Read Acts 6:8-15

[8] Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. [9] Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)-Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia-who began to argue with Stephen. [10] But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke. [11] Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.” [12] So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. [13] They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. [14] For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.” [15] All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.

Meditate

Consider

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:10). How blessed are you?

Think Further

When chosen for an essentially practical job (Acts 6:3), Stephen was identified as a man full of the Spirit and wisdom; now he is described as full of grace and power (8). Why should this man arouse such opposition? Why does this group with the welfare of the whole community at its heart give rise to such strong antagonism? Sometimes, of course, the church has asked for it, but often there is no obvious cause.

We know little of the synagogue of the Freedmen (9), but it seems that there were theological and ideological issues involved. The church still faces such issues. There are, for example, ideological conflicts with Marxism and secularism; there are theological differences with other faiths. Significant though such differences are, they can hardly account for such levels of animosity. There are also vested interests involved; whenever, as here, Christians threaten the status quo and disturb the comfortable life that others aspire to, it invites hostility.

Above all, there are spiritual issues; in their spiritual blindness the Jewish authorities misunderstand (13). Jesus had warned his followers that they would face opposition just as he did (John 15:18-25; Mark 13:13). There are echoes of Jesus’ trial here, with false witnesses (13) and the charge about the destruction of the temple (14). We, too, are caught up in the same spiritual battle, but we are not alone. Stephen speaks, as Jesus had promised (Luke 12:11,12), through the power of the Spirit. In our mission, whenever we present the truth of Jesus, we are in a hostile environment; but we, too, can know the enabling power of the Spirit. We can speak with wisdom that comes from the One who is our wisdom (1 Cor. 1:24,30).

Apply

Where do you experience opposition and hostility? Might a more definite presentation of the Gospel mean more opposition—or less?