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Acts 6:8-7:16 – Stephen and the Temple

The ministry of Stephen, was one of the seven men responsible for serving the tables of Greek-speaking widows, grows to become a ministry of preaching the gospel to his fellow Greek-speaking Jews (as with the apostles it is accompanied by signs and wonders). The latter oppose him but cannot withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. They accuse him of denigrating the temple and the religion of Moses. Like his Lord, Stephen is seized, brought before the Council, and accused by false witnesses.

As his accusers look at him, Stephen’s face becomes like the face of an angel just as Moses’ face had when he received the law at Sinai. Rather than seeking to overthrow the law of Moses, Stephen’s face implies a continued revelation from God.

At first glance Stephen’s speech seems to have little to do with the accusation that he speaks against the temple. In fact, it does. The temple was geographical place in which God’s presence was localized. Stephen makes the point that God’s presence and his revelation of himself was never in the Old Testament reduced simply to the temple. Stephen refers to how God first spoke to Abraham outside the Promised Land – in Mesopotamia, in Haran. Stephen points out that Abraham and the Patriarchs did not even own land and the family ended up in Egypt – even when Joseph was in Egypt, God was with him. Later God spoke to Moses in Midian and in the wilderness. In other words, God has never been localized simply to the temple. Thinking too small of God could threaten to undo a people who sought after God. The solution is Spirit-induced revelation. Stephen’s speech points to the idea that God’s revealing and acting will be not in the temple as such – but rather in God’s speaking through Jesus.