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Seven Chosen to Serve


Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. 2And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, 4while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.” 5What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

7 The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

The Arrest of Stephen

8 Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. 10But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. 11Then they secretly instigated some men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12They stirred up the people as well as the elders and the scribes; then they suddenly confronted him, seized him, and brought him before the council. 13They set up false witnesses who said, “This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law; 14for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us.” 15And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

12. Being overcome with the power of the Spirit, they give over disputing, but they prepare false witnesses, that with false and slanderous reports, they may oppress him; whereby it appeareth that they did strive with an evil conscience. For what can be more unmeet than in their cause to lean unto lies? 359359     “Quam in mendaciis causae suae praesidium constituere,” than to place the defense of their cause in lies. Admit he were a wicked man, and guilty, yet he must not have false witness borne against him. 360360     “Non tamen falsis testimoniis est oppremendus,” he ought not to be borne down with false testimony. But hypocrites, which shroud themselves under zeal, do carelessly grant themselves leave to do that. We see how the Papists at this day corrupt manifest places of Scripture, and that wittingly, whilst that they will falsely wrest testimonies against us. I confess, indeed, that they offend for the most part through ignorance; yet can we find none of them which doth not grant himself liberty to corrupt both the sense and also the words of the Scripture, that they may bring our doctrine into contempt; 361361     “Ut doctrinam nostram reddant odiosam,” that they may bring odium on our doctrine. yea, they slander us monstrously even in the pulpit. If you ask these Rabbins, whether it be lawful to slander a man or no, they will deny that it is lawful generally; but when they come unto us, good zeal doth excuse them, because they think that nothing is unlawful which may burden us or our cause; therefore they flatter themselves in lying, falsehood, and dogged impudence. Such hypocrisy did also blind them of whom Luke speaketh in this place, which used false witness to put Stephen to death; for when Satan reigneth, he doth not only prick forward the reprobate unto cruelty, but also blind their eyes, so that they think that they may do whatsoever they will. We are specially taught by this example, how dangerous the color of good zeal is, unless it be governed by the Spirit of God; for it breaketh out always into furious madness, and, in the mean season, it is a marvelous visor to cover all manner of wickedness.

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