Does truth have a price tag? Sometimes the Truth offends. Recorded In Acts 7 is a story of one of the first Christian martyrs. I encourage you to read in for yourself right now beginning with Acts 6:8 through to the end of Acts 7.
The story begins, “Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). It is clear Stephen had a following of people who greatly appreciated his ministry. This created jealousy among the high-ranking religious leaders of his day. They dragged him in before the Council to be tried and most of Acts 7 is his defense statement. His defense gives a overview of the ancient Israelite people, from the calling of Abraham up to the present. God’s people were on a journey, not unlike each God follower’s call and journey we are on as individuals today.
Stephen’s hearers seemed to track with his message until he spoke truth about Jesus as the true Messiah. Stephen boldly pointed out where his hearers were mistaken in their beliefs, and they became indignant. He reminded them of how their ancestors persecuted prophets who spoke of Messiah, and then Stephen spoke these words, “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it” (Acts 7:51-53). The “Righteous One” referred to is Jesus, who is the only Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).
The narrative goes on, “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him ….” (Acts 7:54-58).
Declaring the truth sometimes has a cost to our personal preferences, comforts, and livelihood. Even Jesus, as the very embodiment of Truth, gave up his life on earth to accomplish God’s higher purposes. Is Truth worth the cost? Ask Jesus. I think his answer is an obvious, yes.
Truth is truth whether people believe it or not. Stephen’s hearers were okay believing the truth of their Jewish heritage, but when he declared them “stiff-necked,” their Belief turned to disbelief, which turned to anger, rage, and bitterness. In truth, Stephen’s hearers were murderers, and they proved it once again, by murdering Stephen. Their denial of truth set them up to act wickedly. In God’s eyes they were bringing condemnation upon themselves. Stephen lost his life, but by knowing Jesus, he entered into eternal glory. Without repentance, it cost Stephen’s murderers much more dearly; eternal damnation in hell. Even if they believed they were doing the world a favor by getting rid of Stephen, God’s reality (truth) was just the opposite.
As religious leaders, Stephen’s adversaries were leading people away from God, not towards him. Because Stephen bore witness to the Truth, regardless of the outcome, his leadership was authentic and authoritative. Truth always wins. Wisdom never shrinks back from the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
The culture we live in seems to have lost its respect for truth. Although this is a display of darkness, as Christ followers we much shine the light of truth everywhere we go and with everyone we meet. The Truth of the Word is our standard, and if we do not lift the standard high, who will?
May the Lord keep us from being “stiff-necked” in our worldly wisdom. May our hunger for truth keep us searching for more satisfying measures of truth. May we be proclaimers of truth. May we value the truth enough to point out when someone is being untruthful (like Stephen did, even at the cost of his own life). The cost of rebellion, denial, or silence is far greater than any imagined price tag on Truth.
by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry