Stephen was filled with “faith” or faithfulness (cf. Rom. 3:3) and miracle working “power” (6:8) because he was filled with the Spirit (Acts 2:4; 6:5) and faith and power were gifts of the Spirit (I Cor. 12:8-10). The Spirit filled and controlled them (Ezek. 36:27) to where they couldn’t sin (I Jo. 3:9), but that didn’t mean He overpowered their personalities.
We know that because the 12 told the disciples to pick 7 men filled with wisdom and the Spirit to settle a dispute (Acts 6:1-3). But they were all filled with both, so how could they choose? Well, they were also to pick men “of honest report,” which can mean fair and equitable men. But honesty wasn’t one of the gifts of the Spirit, so we know the Spirit didn’t eclipse their personalities in that taste of the kingdom of heaven on earth—and He won’t eclipse ours either when we get to the kingdom of heaven in heaven. They weren’t a bunch of mindless robots, and we won’t be either!
Why Stephen (6:9) and not Peter? A year has now passed since Acts 2:4 and God is about to cut Israel down for rejecting Christ’s apostles (Luke 13:6-9). Since Stephen’s name means “crown,” he’s about to become an example of how Tribulation Jews will have to be faithful to death to get eternal life (Rev. 2:10). God needed the 12 alive to continue the kingdom program during the “diminishing” of Israel (Rom. 11:12), to write epistles to kingdom saints that will be in the Bible for the Tribulation. So He couldn’t have Peter die.
After the persecution of the Jewish council (Acts 5:40,41) the “disputing” came from average Jews, not the leaders (6:9), as the Lord predicted (Mt. 10:17). The “Libertines” may have been formed to look for liberty from their enemies in Rome (Lu. 1:70) but now the Lord’s disciples were their main enemy. So now they were fighting for the “liberty” found in the law (Ps. 119:133, 145). In the measure they followed the law, they were free from sin. They later charged the 12 with blaspheming the law (6:13) because the 12 were preaching freedom from sin through Christ, just as He did (Jo. 8:32-36). That’s why James called it a “law of liberty” (Jam. 2:12). The Lord wanted to give the Jews complete liberty from their sins by filling them with His Spirit and making them able to keep the law perfectly. The Libertines thought they didn’t need that, because they thought they were keeping the law well enough to be saved on their own.
The Alexandrians (6:9) were probably also strong for the law, like their favorite son (Acts 18:24). “Them of Cilicia” produced Saul (22:3) so they were also zealous for the law, and they too joined the Libertines in championing the law.
But all those zealots of the law couldn’t compete with Stephen’s gift of wisdom (6:10)—and he was just a waiter (6:5). Men won’t be able to resist your wisdom either if you have the truth rightly divided, unlike the Jews who clung to the law here. They couldn’t resist his gracious “spirit” either, the spirit of grace—and you can have that too (Col. 4:6).
They suborned men to lie (6:11) so they could get the kingdom, like Jezebel did (I Ki. 21:1-10), a type of how Israel’s religious leaders got men to lie to kill the Lord (Mt. 21:38) and kill Stephen, the rightful owners of the vineyard of Israel
They “caught” Stephen (6:11), meaning he was running away. If the government persecutes you, you can run, but you must follow David’s example and not resist them (I Sa. 24).
Since they bore false witness about Stephen and then gnashed on him (Acts 7:54), I have to believe he prayed for his enemies in between (cf. Ps. 35:11-16 cf. Mt.5:44).
They claimed Stephen was saying the Lord would destroy the temple (6:14) because they purposely misunderstood when He said He’d destroy the temple of His body and raise it up (Jo. 2:19-21). And Stephen was preaching Christ’s resurrection. We know neither the Lord nor Stephen destroyed the “customs” of the law, for the Lord always observed the “custom” of the feasts (Lu. 2:41,42) and Stephen was there at this next Pentecost a year later.
God replied to these charges by saying, “You want to charge him with speaking against Moses and the law? I’ll make him look like Moses when he got the law!” (6:15 cf. Ex.34:29-34).