Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | February 22, 2023

Stephen Does Apologetics

(4 Minute Read. 22Feb2023)

Stephen was a leader in the early church in Jerusalem. He was one of seven men appointed to supervise the distribution of food to widows. Luke described him as a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. . . . Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. (Acts 6:5,8)

In response, men arose and argued against Stephen. But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. Out of willfulness, jealously, and spite, these men suborned false testimony against Stephen. They stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came up to him and dragged him away and brought him before the Council. (Acts 6:8-12)

Stephen was accused of speaking blasphemous words against Moses and against God. False witnesses claimed, “This man incessantly speaks against this holy place and the Law; for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us.” (Acts 6:11-14)

When the high priest asked Stephen whether the charges were true, Stephen gave his defense. Stephen did apologetics on the spur of the moment under tremendous pressure. He spoke courageously before the Sanhedrin, the great Council of Israel. He defended his words and deeds and used rational arguments and explanations to proclaim faith in Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God.

Stephen’s Defense (Acts 7:2-53)

Stephen began his defense with an unusual identification of God: The God of glory (Acts 7:2). This may be a subtle reference to Psalm 19 which declares that God’s great work of creation proclaims His glory:
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies above proclaim His handiwork.
The only other place in Scripture where the term God of glory is used is in Psalm 29 in which David lists many aspects of creation as glorifying Yahweh. Is God of glory just Stephen’s way of saying Great Creator?

To answer the charges of blasphemy and speaking against Moses and the temple, Stephen launched into a historical review of the great points of Israel’s history. With multiple quotes from Scripture, he outlined how God had repeatedly delivered them in remarkable ways. In this way, he affirmed his belief in the God of Israel and the Jewish religious traditions, wholly disputing the charges against him.

Stephen was accused of speaking blasphemous words against Moses, probably because he had proclaimed that a greater Prophet than Moses had come. In defense against this charge, Stephen said that this was only what Moses himself had prophesied.

He also addressed the issue of destroying the temple. Stephen said God’s providential presence had begun for Israel with Abraham, but the temple only started much later with Solomon. Citing Isaiah, Stephen asserted that God does not dwell in physical buildings, implying that destroying the temple building was not necessarily wrong.

Moreover, Stephen’s historical survey dramatically demonstrated that the Jews were themselves guilty of the charges they made against him. From the beginning they had rejected and resisted Moses’ leadership and had violated the Mosaic law.

Stephen ended his defense with a Scriptural quote directly from God identifying Himself as the Great Creator Who made heaven and earth:
“Heaven is My throne, and earth is MY footstool. . . . Was it not My hand which made all these things?” (Acts 7:49-50; Isaiah 66:1-2)

After defending himself by proving his faithful adherence to Jewish history, beliefs, and tradition, Stephen then went on the offense. In his survey of Israel’s history, Stephen had included instances of Israel’s failures to follow Yahweh. Now he brought the point home with a searing indictment of the Jewish leaders.
“You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.” (Acts 7:51-53)

The Stoning of Saint Stephen by Rembrandt
First signed painting by Rembrandt, made in 1625 at age 19. The alarmed face behind Stephen, under the arm of the man holding a large rock overhead, is the first extant self-portrait of Rembrandt. Saul of Tarsus is seated in the background holding coats of the stone-throwers in his lap.

Stephen’s hearers could not refute his defense and his charges against them. They responded to his solid arguments with rage and violence, hurling a barrage of stones at Stephen until he died, stoning him to death. By this murderous action they illustrated and confirmed the charges Stephen had made against them.

Do You Get the Point?

What are the keys to Stephen’s apologetics (defense) strategy?
– He spoke directly to issues with truth and boldness.
– He refuted the charges logically.
– He cited Scripture throughout his defense.
– He identified God as the Creator who made heaven and earth.

While reeling, broken, and bleeding, mortally injured from dozens of large stones battering him, Stephen looked into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Even though most of us will not see this in our lives, we can still experience the reality of the God of Glory, the Great Creator, through being a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth, just as Stephen was.

May God grant us the eyes of Stephen to see the truth about Jesus. This event is a stirring challenge to follow Stephen’s example in defending faith in Jesus and in worshipping Him!

Questions to Ponder

1. Where in your life do you see the God of Glory at work?
2. What can you do today to build up your apologetics arsenal in defense of faith in Jesus?

Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.

For Christ and His Kingdom.
Alere Flammam Veritatis.
Soli Deo Gloria.

This is the 13th article in the series on Apologists in the Bible. An apologist is one who gives a logical argument in defense of faith in God.
Read the prequels:
1. Elijah Does Apologetics
2. Peter Does Apologetics
3. Paul Does Apologetics
4. John Does Apologetics
5. Jesus Does Apologetics
6. Job Gets a Dose of Apologetics
7. Matthew Does Apologetics with a Sword
8. David Does Apologetics with a Sling
9. Luke Does Apologetics with a Pen
(with video)
10. Moses Does Apologetics with Plagues
11. Jude Urges Apologetics
12. Man Born Blind Does Apologetics

Read the sequel:
14. Jesus Does Apologetics with Miracles

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Wednesday February 22, 2023 A.D.

Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence. (1 Peter 3:15)

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