Read Acts 7: 48-60. Go ahead.
Stephen loved the truth and told the truth and he was slain for it.
The ones who started all of this with Stephen were known as the Synagogue of the Libertines, or Freedmen, known as former Jewish slaves from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and and Asia. They hated the wisdom with which Stephen spoke as he went about working miracles and waiting tables. They may have found a certain type of freedom. They may have appeared free and had evidence of their freedom from earthy shackles and slavery.
The person who does not submit to truth submits to a much lesser god- the god of self. These Jews hid their self-worship behind the law of Moses, but when they were challenged, their true colors showed. First they lied and enticed men into telling lies for them. Then they foamed at the mouth and gnashed with their teeth, hurled stones that broke innocent flesh, and ultimately put all Christians in the jails, on the run, or to death.
The mob will pull you down like that- the mob caters to the lowest common denominator in any crowd. The mob argues around and around in circles, like water circling the drain, impressing lie after lie over and over again until it becomes truth in the ears of those who hear it. Some men take advantage of the mob, like a young Saul of Tarsus, to make his zeal known and to stand out in the mob. He suggests and consents and aids in the worst possible tragedies of mankind. For these men, the mob is their ticket to prominence and notoriety. Like President Lincoln once said, “Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It thirst and burns for distinction; and if possible it will have it, whether at the expense of emancipating slaves, or enslaving free men.”
Religious elites. Rising stars. Complicit mobsters. Each of them believe they are making victims out of the ones who offend them and their violate their sense of righteousness. Believing themselves free, they fell victims to serving themselves and all that they held dear. They had no idea that they were the victims. They were the slaves. It was their own lives that were being lost. As Jesus said
[Mat 10:39 KJV] 39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
[Act 7:56 KJV] 56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
Stephen had never met Him in person, but he sure did love Him! Stephen didn’t walk the shores of Galilee with Him, but he had received the Holy Spirit of Christ. And because he had received Christ, Stephen knew that at that crucial moment, Christ would receive him.
What must it have taken for Stephen to stand up the way he did, living in the time that he did in which religious zeal or dissent against the state could get you stoned in the street, or hung on a cross.
- He knew the truth and he loved the truth, more than he loved himself.
- He had the example set before him- Jesus Christ and 12 men who declared together, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
- He was a man of the Spirit and wisdom. He didn’t say it, he showed it.
- Gratitude. He had to have been thankful to God for wherever he came from. Gratitude, like belief, calls us to more than just mental ascent of an idea, it calls us to action.
The man or woman that will submit to nothing is not free. Freedom requires submission to a man who walked on water. Who spoke to raging seas and quieted them. A man who divided a tiny lunch into a great feast. A man who spoke as no man ever had spoken before and commanded demons to flea, and they did. The Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Is ancient faith and wisdom for today? Is it all still relevant? Can the Word of God still guide believers?