Wednesday 26 December 2012

Bible Book:

"... filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 'Look,' he said, 'I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!'" (vv. 55-57)

Acts 7:51-60 Wednesday 26 December 2012


Today we leave the celebration of Christmas and jump to a timeafter the life, death and resurrection of Christ - one of thedefining moments of the early Church. Jumping in right at the endof Stephen's powerful sermon to the Sanhedrin, we would need tolook back at the whole chapter to see how clearly he hasset the ministry of Christ in the context of Jewish history - thestory of God's people from the time of Abraham. What we find at theverse we join the sermon at though, is that Stephen chooses not apolite summary of his main points, but rather ends with adenunciation of his audience as "betrayers and murderers" (v. 52).This is clearly not what his audience were wanting to hear andtheir reaction is only unexpected in its ferocity, not itsemotion.

The account of the execution by stoning is preceded by Luke's(Luke wrote Acts as well as the Gospel that bears his name)inclusion of Stephen's vision of God's glory. The way he describesthis is important, for Stephen is "filled with the Holy Spirit" andsees "the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand ofGod". This rather Trinitarian account of God's nature is worthnoting as one of the new occasions in the New Testament where wefind the three persons of the Trinity being defined separately yetwithin the context of the one event. Stephen's words that he saw"the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God" were clearly thefinal straw, and confirmed to the crowd his guilt as ablasphemer.

Worth noting too is the presence of "a young man named Saul" (Acts8:1). Luke is setting us up for a surprise within the nextcouple of chapters when we will reintroduced to this complicitmurderer as one who is to become the greatest of all missionaryApostles - with a new name, and a whole new life. But for the timebeing, the stage belongs to Stephen - the first martyr for thefaith, and thus a defining moment for the early Church.

To Ponder

  • What price are you willing to pay for the sake of Christ?
  • How much do you know about Christians in countries where theycan expect persecution of their faith in Christ today? How can youfind out more? Try looking at the Barnabas Fund website. 
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