted that men had worshiped God long before there ever was a Temple. To the Jews the Temple was the most sacred of all places.

  3. He insisted that when the Jews crucified Jesus they were only setting the stage on a policy they had always followed.

Application

What is the worst lie anybody has ever told about me? As I see how Stephen handled his opponents, which of his qualities do I feel I need the most? Lord, help me to acquire it.

Acts 6:8-15 (English Standard Version)

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. Then they secretly instigated men who said, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God." And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and they set up false witnesses who said, "This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us." And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

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