The passage can be read here.
It’s the day after the night before. The election results are in and it has been a shock. After months of being told by all of the polling organisations the election was too close to call, we now find that it wasn’t that close at all. As the result of the exit poll was announced as the polls closed; politician after politician stepped forward to say the exit poll couldn’t be right. Paddy Ashdown, former leader of the Lib Dems, said if the result was anywhere near right he would eat his hat. Alistair Campbell, former communications director for Tony Blair said if the result was right he would eat his kilt. The result was right, in fact for Labour and the Lib Dems it was even worse than the exit poll had predicted. As the dust settled, three party leaders resigned and the rebuilding began but the question so many are asking is; ‘how could the opinion polls get it so wrong?’
I suspect the answer is fairly simple – people lied. Thousands of people up and down the country have been questioned and the undeniable fact is that they said one thing and did something else. We find lying easy, children lie without having to taught, when in a sticky situation the instinct is to lie and of course lying is one of Satan’s favourite weapons. People lied about Jesus during his trial, in today’s passage, they lied about Stephen so we shouldn’t be surprised if people lie about us.
Stephen is a man whose appearance in scripture is brief but very influential. He was not a man to do things by halves. He was chosen as one of the seven who were full of the Spirit and wisdom (6:3), when the seven are listed, Stephen is described as a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit (6:5), and as he began his ministry, he is said to be full of faith and power (6:8). God gives his gifts so that we can use them for his glory and not so that we can feel good about ourselves. It is no surprise then that Stephen began reach out to the people and again God did great signs and wonders. We do not know what form these wonders and signs took but it would seem to be similar to previous demonstrations of God’s power with healings and people being set free from evil spirits.
Paul would write later;
“Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (1 Timothy 3:12)
It seems strange, Stephen did good things but faced opposition but then so did the apostles and so did Jesus. It’s another reminder that we are in a battle. As we’ve already seen this week;
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)
As we saw yesterday, Stephen was probably a Grecian Jewish believer so it would have been expected that opposition arose from other Grecian Jews. The first attempt to stop Stephen was by argument. This didn’t go very well for them since Stephen was speaking in the power of the Spirit. Jesus had prophesied that this would happen;
“But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons” (Luke 21:12)
“For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict” (Luke 21:15)
When they failed to win by argument they used lies and false accusations. Stephen was dragged before the Sanhedrin and the whole situation was quickly getting out of hand. Stephen is not fazed, he doesn’t get involved in a shouting match. All present stare at him and see something different. Luke says that his face was like the face of an angel. I suspect, this information comes from Paul and in the years that followed, it would be a face he would not forget. It seems that in the middle of this trial, Stephen is reflecting God’s glory.
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Finish then, thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see they great salvation
Perfectly restored in thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before thee,
Lost in wonder, love and praise (Love Devine – Charles Wesley)