God’s Word for You
Acts 6:15 the face of an angel
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, December 9, 2019
15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen. They saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
What should we think of Stephen’s face, “like the face of an angel”? We should apply the rest of Scripture to this passage to inform us.
First, the faces of the good angels do not show fear, because they have nothing to fear. They are unable to be destroyed, and confirmed as they are in their holiness they now always see the face of God (Matthew 18:10) and they have only eternal joy in heaven to look forward to. The good angels do the will of God without any need such as we might have for things like safety, supplies, or rest. At this moment before the Sanhedrin, Stephen was perhaps like the angels in this regard: without fear, filled with the joy of Christ, and without regard to his personal needs or safety.
Second, Jesus promised his disciples that when they were brought to trial, they would not need to worry about what to say. “Just say whatever is given to you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:11).
Third, Luke’s description uses the Greek aorist tense, “saw.” This fixes the incident with a simple, factual word choice. This is what they saw, not what they thought they saw or seemed to see. How did Luke come to choose such a way of speaking here? We will soon learn that one of the men involved in this incident was none other that Saul of Tarsus (Acts 8:1), who would not only become Luke’s good friend, but without a doubt was Luke’s historical source for these chapters.
Fourth, something in Stephen’s face reminded everyone who saw it of an angel. We take this to mean that his face was shining with a radiance that was not human, but supernatural. Lenski says: “This was Stephen’s supreme hour. That Spirit now filled him with such an extent that his countenance shone with supernatural radiance, light, and power, which were comparable only to those that appear on an angel’s countenance” (Acts p. 257). Stephen reflected the light of Christ with his own features, as Paul also described: “We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Paul meant that God the Holy Spirit transforms us more and more each day to live lives that come closer to God’s pattern, even though we remain tainted with original sin and our own actual sins along the way. Stephen, however, was suddenly filled with the promised Spirit who at this time appeared like an angel to men who understood what an angel was, and what this might possibly mean about his testimony. We can only imagine how striking this was to Paul as he stood in the wings watching with his own young eyes, and how later in his own Christian ministry this filled him with confidence as he himself stood before governors, and when he appealed even to Caesar himself (Acts 25:11). It was on his way to Caesar that an angel appeared to Paul to reassure him that what was happening was the will of God, and God would be with him (Acts 27:23).
The overall theme of Luke and Acts is the statement of Jesus: “You will be my witnesses.” Don’t forget this. When your moment comes to share the word of Christ with a loved one, a family member, or even with a stranger, don’t be afraid. Charles Spurgeon once said: “The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion out of its cage, and the lion will defend itself.” Whenever anyone asks you about your faith, the lion has been set free.
Pastor Timothy Smith