Acts 6:8-15 The Face of an Angel
Two of the seven men selected to see to the care of the widows, are going to make a great impact in the early Church. One will die the first martyrs death. The other will go on to become an evangelist.
The temple authorities are seething in anger over the Jesus movement. They've been somewhat restrained but now things are about to change. The young man Stephen is going to flip the switch for a major persecution against the Jewish believers.
Others besides the apostles are involved in miracle ministries. Jerusalem is receiving an undeniable witness that Jesus is both Lord and Messiah. In this study we want to look at the man Stephen himself.
This is Acts016 - Acts 6:8-15 The Face of an Angel.
Vs8: "And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people."
Exactly what the wonders and signs are we are not told. One thing we know, the Jewish peoples are being left without excuse. The one thing that attracted the peoples to Jesus was His miracles. We hear them say, "When the Christ comes, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?" (John 7:31)
Let's again examine the issue of signs and miracles for the Jews. The peoples had been taught that when Messiah comes, He would do awesome wonders that would even exceed the miracles of Moses. What were some of the miracles that Jesus did?
(1) Jesus walked on the water. The Bible says, "[God] alone stretches out the heavens and tramples down the waves of the sea." (Job 9:8 - The Hebrew for 'tramples' is 'darak.' It means to walk, tread, trod, bend with the foot.)
(2) Jesus opened blind eyes. The man who received his sight says, "Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind." (John 9:32)
(3) Jesus raised the dead, turned water into wine, healed the lepers, restored withered limbs to perfect health, multiplied the fish and loaves, quietened troubled seas by speaking a word, cast out demons, caused fish nets to overflow with a catch, and many such like things.
Then we can take note of how the apostle John ends his gospel. He says, "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written." (John 21:25)
And so, once again, Israel would be left without excuse. Not only did Jesus perform many miracles, but the apostles and their companions continue to bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ by signs and wonders. This is all taking place in the heart of Jerusalem, and even in the temple itself. You will hear me say more than once, that the new covenant began in Jerusalem, and it will complete itself in Jerusalem.
It appears that this matter of signs and wonders were more important to the Jews than to other peoples. Paul said, "For indeed Jews ASK FOR SIGNS and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1Co1:22-24)
However, with this background on signs and wonders, we need to keep in mind that the highest form of faith is to believe in Jesus Christ, without need of miracles or signs. Jesus said that a evil and an adulterous generation craves for a sign. (Cf. Matt12:39) This comment was directed to the unbelieving Jewish people. Let it not be said of us that we are cravers for signs.
Historical note: I want to mention again that out of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 a.d., there arose a new Judaism, which became known as Rabbinic Judaism. The new Judaism would be without temple, temple sacrifices, and without the ability to keep the Law of Moses. Yet they would claim to be Torah observant. Not only would this new Judaism lack a sacrifice, but it would also begin to teach that miracles and wonders were to be discounted as evidences of Messiah. In their writings they would refer to Jesus as a sorcerer and a deceiver. (And things much worse.) T
his new Judaism would add another dimension to itself. The rabbis would begin promoting the idea that they superseded Moses and the prophets. They would even have God listening in on their discussions. And this is why Talmudic study took precedence over the study of the Scriptures. This is also why the greatest thing you can ever do for a Jew, is to get him to read his own Bible. (Isn't that true with most religious people?)
Let's continue ...
Vs9,10: "But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking."
This is a sampling of the various synagogues in Jerusalem. The 'Freedmen' were likely freed Jewish slaves or descendants of freed slaves who had formed their own synagogue. It seems there was more than one synagogue involved in this dispute with Stephen. This incident shows that there were Hellenist synagogues in Jerusalem. (These are Hellenist Jews.)
... Notice they were "unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit" with which Stephen was speaking.
This will always be the case. And this is why Satan works so hard to discourage Christians from sharing their testimony of Jesus. Satan can read. The Word of God says, "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death." (Rev12:11)
Vs11: "Then they secretly induced men to say, 'We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.'"
The words 'secretly induced' is the Greek word 'hupoballo.' It is used only here in the New Testament. This word speaks of bringing someone under control, generally by use of a bribe. These false witnesses were paid well to incite the Jewish peoples against Stephen.
Isn't it amazing --- The very people who claimed to be Torah observant, or true followers of Moses and the Law, not only break the Law themselves, but they pay others to do the same. Their sins are compounding. And you can believe that God keeps a good set of books. The Old Testament writer said, "For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil." (Eccl12:14)
Vs12: "And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came up to him and dragged him away and brought him before the Council."
Up to now the apostles have had great favor with the peoples. This is the first time we hear of a turning against them. The false witnesses have done their job so well that a mob of people began dragging Stephen before the Council. The Greek expressions here show a heated mob-like activity. Perhaps some were even hitting him.
Vss13,14: "They put forward false witnesses who said, "This man incessantly speaks against this holy place and the Law; for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us."
Stephen is saying nothing. How like his Master he is. If you recall, Jesus had been brought before many of these same people. This scene is a near mirror reflection of what happened to Jesus. Let's compare:
"Some stood up and began to give false testimony against Him, saying, we heard Him say, 'I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.' Not even in this respect was their testimony consistent. The high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, 'Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?' But He kept silent and did not answer .." (Matt14:57-61)
Do you not see in this man Stephen, the spirit of the disciple? How often do we rush to defend ourselves, when by doing this we lose the greater glory. Peter said, "If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you." (1Pet4:14)
Vs15: "And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel."
It seems at this point that Stephen is standing alone before the Council. But it is just as well. Something strange comes to bear. Everyone gets quiet, and everyone notices, including the false witnesses, that Stephen's face seems to have a glow. What caused his face to glow? It was the Spirit of Jesus, or, as we might say, 'the anointing of God's Holy Spirit.'
Does this ever happen today? It happens much more than we may think. Its not simply a visible glow, although this can happen, but it is an attractiveness that can be seen in the faces of godly people. W
ell let's leave things where they are. In our next study we are going to hear one of the most remarkable sermons recorded in the Scriptures. And from this sermon our brother Stephen will make his journey right into heaven. But not without affecting a Pharisee named Sha'ul.
This study was originally part of a series on the book of Acts given to members of Hebraic Foundations from July 10, 2002 through January 19, 2003. They were written by Pastor Buddy Martin, a former United Pentecostal Church minister, who founded Christian Challenge International. Writings are the copyright of Buddy Martin and reprinted on this site by permission.
Page added October 22, 2004
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