ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
Sand Lake, Michigan
Chapters 6-7 – Stephen’s Witness
The church still had all things common as we found in chapters 2 and 4. As the church grew in numbers, taking care of all their needs became quite a job for the apostles to take care of, distributing the food and necessities for all those people. Some were neglected, and this brought dissatisfaction. Then the disciples (12 apostles) called believers together. They chose 7 men to take care of this problem of Grecians who had believed and the Hebrews themselves, since it seemed the Grecian widows were not being cared for as they ought.
Among the 7, were 2 we will hear more about – Stephen and Philip. Chapter 6, shows what kind of man this Stephen was. We find that all 7 were to be honest, full of the Holy Ghost, and wisdom. He is also shown to be full of faith and power. He went beyond just taking care of the tables. He also did great wonders and miracles among them – V. 8. Some started disputing with Stephen. Since they were not able to resist the wisdom and spirit by which he spake, they got people to lie for them, bring him before the council of the Jews’ high court, the Sanhedrin, saying Stephen had spoken words of blasphemy against Moses and against God. They claimed they had heard Stephen say that Jesus would destroy things in Jerusalem and change all the custom, brought in when Moses was in charge, under God, of the people – Vs. 9-14. All that sat there, watching him intently, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel – V. 5. It must have shone, like Moses’ face did (Ex. 34:35), or like Jesus’ face on the mount of Transfiguration (Mt. 17).
Then the High Priest asked Stephen if the things they had said against him were true. He didn’t directly answer the question, instead he started preaching, giving them their own history. He showed that many of their great leaders had first been rejected, but later were proven to be God-given leaders. He showed that their ancestors worshiped God in many places, not just in the temple in Jerusalem. He started with Abraham. Notice he called God the “God of glory.” Here it says God appeared to Abraham. That was when he was still in another part of the country, in Ur of the Chaldees, in southern Mesopotamia. Joshua 24:2 says they served other gods – or idols. The Lord spoke to him and told him to leave that place and go to the land He would show him. He was to leave every one and everything behind and just go. Instead, Abraham and his whole family left that place and went on their journey. They stayed in a “part way” place until Abraham’s father died.
Then the Lord took Abraham and his wife on into the promised land – Vs. 1-4. Stephen stressed that God didn’t give him the inheritance then. He didn’t settle down, nor build an house. At that time Abraham had no child. He was promised one, however. God said that Abraham’s children after him would be in bondage, but would become a great nation. He gave him the covenant of circumcision (we call it promise). Abraham received this promised son, and grandsons, and great grandsons. The family did go into bondage in Egypt. We remember the story of Joseph and how God used him to deliver his people, Joseph was Abraham’s great grandson. After 400 years the family became great and was able to leave Egypt and return to the land God had given them – Vs. 5-16.
Stephen reminded them of Moses and how the Lord had worked for them in bringing them out of Egypt – Vs. 17-37. Just like Abraham, and just like Joseph, Moses wasn’t appreciated by the nation. Not until afterward did they see the value of each of these men. Stephen was proving something to them here. Abraham wasn’t born in Canaan. Joseph was taken out of the land and never returned there to live, and Moses never lived there. The point is this – “You don’t have to be in Jerusalem to worship God.” Stephen was not speaking against Moses, as they said. He valued him. The people of Israel didn’t value Moses, not his leadership. They even made that golden calf while Moses was still living. They later worshiped other idols.
Stephen spoke of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness which the Lord gave them – Vs. 44-45. Even this Tabernacle wasn’t in Jerusalem. Stephen then spoke of David, and of Solomon, who built the temple – Vs. 46-47. Then Stephen brought them right to their problem – Vs. 48-50. God made all these things. He wasn’t just to be worshiped there in Jerusalem. God cannot be confined to a certain temple, tabernacle, church, or any building.
Then he really “gave it to them.” He said they were stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, and they always resisted the Holy Ghost. Their fathers had done so, and so did they. Their fathers had not listened to the prophets, for they persecuted them. Then he specifically charged them with betraying and murdering Jesus. Besides they hadn’t kept the Law God gave them – Vs. 51-53.
That was too much for them. They were cut to the heart, but rather than repent like the ones did on the Day of Pentecost, they became so angry they gnashed on him with their teeth, stoned him, and cast him out of the city – Vs. 54-59. The ones who threw the stones put their clothes at the feet of Saul of Tarsus, a great persecutor of the believers. Later we will learn of him and how God changed his life.
How did Stephen react to all of this? He was full of the Holy Ghost. He looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God AND JESUS STANDING ON THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD. Praise the Lord, Jesus was alive and in heaven, and Stephen actually saw Him standing there! Stephen spoke right to Him and said, “Lord Jesus receive my spirit.” Then he kneeled down and died. Was he defeated? Absolutely NO! Stephen became the first one to give his life for Jesus There have been many since who have done this. He was faithful until death. He never denied Jesus. He will have a special crown for this. May we never be ashamed of Jesus who died for us. This great persecution only made the church grow.
Chapter 8:1-25, next issue