Sunday: Acts 6:8, 9
v8: Luke now focuses on Stephen, one of the seven men chosen to manage the churchs benevolence fund. Earlier he mentioned that Stephen was a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit (v5). Here he describes him as someone who was full of grace and power, and we learn that, beyond his duties to care for the poor, he was regularly ministering healing and deliverance, like the apostles themselves (Ac 2:43; 5:12, 16). v9: Stephen was also an exceptional preacher. He seems to have understood better than most the radical impact faith in Jesus Christ would have on Jewish legalism.
Monday: Acts 6:9
v9 (continued): In no way was he disloyal to Judaism, anymore than Jesus was disloyal (Mt 5:17-20), but he did recognize that the Messiahs coming had initiated a new era in Gods dealings with the human race. In particular, he recognized that the temple and the Law of Moses had found their fulfillment in Christ, and it was his preaching on these two topics which formed the basis for the formal charges made against him (vs13-14). His accusers claimed he had spoken against the temple and Moses, but undoubtedly his only crime was that he proclaimed the same truths Jesus had taught on these subjects.
Tuesday: Acts 6:9
v9 (continued): Jesus reinterpreted what it meant to truly fulfill the Law. He repeatedly said the attitudes of a persons heart must become obedient, that it is not enough to simply conform our outward behavior (Mt 5:17-48). He declared that He was superior to the Sabbath (Mt 12:8) and the temple (Mt 12:6), and that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life
(Jn 6:40). He taught that faith in Him was the way to salvation and sanctification, not zealously trying to keep all the ritual requirements of the Law. To those who did not believe He was the Messiah such words would have, indeed, sounded like blasphemy.
Wednesday: Acts 6:9
v9 (continued): He also said things about the temple which were misunderstood, even when He originally spoke them. It was these statements which were central to the charges made against Him at His trial (Mt 26:59-61; Mk 14:58). In speaking about the resurrection of His body He had said, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up (Jn 2:19). By temple He meant His physical body (Jn 2:21), but those who didnt understand thought He meant Herods temple (Jn 2:20). His words were distorted and used as evidence at His trial (Mk 14:57, 58) and then to mock Him as He hung on the cross (Mk 15:29). He also prophesied that the temple would be destroyed saying
not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down (Mt 24:2). These words were fulfilled in A.D. 70. Any one of these statements would have gotten Stephen in trouble. All he had to do was to quote Jesus accurately, and there would have been people who accused him of blasphemy.
Thursday: Acts 6:9
v9 (continued): At some location where Stephen was ministering, it may have been the Court of the Gentiles, a group of Hellenistic Jews decided to debate him hoping that they could discredit him in front of the crowd. The group included men from a synagogue of freedmen, which was a title that applied to any slave who had gained freedom, and also men from cities in north Africa (Cyrene and Alexandria) and southern and western Asia Minor (Cilicia and Asia). Of particular interest is the mention of some from Cilicia since Cilicia is the province in which the city of Tarsus is located, and Tarsus was the childhood home of Saul of Tarsus (Ac 22:3).
Friday: Acts 6:9, 10
v9 (continued): Its likely that Saul attended the synagogue made up of people from his hometown and we know he became personally involved in this event at some point (Ac 7:58), so its hard to imagine that he wouldnt have been recruited as one of the spokesmen since he was one of their best young minds (Gal 1:14). We dont know whether he was present or not at the debate, but if so, it might help explain some of his fury toward Stephen (Ac 8:1). It would have been hard for a proud man to be defeated publicly in this way (Ac 6:10). And it does seem odd that Saul became so violent toward Christians (Ac 8:1-3) when his mentor, Gamaliel, counseled restraint (Ac 22:3; 5:34-39). v10: Luke says that those who stood up and argued with Stephen
were not able to stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking (literal) (Lk 12:11, 12; 21:12-15).
Saturday: Acts 6:11, 12
v11: Up to this point it was nothing more than an open debate in front of a listening crowd, but now an evil element is introduced. Unable to argue against Stephen successfully, these men began to work their way back through the crowd planting suspicion in peoples minds. They told them, We have heard him speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God. Its uncertain as to whether they were so rigid in their legalism that they actually believed these accusations, or whether they were so desperate to silence him that they were willing to violate the ninth commandment by bearing false witness (Ex 20:16). Since Paul later claimed that when he had been a Pharisee he had been blameless with respect to the righteousness required by the Law (Php 3:6), we can be confident that even if he was involved in the public debate, he did not take part in this dishonest campaign of slander. Yes, he was passionately hostile toward Stephen, but he was not a perjurer (1Ti 1:13). v12: The campaign worked. The mens words stirred the crowd to anger, including the elders and scribes who had joined in the gathering. Then they rushed toward Stephen, seized him and led him to the Council chamber for trial. Theres no doubt as to their intentions. They wanted him to be found guilty of blasphemy, and then stoned.