Lies, deceit, fraud, defamation, falsification and any other method to ruin one’s character, credibility and reputation are rife in our world. These things happen every day. Each one of us knows this because we have been faced with it … and sadly we have been guilty of it as well in different ways and at different levels. When used in religious circles it compounds the sin!
Ac 6:12 They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law.14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.” 15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel. 7:1 Then the high priest asked him, “Are these charges true?”
1) Stephen’s arrest. These Jews, members of various synagogues took him prisoner. The word “seize” includes “to snatch” and “to take as prisoner”. This means his arrest was seen as a criminal being arrested for doing something very serious. But then, in the eyes of the Jews he was! He was performing various wonders and signs that supported the authenticity of the Gospel of Jesus. This in itself was to the Jew “false doctrine” and “false religion” because they were not prepared to acknowledge the fact that their religion not only promised but fulfilled what Stephen and the apostles were proclaiming. We will see how Stephen uses the Old Testament to prove that Jesus is Messiah.
2) Stephen in court. Being taken to the Sanhedrin was a serious matter because this body was the highest Jewish authority, known as the Jewish Ruling Council. Apart from running the country which was the Roman Empire’s business, everything to do with Judaism from lifestyle, marriage, sexual orientation and behavior, family, property, business, localized taxation, morals, ethics and religion was their responsibility. They were made up from men who were Pharisees and Sadducees. The Sadducees were the local elite (which included men from the high priest’s family, but not necessarily the high priest himself). When all members of the Sanhedrin were present they numbered 70 … then there was the high priest. The Pharisees were seen as the experts in the law. Together they made all the decisions regarding the Jewish people. The high priest was the tie-breaker between the two religious groups. He was called the “nasee” which in Modern Hebrew means the president. Literally, Stephen’s life would depend on the outcome of this court hearing where the facts were stacked against him.
3) Stephen’s accusers. The word “false” in verse 13 means “lying, untrue, deceit, fake, erroneous and wicked. It comes from the Greek word “pseudomai” from where we get the English word “pseudo”, from where we get words like “bogus, sham, phony, artificial, spurious, etc.” These “witnesses” were not genuine. They did not hear, see or experience anything they were going to give testimony about. They were put up to offer lies to build a case against Stephen. This is extremely serious because those setting up these pseudo witnesses and the witnesses who were acting out their deceit within the Sanhedrin were in a place where Truth ought to have prevailed. Remember all these men were Jews, subscribing to the Law of Moses, wherein we find the Ten Commandments. There were two tables to these Commands. The first one made reference to God (Commandments 1-4) and the second to man (Commandments 5-10). About these, Jesus said:
Mt 22:37 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Keeping these two commandments meant keeping the entire Old Testament. With this in mind, where did these Jews break the two greatest commandments?
(1) They used God’s name in vain.
Ex 20:7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”
The Jewish leaders from the synagogue broke this command because they carried God’s name in their profession. Those manipulated to be false witnesses broke this commandment because they were Jews.
(2) They lied about a fellow Jew.
Ex 20:16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”
What they were going to say about Stephen in the Sanhedrin would amount to breaking this commandment. Don’t forget these were Jews. They declared they lived by the Law of Moses, yet here they are contravening two commandments. To achieve their wicked conclusion they who said they were God’s broke the very commands God put in place as a lifestyle and moral code. As followers of the Lord Jesus we need to stop and question our personal behavior and morality. Do we in a selective manner break God’s Law, be it one of the Ten Commandments, its subsidiary commands or any directive in the Bible to suit our personal agenda? Do we chose to impose our morality above God’s morality to obtain our will? And even more importantly, as people carrying the Name of Jesus, do we use such tactics when attempting to get our way at a meeting of the Church Council or any other leadership meeting? Always remember that God is watching … and God is hearing!
4) Stephen’s charges were fabricated.
Ac 6:13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
We will pick up the Note from here tomorrow, but for today, let’s remember that in part, their accusation was the same as the Jews who testified against Jesus before His Crucifixion. As king Solomon once said:
Ecc 1:9 “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
Father, mercifully help us who are Your Blood Washed people to never dishonor You by using Your name in vain and lying about Your people. Amen.