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Wednesday, 6 April 2022
And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel. Acts 6:15
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).
To get the proper sense of the flow of the words, the verbs must be corrected, and the order of the clauses needs to be reversed. The NKJV says, “And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him…”
Rather, the original text reads, “And having looked steadfastly at him, all those sitting in the council…” When reading the previous verses together with this, it comes alive. The action moves from the accusers of the previous verse to Stephen. The council is held, they are looking at the accusers as each presents his case. With their words complete, only then are the eyes turned to the accused. This includes “all those sitting in the council.”
The verb is an aorist participle. They are sitting there with their eyes fixed on the accused. It is as if the reader is actually viewing the trial as it happens. What the council is now seeing is what the reader is also able to mentally see. And that is, as Luke notes, that they “saw his face as the face of an angel.”
Unfortunately, many commentaries unnecessarily state what is compared here to a shining or radiant countenance, as if Stephen has already started to be glorified. Or some say that the illumination of God is coming forth from his countenance. For example, the Pulpit Commentary says that he was “illuminated with a Divine radiance.” There is no reason to assume anything like this, nor would it agree with what actually happens to Stephen towards the end of Chapter 7.
Rather, the idea being expressed here is one of confidence, serenity, discernment, being undisturbed by the challenge against him, and so on. Three examples where a similar expression is used will give the sense. None of these are referring to a supernatural shining or illumination. Rather, they speak of a human who is in control of his emotions and exudes confidence –
“And Jacob said, ‘No, please, if I have now found favor in your sight, then receive my present from my hand, inasmuch as I have seen your face as though I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me.’” Genesis 33:10
“Your maidservant said, ‘The word of my lord the king will now be comforting; for as the angel of God, so is my lord the king in discerning good and evil. And may the Lord your God be with you.’” 2 Samuel 14:17
“And he has slandered your servant to my lord the king, but my lord the king is like the angel of God. Therefore do what is good in your eyes.” 2 Samuel 19:27
Life application: It is true that angels (messengers) are seen at times in Scripture to have a radiance that is beyond human, but when that is the case, it is also explicitly stated. At other times, angels – even the angel of the Lord (meaning the eternal Christ) – appears completely human. So much is this the case that the one who sees Him will not even realize He is the Lord. For example, this is seen in Judges 6.
When something is beyond what is normally experienced, it will say so. And so, as you read the Bible, consider each passage just as it is presented, just as if you were reading any normal book. When the sensational comes, it will be explained in the text. This is actually an important lesson because the more sensational we make the passage in our own minds (or as someone has presented it), the less it may be reflecting what the actual intent is.
In this state, the Bible becomes something that goes beyond a book about the redemption of man, and the focus becomes like a Hollywood movie. This type of approach is hugely popular, and videos like this will get countless views, but the people are also desensitized to the main point of what Scripture is telling us.
God loves us, God sent His Son (in an otherwise unremarkable human form) in order to redeem us, and we are being brought back to Him through His wonderful program of redemption. That alone is the most sensational news of all! Let us not miss the beauty of God’s workings by going off into many over-sensationalized paths.
What a treasure! What a gift! What a marvelous wonder is Your word, O God. It gives us the details of the most glorious thing we could imagine. It tells us of restoration with You through Jesus Christ our Lord. Thank You for what this precious word conveys concerning Him! Amen.