God’s Word for You
Acts 6:11-14 Before the Sanhedrin
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, December 6, 2019
11 Then secretly they put some men up to say, “We have heard him say blasphemous things against Moses and against God,” 12 and so they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes. They seized him and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They also set up false witnesses who testified, “This person never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus the Nazarene will destroy this place and change the customs Moses gave us.”
The accusation against Stephen happened in three phases, from which there was no escaping the inevitable. First, Jews of the synagogue refused to believe his testimony, which (though unrecorded) was undoubtedly about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The fact that a large number of priests had recently become believers in Jesus (verse 7) was certainly causing unrest among those who rejected Christ.
From the synagogue, the accusations moved on to involving some men who were paid or coerced (the Greek term ὑπoβάλλω, hypoballo, means “to throw under” or pay a bribe) to lie under oath. Because these men rejected Jesus, they were willing to break the Eighth Commandment (or pay someone else to do it) in order to just stop hearing about the Messiah.
This false testimony stirred up other Jews, but especially the elders and the scribes. The scribes had been among Jesus’ most outspoken opponents. He had always answered their accusations, but their hatred for him only grew.
Finally, they brought Stephen before the Sanhedrin. Unable to stop Jesus or his apostles, the Jewish council decided to attack this man who was one of the directors of the Christian food pantry. They laid all the same accusations against Stephen that they had once brought against Jesus (yet they still had to resort to false witnesses to do it)
The old charge was a misquote of Jesus’ words early in his ministry. During his first year of preaching, the Jews had demanded that he perform a miracle to prove his authority to preach. He answered: “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it in three days” (John 2:19), although he was not talking about Herod’s temple, but about his own body (John 2:21). He wasn’t talking about lifting marble stones into place, but about raising himself from the dead, which of course he did. They accused Jesus of having said this at his trial before Caiaphas (Matthew 26:61), which was the only accusation that two witnesses both testified about. Now Stephen was accused of following this same Jesus, and of changing the customs (ἔθoς, ethos) of Moses.
This was a serious accusation. It was serious because it inverted the truth. Before God, it was not Stephen who was on trial, it was the Sanhedrin and all of their followers. They were rejecting Jesus, and by doing so they were in fact rejecting everything that Moses and the Prophets believed, said, and taught. This is the same problem that we still see today when people want to talk about a “Judeo-Christian God.” There is no such thing. The God Christians worship is the God of the Old and New Testaments, the God who promised that his Son would come into the world to deliver us all from our sins. I have no idea what god the Jews worship today, but it isn’t the God of the Bible. They have rejected the Father and the Son, but there is always still hope for everyone who will turn his faith to Jesus. In Jesus there is forgiveness, peace, and everlasting life in heaven. He said, “No one comes to the Father except through me,” but he doesn’t leave out anyone at all who puts their trust in him.
Pastor Timothy Smith