It's Not The Holy Land Any More (Acts 6:8-15)
Oct 11, 2010 by Craig Blomberg | 0 Comments
“They produced false witnesses, who testified, ‘This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law.’” (v. 13; TNIV)
Growing up, I always wondered why a minority of Christian speakers refused to call Israel the “Holy Land” but spoke of visiting “Bible Lands” instead. Later I would learn.
What made Stephen the first Christian martyr, when all of the apostles were able to remain in Jerusalem unchallenged (8:1)? It seems he was the first to articulate just how radical the effect of Jesus’ incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection really was.
Testimony does not have to be entirely wrong to be labeled “false.” In fact, the most successful false witness mixes truth and error. The false witnesses in this passage recognized that Stephen was challenging conventional understandings of “this holy place”—the temple and the land in which it was built—and “the law.” Chapter 7 will record Stephen’s replies to these charges: he had God’s true understanding of things, while the Sanhedrin’s leaders were the ones who had missed the correct interpretation (see esp. v. 51).
The only purpose for the temple in Jerusalem that could not also be accomplished in local synagogues around the empire was the offering of animal sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins. With Christ’s once for all sacrifice this was no longer necessary. The age of the law was giving way to the age of the gospel, the good news of God’s kingdom. That also meant there would no longer be any uniquely holy land, for people could worship in Spirit and in truth anywhere (John 4:24).