Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.
9Opposition 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,
10but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.
11Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, "We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God."
12So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin.
13They produced false witnesses, who testified, "This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law.
14For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us."
15All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
1Then the high priest asked him, "Are these charges true?"
2To 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.
3'Leave your country and your people,' God said, 'and go to the land I will show you.'
4"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.
5He 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.
6God 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.
7But 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.'
8Then 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.
9"Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him
10and 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.
11"Then a famine struck all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great suffering, and our fathers could not find food.
12When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers on their first visit.
13On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph's family.
14After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all.
15Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our fathers died.
16Their 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.
17"As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt greatly increased.
18Then another king, who knew nothing about Joseph, became ruler of Egypt.
19He dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our forefathers by forcing them to throw out their newborn babies so that they would die.
20"At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for in his father's house.
21When he was placed outside, Pharaoh's daughter took him and brought him up as her own son.
22Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.
23"When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites.
24He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian.
25Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not.
26The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, 'Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?'
27"But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, 'Who made you ruler and judge over us?
28Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?'
29When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons.
30"After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai.
31When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to look more closely, he heard the Lord's voice:
32'I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.' Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look.
33"Then the Lord said to him, 'Take off your sandals; the place where you are standing is holy ground.
34I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.'
35"This is the same Moses whom they had rejected with the words, 'Who made you ruler and judge?' He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush.
36He led them out of Egypt and did wonders and miraculous signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the desert.
37"This is that Moses who told the Israelites, 'God will send you a prophet like me from your own people.'
38He was in the assembly in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us.
39"But our fathers refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt.
40They told Aaron, 'Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt--we don't know what has happened to him!'
41That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and held a celebration in honor of what their hands had made.
42But God turned away and gave them over to the worship of the heavenly bodies. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets: "'Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the desert, O house of Israel?
43You have lifted up the shrine of Molech and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship. Therefore I will send you into exile' beyond Babylon.
44"Our forefathers had the tabernacle of the Testimony with them in the desert. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen.
45Having received the tabernacle, our fathers under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David,
46who enjoyed God's favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.
47But it was Solomon who built the house for him.
48"However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says:
49"'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be?
50Has not my hand made all these things?'
51"You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!
52Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him--
53you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it."
54When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.
55But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
56"Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."
57At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him,
58dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
60Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.
And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest
2and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
3As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.
4He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
5"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied.
6"Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."
7The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.
8Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.
9For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!" "Yes, Lord," he answered.
11The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.
12In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight."
13"Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem.
14And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name."
15But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.
16I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."
17Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord--Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here--has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit."
18Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized,
19and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.
20At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.
21All those who heard him were astonished and asked, "Isn't he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn't he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?"
22Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.
23After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him,
24but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him.
25But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.
26When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.
27But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.
28So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.
29He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him.
30When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.