Monday, June 4, 2012

Acts 7

   This chapter begins with a long speech by Stephen to the Sanhedrin Council. Stephen, recently consecrated Deacon, is falsely accused (see end of chapter 6) and is brought to the council. Notice that the accusations against him are very similar to the accusations leveled against Jesus.
     The speech is a recounting of the entire history of Israel from Abraham through the wilderness and the tabernacle. The speech ends with an accusation that the current religious leaders are simply playing out the story that their religious ancestors had played before them by ignoring the intent of the law and killing the prophets (see Jesus words in Luke 11:47). Upon hearing these accusations the council became enraged, rushed Stephen, dragged him out of the town and stoned him to death. One detail to not be missed is the end of verse 58 "laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul." The act of laying their coats at his feet puts Saul in the official condoning this act position. He is not just watching the coats he is an official witness to the stoning of Stephen. Like Jesus on the cross, Stephen, prayed for the Lord to receive his spirit and also prayed that the Lord would not hold this sin against them. And then, the text says, he died.
     Stephen is considered the first Christian martyr. His death precedes the first significant persecution of the early Christian movement which has the consequence of scattering the believers which then has the consequence of the gospel spreading to new places (like Samaria as we shall see in Chapter 8). Stephen is remembered annually on the Feast of Stephen which is celebrated on December 26.

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