Monday, 4 April 2022
They also set up false witnesses who said, “This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; Acts 6:13
Stephen has been seized and brought to the council. Now that he stands before it, charges will be laid against him. However, Luke sadly notes that “They also set up false witnesses.” This is not unlike Jesus’ trial –
“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
The description of them as false witnesses is based upon twisting the words that he surely spoke in order to make them say something he actually would not have said. The charge is stated in this verse, but then the explanation of what is said will come in the next verse. They are words that bear some truth, and yet they are cunningly manipulated. For now, the charge is, “This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words.”
The word “blasphemous” is not in some ancient texts. Rather, it simply says, “This man does not cease to speak words.” Either way, the intent is the same. The false witnesses are making a claim based upon words only. Stephen has actually done nothing other than speak, and because this is so, his words can be easily manipulated to reflect something that will raise the ire of the council. The words they claim he has said are, first, “against this holy place.”
The meaning is “against the temple,” or the words may even extend to the holy city itself. Exactly what they claim Stephen said is yet to be noted, but it is true that the temple in particular, and the location of it in general, is considered holy –
“O God, the nations have come into Your inheritance;
Your holy temple they have defiled;
They have laid Jerusalem in heaps.” Psalm 79:1
“Now the leaders of the people dwelt at Jerusalem; the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to dwell in Jerusalem, the holy city, and nine-tenths were to dwell in other cities. 2 And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem.” Nehemiah 11:1, 2
But the accusation doesn’t stop there. After noting that Stephen spoke words against “this holy place,” they next add, “and the law.”
The “law” specifically refers to the Law of Moses. It was considered as divinely inspired by the Lord and written out by Moses. This would explain the earlier words of verse 11 that said, “against Moses and God.” The law is the covenant that established Israel as the Lord’s people, and it is the foundation of their society, culture, and lives. Everything Israel did from day to day, throughout the months, annually, and even throughout their lives rotated around precepts found in the law. To speak against the law would be considered both blasphemous and treasonous.
Life application: To speak against the word of God by those who profess to be Christians is something that should not be tolerated. It is the document that establishes the faith, and it is the document that records what God has done, is doing, and will do in order to bring men back to Himself.
As it is the document that details this, the implication is that it is divinely inspired. If it is not so, then what is the basis for the faith of the Christian? Man’s word? If so, then how can it be an accurate record of God’s workings? In other words, the Bible is either the word of God or it is not. If it is not, then the person who claims to be a Christian, and yet dismisses it, is basing his faith on pretty much nothing.
And this will be true in varying degrees as well. Some claim that the first eleven chapters of Genesis are not an accurate record of what actually occurred. Some hold to the New Testament, but not the Old. And so on. And yet, these stances show a complete disconnect in how those people perceive God.
Jesus clearly held to the absolute integrity of the first eleven chapters of Genesis, as well as all of the Old Testament. The apostles did as well. And it is they who have explained the life of Jesus to us. Because of this, those who say that they believe in Jesus suddenly believe in a false (or maybe incompetent) Jesus. How can someone put their faith in a man who was wrong about something so basic as what the word of God actually contains? If this is so, He is not God. And if He is not God, then why on the earth would anyone follow Him?
The thinking is unclear at best, but it carries the same blasphemous undertones that are presented right in Acts 6:13. To speak against the word is to speak against Jesus who confirmed the word. It is a scary place to be while claiming to be a Christian. Have faith. Trust the word of God as it is presented, and let God sort out for you the things you may not currently understand when you come before Him.
Lord God, we may not understand everything that is in Your word, but we can take what it says as absolute truth when we accept it by faith. And so, help us to be people of faith. Your word confirms Your doings, and Your doings are bringing us back to You. Thank You for the glorious and precious gift that tells us of these things. Amen.