Read Acts 6:8-15
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.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:10). How blessed are you?
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).
Where do you experience opposition and hostility? Might a more definite presentation of the Gospel mean more opposition—or less?