Acts 6:8—8:3 describes the increase in persecution by the Jewish religionists. In 6:8—7:60 we have an account of the martyrdom of Stephen. In this message we shall consider 6:8-15.
Verse 8 says, “And Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.” As we have pointed out, these wonders and signs were not part of God’s central testimony of the incarnated, crucified, resurrected, and ascended Christ; neither were they part of His full salvation.
Verses 9 and 10 continue, “But there arose some of those of the synagogue which is called the synagogue of Libertines, and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, and discussed with Stephen; and they were not able to withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.” Verse 9 speaks of the synagogue of Libertines. The Libertines were Freedmen. There were a number of synagogues in Jerusalem composed respectively of the returned Jews according to the languages they had acquired in their dispersion (see 2:9-11). The word “synagogue” is the anglicized form of the Greek word sunagoge, composed of sun, together, and ago, to bring; hence, a collecting, gathering, congregation, assembly; by transition, the place of gathering. It is used in the New Testament to denote the congregation (13:43; 9:2; Luke 12:11) and the congregating place (Luke 7:5) of the Jews, where they sought the knowledge of God by studying the Holy Scriptures (Luke 4:16-17; Acts 13:14-15). In Jerusalem there were quite a few synagogues of various kinds of Jews.
Acts 6:11 and 12 say, “Then they instigated men, saying, We have heard him speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God. And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and led him to the Sanhedrin.” The Sanhedrin, the highest court of the Jews, was a council composed of chief priests, elders, lawyers, and scribes. The Sanhedrin condemned the Lord Jesus to death (Matt. 26:59) and persecuted the believers. This indicates that Judaism had fallen into the hand of God’s enemy, Satan, and was being used by him to frustrate God’s move in His New Testament economy for the carrying out of His eternal purpose.
Acts 6:13 and 14 go on to say, “And they set up false witnesses, saying, This man does not cease speaking words against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him saying that this Jesus the Nazarene will destroy this place and will change the customs which Moses delivered to us.” In verse 13 “this holy place” refers to the temple (Matt. 24:15; Psa. 68:35; Ezek. 7:24; 21:2).
Verse 15 says, “And all those sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him and saw his face as the face of an angel.” The fact that Stephen’s face was as the face of an angel indicates that it had a heavenly appearance. Stephen was a man on earth, but he bore a heavenly appearance while being persecuted.
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