Acts 6:8-11 (NIV)
Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. 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. These men began to argue with Stephen, but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.
Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God.”
As was stated earlier in verses 3 and 5, Stephen was a man full of wisdom, faith, and the Holy Spirit. That was the basis of his being full of God’s grace and power. It was also the basis for his ability to do great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Without God’s wisdom, faith in God’s promises, and the Holy Spirit being freed up to work powerfully in and through a person, that person will remain powerless. But when those things are present in a person’s life, anything and all things are possible.
But where there is great power and great success in ministry there is also the opportunity for great opposition. This had been experienced by Jesus Himself, and He had warned His followers that it was in store for them as well (Mark 13:9 among many others).
The opposition to Stephen came from a group of Jews who called themselves the Synagogue of the Freedmen. They listened to Stephen’s gospel presentations and questioned him about his theology. But they would not accept his teaching that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, or that His disgraceful death was an intentional sacrifice to pay for the sins of all mankind, orchestrated by God Himself.
But no matter how vehemently they argued, Stephen calmly and logically refuted their arguments. No matter how many Scriptures they brought forward to try to destroy his theological points, Stephen simply brought out more, and also showed them that their own Scriptures, read in context, proved that Jesus really was the Messiah.
And, of course, there was the problem of the miracles that Stephen was doing. For all their protestations that they were right, and Stephen was wrong, HE had the power to do miracles, a power that he testified was the result of the Holy Spirit working in his life, while their lives were completely powerless.
In the absence of reasonable and compelling evidence, they decide to spread lies about Stephen in order to take him down. Instead of yielding to the obvious logic of his arguments and the clear evidence of the miracles, the devised a plot to falsely accuse him of blasphemy against Moses and against God.
Father, when sinful men can’t defeat their opponents with logic, time after time their next strategy seems to be to lie. It seems like they so identify with their positions, whether philosophical, theological, or political, that they can’t allow for the mere possibility that they are wrong, and their opponents are right. It would destroy all they stand for and put their whole identity at risk. So, they preserve their identity by resorting to lies, smears, and innuendo designed to destroy the credibility and even the lives of those who oppose them. But Lord, You are not stymied by their vain attempts. Their attacks and persecutions will ultimately be clearly seen for what they are, and their attacks will be turned back on their own heads and used for the ultimate advancement of Your kingdom. This has been proven over and over again, not only in the Scriptures, but throughout the last 2,000 years of world history. Thank You for Your love, Your grace, and Your power for us who love, serve, and follow You. Amen.
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