Sunday: Acts 6:13, 14
vs13-14: After the Council assembled, false witnesses stood to testify against Stephen. They said, This man does not cease speaking against this holy place and the Law, for we have heard him saying that Jesus the Nazarene will destroy this place and will change the ritual ceremonies which Moses delivered to us (literal). As we noted earlier (v9), Jesus did indeed say the temple would be destroyed, but He didnt say He would be the One who destroyed it. And He did de-emphasize the ceremonial requirements found in the Law. Judging from the astute way Stephen handles Scripture (Ac 7:2-50) there can be no doubt that he had presented Jesus teachings on these subjects accurately. Nor should we be surprised that the charges that are now being made against him are based on the same distortions and half-truths used against Jesus.
Monday: Acts 6:13, 14
vs13-14 (continued): The first charge, concerning the destruction of the temple, contains a blatant lie. Stephens accusers turned what was meant as a prophetic warning in one case (Mt 24:1-3), and a parable describing His resurrection in another (Jn 2:18-22), into a ridiculous threat that Jesus would personally destroy the temple (Mt 26:61). And the second charge concerning the ritual ceremonies which Moses handed down to us was ripped from its context to make it sound like Jesus disrespected those ceremonies. But when His words are put back into their original context it becomes clear that Jesus was not disrespecting the Law, but was announcing that a new era in Gods salvation had arrived. He was explaining that the rituals required by the Law were not an end in themselves, but were intended to be symbols pointing toward the coming Messiah. Now that He, the Messiah, had arrived, the focus of a persons devotion should be on Him rather than the symbols which pointed to Him. These same truths must have been what Stephen was preaching in one form or another, and any honest listener would have recognized his intent. But whoever was orchestrating these charges was not trying to be honest, they were trying to get a conviction.
Tuesday: Acts 6:15
v15: This is the sort of statement only an eyewitness makes, And staring at him, all those sitting in the Sanhedrin saw his face as a face of an angel (literal). Luke wasnt personally present at these events. He had to gather this information from someone who was there and heard and saw what happened; someone who was in the room when the Sanhedrin gathered to try Stephen; someone who saw the look on his face; someone who listened to his defense and could remember it point by point (Ac 7:2-53); someone who saw, and maybe even felt, the anger that surged through the room when Stephen told them they had murdered the Messiah (Ac 7:54); someone who watched everyone cover their ears and rush forward to drag him out of the city to stone him (Ac 7:57, 58); someone who stood close enough to hear him speak as he was dying (Ac 7:55, 56); someone who heard him cry out, Lord, do not hold this sin against them (Ac 7:60). I believe that eyewitness was Paul, nearly 30 years later, waiting for his own trial before Caesar Nero. Luke didnt have to travel far to get this information. Paul may have been only a few feet away, in the next room (Ac 28:16, 30, 31). Its very likely Acts was written during those two years in Rome (see comments on Ac 1:1).
Wednesday: Acts 6:15
v15 (continued): It must have been very painful for Paul to have to recall the martyrdom of Stephen. He could still picture in his mind Stephens face. He said it was like the face of an angel, not filled with fear as you would expect, but unnaturally peaceful; not full of hate as you would expect, but unnaturally full of love for his accusers; not full of confusion as you would expect, even though he was standing before the elders of Israel. It seemed at moments that he was looking directly into the spiritual realm. Who but an eyewitness would have seen that face, and who but Paul would have told Luke? We know Paul oversaw the execution (Ac 7:58; 8:1), and its not hard to imagine that he watched the trial as well.
Thursday: Acts 7:1-2
v1: Luke says the high priest started the interrogation process by asking, Are these things so? When Luke uses the title high priest we cant be certain whether he means Annas or Caiaphas (Ac 4:6). As we noted earlier (Ac 4:5-6), Annas was the high priest as far as the nation of Israel was concerned, but at that time the Romans had placed his son-in-law, Caiaphas, in the office. Regardless of which one it was, both had been involved in trying Jesus and had previously heard these same charges when they were brought against Him (Mk 26:59-61; Mk 14:58). v2: Instead of trying to defend himself, Stephen confronted the Sanhedrin with their own guilt. Using a concise history of Israel, he showed them that in situation after situation they, and their ancestors, had failed to recognize what God was doing, and even opposed those sent to deliver them. Surely he knew that no defense, unless he was willing to renounce Christ, would succeed anyway, but to preach such a sermon at a moment like that would have required a strong inner conviction that God was directing him to say such things. What he did took amazing courage.
Friday: Acts 7:2
v2 (continued): He opens his sermon with the words, Men, brothers and fathers hear! (literal) and then uses a very unusual title for God. He calls Him the God of glory. The only other place this title is used is in Psalm 29:3. A similar term, King of glory, is used in Psalm 24:7-10. Of course there could be many reasons why he used the term, but coming as it does right after the description of him with a face like the face of an angel (v15), and combined with the fact that at the end of the sermon he stares into heaven and sees the glory of God (the Father) and Jesus standing beside Him (Ac 7:55), it seems possible that his glimpses into heaven may have already started even before he began preaching. If so, that may help to explain the beautiful radiance on his face and why Gods glory was fresh on his mind.
Saturday: Acts 7:2-8
Rather than examining Stephens sermon (Ac 7:2-50) verse by verse and revisiting each historical event, we will simply review his main points and observe how he uses each to expose the nations pattern of resisting God. vs2-4: Of course Stephen begins with Abraham. The point to note here is that in order for God to work in him, Abraham had to leave his family and homeland. God had to isolate him because his family and culture were so deeply involved in idolatry. vs5-7: Only after his father died did God allow Abraham to see the promised land. There he was given several important promises, one of which said his descendants would be enslaved for 400 years in a foreign land. v8: Stephen mentions the covenant of circumcision and then the expansion of Abrahams family, moving quickly from Isaac to Jacobs sons, who became the patriarchs of the twelve tribes.