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  • Writer's pictureLaura Neal

March 24th, 2024: Living in Faith- Acts 6:7-15

I have a friend who runs a nonprofit which feeds, shelters, and provides other services to those who are homeless or struggling to provide for their families.  She asks churches in the area to help.  Interestingly, a common response from churches is that the people being helped offer no benefit to their churches.  Just because they are fed does not necessarily mean that they start attending church regularly.  Also, helping them out this month does not mean they will not need help next month, so they argue it’s not doing any lasting good.  These are both illogical arguments for refusing to do the will of God. 

We don’t serve others because we gain by doing so, we do it for the glory of God and the spreading of the gospel.  We don’t base our good on the response of others, but on the commandments and purposes of God.  In Acts chapter 6, a brand new church, like a baby learning to walk, is staggering under the weight of its new responsibilities.  Worshiping Jesus as God has caused those in their congregation to face persecution, separation from their families, and financial hardships.  The early church pooled resources; they lived, ate, and worked together in order to survive and spread the good news.  Any time human beings are forced to work together, strife inevitably follows.  They had to learn the value of service to God as its own reward.  Also, they learned that a leader and a servant are often the same thing.  

7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.

After Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost where 3,000 were saved, the message of salvation began to spread throughout Jerusalem, causing upheaval and radical change, even among the Jewish priesthood.  Multitudes of both Jewish believers from Israel and Jews from the far reaches of the Mediterranean were interacting with one another because of the common bond they had in becoming the body of Christ.

8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.

The first part of chapter 6 discusses Stephen and how he was a chosen vessel of God.  In the mixed congregation, complaints arose about fairness and prejudice. Those who were from Greek cities felt like they were being discriminated against by those Jews who were from Jerusalem.  When the widows who received aid were from outside of the city, they were helped less or later, according to complaints.  It became a distraction and an issue to be resolved.  The disciples felt they were too busy with studying and preaching to be bothered with the dispute, so they suggested that the people decide on men who were known to be full of the Holy Spirit and honest and wise, who could take care of serving and take care of bruised feelings among the congregation.  Stephen was chosen by the people to serve, which speaks to the kind of man that he was.  He would also be chosen by God to be a living example of a Christlike life.

9 Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.

Libertines: Jews who had formerly been in captivity in Rome, who were now returned to their homeland.  

Cyrenians: Jews returning from Cyrene (an ancient Greek colony in Libya).

Alexandrians: Jews from Alexandria, Egypt

Cilicia and Asia: parts of Turkey

There was only one temple for all the Jews in the world, but there were many synagogues, or schools, that taught the Torah and Jewish history and customs.  All the sects mentioned in verse 9 disagreed with one another on points of law and doctrine, but they were united in one purpose, to end the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which they viewed as a threat to their cultural heritage and religion.  At the beginning of the church, the disciples of Christ went to the temple entrance to preach; they went to the synagogues to teach the truth of the resurrection. The opposition argued violently with Stephen and sought to have him destroyed.

10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.

Because Stephen was a man filled with the Holy Spirit of God, they couldn’t make any logical or rational arguments against the truth that he preached.  Instead, just as they had done with Jesus, they paid men to lie and charged him with blasphemy.

11 Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God.

12 And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council,

Again, they want to destroy Stephen and his witness not because they have found any untruth in his argument but because the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ has withstood their scrutiny and is convicting them of their sin. They preferred their traditions over the freedom of salvation.  The hardest war ever to be won is the victory of changing our own minds.  We resist anything that challenges our preconceived notions and habits.  The gospel wasn’t given so that you could add it to your pile of great ideas, it came to transform your mind.  Salvation through faith in Christ makes dead men alive. There are no half measures in Christ, He is the truth and “every man a liar.”

13 And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law:

Stephen’s message, recorded in the following chapter, answers this false accusation with power and wisdom.  Walking through the Old Testament, he illustrates the resistance of the Jews to the plans of God.  He shows how Jesus was the fulfillment of the perfect law of God.  Far from blasphemy, Stephen gave example after example of how Christ was the reason the law was written in the first place, to point them to the righteousness, the love, and grace of God.

14 For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.

Jesus said that the temple would be destroyed, and it was in 70 AD by Titus.  The customs of the Jewish law were changed because in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the demands of the law were satisfied, once and for all, the” just dying for the ungodly.”  What the gospel offered was transformation, liberty, and a restored relationship with God the Father.  Those who opposed Stephen twisted his words, preferring to remain in the deadness of their sins, captives awaiting the judgment of God, and separated from God by their own wicked pride.  

15 And all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.

I marvel at this verse.  For what purpose did God transform the image of Stephen’s face?  I believe, because He is the same yesterday, today, and forever more, it was to offer one more chance for grace to Stephen’s murderous enemies. When it says he looked like an angel, the modern church imagines something beautiful and sweet, but angels throughout scripture were fierce and fear-inspiring beings.  When encountering them, men fell on their faces.  At any rate, this miraculous moment was a testimony that what was to be spoken by Stephen did not come from man’s imagination but by the word of God.  Stephen, who was willing to serve in the small matters, was chosen by God to stand before authority and represent Christ boldly to the powerful.  In both circumstances, the service he performed was not for his own benefit but was for the purpose of dealing with difficulties in order to do the will of God.  How many of us would have refused to deal with the widows complaining?  How many would have backed down from the angry arguments with the Jewish traditionalists? You know, it is required of a steward that “he be found faithful.”  We are stewards of the gospel. Our eternal lives have been bought with the precious blood of Christ.   What difficult situation have you been placed in, and how will you use the opportunity to glorify God?

Thank you for studying with us! God bless!



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