The first step in attempting to destroy the righteous is to lie about them. You see this time and time again throughout the Bible. Stephen in Acts is no exception, for in Acts 6 it tells us those that were disputing with Stephen stirred up the people and the leaders, seized him and brought false witness against him. They slandered him to discredit him. Once Stephen is brought before the council and high priest, he gives a defense, not for himself, but a history of the people of Israel and then the scathing truth the religious leaders could not bear.
“You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.”
When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth.
Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. Acts 7:51-54, 57
So why did the leaders rush to judgment? Why were the religious leaders so angry and quick to administer such severe punishment? James Dixon in his commentary, Chronological Commentary of the Bible, comments, “The truth hurts worse when there is no intention of repenting. Since they did not intend to repent of their hypocrisy and rebellion against God, they had only recourse and that was to put Stephen to death immediately.” The truth is some of Stephen’s words, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:56) reminded this mock court of the words of Jesus – thereby inciting their anger which turned to madness and murder. There was no legality to their behavior, only hysteria that was birthed out of spoken truth. The truth of God has that much power; it can transform hearts but also incite the rebellious to unthinkable acts. Those who rebel against God cannot stand the truth and I will submit will not stand for it. They will murder the voice of truth at all costs.
The death of Stephen is not about religious disagreement or even hatred. The point is the truth. Stephen told the leaders the truth of what they had done. They responded by stoning him. Don’t miss the point! The truth went forth and still goes forth today because no matter how hard leaders try, the truth will not be silenced, but march forth in power. Stephen was bold and truthful and willing to pay the cost for truth. The truth of God cannot be stopped; it is devastating and beautiful, life changing and a crushing fire. Do not be deceived in today’s culture of political expedience. A lie is still a lie, deceit is still deceit, slander is still slander, and the truth is still the truth.