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Acts of the Apostles: 13 - Acts 6:1-15

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Acts of the Apostles

13 - Acts 6:1-15

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Acts of the Apostles: 13 - Acts 6:1-15

MP4 Video - 720p (1.03 GB)
MP3 Audio (32.21 MB)

In this class, we will discuss Acts 6:1-15 and continue the discussion concerning seven individuals being chosen to assist the apostles and we will look at the situation of Stephen being seized and brought before the Sanhedrin.


All right. Good morning, everyone. Outside is kind of gloomy, but inside is just bright and cheery. And all is right with the world. We are in Acts 6 today and got a lot to cover here, and probably we'll get into a bit of Chapter 7. We're at a very interesting point in the book of Acts. Actually, every point in the book of Acts is quite interesting to get to. But in Chapter 6, last time, we began to talk about the problem that came up in the church in Jerusalem. As numbers developed and needs continued to multiply among the people, there was created a problem among some of the widows of the Hellenist group, those Jews who had been primarily in the diaspora for many years, and then had immigrated to Jerusalem to Judea, found themselves there and wound up in the church. And then some of their widows were being neglected in the daily administration, the needs, food, and other services that were provided for them. And so to solve this problem, the apostles said in verse 3.

Acts 6:3-4 "Brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, who we may appoint over this business." Verse 4, "But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word."

And so this was a solution that they came up with, which was a very good solution, shows that the apostles and the structure within the church, at that time, had a kind of a quick react time to needs and situations that came up so that they didn't become bigger problems. And so they said, "You seek out from you seven men who have certain qualities." And we can't deal with all of that because, as apostles, they had a particular commission from Jesus, to go and to preach the word. And they said that we must give ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.

I'll come back to that in a minute. Let me just make a comment on verse 3, in terms of how they told the congregation to seek out from among you, these men. Now, first of all, here's the directive, "You find these men." And the text shows us then, beginning in verse 5, that they came back with seven men. The question always is, how did they do this? How did they determine who these seven men would be among the thousands who were affiliated with the church at that time? We don't know, obviously from the text, but they got the job done. Did they interview candidates? Did they put out billboards and posters, circulars throughout the congregation with a job description? "Anyone interested to apply?" Is that what they did? "If you think that you are full of the Holy Spirit, and wisdom, and of good understanding and wanna do this job, apply," well, probably not exactly that way.

But they knew each other, they had observed each other just as we do today in the church. We observe each other in a congregation and we know those with abilities and distinct abilities, as opposed to other gifts that somebody else might have. We come to know one another. We know who are the workers, the worker bees, we know who gets there early to help set up the congregation hall, we know who stays late and takes out the trash, and is good at this and good at that. And we observe these things. Well, they did that too. I think, just understand that as an organization works either in the ancient world or today, some things say the same. And so they observed and they knew. The question comes up, did they vote on this? Did they get a short list? Did they take recommendations? And then a select group or a committee that maybe kind of generated as a search committee, did they, you know, by ballot and vote on this? We don't know. It doesn't say.

Acts 6:5 It just says that “The saying, ‘pleased the whole multitude,’” in verse 5, “And they chose.” They chose. And so by whatever means, they chose to come up with these seven names, “Stephen, a man full of faith," we're in verse 5, "and the Holy Spirit." He's listed first, and he gets a little bit more press than the other six, notice. “Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte from Antioch.” Now, there's that name of the city, Antioch, which we will come back to later.

Acts 6:6 “And they set them before the apostles. And when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.

And so this selection process came out with seven men. And I have always used this in our years in the United Church of God experience, as we have balloted, voted for elders to the Council of Elders, and in some cases in congregational settings, even people to serve on local boards. And the two congregations I pastored in United, we had local boards where the congregation voted to choose who sat on the board in a fiduciary role for the congregation. And we did set up a different type of governmental structure, in a sense, from the top, all the way down to the local congregation in the United Church of God.

Those two congregations worked well for me and continued to work well. And we continued to do that practice, when it comes to selecting members of the Council of Elders, then the Council of Elders will ballot on a president, and operations managers, and the entire council or general conference votes on, not only the council but the business issues that come up before the ministry on an annual basis. And that has worked for us in our 27-plus years in United.

They did something to at least come to the selections that they did. And anyone could read whatever I suppose they want into that. But I think the operative phrasing is, back in verse 3, that these men were to be of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit, and wisdom to a point over this business. So, they had to be reliable and tick all the other boxes to be able to do this job. But what you're looking at are men who are selected to a bit more than just taking out the trash and serving at the food line, to have a good reputation, honest men of integrity, but also being, obviously, showing the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

And so there's a big spiritual dimension here to this selection process of these men that we would typically call deacons in our function today in the church. Although that word, diaconos, that Paul uses in 1 Timothy 3 in verse 8, to talk about deacons and the selection of deacons in the church. Later, when he writes this, a pastoral or epistle, 1 Timothy 3, he uses the word diaconos there, which has a broad meaning of service, servant, ministry, in a sense of ministering to or serving the needs within the congregation. That word is not used here in Acts 6, but in terms of the function of what these six are initially thought to be doing and selected for, that is at least initially what the job description is, to wait on tables and to do a lot of the physical needs that come up within the church.

And so one other point probably to make regarding this is the...what happens here in terms of the equipping, the edifying, the engaging, and the exhortation aspect of things that we will kind of see later on in some of Paul's writings as he talks about the functions of the church, especially in the book of Ephesians. In our strategic planning in the council and the administration, right now, we are working through what we call the Ephesians framework to kind of frame a lot of the functions that we are doing within the church.

We're going through this strategic planning exercise now for more than a year in the council with the work of the church. And as we look at what Paul later will write and does write in Ephesians, we discern that there's a need to equip people with the means, the training, the talent to help build up the church. There's equipping the saints that Paul talks about. There is a edifying process, which means to build, build out, to engage people, and the message of the gospel, and to exhort. And in our planning, basically, we start at the bottom of exhortation and engagement, edification, and equipping. And we have a whole structure that kind of helps to see some of the flow of the work that we need to be accomplishing out of a scripture-centered framework. I don't have the time to go into it all here right now with you, but maybe this serves as an introduction because it does apply to the church.

And in regard to what we're going through here in Acts, understand that this is an in-depth study of so much, the stories of the beginning of the church, the faith, their example, the doctrinal integrity of the church, but also the doctrine about the church. What we are doing here in going through Acts is really a deep dive into the teaching or the doctrine, or as we call it, our fundamental belief about the church. I will cover that briefly in our fundamentals class. But the whole Acts session really is a deep dive as we go through the book of Acts to understand the church, its function, what it does, and that flows into your studies of the Epistles of Paul as well.

And so, with that, we'll keep circling back to it and think through. But this is a key step of organizational development that is taking place right now with what we see by selecting these individuals. And so notice, it says in verse 6.

Acts 6:6 "They set them before the apostles, and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them."

So, we assume that and by understanding this, that the apostles prayed about it with probably the others that...let's just for just the purposes of discussion here, let's say the committee of selection or the ad hoc type committee that brought this, they bring them to the apostles in some type of setting. They all pray about it, and then they laid hands upon them. And we see this as a function in Hebrew 6, the laying on of hands is listed as a kind of basic doctrine or teaching of the Bible. And we will see this in regard to the receipt of the Holy Spirit.

And as we go deeper into the book of Acts here very shortly, this ritual or right of laying hands on someone is a very important part of ordaining someone to an office in the church, whether it's an office of a deacon or deaconess, a minister. We lay hands upon people when we anoint them, pray over the sick. We lay hands upon a child at the blessing of the children, ceremony that we do in the church. There's a symbolism there. And it goes back into the Old Testament with the priests, and the sacrifices, and the consecration of even the priesthood setting apart by the laying on of hands. When we have the marriage ceremony, we lay our hands upon the class pans of the two that are getting married. And so it's much the same way as well, but it's a setting apart for a special consecrated holy spiritual purpose that is done here.

So, what is happening here, the apostles then confirm, they confirm what the congregation, in whatever form they use, selected. This seems to be what is happening here. They confirm that, this is the structure, this is the governmental structure of the church as it is here. And the apostles are the spiritual leaders of the church in that way. And the act is done. Now, let's go back to verse 5, just for a moment. I just wanna call attention to two names here. Stephen, who is the first one listed, a man full of faith. We're going to get into his story and it's brief and it's powerful when we get down to verse 8. But there's only two of these seven that we hear anymore about in the book of Acts and the New Testament.

The first one is Stephen, and the second one is Philip. Now, this is a different Philip from the Apostle Philip, let's call him the Deacon Phillip. Okay? So, there's two different Phillips in the stories here in the New Testament. And we will encounter this Phillip, it seems, later in the book of Acts, when Paul comes back from one of his journeys and he stays with Phillip and his daughters for a period of time. We'll talk about that, and that will be his story. We'll also see that Phillip goes down to the city of Samaria in Chapter 8, and he does some evangelistic work, so it's the same Philip there. So, we'll see him twice in the book of Acts as we get into it, and then Stephen.

Now, we don't know what happens to the others, they're just not mentioned in the narrative. So, Stephen and Phillip are the two that we focus upon. And Stephen is going to kind of be like a shooting star, he's going to rise and flame through the sky for a brief instant, and then flame out because he's going to be martyred at the end of Chapter 7 when we read about his story there. And so then that remains with Phillip, so those two. The point is, as I made, the qualities that they were to look for, choosing these seven, as I said, go far beyond just the physical gifts that they might have to serve the physical needs of the congregation, their spiritual qualities. And that does come out in what Philip does and then what Stephen does, they quickly, in a sense grow, shall we say, to use the scripture term, grow in grace and knowledge? And they take on a deeper role of preaching and evangelizing. And so that too happens. I mean, even today, a person might have an ordination to an office of a deacon, but through a period of years, they continue to grow an understanding, and many deacons will become an elder.

And the church today becoming a deacon isn't sure sign that every deacon is going to be an elder. That has been shown through the years. We've had many, many fine deacons and deaconesses that have served through the years. And not everyone who's been a deacon eventually becomes an elder. Sometimes they do. Sometimes a person becomes an elder without even becoming a deacon. There's not a step progression that we make within the administration of this today. But we do have distinct offices of a deacon and deaconess within the congregation. And the churches are always served quite well when people are put into those roles, and they become leading servants within the church. And many serve faithfully for many, many years in their roles in local congregations, week in and week out, and are just the pillars.

Pastors can come and go at times, but deacons, deaconesses, an elder that is not salaried elder, we used to call them local elders, but everyone is an elder, they just have different functions. Elders who are usually non-salaried and stay decades in a congregation, along with the other deacons and deaconesses and other leading members, they are the ones who provide the continuity in a congregation. And are to be respected for that, and they should be as they serve in a profitable way for the needs of the congregation. And every pastor that comes in will be wise to evaluate the service team that is there, and respect that work with everybody in time. Tweaks and changes might be made, but that should always be done with respect for people and the congregation, the history, even some of the congregational traditions that come up so that, again, unity, and harmony, and peace are preserved within a local congregation. So, every pastor needs to remember that when he gets a new assignment. I always tell when we have a trainee setting in the audience, I always make certain points to pass along wisdom so that they know how to conduct themselves when they are in that particular role.

But Chapter 6 is a really...these first few verses give us a lot to build on. So, if you've got any questions about this, hold them for the end, we will hopefully have some time for that. Let's look at verse 7. As a result of this, you know, a little hiccup is stitched up, it's dealt with, and that's always good for the work the church has to do. Because it says then in verse 7.

Acts 6:7 "Then the word of God spread and the number of the disciples multiplied." So, the teaching, ministry, the work of preaching continues on, people are added to the church. "They're multiplied greatly in Jerusalem. And a great, many of the priests were obedient to the faith."

Now, keep in mind, by this time, the class of people within the Judaism, the Jewish community known as the priest, descendants of Levi, had grown and even the descendants of Aaron, and the different responsibilities defined by those two back in the book of Leviticus. But they had grown through the generations and multiplied, and you had thousands of people, so many saw that all of them could not, at one time, be working within the temple precincts and those jobs. And they rotated through. There was a system to do that, but there were just large numbers of them.

And among that group, that large group, some were obedient to the faith. We would interpret that to be that they joined with the disciples, they joined with the church in that. And they continued to be, they were certainly Jewish by ethnicity, and yet they identified with the gospel of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God, and the work that was being done, and the hope of the resurrection and all the teaching of the apostles, they wanted to be a part of that. So, we see that, now, some of them come into the church. Now, in verse 8, the scene shifts to the story of Stephen. And this is a remarkable story here as to what he does. As I said, he becomes quite quickly, it seems, a bit more than one who's just serving tables. He's got abilities, and he has an already understanding of the scriptures, and the implications of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to the scriptures and to the Old Testament scriptures per the teaching of the apostles. And it says in verse 8.

Acts 6:8 "Stephen, full of faith and power did great wonders and signs among the people."

By his teaching, by his example, we don't know, did he heal people? Did he lay hands upon people? It doesn't say. We're not told of him being, in a sense, elevated to the position of an elder or anything like that. That's not said. And we don't know that even that type of structure was that fully developed at this point in the development of the church. But he just moves naturally, would seem, into a larger role where he is used of God. And it brings him into conflict now with a group of people as he has, in a sense, been witnessing and engaging with them.

You know, I'll kind of call attention to what this word engagement means, and what we're calling the Ephesians framework of planning and operations for the work of the church through exhortation which is, you know, teaching like repent, repent and be baptized, which we read Peter said in Acts 2:38, that's an exhortation or an instruction, a direct command or teaching from the Bible that, through preaching, people hear, and we engage and then, in time, people become more involved and engaged. And engagement also has to do with how the church then works, or engages in dialogue people with the gospel, as a witness, as a teaching, because that's what he's doing here.

Acts 6:9-10 "That there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia, disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spoke." through verse 10 here.

Now, let's pause there and consider what we're being told with this. He's exhorting people because he's full of faith and power. So, he's an eloquent teacher. And when we read his sermon or his defense before the Jewish leaders, the high priest, it's evident. He has a ready command of the scriptures. He's able to put it together in a story that makes his point in a beautiful dynamic way, and powerfully convict people as he engages them. And he finds himself engaging in a synagogue with individuals. It's called the Synagogue of the Freedmen.

Now, what are we talking about here? Let's kind of break this down. First of all, let's look at the idea of a synagogue. I think all of us realize that a synagogue is, to this day, even connected with a place of worship within the Jewish faith. And it's a very, very old custom and tradition. And we read about it throughout the New Testament, where Jesus, in Luke 4, in His home city of Nazareth, He goes into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and He reads from the book of the law, that's in Luke 4. And throughout the Old Testament...I mean, the book of Acts here, we will see the Apostle Paul, when he is traveling throughout the regions of his journeys there in the Mediterranean area, he normally goes first into a Jewish synagogue scattered throughout all of these various locations. In Alexandria, he doesn't go there, but there's a synagogue there. In Tarsus, of course, he's come from there. In Ephesus, Lindstrom, Iconium, Derby, these places that we'll study. He goes first into the synagogue to teach, and it's on the Sabbath day.

The synagogues worthy became among the scattered Jews called the diaspora. And I think all of you are familiar with that word, but everybody should know that the diaspora refers to the scattered Jews, away from the holy land throughout the Mediterranean area as a result of what happened at the time of Daniel, in the beginning of the scattering of Judah at that time, with the destruction of Jerusalem. Jews scattered all through the known areas of the Mediterranean. And in time with enough Jews in a particular city, they would have enough to put together a synagogue, in a building where they would go to read the law, to worship on the Sabbath day, and to discuss, to fellowship. It was a center of their identity as a Jew in these scattered areas. And there they would, not only learn about the law but they would also learn how to read the law.

Our knowledge and our understanding of the synagogue's structure, it's quite a study in itself. And anytime you go to Israel and these other parts of Turkey, and Greece, and even into Rome where archeologists have uncovered this part of the ancient world in these areas, many, many different synagogues have been uncovered and found, and they are preserved and studied. And there's a great interest in doing that, obviously, from a historical archeological point of view among the Jews as well, to be able to kind of document this. But they set up these synagogues to perpetuate their identity as Jews in these Greek areas, Roman areas during these years after the fall of Jerusalem at the time of the Babylonian captivity and the exile. And the synagogue becomes a dominant part of the Jewish life. And their people learned to read and became very literate, and even adapted to the languages of their particular regions, especially the Greek area. And they became these spiritual cultural centers there.

In Jerusalem, this is where this particular event takes place. We have now Stephen encountering some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen. Now, this was a synagogue with a special clientele or grouping of people. The idea of a freedman were people from the diaspora, Greek-speaking, no doubt, but also understood to have been people from these areas of, and these regions are mentioned, Cyrenians. That is in what is today, Northern Africa, the nation of Libya. Alexandrians, you should know that one automatically, that's from the city of Alexandria in Egypt, which was the city founded by, you know who, Alexander the Great. And there was a synagogue there, and we're in the first century. So, we're way past the timing of the Septuagint, the writing of the Septuagint, which had been done in Alexandria, and the story there.

Cilicia and Asia. Now, Cilicia is interesting to note, and I'll go back, I guess I should put this back up here again to show this. Here's Cilicia, this is a region of Asia Minor, at the time. And you look at the map very carefully, in Cilicia, you have the prominent city of Tarsus. Who was from the city of Tarsus? Paul or Saul, is from the city of Tarsus. And that's the larger city within the city of Cilicia. So, we have freedmen, who are down in Jerusalem now from that area. And then it says, Asia. That's typically understood to be the greater Asia or Asia Minor, and it could be people from Ephesus or from the city of Pergamum, which was the first capital of the region of Asia in that time as well.

And all these people from those areas have found themselves now in Jerusalem. And several of them... And being freedmen, they had been granted their freedom and granted a Roman citizenship. Some could have been, you know, they were non-Romans and then given a citizenship. Some scholars speculate that the Apostle Paul was a member of this Synagogue of the Freedmen. Scripture doesn't tell us that, but that's the speculation because Cilicia has mentioned, which is Paul's home area, and that he may have identified or been a part of this, which we're going to then, at the end of Chapter 7, have our first introduction to him. And it all stems from Stephen engaging with these individuals and disputing with them.

And so I've got a particular slide I want to show at this particular time here. This is an inscription on a stone from a synagogue in Jerusalem. It's called the Theodotos Inscription. Theodotos, put that on the board here. Theodotis, the Theodotus Inscription. That stone was discovered in an archeological dig in the city of Jerusalem several years back, 1913, more than a 100 years ago, and in the city of what is called the city of David. And it has there, in that Greek lettering that you see on here, there's an inscription. And in there, it says, "It is dedicated to the rebuilding of a synagogue by Theodotos." And there's a reference in there to the phrase, Synagogue of the Freedmen, Synagogue of the Freedmen, right on this stone there found in 1913.

So, we have an archeological confirmation of what we are told here in Acts in Synagogue of Freedmen. And it goes on there, actually has a name of a man named Vitanos, who belonged to a Roman family suggesting that he was a Jewish man who lived in Rome, took a Latin name of his master when he was freed from slavery. And so, again, this is the idea of the Synagogue of Freedmen who had been slaves, Roman slaves, but had been somehow granted what is called man mission or their freedom from slavery. And then many of them found their way to Jerusalem. So, it's possible, but not certain that this inscription on this stone comes from the same Synagogue of the Freedmen that we read about here in Acts here written by Luke. At the very least, it gives us an archeological confirmation for the existence of a synagogue contemporary with the book of Acts here and what we are being told.

Now, the Synagogue of the Freedmen, this next slide here, go back to this one right here, shows you kind of the location of it in the lower part of the city of David, this is where they found that inscription. This particular map shows the spine or the hill south of the temple mount that is called the city of David. Today, the larger buildings would've been parts of the...one of them would've been probably the Palace of David. This is a scale model that is from the Israel Museum. And just off the picture at the top is where the temple is. So, it's a view looking in a sense southward from the temple. And there's a box, and I'll bring it up just a little closer here, that is circled a red area with some red roof tiles. That's where they found the inscription that we saw here that's in the Israel Museum. And that's where they surmised could have been the location of the Synagogue of the Freedman identified in that prescription, and possibly the same one referred here by Acts or in the book of Acts here. And that's kind of where it comes from. So, it's a pretty neat thing, and it's a very helpful matter to be seeing this and to know that that exists. Again, it's just part of the confirmation of so much from the biblical record that archeology does serve a purpose of doing so here. So, I think I've pretty well covered enough of that. Stephen engages these people.

Acts 6:10 Tells us, "They were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spoke."

In other words, he knew his business. He showed up and he knew his lines. All right? He was prepared to discourse, to teach, to rebut, to answer their questions, and not be bold over. He knew his Bible, which is the goal for all of us to know our Bible, those of you that have come here to ABC, and those that are watching this class and seeking out every opportunity to deepen their understanding of scripture. We want to be like the Bereans, we want to be searching the scriptures daily about all aspects of the word of God. Stephen was able to do that, and God's spirit motivated him, to give an answer for the hope that lay within him and fulfillment as well of the promise that Jesus said to the disciples, "Don't worry about what you're going to say in that day. I will help you." All right? "You will be given the words," that is of ironclad promise from Christ. And we see that many times in the book of Acts, and certainly here with Stephen.

These members of this synagogue couldn't refute him. And they're...what is it? Envy? Jealousy? Anger? Things that get out of control when your identity is disrupted. Their identity was being disrupted just like that of the priests and other Jewish leadership was, in the case of John and Peter, when they were brought before them. Because Judaism has been hundreds of years old, the traditions that have developed at this time, they know their word, they think they know it all. They're on top of everything, and all of a sudden Jesus comes, He upends it, His teaching, and then the church survives after His resurrection, and they can't find the body and they cannot deny that there has been a resurrection. And so this is eroding the identity of the Jewish leadership and the Jewish people, you have down to the synagogue level. And they're upset by that.

Acts 6:11 “They secretly induced men to say, ‘we have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.’”

So, they couldn't get the job... They couldn't answer all of his questions. They were not willing to yield to his instruction and to what, in a sense was truth being presented to them. What do they do? They bribe people as false witnesses. They secretly induced men to say something.

Acts 6:12 "And this stirs up the people, the elders, the scribes. They came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council."

Notice what they charged him with, in verse 11, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God." Now, that is a phrase you wanna keep in mind as we go through Chapter 7 of Stephen's sermon and his defense, in a sense, we will say, was he guilty of that? Is that what he was doing? This is what they say he was doing, that he was blaspheming Moses and God. But we're going to read his letter, not today, we won't have the time to do that today but we'll get into it next week, next class. And he will go through what his teaching is. And so we'll come back to this. So, just make a marker at verse 11, as to whether or not Stephen does this. He doesn't, I'll tell you that, he respects God and he respects Moses. It is just that Stephen has come to another understanding of what has happened, a deeper understanding of what is taking place. And his sermon is a masterpiece, it is a masterpiece in many ways. Let me quickly just go down through verse 15.

Acts 6:12-13 "They bring him before the council," verse 13, "They also set up false witnesses who said, this man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law."

Now, we're going to see this come back on Paul later, he'll be charged right in the same area, the temple, Jerusalem of teaching against the law. And James is gonna say, "You need to go up to the temple and do the sacrifice with some of these others and kind of tamp down the rumors that are circulating about you, that you're teaching against the law." He didn't, he never did. But Paul understood the law in a far deeper dimension with Christ at the center of it all as a result of Christ's teaching and His death and resurrection than he ever understood as a Pharisee. And Stephen, at this very early time, he gets it too. He begins to understand it. And so they charge him of speaking against the law.

Acts 6:14 "For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place," and that place is the temple. Speaking of the temple, this is kind of where he is, again, he's back up in the area where the San Hedron meets on the southern part of the temple, there in Jerusalem. And that would've been right down in this southeast corner is where they surmise the Sanhedrin would've met on area called the Royal Portico. And so when he says that, “when he's charged here that we've heard him say that Jesus will destroy this place,” speaking of the temple, “and change the customs, which Moses delivered to us.”

So, this is the formal reading out of the charge against him.

Acts 6:15 "And all who set in the council, looking steadfastly at him saw his face as the face of an angel."

Now, this, no doubt, had come down to Luke as he later, years later writes this. Luke wasn't there, so it's an eyewitness account, probably Luke has picked up, God leads and inspires him to put it into the record. And you can imagine whatever you want. I could have brought in some pictures of a kind of beatific angelic typeface. Did a light hover over him or in the background? I don't know what happened to indicate that. But I would take from the context what it says, back in verse 8, that Stephen was full of faith and power. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1, that God has given us a spirit of power. The Holy Spirit is the power of God. Stephen's manifesting that in his ministry, and he's being led by that deeply. And he has faith.

And that can...you know, in terms of how you look, the confidence that you give in a situation, where one might be preaching, or teaching, or explaining to somebody that the conviction that comes out of the heart can, let's say just exude a confidence to someone who may be listening to that, you know, has all different kinds of reactions. It can kind of make a person just kind of quiet down their objection to the point where they listen, and they see that this person's not going to be intimidated. He's not going to be put off, but see that he's erudite, he's got his facts, he's speaking firmly with conviction, and they know that, again, he knows his stuff. And anything else, any other physical manifestation, we'll just have to leave that to speculation and imagery, and maybe the artists that always try to do these things with certain biblical scenes.

But it says that they looked at him intently, steadfastly. They fixed on him, at this point, and they saw the face of an angel. Now, again, what does an Angels face look like? Well, you go back to Ezekiel, Isaiah, and you see some of the images that were given thereof Caribs. And, you know, what's associated with some of those faces on some of those scenes out of Ezekiel? An ox, an eagle, a man, a lion, you know, those are compelling images. I'm not saying that Stephen looked like any of those, but he was in charge in the moment. Let's just leave it at that, and he had their attention. Because as it opens into verse 1 of Chapter 7.

Acts 7:1 The high priest said, "Are these things so?"

And then he launches, in verse 2. So, it's your turn, these are the charges, defend it, is it so? And he is invited to give his defense, and then he launches into it. This is where we will pick it up next time, and understand exactly what it said, and especially the background to it. There's a little bit of background to what Stephen says about Abraham, Joseph, and Moses in this. Those are the three characters that he talks about, then Jesus and God from the time of the burning bush, to make his point.

And it's anything but blasphemy against God or denying the law. It is taking God and the law, and what that temple represents to a higher level of understanding than anyone has done before. And a remarkable message that does tie into certain historical events that had taken place that we've already read about. And we'll go back, actually to a couple of chapters to the statement of Gamaliel. And we'll even go back to a statement about the timing of the birth of Christ and Luke's account in Luke 2, to understand the historical setting, which is important for so much of this here, in the book of Acts. So, we'll pick that up next class and have a solid hour to hopefully get through the sermon that Stephen gives at that time.



  • Larry and Rita Wilson
    Thank you so much for letting us view these Lectures. I am learning so much and greatly enjoy these classes.
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