What happens when someone is a false witness today? Even more, what happens when that false witness is a practicing advocate? Very recently we have seen an advocate who “stole” his way into a high profile case being disbarred. He can no longer work representing clients. This happened in the context of the legal system within our country. As we have already mentioned, false witnesses find their way into the visible Church as well. Often such behavior is ignored … sadly so! Getting back to Acts, we read:
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.” 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) The testimony of the false witnesses.
(1) The charges. It is easy to take truth and twist it a little to make it appear to sound like lies. Take the following statement … “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law.” As we shall see in Stephen’s defense, He never denied the Temple nor the Law. Rather, he used the Law to explain that it said that the rituals it prescribed such as sacrificing by priests would cease and the Levitical System would become obsolete. Did Jesus not say this too?
(2) This Jesus. The word “this” in verse 14 is contemptuous. The accusations against Stephen were the same as against Jesus. At all costs they needed to discredit him. To say “this Jesus” was arrogant, disdainful and insolent. They gave Jesus no respect at all.
(3) The effects of bribery and corruption. They actually said … “For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
(a) We heard him say. Remember the Sanhedrin met in one of the chambers of the temple called Gazith. Add this to their fanatical persuasion that the building was literally more important than God or His Word! They would not say this but that is what their behavior said. They added that Stephen said Jesus would destroy the temple … the very house (Holy of Holies) God dwelt in amongst His people and change the customs Moses handed down to them. They could not make their first accusation stick by itself … “speaking against this holy place” and “destroy this place”. You see, the Sanhedrin themselves made a mockery of the temple and its courtyards by permitting people to misuse the very premises they accused Jesus and Stephen of blaspheming against. Do you recall:
Mt 21:12 Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’”
What was the purpose of the temple? Sacrificing, prayer and worship. They “destroyed” the temple’s purpose so they needed to add another charge.
(b) They said they heard Stephen say that “this Jesus” would … change the customs Moses handed down to us. The word Luke uses here for “change” means transform. What they were saying is that they heard Stephen say Jesus would transform the custom prescribed by law, given to them by Moses. Jesus never said anything like this. He had said:
Mt 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
Jesus said that He came to fulfil the Law and He did on the Cross. He, through His sacrificial offering of Himself did what was prescribed could not do. Animal sacrifices could not deal with sin and guilt … but Jesus’ sacrifice could and did.
(c) At Jesus’ trail, false witnesses come forward, saying:
Mt 26:61 “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”
This was twisting what Jesus said:
Jn 2:19 “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” 20 The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
This is how easy it is to take truth, give it a twist and make it a lie. Jesus fulfilled the purpose of the temple and the purpose of the Law of Moses. Sadly the Jewish leadership could not see this in the very Scriptures they possessed.
(d) Paul is very helpful regarding “temple”.
1Co 3:16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.
1 Cor 6:19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
Today, the believer’s body is “a” temple of the Holy Spirit who dwells within.
2) The presence of God was with Stephen.
Ac 6:15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
The Sanhedrin’s stare did not intimidate Stephen because God was with him. His face radiated the presence of God as did an angel’s face who came from the very presence of God. Today’s take-away:
(i) Never manipulate Scripture. Do not remove words, change words, and include or remove punctuations. Let the Word say what it intends. It is God’s Word as is.
(ii) Be committed to the Bible and Prayer. Use these graces daily for personal maturity to knowing God, His will and grow in holiness.
(iii) Be filled with the Spirit. The more proper Bible Reading and Prayer we do will result in having the Spirit dwelling richly in His “temple”, your being.
Thank You O God for the merits the Lord Jesus procured for me through Calvary. Amen.