And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council. They also set up false witnesses who said, “This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.” And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.
Historians say that during this time in scripture, there were about 480 synagogues in Jerusalem (a common Bible belt church joke is coming to my mind). Wow, Jerusalem is not that big. I can hardly imagine that many synagogues in that small of an area. The Libertines were the Jews who were taken into captivity and then later freed. The Cyrenians were Jews who once lived in a coast of Africa. Alexandrians were from Egypt. Of Cilicia describes Jews from a well-known synagogue in Cilicia were the famous Gamaliel and a later converted Saul was from. Of Asia, describes Jews from a Roman Provence in Asia Minor were Ephesus was located. These different sects decided to go after the deacon, Stephen, who in verse 8 was characterized in Scripture as “full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.”
Stephen was scary to these synagogues and God allowed Him to be targeted for His glory. The question comes to my mind – why didn’t they go after one of the apostles? Were they so small that they decided to pick on someone their own size? Even though they chose to target Stephen, they could not deny the Holy Spirit’s work in his life.
Sometimes God gives us the privilege of suffering a trial for His glory. Has this happened for you? Did you “count it all Joy?” The secret is to be filled with the Holy Spirit to survive.
Written by Kaye Dee Richards. Kaye Dee lives with her husband Colin in Morrison, CO. They have 4 children, Joshua, Amelia, Victoria, and Julia.