When Christians are falsely accused for their beliefs in court and the public arena it is predictable that persecution is coming. The fact that the accusations have to be made up means that there is no credible evidence that they can use. The anger focused upon believers is not logical; it is emotional.
It was just another day serving Grecian widows and their families mixed with a healing there, another sign or wonder here when suddenly Stephen found himself falsely accused. Suddenly dragged before the Sanhedrin court in full assembly, Stephen would be challenged to explain the charges against him.
FALSELY ACCUSED – THE CHARGES
- He blasphemes against Moses and God (Acts 6:11).
- He incessantly speaks against the Temple and the Law (vs. 13).
- He says Jesus will destroy the temple and the Law of Moses (vs. 14).
Of course, none of these accusations were true. They had used them before when Jesus was standing in front of them during Passover week. The charges were based upon teachings of Jesus that they had twisted into crazy falsehoods.
Same song, second verse.
Like Moses before (Exodus 34:29-35), Stephen’s face began to glow (Acts 6:15) as though he had been standing in God’s presence. This would be confirmed just before his death when he sees Jesus standing at God’s right hand in heaven (Acts 7:55). Did anyone pause to check themselves at such a sight? I wonder….
What transpires between the accusations at the end of Acts 6 and his death by stoning at the end of chapter 7 is an incredible speech; the longest in the book of Acts. This one event would unleash a persecution of the church in Jerusalem that would send the Christian community scattering for safety as the whole city seemed to turn against them (Acts 8:1-3).
This would be a significant speech (Acts 7) that Luke felt his audience needed to hear in detail. Every Christian needs to know the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, etc.
STEPHEN’S RESPONSE TO FALSE ACCUSATIONS
Stephen could have spent his time defending himself, denying ever having taught such silly teachings. He could have spent time trying to explain what the lies were based upon.
Instead, Stephen chose to strategically speak of the great characters of Israel’s history with which every member of the Sanhedrin would have been very familiar. In the process he reveals the characteristic rebellion of the Israelites to God and His messengers in order to bring the inescapable point home to the religious leaders:
“…you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”Acts 7:53 (NIV)
The phrase often used today is “he spoke truth to power.”
So far in Acts we have seen the religious authorities allied against the believers of the early church in Jerusalem. At the same time we never hear of Peter and the 11 organizing an insurrection or rebellion of any kind. What we do read of is acts of kindness, generosity and love in the face of false accusations. When given the opportunity Jesus’ followers will speak truth to power and to anyone else who will listen.
This simple observation tells us one simple thing. When Christians come under persecution they act the same ways and according to the same principles and values that they live by every single day. This way their testimony will be consistent with their lifestyle when they are given the opportunity to speak.
Of course, the result may be false accusations because they cannot file a legitimate complaint. It’s ok. You are in good company. That’s what they have always done to God’s messengers.