ACTS 6:1-8:3 JUNE 15 2008
The apostles suggested that seven men be selected to facilitate
the daily distribution to needy Christians (Acts 6:1-6) The apostles
were freed to preach the gospel and the church grew (Acts 6:7).
Stephen, one of the seven men selected to distribute food,
distinguished himself (Acts 6:8). Members of the Freedmen’s
Synagogue induced false witnesses to declare he spoke blasphemy,
after which he was dragged to the Sanhedrin (Acts 6:9-15).
In his defense Stephen summarized Hebrew history. He began
with God’s calling Abraham in Mesopotamia (Acts 7:1-8). He moved
to Joseph and his brothers’ residing in Egypt (Acts &:9-16). Then
Stephen recounted the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt and Moses’ leading
them to freedom (Acts7:17-36).
Stephen boldly charged the religious leaders with "resisting the
Holy Spirit (acts 7:51). Their ancestors had persecuted and killed
the prophets; the religious leaders had killed the Righteous One
(Jesus) the prophets foretold (Acts 7:52-53). The Sanhedrin’s enraged
members killed Stephen(Acts 7:54-60). The Jerusalem church
experienced severe persecution, and Christian were scattered
(Acts 8:1). Believers buried Stephen and mourned his death (Acts 8:2).
Saul, a Pharisee, persecuted believers (Acts 8:3).
1. Bold in Discussion (Acts 6:8-10)
Acts 6:8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. 6:9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called )—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, 6:10 but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.
Great woneds and miraculous signs . Until now, Acts told of only the
apostles working miracles (Acts 2:43; 3:4-8; 5:12). But now, after
the laying on of the apostles’ hands, Stephen too is reported as
working miraculous signs. Philip also will soon do the same (Acts 8:6). Freedmen . Persons who had been freed from slavery. They came from different Hellenistic areas. Cyrene. The chief city in Libya and north Africa (Acts 2:10), halfway between Alexandria and Carthage. One of its population groups was Jewish (Acts11:19-21). Alexandia . Capital of Egypt and second only to Rome in the empire. Two out of five districts in Alexandria were Jewish. Cilicia. A Roman province in the southeast corner of Asia Minor adjoining Syria. Tarsus, the
birthplace of Paul, was one of its principal towns. Asia . A Roman
province in the western part of Asia Minor. Ephesus, where Paul later ministered for a few years, was its capital. These men began to argue . Since Saul was from Tarsus, this may have been the synagogue he attended, and he may have been among those who argued with Stephen. He was present when Stephen was stoned (Acts 7:58).
2. Bold amid Hostility (Acts 6:11-15)
Acts 6:11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have
heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against
God.” 6:12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the
teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the
Sanhedrin. 6:13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 6:14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.” 6:15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Blasphemy against Moses and against God . Since Stephen declared
that the worship of God was no longer to be restricted to the temple
(Acts 6:48-49), his opponents twisted these words to trump up an
accusation that Stephen was attacking the temple, the law, Moses
and, ultimately, God. The elders and the teachers of the law . ( Matt
2:4; 15:2; Luke 5:17). Sanhedrin . (Mark 14:55). Speaking against the
law . Similar to the charges brought against Christ (Matt 26:61).
Stephen may have referred to Jesus’ words as recorded in (John 2:19),
and the words may have been misunderstood or purposely
misinterpreted (Acts 6:14), as at the trial of Jesus.
3. Bold in Defense (Acts 7:51-53)
Acts 7:51 “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts
and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy
Spirit! 7:52 Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not
persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of
the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him —
7:53 you who have received the law that was put into effect
through angels but have not obeyed it.”
Uncircumcised hearts and ears . Though physically circumcised,
they were acting like the uncircumcised pagan nations around
them. They were not truly consecrated to the Lord. Law that was
put into effect through angels . (Acts 7: 38).
4. Bold to the End (Acts 7:54-60)
Acts 7:54 When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed
their teeth at him. 7:55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit,
looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing
at the right hand of God. 7:56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven
open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 7:57
At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their
voices, they all rushed at him, 7:58 dragged him out of the city
and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their
clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 7:59 While they
were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
7:60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold
this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Full of the Holy Spirit.(Acts 2:4; Acts 6:5). Son of man. (Mark 8:31).
Jesus used this title of himself (Mark 2:10) to emphasize his
relationship to Messianic prediction (Matt 25:31; Dan 7:13-14). It
is unusual for someone other than Jesus to apply this term to
Christ (Rev 1:13). Laid their clothes at the feet of. . . SAUL. Some
have thought that this marked Saul as being in charge of the
execution. In any case, it is Luke’s way of introducing the main
character of the second section of the book. Do not hold this sin
against them. Compare with Jesus’ words (Luke 23:34).
Stephen means "crown". Because the name is Greek,
Stephen probably was a Hellenistic Jew – a Jaw who spoke Greek
and adopted Greek culture – who then became a Christian. He
demonstrated outstanding Christian character. He is introduced
in (Acts 6:5), where he is listed first among the seven men
chosen to ensure the daily distribution to needy believers in
Jerusalem was equitable. He had a spotless reputation and was
spiritually gifted. He moved beyond waiting on table to giving
powerful witness to Hellenistic Jews.
Unable to defeat him in debate, these Jews took
Stephen before the Sanhedrin, where he boldly witnessed
concerning the gospel’s being for all people everywhere. Enraged
in general by Stephen’s sermon and in particular by his charge
that they had received but had not kept the law, the Sanhedrin
members stoned Stephen to Death.
Stephen boldly declared that God never had limited
Himself to one land or to a particular place, such as the temple.
He well may have been the first Christian to grasp clearly God’s
intention that Gentiles as well as Jews receive the good news
of salvation in Christ. The bold declaration of this inspired
insight cost him his life. He became the first Christian martyr.