Saturday, January 10, 2015

Revenge of the Religious Zealots

And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel. ~ Acts 6:15

Such was the countenance of Stephen as he faced the hatred of those who would seek to avenge the honor of their false system. What brought such vehemence out?  Had Stephen blasphemed God Himself?  What had he done?

The sure record, the infallible account, the inerrant disclosure of who Stephen was and what he did declares

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. ~ Acts 6:8

By the grace of God Stephen proclaimed the truth of Christ with power and full of grace which was authenticated by great signs and wonders.  So much so that no one could deny it.  With so many sound words and mighty actions the response came.

 But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. ~ Acts 6:9

Stephen's words were challenged.  A debate ensued and Stephen prevailed.

          But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. ~ Acts 6:10

Stephen shattered their arguments.  Demolished their false system.  Tore in two their wrenching of God's glorious revealed truth.  So they progress and now attack his character, a classic approach called ad hominem in which the facts are ignored and the tables are turned to divert, distort, and lie.  You see, pride does not enjoy losing at all.  Pride seeks to win at all costs.  So the attack comes.

Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”
And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came up to him and dragged him away and brought him before the Council. ~ Acts 6:11–12

Aha!  And there it is, the accusation that Stephen has spoken against Moses, their beloved prophet and oh yeah, by the way, God, Him too!  The deceitful plotters induce the people and stir up their anger.  So much so that they succeed and drag away this gracious disciple of the glorious Christ and put him before the Council to be tried and executed.  So much for Gamaliel's advise in chapter 5 to "let them alone" because if it be of God it cannot be stopped. (More on that as this story progresses.)

They now continue their deception and 

    put forward false witnesses who said, “This man incessantly speaks against this holy place and the Law;
    for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us.” ~ Acts 6:13–14

We now return to the description at the heading of this blog.  With all the fierce anger and loathe from the countless masses of hell itself fixed upon this gracious man full of the spirit, they look upon the "face of an angel."  Such a man full of the spirit now gives them an account for the ages (Acts 7:2-53) and closes off with the accurate charge of their stiff-necked defiance in rejecting the very One whom they claim to be following and looking for, this Christ, the Son of Man, the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the world.

They had heard and seen the truth of Christ.  They refused to let go of their pride and their system and their avenging of their prophet Moses was sealed as their anger rose to a crescendo. 

         Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him.
         But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God;
         and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
          But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse.
          When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. ~ Acts 7:54-58

So gnashing at the beloved Stephen like ravenous wolves hungry to devour its prey they cried out loudly, stopped their ears, and rushed at him with the full force of the demons of hell and snuffed out his very avenge the honor of their god.  Has anything changed in 2000 years?  This is the response of unregenerate, self loving, hateful men who refuse to submit to the Lordship of Christ and bow their knees to the King.  The Sovereign whom the Father declares, "this is my Beloved Son, hear Him!" 

The contrast between unconverted godless men and God-fearing, God honoring men is vast. 

They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!”
Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.  ~Acts 7:59–60

Now tell me, which is the only religion of peace?

He must increase, I must decrease
~ Kevin

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