Background: As the early church greatly grew, people from diverse backgrounds had to find ways to connect with the Body of Christ. Since Jesus and the Apostles belonged to the Jewish faith, the church began as part of the Temple and local synagogues, which meant that the early Christians had to discern whether to keep Jewish rituals, customs, and traditions or openly welcome peoples from the Hellenist (Greek) community.
God made it clear that all peoples who accepted Jesus as their Savior were to be included in the Body of Christ. Nevertheless, Christians from the Greek community felt they weren’t being given as much as Jewish Christians, so they complained to the Apostles in Jerusalem.
Wisely, the Apostles advised the Hellenist Christians to select seven Spirit-filled men with good reputations to be in charge of food distributions and other acts of service. Stephen, one of the seven, had so much wisdom and power that he caught much attention, including negative attention that jealousy brings. With false witnesses ready to speak against him, Stephen was seized, charged falsely, and called before the High Priest to defend himself, even though his name and position indicate he came from the Hellenists.
Regardless, Stephen knew the Torah well. Beginning with Abraham, whom he called his father in the faith, Stephen proceeded to show how the Law and the Prophets pointed to Jesus as the Messiah. He did not stop there, however, but went on to accuse his accusers of killing “the Righteous One.”
This did not go over too well! When the council heard these words, they became enraged:
And, Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, saw into Heaven.
He saw the Glory of God.
He saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
And he said, Behold!
I see Heaven opened!
I see the Son of Man
at the right hand of God.
And the men cried out with a loud voice
and they stopped up their ears
and they rushed toward Stephen
and they cast him out of the city,
and they cast their coats and their cloaks
toward a young man named Saul,
and they stoned Stephen to death,
but before he died,
Stephen cried out:
“LORD Jesus, receive my spirit!”
And Stephen fell to his knees
and, in a loud voice, said:
“Oh, LORD, please
do not hold this sin against them.”
And that day,
of the way Stephen was treated.
And that day,
to sway the people one way or another,
scattering all – but the Apostles –
in Judea and Samaria
like seeds sown,
like new seeds sown.
©2013, Mary Harwell Sayler prayer-a-phrased today’s Daily Bible Reading in Acts 7:54:60-8:1.
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