Against this holy place - The temple, that it shall be destroyed.
And the law - That it cannot give life, nor save from death. It is very likely that they had heard him speak words to this amount, which were all as true as the spirit from which they proceeded; but they gave them a very false colouring, as we see in the succeeding verse.
And set up false witnesses - It has been made a question why these persons are called “false” witnesses, since it is supposed by many that they reported merely the “words” of Stephen. It may be replied that if they did report merely his “words”; if Stephen had actually said what they affirmed, yet they perverted his meaning. They accused him of “blasphemy”; that is, of calumnious and reproachful words against Moses and against God That Stephen had spoken in such a manner, or had designed to “reproach” Moses, there is no evidence. What was said in the mildest manner, and in the way of cool argument, might easily be perverted so as in “their view” to amount to blasphemy. But there is no evidence whatever that Stephen had ever used these words on any occasion, and it is altogether improbable that he ever did, for the following reasons:
(1)Jesus himself never affirmed that he would destroy that place. He uniformly taught that it would be done by the “Gentiles,” Acts 10:14, etc.; Acts 11:2, etc.; Acts 15:20; Acts 21:20, etc. The probability therefore is, that the whole testimony was “false,” and was artfully invented to produce the utmost exasperation among the people, and yet was at the same time so plausible as to be easily believed. For on this point the Jews were particularly sensitive; and it is clear that they had some expectations that the Messiah would produce some such changes. Compare Matthew 26:61 with Daniel 9:26-27. The same charge was afterward brought against Paul, which he promptly denied. See Acts 25:8.
This holy place - The temple.
The law - The Law of Moses.
Stephen, the foremost of the seven deacons, was a man of deep piety and broad faith. Though a Jew by birth, he spoke the Greek language and was familiar with the customs and manners of the Greeks. He therefore found opportunity to preach the gospel in the synagogues of the Greek Jews. He was very active in the cause of Christ and boldly proclaimed his faith. Learned rabbis and doctors of the law engaged in public discussion with him, confidently expecting an easy victory. But “they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.” Not only did he speak in the power of the Holy Spirit, but it was plain that he was a student of the prophecies and learned in all matters of the law. He ably defended the truths that he advocated and utterly defeated his opponents. To him was the promise fulfilled, “Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.” Luke 21:14, 15. AA 97.1Read in context »
Continuing His instruction to His disciples, Jesus said, “Beware of men.” They were not to put implicit confidence in those who knew not God, and open to them their counsels; for this would give Satan's agents an advantage. Man's inventions often counterwork God's plans. Those who build the temple of the Lord are to build according to the pattern shown in the mount,—the divine similitude. God is dishonored and the gospel is betrayed when His servants depend on the counsel of men who are not under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Worldly wisdom is foolishness with God. Those who rely upon it will surely err. DA 354.1
“They will deliver you up to councils, ... yea and before governors and kings shall ye be brought for My sake, for a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.” Matthew 10:17, 18, R. V. Persecution will spread the light. The servants of Christ will be brought before the great men of the world, who, but for this, might never hear the gospel. The truth has been misrepresented to these men. They have listened to false charges concerning the faith of Christ's disciples. Often their only means of learning its real character is the testimony of those who are brought to trial for their faith. Under examination these are required to answer, and their judges to listen to the testimony borne. God's grace will be dispensed to His servants to meet the emergency. “It shall be given you,” says Jesus, “in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” As the Spirit of God illuminates the minds of His servants, the truth will be presented in its divine power and preciousness. Those who reject the truth will stand to accuse and oppress the disciples. But under loss and suffering, even unto death, the Lord's children are to reveal the meekness of their divine Example. Thus will be seen the contrast between Satan's agents and the representatives of Christ. The Saviour will be lifted up before the rulers and the people. DA 354.2
The disciples were not endowed with the courage and fortitude of the martyrs until such grace was needed. Then the Saviour's promise was fulfilled. When Peter and John testified before the Sanhedrin council, men “marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13. Of Stephen it is written that “all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.” Men “were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.” Acts 6:15, 10. And Paul, writing of his own trial at the court of the Caesars, says, “At my first defense no one took my part, but all forsook me.... But the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me; that through me the message might be fully proclaimed, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.” 2 Timothy 4:16, 17, R. V. DA 354.3Read in context »
Disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and many of the priests were obedient to the faith. Stephen, full of faith, was doing great wonders and miracles among the people. The Jewish leaders were stirred to greater anger as they saw priests turning from their traditions, and from the sacrifices and offerings, and accepting Jesus as the great sacrifice. With power from on high, Stephen reproved the unbelieving priests and elders, and exalted Jesus before them. They could not withstand the wisdom and power with which he spoke, and as they found that they could prevail nothing against him, they hired men to swear falsely that they had heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God. They stirred up the people and took Stephen, and, through false witnesses, accused him of speaking against the temple and the law. They testified that they had heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth would destroy the customs which Moses gave them. EW 197.1
As Stephen stood before his judges, the light of the glory of God rested upon his countenance. “And all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.” When called upon to answer to the charges brought against him, he began at Moses and the prophets and reviewed the history of the children of Israel and the dealings of God with them and showed how Christ had been foretold in prophecy. He referred to the history of the temple and declared that God dwelleth not in temples made with hands. The Jews worshiped the temple and were filled with greater indignation at anything spoken against that building than if it had been spoken against God. As Stephen spoke of Christ and referred to the temple, he saw that the people were rejecting his words; and he fearlessly rebuked them: “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost.” While they observed the outward ordinances of their religion, their hearts were corrupt and full of deadly evil. He referred to the cruelty of their fathers in persecuting the prophets, and declared that those whom he addressed had committed a greater sin in rejecting and crucifying Christ. “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers.” EW 198.1Read in context »
When I first gave myself to this work, to go when God should bid me, to speak the words which He should give me for the people, I knew that I should receive opposition, reproach, persecution. I have not been disappointed. Had I depended on human applause, I would long ago have become discouraged. But I looked to Jesus, and saw that He who was without a fault was assailed by slanderous tongues. Those who made high pretensions to godliness followed as spies upon the Saviour's course, and made every exertion in their power to hedge up His way. But although He was all-powerful, He did not visit His adversaries as their sins deserved. He might have launched forth against them the bolts of His vengeance, but He did not. He administered scathing rebukes for their hypocrisy and corruption, and when His message was rejected and His life threatened, He quietly passed to another place to speak the words of life. I have tried, in my weakness, to follow the example of my Saviour. 1SM 70.1
How eagerly the Pharisees sought to prove Christ a deceiver! How they watched His every word, seeking to misrepresent and misinterpret all His sayings! Pride and prejudice and passion closed every avenue of the soul against the testimony of the Son of God. When He plainly rebuked their iniquity and declared that their works proved them to be the children of Satan, they angrily flung back the accusation, saying, “Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?” 1SM 70.2Read in context »