Saturday, 2 April 2022
Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” Acts 6:11
The words prior to this verse revealed that those of the Synagogue of the Freedmen were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which Stephen spoke. As this is so, they were obviously filled with jealousy, and they were also surely miffed at the surety of what he was saying, finding it wholly distasteful.
But this brings in an immediate problem. If Stephen’s words could not be resisted, and if they were based upon what is stated in Scripture, then what is stated in Scripture supports Stephen’s words. As this is so, who are they resisting? Stephen or the one Stephen is proclaiming. But the situation is unpalatable to them and so Luke records, “Then they secretly induced men.”
The word translated as “secretly induced” is found only here in Scripture, hupoballó. It comes from hupo, meaning “under,” and balló, signifying “to cast down.” As such, it gives the sense of throwing something in stealthily or introducing by collusion. A word that gives the proper sense is “suborn.” Vincent’s Word Studies gives examples to better understand its meaning –
“The verb originally means to put under, as carpets under one's feet; hence, to put one person in place of another; to substitute, as another's child for one’s own; to employ a secret agent in one's place, and to instigate or secretly instruct him.”
These deceivers then are bringing a false accusation against Stephen, replacing the true intent of his words with a different meaning. It is what happened several times to Jesus, such as –
“Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, 60 but found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward 61 and said, ‘This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’” Matthew 26:59-61
However, in John, the true meaning of Jesus’ words is explained, there it says, “But He was speaking of the temple of His body” (John 2:21). The same type of false accusation will be brought forth by those who have been induced “to say, ‘We have heard him speak blasphemous words.’”
The exact words in the charge against him are found in verses 6:13, 14. They are words that have certainly added spice to those presented by Stephen, even if the substance of them may actually be close to what he said. This is because what Stephen said was, as already noted, surely in accord with Scripture. If it was not, then his words could have been easily resisted. However, they are falsely charging him with blasphemy “against Moses and God.”
The Greek has an additional force that is left untranslated. It reads indefinitely at first and then definitely, building to a climax by saying, “against Moses and the God.” As such, it is comparable to saying, “against Moses and God Himself.” The NLT gives the sense by saying, “We heard him blaspheme Moses, and even God.”
To this day, what is recorded as Stephen’s words (in 6:13, 14, and which will be evaluated then) are charged by both Jews and unschooled Christians as being points of blasphemy. And yet, it is certain that they are words that are in accord with what is stated later in Acts and the epistles. As such, they are not only not words of blasphemy, but they are proper statements concerning the final, forever, and finished work of Jesus Christ.
Life application: Finding something distasteful to our senses in the word of God is not an excuse to argue against the word of God. In fact, it shows a rather dull sense in a person to do so. We might look at the actions of those from the Synagogue of the Freedmen as ridiculous – “If God’s word clearly reveals that Stephen’s words are correct, then why would they attack Stephen? It doesn’t change God’s word!”
But that is how we are. We will shoot the messenger, even when the army he represents is a thousand times larger, as if shooting the messenger will solve the problem. But the army is still outside the city, and it will only be more enraged and ready to destroy because of the offense against it.
The same is true with God’s word. We find the Freedmen’s actions ridiculous, but do we do the same thing? There is a point of doctrine laid out in the New Testament that we just don’t like. We disagree with it, and we hide it away or ignore it. For example, maybe the church we attend has a female pastor. The Bible is explicit that this is not allowed, but we don’t like that part of the word, and so we ignore it.
This does not change what the word says. Rather, it demonstrates an unwillingness to be obedient to the very word we have wrongly used to allow a female pastor. This is because she claims to be a Christian. Being a Christian is something that is derived from precepts laid out in the Bible. She claims to follow Jesus. But the proper way to follow Jesus is laid out in the Bible. She reads Scripture from the Bible each week. But she ignores the parts of the word that she disagrees with that are found in the same book from which she reads her Scripture and of which she bases her sermons on each week.
All of what she does ignores precepts in the very same book that she claims as the authority for her ordination, instruction, faith, and practice. It is confused, it is illogical, and it is as common as cans in the soup section of the grocery store.
When something is explicit in the word, we are to be obedient to it. It doesn’t matter a hill of beans if we agree with it or not, God is God. His word is our instruction. And we are to be honoring of the sanctity of the faith we profess by being obedient to His word.
Lord God, help us to be molded into Your image by being obedient to Your word. We are humans, and it is in our nature to buck against things we don’t like or things we find unpalatable. And so, Lord, change us from within. May we be pleasing to You in all ways and at all times. Amen.