Acts 5:32-42; Acts 6; Acts 7:1-16
We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him."
When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death.
But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while.
Then he addressed them: "Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men.
Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing.
After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered.
Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.
But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."
His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.
Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.
So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.
Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them
and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word."
This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.
They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.
Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)--Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen,
but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.
Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, "We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God."
So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin.
They produced false witnesses, who testified, "This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law.
For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us."
All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Then the high priest asked him, "Are these charges true?"
To this he replied: "Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran.
'Leave your country and your people,' God said, 'and go to the land I will show you.'
"So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living.
He gave him no inheritance here, not even a foot of ground. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child.
God spoke to him in this way: 'Your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.
But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,' God said, 'and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.'
Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. And Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him eight days after his birth. Later Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs.
"Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him
and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt; so he made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.
"Then a famine struck all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great suffering, and our fathers could not find food.
When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers on their first visit.
On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph's family.
After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all.
Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our fathers died.
Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money.