By Tyson Thorne

June 25, 2014

StephensDefense 2 large

Before picking up where we left off yesterday I’d like you to celebrate this post with us at, which is our 100th article! We hope you have enjoyed reading as much as we have bringing these articles to you. Now back to business…

Stephen’s message is three-fold. First, God blesses the people he chooses regardless of their land – Israel isn’t necessary. Second, God dwelt with man in the tabernacle before there was a temple, meaning the temple itself is superfluous. Finally, by rejecting the Messiah and Stephen’s message about Jesus the Sadducees followed the vile traditions of their ancestors who also rejected God’s messengers.

As defenses go, Stephen’s wasn’t bad. He showed that there was room in the Torah for his understanding about the temple and, more importantly, about Jesus being the Messiah. Some scholars have pointed out that Stephen’s speech shows that God can bless those outside the commonwealth of Israel, revealing that the Messiah would appeal to the Gentiles. Since that is exactly what happens throughout the rest of the book of Acts, this seems reasonable. However, it is unclear that Stephen understood that salvation would be opened to the Gentiles. It certainly wasn’t known by the apostles (yet) as we’ll see them struggle with this concept in the next couple chapters.

It is safe to say, however, that Stephen was very adept at presenting the message of the gospel in a culturally relevant manner. This is a skill the church has struggled with over the ages ever since. Paul will make use of cultural artifacts later in Acts to present the gospel, and it seems that doing so is a discipline that the early church dedicated itself to. There is a lesson in this for modern believers.

Too frequently Western culture tries to shut down the gospel by telling Christ-followers to keep their faith to themselves. Faith is, they say, a deeply personal matter that no one has the right to challenge. Such concepts are contradictory to biblical thinking. Like Stephen and the apostles and other’s we’ll meet as we continue through Acts, the message about the Messiah is meant to be told. It is time for each of us to find a way to express the gospel that is meaningful to our culture, and then to do it.

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