The Story of Stephen and Paul
Series: Pauline Letters
Acts 6:5-6 ESV
Acts :6-7 ESV
Acts 6:8 ESV
Acts 6:12-15 ESV
Acts 7:2-53 (Stephen’s Speech)
Acts 7:47-50 ESV
Acts 7:51-53 ESV
Acts 7:54-60 ESV
Acts 8:1 ESV
So to set the stage, Saul, a Hebrew of Hebrews, and a Pharisee was keeping his eye on a particular fellow who was a follower of Jesus. The group he was watching called themselves the people of the WAY.
One particular fellow Saul was keeping an eye on was Stephen. We learn in Acts 6 that Stephen was one of seven men chosen to help the original disciples. We are told that “they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them” (Acts 6:5-6).
While the apostles were preaching, the new men who were chosen would help with the people who came to hear the apostles speak. Today we would call them deacons.
We get a clue from Acts 6:7 of what was happening, “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”
The WORD increased.
The number of followers multiplied in Jerusalem.
AND (here’s the rub) a great many PRIESTS became followers…followers of the WAY.
More than likely, THATS what really got Saul’s attention.
Not only were Jews becoming followers of the WAY, now the Hebrew Pharisees were noticing that Priests were becoming followers of the way.
Then in Acts. 6:8 we are told, “And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.”
So at this point attention was drawn to Stephen because others there noticed he had been filled by the Spirit with grace and power and he was doing great signs and wonders. Stephen was filled and empowered by the Spirit and he spoke with the wisdom of God. All indications point to the fact that Stephen was noticed simply because of the power of God apparent IN him.
The Jews knew they wouldn’t win this battle against Stephen fairly, so they sought to stir up the crowd by sending in false witnesses (Acts 6:11).
We know from Acts 6:12-15, “they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and se my that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.”
In Acts 7:2-53 Stephen gave a magnificent speech to the council outlining to the High Priest events in the Hebrew Scriptures beginning with Abraham.
The speech was about God’s plan.
Stephen made it clear that God had a plan with Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, and the prophets (Acts 7:2-46).
In Acts 7:47-50, Stephen said, “But it was Solomon who built a house for him.”
“Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?’”
Stephen’s words to the council carried an air of familiarity with the Almighty. That’s because the hand of God had touched Stephen. His words were words of God from God.
Had members of the council experienced moments of deep familiarity with God? We cannot know, but with Stephen’s next words from the Almighty they were challenged.
In Acts 7:51-53, Stephen said, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”
Through Stephen, God was piercing their hearts. God was giving them a chance to turn to Him and see the truth.
But in Acts 7:54-60 we know the members of the council did not turn to God. Instead we learn, “Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
Even to the end, Stephen forgave them. He was pleading mercy for his murderers.
And then in Acts 8:1 we are told, “And Saul approved of his execution.”
Saul, the Hebrew Pharisee agreed with their decision to stone Stephen for his words.
Saul knew and Saul approved of the stoning of a Stephen the Saint.
Spiritual Practice: Forgive
Forgive someone who has brought harm to you. The act of saying you forgive will put the matter in God’s hands.
In God, Deborah