Here begins a new section of Acts, in which the believers and the gospel first move out of Jerusalem. As it begins the action is still in Jerusalem, but the narrative moves quickly and seamlessly to the beginning of chapter 8 where the news heads out.

Stephen had just been appointed and comissioned by the apostles, and his role wasn’t limited to sorting food. The seven were chosen as men who are full of the Spirit (which as we have seen before is almost synonymous in Acts with being a witness of Jesus: 1:8, 2:4, 4:8, 4:31) so it is hardly surprising that the next time Luke mentions Stephen he was telling people about Jesus. This was the first time that anyone other than the apostles performed miracles (“great wonders and signs”), so it is clear that the seven were to play a significant role in the church.

I don’t know anything about the people who disputed with Stephen, but they didn’t have a chance against the Spirit of God so they resorted to underhand tactics. Once they had stirred up the people, Stephen found himself in front of the same council that the apostles have been in. Again, false witnesses were brought forwards to lie about Stephen’s words with two charges. Firstly, he spoke against “this holy place” by saying that Jesus would destroy it and, secondly, he spoke against “the law” by saying that Jesus would “change the customes that Moses delivered” to the Jews. The first of these charges is reminiscent (as is the whole trial) of Jesus’ own appearance before the council – see Matthew 26:61. Jesus did also prophecy the destruction of the temple (Luke 21:5-6) and even the whole of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44). It could be that Stephen had been repeating these teachings and the ‘witnesses’ were deliberately misrepresenting what he said. It is easy to see where the second charge came from – Jesus taught a new interpretation of the law of Moses than the religious leaders of the day did, and they probably saw their version of being what Moses intended. It was, of course, false to suggest that what Jesus said and Stephen presumably repeated was speaking “against” the law.

Once the charges had been brought, everyone turned to Stephen to see what would happen next, and his face “was like the face of an angel” – the very mediators who had brought God’s law to Moses. It can’t have been a great moment for those who were trying to silence him.

Heavenly Father, I thank you that you showed faithful to your promises again. You were clearly with Stephen, showed him exactly what to say and gave him the boldness to say it. I pray that all Christians who are having lies told against them will be inspired by your Spirit to stand firm and stand for you. Amen.


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