What is the factor that Stephen stresses in recounting the Jewish history that ends up with his being stoned?
The witnesses said that Stephen was speaking out against the Temple and the Law of Moses. To them this meant that he was blaspheming by speaking out against God, when he was only repeating the teaching of Jesus when He spoke about destroying and rebuilding the Temple in three days. In our textbook, Stott asks was Jesus threatening to "rob Israel of her two most treasured possessions and even opposing the God who gave them? (p. 128)" God is everywhere and not just confined to the Holy of Holies in the Temple for the pleasure of the nation of Israel. Destroy the Temple and God would still be the protector of the nation. But what really made the council mad was when Stephen accused the council of continually resisting the Holy Spirit and His right to rule. Remarking that the entire nation was guilty of murdering all the prophets sent by God to warn the nation of its apparent apostasy didn't help his cause, but only angered the people further. What finally caused them to drag Stephen out to stone him was when he looked up into the heavens and proclaimed that he saw into Heaven and saw Jesus sitting at the right hand of God Since the crowd insisted that this was the blasphemies to end all blasphemes, Stephen was stoned until he was dead.
Stephen simply told the council the truth as God sees it, but they were not ready or were unwilling to see that truth. That is simply the way it is today for those who choose not to see God or their need for Jesus in their lives. Tell them that they are sinners and unbelievers will argue with you about your telling them that their way of life is wrong. As Stephen found out, as we often do, that when we "accuse" people about their sinful ways we, too, are "stoned" and persecuted because we are perceived as being Holier-than-thou, and the kind of people that are telling others how to live their lives. Many today have denied God and His existence to the point of being arrogant, and yet, when we tell them about Jesus Christ they perceive that we are the arrogant ones. I'm sure that to the council, Stephen seemed arrogant in his words even if he wasn't arrogant in his demeanor towards the council. And like Stephen, as long as we are telling God's truth, even if it means our deaths, we will ascend into Heaven and be with Jesus forever. Stephen may have been the first martyr, but he certainly showed all Christians how to die with honor and truth when we die in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Stott, J. (1990). The message of acts. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
Question: "Stephen was basically telling them stuff they should have already known"
Author Response: Isn't this still true today? Everyone knows that there is a God. I've seen enough Christian shows that talk to people on the street to know that many know exactly who Jesus is and what He came here for, but they still refuse to put their faith and trust in Him simply because they don't want to give up their lifestyle or to stop doing things they know are wrong even by human standards. Even those who don't believe in our God still believe that there is a God that they are accountable to for their wrongdoings. Jesus has gone out of His way to convince people of the truth, but too many follow the truth of philosophy or karma and believe that those who believe in these things have cornered the market on spiritual things. How do we help Jesus convince those people who believe everything they see in TV commercials and advertisements? God has made Himself plain to all of humanity so they have no excuse of His existence. We must continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will convict them of their sin. In the meantime, we will all continue to preach the Gospel that hasn't changed in two thousand years until all ears hear what God is trying to tell them. The Gospel is simple to understand until humans try to apply their own wisdom to something that God's wisdom has already made easy to hear and accept.
Question: "But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticedhe only had eyes for God, whom he saw in all his glory with Jesus standing at his side."
Author Response: What it brings to my mind is that when we are witnessing to people and we let the Holy Spirit be in control of the conversation we are not to notice anything they say back to us that isn't the truth. When we stick to the truth, as Stephen had, we have the upper hand. The people Stephen was witnessing to may not have noticed that he had the upper hand because he was telling the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Maybe this was why the people got so angry; in their hearts they knew that Stephen was telling the truth but didn't want to hear it, just like people today know more about God than they did two thousand years but still won't accept whatever truth they know to be right. Remember, the prophet Daniel said that information would increase before the end times, but that doesn't mean that people would accept the truth even if it was right in front of their face.
Bobby Bruno was saved 15 years ago in a way that left him no doubt that Jesus wanted him to reach others with His great and abounding love. He started writing at the age of 12 and hasn't stopped since. He achieved Associates Degree in Biblical Studies from Ohio Christian University in early 2014.
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