The focus now shifts to one of the seven chosen men, who is described in verse 3 as “full of the Spirit and wisdom” and in verse 8 as “full of God’s grace and power”.
Luke gives a great deal of space to Stephen because his martyrdom will be the catalyst (see Acts 8:1; 11:19) for the spread of the gospel to non-Jewish, Gentile territory. Greek-speaking Jews begin to argue with Stephen (v. 9) but, when they cannot better him in argument, they resort to underhanded ways. They persuade some men to make false allegations about Stephen and have him brought before the Sanhedrin. The allegations (v. 11) charge him with blaspheming against Moses and God. This is elaborated in verses 13–14 with the claim that Stephen speaks against the temple and the law, teaching that Jesus will destroy the former and change the latter.
In many ways the experience of Stephen parallels the experience of Jesus Christ; see the similar charge made against Jesus in Matthew 26:61 and Mark 14:57–58, and against Paul in Acts 21:28. The best false charges are those with an element of truth. Stephen probably did report Christ as speaking of the destruction of the temple, meaning His body, and the fulfilment of the law, and in favour of the new covenant gospel.
Stephen’s composure and serenity are obvious (v. 15). He is now ready to answer the charges before the highest court of Judaism—the Sanhedrin. When reasoned debate fails (as in Acts 4 with the Sanhedrin and Acts 6 with the Synagogue of the Freedmen), the world resorts either to the oppressive exercise of power or the desperate search for fake witnesses and charges in order to impose silence.
For the Christian, however, the best case for truth is made by its clear and open presentation. God is the great evangelist who blesses the clear proclamation of truth. Like Paul, we renounce underhanded ways that seek to manipulate adherence to the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:2). These methods are unworthy of the gospel itself. Our trust is not in eloquence, but in God to do His work through the gospel (1 Corinthians 2:1). Neither is our interest in quelling the rights of others to proclaim their religion, for truth has nothing to fear from its counterfeits.
The opposition of the world to the gospel is stubborn, irrational, and perverse. Satan “has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Like Stephen and Paul, our response must be to preach not ourselves, “but Jesus Christ as Lord . . .” (2 Corinthians 4:5).
How inevitable is opposition for the faithful Christian witness?
How irrational is the world’s opposition to the gospel today? Does it still respond underhandedly?