8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.

9 Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen.

10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.

11 Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.”

12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council,

13 and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law,

14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.”

15 And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel”

Acts 6:8–15 ESV Read More

When we last left the 1st Century Church, they had appointed 7 Hellenistic men who were full of the Spirit to take care of the daily allotments of food – especially for the Hellenist widows. That meant that they would more likely identify with Greek or Roman culture than Jewish culture. That meant that they were probably not from Jerusalem or maybe even Israel at all, but were from other parts of the Roman Empire and had come to believe in Jesus out of those religions. They may have also become Jewish out of Greek religions and then progressed into following Jesus.

As an appointed leader in the group, some attention falls on Stephen from the other Hellenistic Jews in the area. It’s one thing for this growing group of people to be a sect of Jews in Jerusalem, but since Pentecost, the group has been actively growing among more different groups.

The groups mentioned are all Jewish groups that had Greek backgrounds. The Freedmen were ethnically Jewish people that were taken to Rome as slaves. They were kind of like Daniel and his contemporaries. They had become Hellenized in their slavery and then after some time given their freedom. They would know Roman culture more like a Roman than a Jewish person, though they kept their Jewish faith. The others mentioned are from various regions of the Roman Empire to which the Jewish people had scattered.

Now, just like with Peter and James in chapter 4, the Church is facing opposition from people who love the Law. They accuse Stephen of speaking against the temple and against the Law of Moses. This was the same thing they accused Jesus of teaching, too.

The first half of Acts is Christianity growing in the Jewish world. This is like people today living for Jesus vs. people living by a bunch of ‘Christian’ rules. The legalists are always attacking the people that live by the Spirit instead of the Law. Stephen gave the best example of a defense, though: wisdom from the Holy Spirit.

While the Cyreans used the tools of gossip and slander, Stephen spoke and loved in the power of the Spirit. We’ll see who wins. (Know anybody that named their son Cyrean?)

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Note: While there are subtle differences, for our purposes, we can use Hellenistic, Greek, and Roman interchangeably. We might go more in-depth into that on another day.

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