17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ”
22 Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.”
Oh come on, Paul!
He has been talking to this calmed-down-angry-mob for a while now. Many of them might be starting to turn and change their attitude toward him and put their riot attitudes away.
And then he has to go and say that word.
Paul was really getting some credit as a zealot for the law. I mean, he was admitting to being a witness and sort of accomplice to the death of Stephen.
I think the death of Stephen is on his mind. Angry crowd. A guy standing up and giving a speech about Jesus.
We all know what happens next.
And what does Paul do?
He springs the trap.
One day when I was getting my haircut years ago, my barber called me out. “You can’t fool me, Dan. You’re full-on Protestant.” I was a little surprised. Not disagreeing, but wondering why he said that, I asked him what gave it away. “You called it going to church and not going to Mass,” he said.
It’s the little things.
Paul didn’t call Stephen a liar or a deceiver. He didn’t say that Stephen was leading people astray by talking about ‘The Way.’
“Stephen your witness” – Paul really is certain that Stephen was right! That little slip might have turned people toward picking up stones.
If not, the G-word would do it. Saying Gentiles here is like saying “any communist that calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” on the 4th of July at a Yankees game. Shew-wee!
This is a great chance for us the check ourselves, too. These people were standing in the area that God declared would be a “place of prayer for all nations.” But they were mad that Paul was going to take the message of God to “all nations.” Is there a group or person that we’d be mad to see in heaven? Is there a preacher that we don’t want to listen to anymore because they think this or that kind of person can be saved?
We aren’t very likely to say “That guy shouldn’t be allowed to live!” But we might go slander them on Facebook.
Before we pick up the rocks, it is so good to consider what kind of speech you are giving. Paul knew what he was saying. He was saying it on purpose, and he was hoping for all who could hear him (in the court of the Gentiles full of people from all over Asia) to believe in Jesus.
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