Stephen's Arrest, Speech and Death Acts 6:8-8:1

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Stephen: A Man Full of Grace

The Scripture tells us that Stephen was a man who was full of faith and power and did great wonders and miracles among the people.
Acts 6:8 KJV 1900
And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.

Growth in Church

Now, before this we should not an interesting matter. Right before Luke talks about Stephen, he said that there was increase in the Word of God, there was increase in disciples, Church multiplied, and there were a company of priests obedient to the faith.
Acts 6:7 KJV 1900
And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
Even though there was growth, there was also a contrasting event that would be happen shortly.
Stephen was doing his work, preaching and teaching. He was doing great. However the issue was among the people “about” what Stephen was saying.

The Issue

Acts 6:9 KJV 1900
Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.
The issue stated here was that they were “disputing.” Meaning, they were contending with persistence for a point of view. It is basically arguing about who’s view is right and wrong.
Also note that these disputes were ongoing for some time, because the term for “dispute” was a present participle.

The Accusation Against Stephen (6:11-7:1)

Acts 6:11–7:1 KJV 1900
Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel. Then said the high priest, Are these things so?
So my question and thoughts until this point is: What is this accusation about? What did Stephen do? Why were these people targeting Stephen who was simply preaching and teaching? What is their problem?
We should not the ministry of Stephen. Stephen was a man full of faith and power and he was doing wonders and miracles among the people.
Not only that, he was also going to “synagogue” namely, the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians and of them of Cilicia and of Asia. So he was teaching; Stephen was spoke about his faith in Jesus, the Messiah. So this may have stirred up an issue or many issues.
So they:
Stirred up people, elders and brought them before the council.
They set up false witnesses to obviously destroy Stephen.
They accused him of blasphemy.
Almost similar to Jesus’s incidents before crucifixion?
What brought Stephen’s death was not because he taught the leaders and people a lesson. But that he claimed to see Jesus, the Son of man standing at the right hand of God (7:56). Jesus in his trial said that he would destroy the temple and build it in three days, but the main issue was that Jesus claimed to participate in God’s rule over all the world.
Look at the similarity of question by the council: For Stephen, the hight priest asked in 7:1 - “Are these things so?”
For Jesus, the high priest asked: Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”
Jesus said, “I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
So there are some similarities in these accounts.
As a side note at this point: Stephen was accused of blasphemy and was brought before the council by those who were arguing with Stephen in the synagogue. Maybe Saul/Paul was also one of those people arguing? Because Saul made a huge issue based on 8:3.

Stephen’s Response Before the Council (Acts 7:2-53)

About Abraham and the Promise to him (7:2-19)

The appearance of the glory of God to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia (7:1-6)
God told Abraham to go out from their land to the land that God would show/give. What is the point?
We see the point in Acts 7:7
Acts 7:7 KJV 1900
And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place.
Acts Interpretive Insights

But as John Polhill comments, “The real goal of God’s promise to Abraham was not the land at all. It was instead the freedom to render true worship and devotion to God. Stephen would go on to show that even the temple had not realized this purpose. The promise remains yet unfulfilled. It is only fulfilled in Christ.”

About Moses and His activities in Egypt (Acts 7:20-36)

In this section, Stephen points out to God raising a prophet amount them, as mentioned in Deuteronomy 18. That prophet is Jesus. And these people did not believe in Him; they have rejected him.
So you see how the Holy Spirit is escalating the matter to point out the wrong these people did to Jesus.
In verse 39 he points out that their fathers “did not obey.”
Look at verse 40 - Acts 7:40
Acts 7:40 KJV 1900
Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
Verse 43 should rip these listeners’ hearts.
Acts 7:43 KJV 1900
Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.
Now, notice that Stephen is bringing in an important issue - the temple. The Temple is important to these people, because according to the Law, the Temple is where God resides.
True, that God gave the specifications for this temple construction, but that does not mean that God is confined to the four walls of the temple!
Stephen then attempts to make a big change here - He quotes Isaiah, and says God does not dwell in the house made by human hands. The temple is likened to an idol. So, do not completely rely upon it.
Acts 7:49-53says:
Acts 7:49–53 KJV 1900
Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things? Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.
This has pierced their hearts.
The theological principle of this Israel’s history is that it teaches about God’s true dwelling place. Not in the midst of four walls. He is not and cannot be confined. He is all over! He is the LORD of all!

The Death of Stephen (Acts 7:54-60)

So these people had enough of it. The enraged people are about to kill Stephen.
Acts 7:54 KJV 1900
When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.

Stephen’s Death

Acts 7:55–60 KJV 1900
But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
These people did not change; their hearts are rebellious. They have killed an innocent. Just like they have killed Jesus.
However, Stephen also prayed like Jesus, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.”
Believers should proclaim the Gospel courageously in-spite of danger and death.
We must forgive our enemies. Forgiving one another is one of the main teachings of Jesus.
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