GOOD MORNING SIBLINGS!
Today we read Acts 7-8
I want to begin by diving into what Stephen was accused of and how he specifically refuted each charge.
In Acts 6:11 the instigators claimed that they heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses (1) and YHWH (2) and in Acts 6:13 they claimed he never ceased to speak words against the temple (3) and the law of YHWH (4).
Now let’s look at what Stephen Himself said.
- He begins in Acts 7:2 by referring to the glory of YHWH and speaking to the wonder and awe that is YHWH. This refutes the charge of blaspheming YHWH (2) as he shows clear and consistent reverence throughout his speech.
- In Acts 7:35-38 He shows his respect for Moses and all that YHWH had done through Him. Thus refuting the charge of speaking against Moses. (1)
- In Acts 7:38 He refers to the Law of YHWH as living words, this is a double reference to the Words of YHWH and Messiah as that word (John 1:1) but by referring to the Word of YHWH as living he is showing his reverence and understanding of that word being eternal, which refutes the charge that he spoke out against YHWH’s law (4).
A key word to understand here would be “Torah” which is used to describe the first five books of the Bible, teachings of Moses, the Law of YHWH, and the Ten Commandments. Stephen was accused of speaking against Torah but he is making it clear that, individually and as a sum total of all definitions, he holds Torah to be authoritative and the source of wisdom itself. However, there is anther word “Halakah” which is used to denote the first five books, law of YHWH, commandments, teachings of Moses, AND Oral Law and tradition that was created by man. This will come into play later on in our reading.
- Acts 7:44-50 shows Stephen giving proper respect towards the temple of YHWH, thereby refuting the final charge (3).
Why did they lay their coats at Saul’s feet? There are some theories that state this was a misunderstanding of scribes during translation and that it was actually referring to the council of judges having the ability to wave a flag and have the stoning stopped and that perhaps those present were laying down their flags at the feet of Saul should he choose to wave it. I looked into that and it just didn’t seem to hold any water after we read Acts 22:20.
Paul (Saul) himself explain later that he was guarding the clothing: “And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his death, and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him” Acts 22:20.
Fact is, if you’re wearing a coat or outer garment and want to throw a stone with all your might, it is easier to do so without your coat on.
The beginning of Acts 8:1 is a bleak statement, given to us right at the moment Stephen died.
“And Saul approved of the execution”And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem. – Acts 8:1
This is a stark change from what we read in Acts 2:
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:46-47
In Acts 8:1 the term church is used in place of the Greek “Ekklesia” which means set apart ones. It is important to understand that this was a group of Jews who believed in Messiah, not a group of Gentiles, but Messianic Jews. They are our forefathers in the faith, just as our Jewish brethren are. Yes, there might have been Gentiles among them, as there have always been since YHWH called His people out of Egypt. He has always made provisions for the Sojourners who would join themselves to His chosen people and worship Him as their God. But the vast majority of these folks we are reading about and will continue to read about, are Messianic Jews (Jews who believe Yeshua is the Messiah).
Acts 8:6 points out that the crowds who were hearing the preaching of the disciples were paying attention with one accord. The Father has directed us to be of one accord many times through His word. I wish we were more mindful of that in the body today. Someone doesn’t have to walk exactly as we do in order for us to be of one accord with them on many matters of YHWH and His Word. Even more tragic is when someone is clearly seeking to live in accordance with YHWH’s word but we attack them because they disagree with us on matters of no eternal merit.
Acts 8:14-24 shows another miracle as the apostles give the Holy Spirit to others. That gave me goose bumps to read.
Simon the former magician– I feel for this guy because he seems so genuine in his zeal and we are led to believe that he gave up magic as well. He was swept up in a current of belief and wonder, something I can certainly understand through my own experience. However, he was used to his own perspective and had a lot of unlearning to do. The spiritual world does not function as the physical world does and the ways of YHWH are different from the ways of the world. Poor Simon was steeped in the world and now he was waist high in the spiritual, trying to function the same way he did in the world. He was rebuked and told to repent and it appears he did so. As a new convert, this is a mistake that most of us have had to experience for ourselves.
We do the best we can with what we know and once we know better, we do better. That is the key.
I am heartened to see that Simon did not get offended or harden his heart, but heeded the wisdom and repented. This is a great example for us to follow. Personally, I’ve found that the better I receive the correction of YHWH, the easier it is for me to partner with YHWH in changing and becoming the person He wants me to be. Remember, He loves us just the way we are, but He loves us far too much to let us stay that way.
By the way, I don’t know if we’ve ever talked about the root word for offense. The root word for offense in Greek is skandalon and it means a trap or stumbling block. Think of this the next time you feel offended as it is often the easiest trap the adversary has for capturing us and getting us to willingly leave the will of YHWH. We get offended – and that offense often overrides all reason. My goal is to be the least offended person in the room. It takes work, I don’t always achieve it, but this remains my goal just the same and the glory is entirely His on those ever increasing days when I am able to succeed.
When we read about Candace in Acts 8:27 this was not a person’s name but rather the title of a queen or queen mother of Ethiopa. Some translations say “the Kandake” and some make it read as if it was a queen whose first name was Candace. Either way, now you know.
And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Acts 8″26-31
Oh my heart! This man was seeking. Worshipping to the best of His ability. He didn’t know exactly what to do and he didn’t have full understanding, but he had a desire in his heart to follow YHWH and he knew to turn to the word. He began reading it in faith, even though he didn’t understand what those pages were saying. He showed up and YHWH honored that by sending him the help he needed to turn on the light of understanding.
I have been in that man’s place. And the God who met him there- met me there as well.
Don’t read past what happened to Philip in Acts 8:39. Take a moment to imagine being there and seeing this. It happened. Don’t be surprised if things like this happen again in your lifetime. YHWH is moving. What, then, should be the response of all those who call themselves by His name?
Book open. Eyes on Him.
These are just a few quick notes today. I hope they make sense and I hope you are enjoying the book of Acts. I’m excited about tomorrow!
Test everything, hold tight to what is good.~ 1 Thess 5:21
We are saved by Grace alone: Obedience is not the root of our salvation, it is the fruit!
May YHWH bless the reading of His Word!