As the gospel continues to spread in Jerusalem, so does its opposition. “And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people”(Acts 6:8). Stephen is one of the seven the church named to help in the daily distribution of food (Acts 6:5) and begins to gain notoriety for his miracles and teaching. When some of the local Greek-speaking groups dispute with him, “they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking”(Acts 6:10). This appears to be positive—until they begin to try some underhanded means to oppose him.
“Then they secretly instigated men who said, ‘We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God’”(Acts 6:11). The accusations also include him “never (ceasing) to speak words against this holy place and the law, for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us”(Acts 6:13-14). While these words have some truth behind them—for example, Jesus certainly did prophesy the destruction of the temple—Luke stresses that they are false (Acts 6:13). Stephen is being set up. He is brought before the Sanhedrin, which has lately threatened and beaten the disciples for preaching in the name of Jesus.
The text paints this opposition to Stephen as a response to the truth of the gospel. Because they are not able to resist what he is saying, they lash out in evil ways. Sometimes speaking the truth will make us a target. Those situations will test our character and commitment to Jesus—and will perhaps cost us the way they cost Stephen.
One thing to think about: How does it feel to be unfairly accused? Am I willing to endure that for Jesus?
One thing to pray for: A love for Jesus that is greater than my love for my reputation
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