Fancy stairs, Texas Capitol.
Tuesday, 7 June 2022
And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. Acts 8:2
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).
The last verse spoke of the consequences of Stephen’s stoning which noted that great persecution arose against the church, and those of the church were “all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” With that remembered, it now says, “And devout men.”
The word translated as “devout” is one that refers to being God-fearing, pious, and the like. It is used four times and each other instance refers to someone who is devout under the law –
“And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” Luke 2:25
“And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.” Acts 2:5
“Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there, 13 came to me; and he stood and said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that same hour I looked up at him.” Acts 22:12, 13
It is true that any of these may have been a believer or become a believer, but their “devoutness” is in relation to the law. Further, as the previous verse specifically noted that those of the church were all scattered, Luke was surely making a point that it was men pious under the law that are being referred to now. It is a point of tenderness in an otherwise unhappy situation. From there, Luke next says that they “carried Stephen to his burial.”
Stephen means “crown.” At this point of the narrative, it is notable that despite being stoned for supposed blasphemy, he is the first recorded person in the new dispensation to receive the martyr’s crown. Thus, his name now meets up with his reward.
The word translated as “carry,” sugkomizó, is found only here. It signifies “to bring together.” Vincent’s Word Studies says, “Lit., to carry together; hence, either to assist in burying or, better, to bring the dead to the company (σύν) of the other dead. The word is used of bringing in harvest.”
Instead of simply leaving his body outside for beasts to eat, or chucking it into the valley of Hinnom (Gehenna), they removed it to a proper place. The words “to his burial” are inserted, but they surely reflect the appropriate idea. From there, it notes that they “made great lamentation over him.”
Again, it is a word found only here in the Bible, kopetos. It is a noun signifying “a beating of the breast or head while mourning.” It is an outward sign of working out an inner turmoil. Regardless as to whether these were believers or not, and the lack of calling them “brethren” points to them probably not being believers, the record is that an act of tenderness toward Stephen was carried out.
Life application: If you have traveled around the world or to various countries or states, you have surely met people who have been exceptionally pious towards “God.” This is, however, often as far as their understanding of God goes.
Humanity has the ability to do wonderful things in the care of others regardless of race, culture, or any other such distinguishing factor. Quite often, this is done by acknowledging that it is their understanding that God is overseeing their actions and He will be pleased with them.
There is nothing wrong with this, and it dispels the Calvinistic thought that there are none who actually seek after God. The words Paul uses in Romans to indicate this come from Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1. In both, the same general idea is presented, that of someone who is an atheist (or at least claiming to be one) –
“The fool has said in his heart,
‘There is no God.’
They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity;
There is none who does good.” Psalm 53:1
These people, of many cultures, religions, and so on, are really seeking out how to be pleasing to the God they know is out there. But the problem isn’t with their attempts at doing good. Rather, the problem is the infection of sin in them. Until the sin can be dealt with, God cannot accept us. It is an impenetrable wall that is built up because of God’s holiness and our fallen state.
This is what Christ came to remove. His death was a sacrificial death for sin. With the sin removed, then a propitious relationship can be restored. Good works, without dealing with the sin, cannot be considered “good” to God. And more, they can easily lead to a sense of supposed worth before God. “I have done my best.” “I am not as bad as other people.” And so on. God does not grade on a curve.
God’s standard is absolute perfection. Until a person is perfected in Christ, they are not just fallen, but infinitely so. Christ Jesus! He is the answer. Remember the simple gospel and be ready to share it –
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4
Each of the underlined points is given in relation to sin. He died for our sin. He was buried with our sin. He rose again without sin, meaning: He had no sin of His own (Romans 6:23) and thus He is God (Romans 3:23), and our sin is left behind in His burial. Sin is removed from the equation. With the entrance into the New Covenant through belief in Christ’s work, sin is no longer imputed (2 Corinthians 5:19). Sin has been dealt with, and salvation is thus guaranteed.
Be confident in your own salvation, be ready to explain the sin problem to others, and then be ready to share with them the good news that God has seals them with His guarantee when they believe.
Lord God, if sin is the problem, and if Christ has dealt with the sin problem, then sin is no longer a problem. Restoration has come! Thank You, O God, for Jesus Christ, our atoning Sacrifice for sin. Hallelujah and Amen.