Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Acts 9:6-9 – Saul of Tarsus discovers Jesus

In answer to Saul’s question about who he is speaking to, the unknown God says that he is Jesus whom Saul is persecuting. Obviously the details in the answer would be a great shock to Saul and it is noteworthy that Jesus gives Saul time to take it all in. Instead of explaining everything at once, Jesus tells Saul that he would receive gradual information in Damascus.
The words of Jesus highlight a couple of details that are part of a conversion process. Saul has to know who Jesus is and he has to understand what Christ’s cause is. When Jesus said, ‘I am Jesus,’ it was a command to Saul to think about Jesus; when he said, ‘whom you are persecuting,’ Jesus told Saul that he had been attacking Christ’s cause. What lessons does this statement by Jesus have for us?
First, this self-description is a reminder that although Jesus has been glorified, and the light shining on Saul indicated this great reality, he is still the same Jesus who lived here on earth, interacting with sinners and giving spiritual blessings to them. Similar to how he had forgiven others, he was now willing to forgive Saul of Tarsus. Although Jesus has changed locations from earth to heaven, and although he has been exalted, there is a sense in which he is still the same. This was a very gentle way for Jesus to deal with a cruel enemy of his cause. And that is how he normally deals with us. He does not wound us in the way a soldier tries to kill an enemy; instead he wounds like a surgeon opening up a person in order to root out the disease.
Second, this self-description reminds us that we cannot separate the risen Christ from his people. True, they have no contribution in the act of salvation. Yet when we join ourselves to Jesus we inevitably join his church. And we join a church for which Jesus cares and feels and helps. Indeed the church is like a school in which we not only learn truths about Jesus but see his manner of dealings with our fellow-pupils – his pardon, his restoration, his giving of spiritual benefits and many other blessings. And we realise that what he gives to them he also gives to us.

The third lesson from this incident is that we should never conclude that a powerful, intelligent, extremely hostile enemy of Christ cannot be changed by him into a servant. Saul of Tarsus met a higher power when he met the risen Jesus and experienced his pardoning love.

This was the beginning of a relationship with Jesus that would never end for Saul. He had little concept at that moment of what was involved, although he did discover a great deal throughout his remaining years on earth as he served his new Master. And he went eventually to be with the risen Jesus in heaven where the once-hostile enemy continues to discover the spiritual treasures that are found in his Saviour, the eternal fountain of grace and glory.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Acts 9:1-5 – The heart of an enemy

Luke gives a graphic picture of the attitude of Saul of Tarsus before his conversion: he was ‘still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord’. This was his consuming passion. Whenever he thought of Christians, he went into a furious rage. The thought of his heart was, ‘I must destroy them! I must destroy them!’ Why was he so vehement?
One answer to that question is that Saul’s resolution was a religious one; it was an expression of his faith. His religion consumed him day and night, and he could not tolerate a deviation from it, no matter how small. For Saul, his faith could only be expressed in this manner. He regarded Christians as guilty of blasphemy, and he knew that the penalty for it was death. And he was prepared to implement it, whatever it cost him, because he believed he was serving the God of his fathers. His heroes may have been Phinehas, who slew thousands of Israelites who engaged in idolatry, and Elijah, who massacred the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. Saul was very zealous in a wrong religion, but he was about to discover the right religion to be zealous about.
As he made his way to Damascus, Saul had no time to look at the scenery. But Someone was looking at him and in a moment brought him to the ground. The interruption happened almost as he reached the city. The Christian Jews in Damascus were aware that Saul was coming to arrest them (v. 14). We can imagine the great fear they would have and, perhaps, they were praying for God to stop Saul from reaching the city. Whether they were or not, the method used by Jesus here is a common one – deliverance from trouble often occurs at the last moment. The believers living in Damascus were rescued from Saul’s intentions when he had almost arrived at the city.
Saul went through an experience that occasionally occurred in Old Testament times. God appeared to a person in great power and majesty, such as his appearance to the prophet in Isaiah 6. Such divine visits are called theophanies and Saul realised he had received one. We can see this realisation in his response, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul understood that he was in the presence of God. This question had not risen out of curiosity; instead it was a confession by Saul that he had met God.
Saul heard this unknown voice call him by name. This must have been a surprise to Saul, to hear himself addressed personally by a voice from within the bright light that surrounded him. Saul realised that he was face to face with one who knew all about him, not only his name, but also his struggles (kicking against the goads). Further, Saul would have known that often God, when he spoke to a person in the Old Testament, often said the name twice – he did so to Abraham, Jacob, Moses and Samuel, and it always signified a matter of great importance. Perhaps this is why Saul asked what Jesus would have him do.
One thing that is evident from Saul’s experience is that he is now a submissive man. All his previous independency of outlook has gone. Saul had assumed that he had been serving God. He realised now that his assumption had been false, and that he had to change his way of living. This desire for change is expressed in his question, ‘Lord, what will you have me do?’ The heart of Saul of Tarsus was now different.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Acts 9:1-9 – The conversion of Saul of Tarsus

Acts 9 is the climax of a power struggle, the conclusion to a campaign waged in Jerusalem. On the one hand, there is the campaign of Saul of Tarsus to get rid of the growing movement of Christians. His tactics are described in verses one and two. We note that he had great determination, that he had friends in high places, and he was ready to extend his crusade to faraway locations. So far, his pursuit of victory seemed to have been successful because a leader of the Christians, Stephen, had been put to death and most of the other Christians had been forced out of Jerusalem. There seemed to be nothing that could stop him in his pursuit of victory. Yet he discovered that his campaign was overthrown in a moment by Jesus, the one whom he regarded as an enemy to destroy.
Jesus also has been engaged in promoting his cause. Despite initial impressions, the expulsion of his followers from Jerusalem has not been a disaster. Instead, through this ejection the gospel has been blessed in Samaria and also a most powerful man from Ethiopia, the treasurer of that country, had become a follower of Jesus. Further the message of Jesus was declared in various cities on the Mediterranean coast. These successes had been brought about through the ministry of Philip, and no doubt Jesus was using other servants to bring his message to other places. Indeed the campaign of Jesus was making inroads into some of the territory that Saul of Tarsus may have regarded as his heartlands.
The conversion of Saul of Tarsus is one of the important events of world history. We know that the influence of certain people causes an observable change in the direction of nations. Saul of Tarsus, under the hand of Jesus Christ, changed the development of the Christian church. It was the writings of Saul of Tarsus that enlightened Luther and resulted in the Reformation, that challenged Wilberforce and others to do something about slavery, and that are still causing great changes today wherever his letters are read. Today millions of people read the words of Saul of Tarsus and give thanks to God for him.
Often the conversion of Saul is regarded as dramatic in a similar way to how conversions of other openly sinful people are perceived. The conversion of the Philippian jailor, a role often filled by a cruel and indifferent person, is rightly regarded as dramatic and, no doubt, it was a talking-point in Philippi for a while. Obviously the conversion of Saul would have been the topic of discussion in the streets of Damascus after he was converted, and the details of how it happened would have been repeated. Yet his conversion was more than a dramatic one which stimulated local interest; it was also a strategic one as far as the growth of the Christian church was concerned. What happened to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus qualified him to become an apostle of the Christian church, an individual possessing God-given authority among his people. It was strategic because Jesus Christ did not merely wish to defeat his opponent; he also intended to use him to spread the faith.
When did Saul know that he had become a Christian? Often it is assumed that because he was confronted by Jesus on the Damascus Road, Saul realised immediately that he had been converted. Perhaps he did, although a case can be made for him realising in Damascus what had taken place outside the city. His understanding of his conversion came in stages rather than a one-off event. Before Saul could believe in Jesus, he had to be made aware of who Jesus was. It seems to be that this was what happened on the Damascus Road, which was followed by a period of a few days in which Saul reflected on what had happened to him, and which climaxed with the message for Saul from Jesus delivered by Ananias.
While it is not possible that any will have the experience of Saul (i.e., meet the risen, exalted Christ), it is the case that many Christians cannot tell when they were born again. All they know is that during a certain period, be it a matter of days, weeks or months, they became followers of Jesus. It is not really possible for an individual to tell the exact moment when he was regenerated. Regeneration is the moment when God gives spiritual life into a dead soul. This new life will show itself in a variety of ways and does not follow the same order in every Christian. The various responses of the new life are covered by the term ‘conversion’. Regeneration and conversion do not mean the same experience. Regeneration is an instantaneous and secret act of God whereas conversion is a gradual turning from sin and embracing of Christ. When I say it is gradual, the process can take a few seconds, or a few minutes, or a few days, or a few weeks, or even a few months before the person realises that God has changed him. The great aspect of Saul’s conversion is that it revealed who was in charge – Jesus!

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Acts 8:26-40 - Progress persists

What was the outcome of this unusual incident in a deserted spot when the Ethiopian treasurer found wealth that he had never held before? He now had in his heart greater riches than his queen had in her domain. In a personal sense he had discovered the pearl of great price.

Remember that Jesus had arranged the meeting, so we should expect that the effect was continued blessing for his church. And it was. Philip went in one direction and spread the faith throughout the area along the Mediterranean shoreline until he reached Caesarea where he stayed and brought up his family. The treasurer headed south and took the message of the gospel to Ethiopia. Jesus had overruled events in order for his cause to prosper.

We have to remember that, at this time, Saul of Tarsus was causing great trouble for the church. But out in the desert, as well as elsewhere, Jesus was active and Luke reminds us that nothing can hinder the progress of the cause of Christ.

Progress comes through the conversion of crowds or the conversion of an individual. The means of progress in the past are still the way by which the church develops today. This is how the church in all places will grow, by individuals getting converted or by groups of people responding at the same time to the gospel.

Just as the progress through the ministry of Philip indicated that Jesus was using him to increase the church, so progress through his witnesses reveals that he is working in our midst. And like the situation involving the Samaritans and the eunuch, there will be surprising conversions.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Acts 8:26-40 – Personal persuasion

The treasurer invited Philip into his chariot. Note that Philip did not engage in a discussion with him. Instead he preached Jesus to the stranger. Preaching is not a discussion, instead it is an attempt to persuade a person to believe what is being spoken. The number listening does not turn a speech into a sermon. Rather it is the style and manner of the speaker which reveals whether it is a sermon or not. A sermon always calls for a response, for a decision in light of what has been said. The man from Ethiopia discovered he had asked an enthusiast into his chariot.

While we do not know the precise details that Philip said, it is obvious that he would have explained the verses that the treasurer was reading about the silent suffering of Jesus before his judges when he was denied justice, about where he came from (his generation) and why he gave up his life.

We can imagine the sense of wonder that would have filled the eunuch’s heart as he heard this explanation. He would have realised that Jesus had died in the place of sinners, that he had performed all that the powerless rituals of Judaism pointed towards, that he had been the sinbearer who had taken the place of sinners on the cross. During this sermon, the eunuch embraced the Saviour whom he had not known about a short time before.

Philip must have mentioned to the eunuch that Jesus expected all who believed in him should be baptised. This was the outward badge of Christian discipleship. As they travelled, they came to a spring or to an oasis, and with great enthusiasm the eunuch requested that he should be baptised by Philip. In passing, we should note that we should be enthusiastic about baptism. Not only is it the identifying badge of Christian disciples, it is also a means of grace through which Jesus brings spiritual blessings into the lives of his followers.

It is not necessary to assume that the man from Ethiopia was immersed. He may have been, but all we are told is that both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water. The ‘going down’ does not refer to the manner of baptism, but to their descent from the road into the stream or pool.

Immediately, the Spirit carried Philip away and the treasurer was left without his guide. The treasurer experienced the same situation that the church in Samaria did – his leader in the faith was taken from him. Luke’s readers must have noticed this feature and deduced from it that Jesus expects his followers to stand on their own feet in a spiritual sense very quickly.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Acts 8:26-40 – Precise Providence

It is interesting to observe Philip’s response to the divine instruction to go near the chariot. Luke informs us that Philip ran, which indicates that he told Luke this detail when he was in Caesarea twenty or so years later.

Think of what would have been different if Philip had ambled over to the chariot. When he reached the chariot, he discovered that the traveller was reading Isaiah 53; if he had taken longer to get there, the eunuch would have been in Isaiah 54 and perhaps a different conversation would have followed. There is a hint here that work for the Lord should be done promptly.

This incident is a marvellous example of divine timing. Philip and the eunuch began their journeys without having any watches to synchronise, yet they arrived at the divinely-chosen meeting point at the precise moment when the eunuch would be reading about the suffering Servant of Isaiah 53.

Evidently he was reading the passage aloud, perhaps because he was concentrating on it or maybe he was reading the words to others who were with him (such are not mentioned, but it is not likely that such an important person was travelling alone).

There is an interesting lesson here to note. Often it is said that it is sufficient for a person to have the Bible and if we give a copy to a person he or she will automatically understand it. Sometimes a person does come to faith in Christ by reading the Bible for himself. Yet generally they do not. In addition to having a Bible they need a competent person to be able to explain its message. And we should be alert to the necessity of doing so.

For all we know, the eunuch may have been praying to God that he would send a person to instruct him about the Bible. The royal official had been in Jerusalem to worship and perhaps he had asked individuals there concerning the meaning of the passage. None had been able to help him, and maybe the Lord had protected him from getting wrong interpretation as he mingled among those who had denied that Jesus was the Messiah.

The religious rituals in which the eunuch had participated had not helped him discover who the Saviour was. Although they had been initiated by God in the past, he was no longer in them in the present. Providentially, Jesus in heaven had prevented the eunuch from being influenced wrongly about spiritual life in the gospel age. Although he was now in a physical desert, he had been taken away from the spiritual desert of Judaism in order to discover the living water that his heart needed.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Acts 8:26-40 – Who will be next?

One of the unexpected details in this chapter is that shortly after its founding the church in Samaria had to proceed without long-term input from the leaders of the church in Jerusalem. Peter and John returned to Jerusalem and Philip was taken away from Samaria as well. This feature, which was repeated in many of the churches that Paul founded on his missionary journeys, indicates that new churches should be able to stand on their own feet very quickly.

It is also a reminder that the Lord can give unforeseen and surprising calls to his servants. We can imagine how one would think that Philip was needed in Samaria because of the ‘revival’ taking place there, and therefore he should ignore any inclination to go elsewhere. But that was not how Philip saw it and his example should be followed by others of God’s servants.

Philip received a divine command to head to a deserted location on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. No doubt, he was given more precise instructions by the angel as to where to go. Luke does not give any details as to how the angel communicated this message, which is a reminder of two details at least. One is that such spiritual phenomena was common in the early church and did not need to be explained, and the other is that God, who was guiding Luke as to what details he should record, prevented this information being given to us. It is enough for us to know that God uses angels in the outworking of his kingdom.

As we can see from the story, the Lord Jesus, who is directing from heaven the affairs of his church on earth, had his eye on a very important government official from Ethiopia (in New Testament times, this name was given to the area south of Egypt and was much larger than modern Ethiopia). Often this individual is described as a black person, but the details in the story don’t indicate his nationality. There is nothing to deny the possibility that he was a Jew, certainly he was aware of the Old Testament, and he had been to Jerusalem to worship the God of Israel.  And we know that even in recent years Jews have returned to modern-day Israel from Ethiopia. Luke did not regard the eunuch as a Gentile because he later records Peter as saying that Cornelius was the first Gentile to become a Christian

This individual was a very prominent person and therefore he is an example of the exceptions that Paul mentions to the Corinthians: ‘For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth’ (1 Cor. 1:26).

When we are introduced to the Ethiopian in this incident he is a puzzled man.  But Jesus knew all about the treasurer’s needs and had arranged for his concerns to be dealt with. The Saviour directed the Spirit to tell Philip to go and speak to the travelling stranger. We will think tomorrow about what happened.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Acts 8:9-25 – Simon the Sorcerer

People can become interested in the gospel for many reasons, some of which indicate that the individuals were not true believers when they professed faith. One such person was Simon.

As a magician Simon had been an attraction to Samaritans for a long time and they connected his power to God. Perhaps even Simon assumed that this was the case. He recognised that Philip too had power and that it was in his interests to identify with the new movement in Samaria. Should we be surprised that Philip does not seem to have identified Simon as a false convert? Not really, because such identification could only be made when Simon made comments that revealed the priority of his heart.

The new converts in Samaria had not received the Spirit when they believed. This does not mean that they became converts without having been regenerated. Instead they did not receive outward signs that indicated the presence of the Spirit in their hearts. It may be that Jesus withheld sending those signs because he wanted a clear expression of the spiritual fact that his people in Jerusalem and in Samaria were united together. That expression was given when the representatives of the Jerusalem apostles became the instruments through whom the Spirit was given to the Samaritan converts.

Simon realised that Peter and John had more power than Philip. Perhaps the magician was afraid that he would lose his influence over the people unless he could get hold of this new power. His words revealed the priority of his heart, which was holding on to his position in the community. He imagined that he could use God’s power for personal gratification.

Peter realised that Simon was unconverted. Therefore he warned the magician that he was in spiritual danger. At the same time he offered hope to Simon by urging the possibility of repentance. In saying this, Peter revealed that he understood that God could show mercy to Simon. Simon’s response seems to say that he did not see any need to pray to God for himself. Instead he assumed that it would be better for him if Peter prayed for him.

Simon is an example of the devil sowing spiritual weeds alongside the wheat that Jesus sows (Matt. 13:25). Persecution had not hindered the growth of the church, so the devil tried to get his agent Simon into a place of prominence in it. The fact that he failed is proof that Jesus in heaven was protecting his kingdom on earth.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Acts 8:2-8 - Church spreads

It had been the command of Jesus before his ascension that his disciples should take the gospel further afield than Jerusalem and Judea. So far in the Book of Acts the account has focussed mainly on what the church in Jerusalem was doing. But in chapter 8 Luke records the first attempts to take the gospel elsewhere.

The providential cause of the spreading of the gospel was persecution of the church in Jerusalem. While the persecution was painful to experience, it was a method that Jesus allowed in order for his church to make progress. This has often been the case with regard to expressions of opposition to his cause.

Luke’s description also reminds us that many stories concerning the growth of the church will not be told to others until Jesus returns. All he says is that those who were scattered preached the word wherever they went. Yet we can see that although they were scattered they retained a shared purpose, which was to pass on the message about Jesus. The kingdom grew despite intense opposition because Jesus in heaven used his people to witness for him in new places.

Luke details that Philip preached about Jesus as the Messiah. This would have been the same message as he would have declared previously to Jews. Perhaps it was the fact that the Samaritans were looking for a messiah that caused him to focus on Jesus in this way. Whether it was or not, he was guided by the Spirit to speak about Jesus to a people who would not have known very much about him.

Philip gained their attention through the signs that he performed. Two signs are mentioned – deliverance from demons and healing of paralysed and lame individuals. The obvious feature of these miracles is that they were obvious. People saw them taking place and realised that they were signs that God was present.

Who performed those signs? Philip was the instrument but Jesus was in charge, and worked through the Spirit to cause people to listen to his servant. There was no dubiety here about the authenticity of what had happened. The listeners realised that Philip had a type of power not found on earth.

Yet the signs were only signs. The central feature of Philip’s preaching was the focus he had on Jesus. As a true preacher, Philip ensured that his listeners knew about Jesus. Hearing about Jesus and observing his power at work through his servant caused many to believe the message, and to experience the joy that accompanies salvation.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Acts 7:54-60 – Stephen, the Martyr

Stephen has the honour, as far as we know, of being the first Christian martyr. In the centuries since then, he has been followed by millions who have suffered the same fate from hostile foes, including many in our own country. As we think of the death of a hero, we have to ask, in addition to what cause he died for, in what attitude did he die?
Luke tells us that Stephen died in the same way that he had lived, full of the Holy Spirit. The consequence was that he received from God an experience that is usually not possible in this world. Stephen saw beyond the barrier between earth and heaven and saw right into the throne room of God. He may have been before an earthly court receiving an unjust sentence, but he was allowed to see another courtroom where he was being defended.
Luke records for us Stephen’s description of the august atmosphere of the heavenly courtroom – it was full of the glory of God. The imminent martyr saw a splendour that he had never seen on earth, light so bright that it conceals as well as reveals. Whatever adornments may have decorated the location where the Sanhedrin met, it paled into insignificance in comparison with the glory of heaven.
Stephen mentioned more than the wonder of heaven’s magnificence. He also saw standing there his Saviour, whom he calls the Son of Man, standing at the right hand of God. Why is Jesus depicted as standing? Often the answer given is that he stands up in order to welcome Stephen into heaven. That answer may be true, but I suspect another answer is a better interpretation. Jesus is standing there as the Advocate of Stephen. In the courtroom of earth, Stephen had no one to stand and defend him. In heaven, however, he had. His defence was in the hands of Jesus. Here we have an example of what John describes: ‘But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous’ (1 John 2:1).
Will his Advocate be heard in heaven? The answer to this question is given in the title of Jesus – the Son of Man. This title says far more than that Jesus is human. It is taken from Old Testament prophecy where the title was used to describe the Messiah receiving universal authority in heaven (Dan. 7:13-14). Of course, he will be heard because all power is in his hands. Jesus defends his servant Stephen with full authority. We have here an example of Jesus’ promise in Luke 12:8: ‘And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God.’
Perhaps Stephen was given this vision of what was taking place in heaven in order to strengthen him for the ordeal he was about to endure. His claim to have seen Jesus led to a furious assault by the council (they did not wait for Roman permission to execute Stephen, but took the law into their own hands). His death was a terrible ordeal because stoning could last for quite a while. How did Stephen behave during this onslaught? Did he maintain his character? We find that he made two requests of Jesus: first, he asked Jesus to receive his spirit and, second, he asked Jesus to forgive those who stoned him. Stephen in his death was very Christlike and even used petitions that were very similar to those that Jesus had prayed. The Saviour had asked the Father to forgive the soldiers engaged in the act of crucifixion and he had committed his spirit into the hands of the Father.

Did Stephen, who lived like a hero, die a hero? Yes, he did because he had learned to imitate an even greater Hero, Jesus Christ. He imitated him in life and death. Stephen had discovered how to become a hero by following Jesus Christ.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Acts 7 – Stephen, His Message

We considered yesterday the character of Stephen, and saw what kind of hero he was. Today we can think about the message he proclaimed. Luke records Stephen’s address to the Sanhedrin in great detail. Evidently it made a great impression on his listeners, so great that they could recall it and tell Luke about it years later.
There are similarities between the trial of Jesus and the trial of Stephen. Both were accused of blasphemy against the temple, both were accused by false witnesses. Stephen was further accused of saying that Jesus would destroy the temple and the Mosaic requirements.
It is clear from Stephen’s speech that he knew the Old Testament well. His remarks are a summary of what it says. Obviously, Stephen had studied the Scriptures in depth and was able with ease to convey their meaning to the highest court in the land. Here was a man who assessed situations by the teaching of the Word of God.
Further, his speech makes it clear that Stephen fully believed that God was in charge of history. He called Abraham from Ur, used a famine to bring the sons of Jacob into Egypt, raised up Moses as a deliverer from slavery in Egypt, chose David to be the king of his people, Solomon to build a great temple in which they could worship him, and exiled them to Babylon for their sins.
Moreover, Stephen believed that the Lord was very concerned for his people Israel. He had chosen them for himself, and despite their frequent departures from him he forgave them again and again. He placed his special presence among them and offered them all kinds of divine blessings.
In addition, Stephen confronted his listeners with truths about themselves they did not want to hear. Like their forefathers, they refused to hear the voice of God through his messengers, in their case the divine Messenger, Jesus Christ (v. 52). Their fathers had turned to idolatry despite having the tabernacle and later the temple in which to worship God. Their descendants were now imitating them and turning away from God.
Stephen here is condemning his listeners for trusting in an external religion. The proof of their folly was seen in their attitude towards the temple. Despite the fact that Solomon, when he prayed at the consecration of the temple that he had built, stated that God did not confine himself to one earthly building, they had assumed that they were spiritually fine as long as they had the temple. They did not realise that their attitude was the same as that of the false prophets in the time of Jeremiah who assumed that the Lord would not allow the temple to be destroyed. But he did, and the same thing would happen to the temple admired by Stephen’s accusers.

What can we say about Stephen’s words that will cause us to regard him as a hero? First of all, he told the truth. When he arose to speak, this was his intention. Second, he told relevant truth for the situation that he was in. As he faced his accusers, he maintained his courage and told them the exact truth that they needed to hear. It is an essential mark of a true hero that his words speak the truth that people in his immediate environment need to hear. His courage was revealed in the Sanhedrin as well as in the synagogues. When a man speaks the truth rather than escape by telling a lie, I would say that he is a hero.