Acts 6:8 – 8:4
Peter – Sermon 1: Jesus is the promised Messiah (fulfillment of prophecy)
Peter – Sermon 2: Jesus is the Holy One (his deity)
Stephen – Defense: Jesus is the “Shadow-maker” All the Old Testament rituals and covenants pointed toward Christ.
A. Miracle-worker set up 6:8-7:1
· Theological disagreement – v. 11
1. what place does the temple have in the “new economy”
2. does the law still apply
· Purchase of false testimony
3. the truth doesn’t need paid witnesses
4. accused of blasphemy (speaking evil) against the temple and the law
5. indirect offense against God and Moses
· Incitement to lynch (threw into a commotion, RWP)
6. the (common) people
7. the elders
8. the scribes
B. Mighty witness speaks 7:2-7:53
· There will be
1. a land v.5
2. deliverance v.7
3. a sign v.8
4. a Prophet v.37
5. a place of worship vv.44, 47, 48
· You have placed your confidence in the wrong thing
6. Canaan, not heaven
7. from Egypt, not sin
8. circumcision of the flesh, not the heart
9. the tabernacle or temple, not the world
· You have rejected the prophets, the Prophet and the law
10. You worshiped idols vv.40-44
11. Your ancestors killed the prophets v.52
12. You killed the Redeemer v.52
13. You do not keep the law v.53
14. All in the face of the Holy Spirit’s witness v.51
So what’s the bottom line? God has always had the worldwide church under the headship of Christ in mind; everything in history up to the point of Stephen’s trial had either foreshadowed it or paved the way for it. The full sweep of history (linear, not cyclical) has its culmination in “God’s eternal purpose to gather into one the whole created universe by reconciling His creatures to Himself and to each other, a purpose He is working out through Christ in the church and ultimately to the praise of His glory.” The problem Stephen’s opponents had was their outward reliance on the form rather than what it signified.
C. Martyr stoned 7:54-60
· The mob’s response
1. enraged in the same way as the Sanhedrin ( Act_5:33 )
2. behaved like animals
3. refused to hear the truth
4. took the law in their own hands (lynch mob) – no execution the same day as the conviction
· Stephen’s strength
5. full of the Holy Spirit & wisdom ( Act_6:3 ), full of faith and the Holy Spirit ( Act_6:5 ), full of the Holy Spirit ( Act_7:55 )
“In Acts 6:8 Stephen possesses grace and power from God in abundant measure (cf. 6:3, 5). This is a permanent endowment, but a special grace is perhaps denoted in 7:55.” TDNT
6. vision of God and the exalted Christ v.56
7. total confidence in God v.59
8. spirit of forgiveness v.60
D. Members scattered 8:1-4
“The ‘Synagogue of the Freedmen’ was the source of the antagonism. Out of the many synagogues in Jerusalem, this one was attended by Hellenistic Jews from the Diaspora.
‘Freedmen’ in the first century were slaves or descendants of slaves who had gained their release. The name of this synagogue implies that the freedmen were Jews who previously had lived in Cyrene or Alexandria in Northern Africa, or in the provinces of Cilicia [southeast Turkey] and Asia [northwest Turkey]. Quite frequently Jews moved from these areas around the Roman Empire and took up residence in Jerusalem. The Apostle Paul, for example, was a Cilician Jew who may well have participated with this synagogue.” College Press NT Commentary on Acts 6:9
Persecution could have been primarily against Hellenistic Jews who “defected” from the faith. Not all believers left Jerusalem – “devout men” who buried Stephen, the apostles who were excepted from the blanket statement.
In Septuagint, Psa_79:13, it is used of the laying waste of a vineyard by the wild boar. VWS
Canon [of Westminster] Farrar [and chaplain to the Queen] observes: “The part which he played at this time in the horrid work of persecution has, I fear, been always underrated. It is only when we collect the separate passages – they are no less than eight in number – in which allusion is made to this sad period, it is only when we weigh the terrible significance of the expressions used that we feel the load of remorse which must have lain upon him, and the taunts to which he was liable from malignant enemies. He ‘made havoc of’ – literally, ‘he was ravaging’ – the church.” (“Life and Work of St. Paul”, p. 172). Quoted in Vincent Word Studies
Act_8:3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.
Act_9:1 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest.
Act_9:21 Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?”
Act_22:3-4 “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women,
Act_26:9-11 “Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.
1Co_15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
Gal_1:13 For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.
Php_3:6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
1Ti_1:13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
See Act_11:19 for a description of where they went
“These Christians traveled northward to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch. The Phoenician plain ran some 125 miles north from the plain of Dor (south of Mt. Carmel) to the Eleutheros River. On its west was the Mediterranean Sea and Phoenicia reached inland only about fifteen miles to the mountains of Lebanon and Galilee. Chief cities in Phoenicia included Tyre, Sidon, Ptolemais, and Zarephath. The island of Cyprus lay about 100 miles off the Syrian coast in the Mediterranean.
Antioch was the third largest city of the Empire (behind Rome and Alexandria), boasting a population of 500,000. Because of its location as the hinge which joined together the eastern and western Roman empire, Antioch was truly a cosmopolitan city.” College Press NT Commentary, Acts 11:19
If it weren’t for persecution, ravaging and scattering, the church would have remained in Jerusalem and not been obedient to Christ’s commission.
More properly, evangelizing or announcing the good news of the Word. Here in v. 4 ???????????? , euaggelizo?, is used rather than ???????? , ke?russo?, or preach as in v. 5. The emphasis is more on the content of the proclamation rather than the method; thus, the idea that evangelizing is not limited to ordained pastors but can and should be characteristic of all within the church.
“…it is a suggestive fact that this word is only used once in the other Gospels (Mat_11:5 by our Lord), but no less than ten times in St. Luke’s Gospel, fifteen in Acts, and chiefly elsewhere by St. Paul; truly “a missionary word,”, see ver. 12. Simcox, Language of the N. T., p. 79, speaks of its introduction into the N. T. with “such a novel force as to be felt like a new word”.” Expositors Greek Testament
“There is no evidence, nor is there any probability, that all these persons were “ordained” to preach. They were manifestly common Christians who were scattered by the persecution; and the meaning is, that they communicated to their fellow-men in conversation wherever they met them, and probably in the synagogues, where all Jews had a right to speak, the glad tidings that the Messiah had come. It is not said that they set themselves up for public teachers, or that they administered baptism, or that they founded churches, but they proclaimed everywhere the news that a Saviour had come. Their hearts were full of it. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks; and they made the truth known to “all” whom they met. We may learn from this:
(1) That persecution tends to promote the very thing which it would destroy.
(2) that one of the best means to make Christians active and zealous is to persecute them.
(3) that it is right for all Christians to make known the truths of the gospel. When the heart is full the lips will speak, and there is no more impropriety in their speaking of redemption than of anything else.
(4) it should be the great object of all Christians to make the Saviour known “everywhere.” By their lives, their conversation, and their pious exhortations and entreaties, they should beseech dying sinners to be reconciled to God. And especially should this be done when they “are traveling.” Christians when away from home seem almost to imagine that they lay aside the obligations of religion. But the example of Christ and his early disciples has taught us that this is the very time to attempt to do good.” Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament