True and False Witness
Living, loving Lord, thank You for what You have done in the past. I will trust You for what You will do in the future.
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.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good persons do nothing” (Edmund Burke, 1729–1797). Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, was not afraid to speak out.
Alongside his administrative duties as a deacon, Stephen made full use of his other spiritual gifts and was the first person outside of the apostles’ group to perform signs and wonders. He more than held his own in open debate with representatives of the multinational Synagogue of the Freedmen, probably Greek-speaking Jews who used to be slaves in different parts of the Roman Empire but had bought their freedom and returned to Judea. Thank God for true witnesses, especially for competent apologists who can argue intelligently for the faith in a world of authoritative secularism. May their tribe increase!
Unable to cope with Stephen’s skillful defense of his faith, the Jewish leaders resorted to false witnesses, flagrantly defying the ninth commandment (Exod. 20:16), a tactic which had proved effective against the Lord (Matt. 26:59–61). The devil’s purpose is to steal and to kill and to destroy (John 10:10); it is hardly surprising that those motivated by him do not play fair. In many countries around the world, Christians are at the receiving end of unfair treatment, to say the least, and the western world is not exempt. Sometimes, just as happened in our text, false witnesses play a leading role.
Are there other, perhaps more subtle, ways by which we, too, bear false witness? When we find it more prudent to keep quiet and stay out of trouble instead of standing up to be counted, our silence is not necessarily neutral but could be bearing false witness to what is true. Silence is not always golden.
“Let others use these weapons against us (slander and lies); may we be delivered from using them ourselves” (John Stott). In what ways do these words speak to you? Going forward, what resolutions do you need to make?
Father God, I ask for the grace and power so evident in Stephen. Merge them into who I am so that when others notice, I can tell them that it is Jesus who makes the difference.