Imagine standing before the most powerful and influential government officials in the country. The prosecuting attorney has just presented evidence that makes you appear guilty of a capital crime, for which the sentence will be the death penalty. These people have the power to determine whether you live or die. Your next words will determine what happens next. You have their undivided attention. What do you say?
This was Stephen's platform in Acts 6-7. The religious leaders had just charged Stephen with "blasphemy against Moses and against God." Specifically, they thought he was speaking against the temple, which was something they could not tolerate. In their minds, the temple in Jerusalem contained the very presence of God.
Stephen proceeds to turn the tables on the religious elite as he presents a three-part message aligning these religious "experts" with the various rebellious groups who have opposed God's plan throughout Israel's history. They have an outward form of religion but have never applied it to their own hearts. His message included three major points:
Israel has had a long history of resisting God and His prophets.
The law can't save you.
The Temple is not the pinnacle of God's plan - Jesus is!
The reaction of those in the Sanhedrin was visceral. Luke records they "gnashed their teeth," like mad dogs. This group of Israel's finest and most respected statemen turned into a lynch mob taking Stephen out and stoning him to death. There are some practical reminders to glean from this section as we face our own pressures in a world that is increasingly hostiles to truth and righteousness:
God does not call us all to be martyrs, but He does call us to be "living sacrifices."
Religious people are often the most difficult to reach.
When they can't defeat the message, they go after the messenger.
Only God can't transform a lost person's heart.
I want to encourage each of you to use every opportunity available to share the gospel with the lost in your life, no matter the cost.
Press on! Pastor Brian Richard