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Acts 7:59-60 "They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" Having said this, he fell asleep." (NASB)

Here when Stephen was about to die, he called on the name of the Lord, asking Jesus to receive his spirit. Ecclesiastes 12:7 says;

"For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it."

Assuming that Stephen had knowledge, from scripture, of the spirit and what happens to it after death, does the fact that Stephen asked Jesus, instead of God, to receive his spirit indicate that in his mind Jesus and God are synonymous and/or interchangeable?

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  • Luke 23:46 Jesus entrusted his spirit to his God, the source of his life. That indicates that he is not the Almighty and only true God. Apr 28 at 20:39
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    @AlexBalilo If that's true, then the fact that Stephen likewise entrusted his spirit to Jesus indicates that Jesus IS almighty and IS the true God, otherwise, according to you, Stephen would not have done so.
    – Rajesh
    Apr 28 at 23:31
  • I believe Jesus plain statement recorded in the bible, not the equivocation and flawed deduction of those who advance a doctrine that does not exist in the bible. Jesus himself was created, John 3 :16, John 6:57 and Revelation 3:14. Why would Jesus entrust his spirit to God if he is the source of his own life and spirit? Jesus is begotten and created, can the same be said about his true God? Apr 28 at 23:56
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    @Rajesh :D OK was responding to this part; "Jesus IS almighty and IS the true God" Almighty is Elshaddai H7706 and is exclusively the father. Happy to se a believer from India it makes me happy so see Hindu, Islam etc come to Christ.. May 14 at 17:43
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    @Rajesh ah ok God bless you brother May 15 at 10:13

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There are many prayers offered to Jesus in the NT of which the OP's example is a prime case.

  • John 14:13, 14 - And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Med for anything in My name, I will do it.
  • Acts 1:24 - And they prayed, “Lord, You know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two You have chosen to take up this ministry and apostleship, which Judas abandoned to go to his rightful place.”
  • Acts 7:59, 60 - While they were stoning him, Stephen appealed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Falling on his knees, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Note that this prayer to Jesus requests two things: (a) to receive his spirit as per Eccl 12:7 which is addressed to God, and, (b) he requests that the sin be forgiven - a prerogative of God alone, Luke 5:21, Mark 2:7. This text alone is sufficient to establish Jesus as God (John 1:1, 18, Matt 1:23, etc)
  • Acts 9:5, 10-14 - prayers of Saul/Paul and Ananias to Jesus
  • 1 Cor 16:22 - a request for the Lord to return
  • 2 Cor 12:8, 9 - Paul pleads for the thorn in the flesh to be removed
  • 1 Tim 1:12 - Paul's thanks to Jesus
  • Rev 5:8-13, 22:20 - angelic and heavenly host pray to Jesus
  • 1 Thess 3:11-14 - Paul's prayers to Jesus
  • 2 Thess 2:16, 17 - Paul's prayers to Jesus

Thus, there are a number of prayers directed to Jesus in the NT. In the case of Acts 7:59, 60, the prayer can only be directed to Jesus as God. Let me provide some further details of this:

"Receive my Spirit"

The request by Stephen to Lord Jesus to receive his spirit/breath is presumably a reference to Eccl 12:7 -

and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

This is, in turn, an allusion to Gen 2:7 about the breath of life:

Then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed the breath [ נְשָׁמָה neshamah] of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being.

Note that this word, "breath" נְשָׁמָה neshamah, refers to the breath of man and animals, given by God at creation, Gen 2:7, 7:22, Deut 20:16, Josh 10:40, 11:11, etc.

"Lay not this sin to their account"

Stephen's request for God to forgive this unjust sin of his persecutors of his murder can only be a request to God as we read in Luke 5:21 -

But the scribes and Pharisees began thinking to themselves, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” See also Mark 2:7.

Thus, on both counts, Stephen's comments suggest that he believed Jesus was God.

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  • I guess this would mean that it was Jesus who breathed the breath of lives into the first man at the beginning in Genesis, wouldn't it? Also, +1 Dottard, very good answer.
    – Rajesh
    Jan 2 at 17:28
  • @Dottard. Who can forgive sins but God alone"? The account in Matthew 9:2 show that the paralyzed man whom Jesus healed and whose sins he forgave did not believe that Jesus was God because he forgave his sins. The verses show that he/they praised God, not Jesus and the authority to forgive sins was given to man by God. Jesus ascribed creation to God, not himself, Matthew 19:4 and Mark 13:19. The opinion that it was Jesus who breathed the breath of lives into Adam and Eve is an opinion, not a biblical truth. Apr 29 at 0:42
  • @AlexBalilo - then you need to study the divine passive construction - Jesus forgave his sins and that is why the surrounding pharisees wanted to execute Jesus!. Rather simple actually. Further, why did Stephen ask Jesus, NOT the Father, to BOTH receive his spirit and forgive the sins - you are squirming and it does not flatter you.
    – Dottard
    Apr 29 at 0:44
  • @Dottard. I believe Jesus plain statements, not the scheming and envious pharisees. Even simpler actually. No circular reasoning and no explanation needed. Apr 29 at 0:52
  • Dottard. Why did Jesus asked his God to receive his spirit? Apr 29 at 1:00
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Yes, clearly, for as Psalm 62:1 says ”In God alone my soul finds rest”, and unless Stephen did not hold a slightest doubt in considering the Lord Jesus Christ as having the same divine dignity as God the Father, then he would have been either stupid or enemy of his own salvation to commend his soul not to Father but to Jesus Christ at the very final breath.

But you do not pay attention to the next clause where Stephen asks not the Father but Christ to forgive the murderers - to forgive or not is not a human or angelic prerogative but exclusive prerogative of God.

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    But the soul(נֶפֶשׁ) is different from the spirit(רוּחַ). They're not the same, so you shouldn't confuse them. But I get the point you are trying to make, so thanks.
    – Rajesh
    Jan 2 at 5:33
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    @Rajesh The New Testament does not yet discriminate with meticulously applied terminology the two terms and sometimes they are used interchangeably. For instance in Hebrews 12:23 πνεύμα means the souls of the reposed. Jan 2 at 5:42
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    Every translation I've looked at translated πνεύμα as spirit and not soul, so where are you getting the idea that it means soul from? Perhaps you are conflating the Hebrew notion of a soul with the Greek Platonistic notion of a soul. In Hebrew, the only word that is ever translated as soul is נֶפֶשׁ, pronounced nephesh. It refers to the whole being, the entirety of a person; mind and body, spiritual and physical, i.e. your totality. You do not have a soul, instead, you are one. It does not mean a conscious, spiritual part of you that is trapped in your body and released at death.
    – Rajesh
    Jan 2 at 5:49
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    @Rajesh The “soul”/“spirit” semantic is not at all pertinent to your present question, for whatever Stephen commends, be it soul or spirit, he must commend it to God at the final breath, and thus you have well intuited. Jan 2 at 7:09
  • Good answer. +1.
    – Dottard
    Apr 29 at 0:18
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This passage sharply divides those who believe that Jesus is God from those who say Jesus was created by God, and respective answers demonstrate this fact. This being a hermeneutical question, it it hoped that the words in the test will provide the answer (as opposed to interpretations about the text). Alas, they do not. No amount of examination of Greek words will make the slightest difference here, though some try to make much of distinctions between 'spirit' and 'soul' when that is a red herring.

The essential point in this passage of text is whether Stephen was praying to the resurrected Christ (in heaven) or to God the Father (also in heaven). This is because prayer is the most fundamental means of worship that there is. If a Christian was locked away in solitary confinement, possibly the only form of worship he or she could carry out would be prayer - unless they were also able to sing God's praise in worship.

Therefore, I am not going to make a meal out of this text; I'm simply going to point out that when Stephen was given a vision of both the Father and Christ, together, in heaven, Stephen deliberately chose to address Christ in prayer - not the Father.

Further, Stephen took Jesus' own dying words from the cross, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" (Luke 23:46), and turned them into prayer to Christ, followed by a virtual repetition of Jesus' other words from the cross, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do" (vs. 34) thus:

"[Stephen] being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, 'Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.'... Then [as the stones started to be hurled at him] 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, 'Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.' And when he had said this, he fell asleep [in death]." (Acts 7:55-60)

Of note is the fact that Saul of Tarsus had consented to this murder (Acts 8:1), which acted as a trigger for him viciously persecuting Christians. This Saul, who became Paul, was a witness, so this is not fanciful conjecture on the part of other Christians.

So, let the text speak for itself, and the answer is clear that although Stephen could have addressed his prayer of worship to the Father, he chose to address it to the risen Christ. Prayer - being an act of worship - proves that Stephen was worshiping Christ by that prayerful address.

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    Good answer. Indeed, prayer is the most basic form of worship. Although, not all who believe Jesus was a created being believe it is wrong to worship and pray to Jesus. In fact, the official Biblical Unitarian website makes a powerful case for the worship/prayer of Jesus! However, Unitarians like Jehovah's Witnesses, who likewise believe Jesus is a created being, believe that prayer/worship of Jesus is forbidden! And they will go to the greatest lengths to make unambiguous, unequivocal prayers to Jesus(i.e. Stephen's prayer) not prayers to Jesus. Anyway, thank you for this answer! +1 :)
    – Rajesh
    Apr 26 at 18:00
  • Seconded. A precise and excellent answer. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 26 at 20:54
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    Another disingenuous answer that rewrites the word of God to fit a dogma of men's making. You conveniently write, Stephen was given a vision of both the Father and Christ, together, in heaven. When the text says, " the Son of man standing on the right hand of God". No one needs to wonder what that means - Jesus cannot be God if he stands next to God. But as the first exalted to immortality from humanity, he certainly is God's wonderful son and second to Him in all things, worthy of praise and prayer. Jesus IS the glory of God.
    – steveowen
    Apr 26 at 22:18
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    @steveowen It is disingenuous to imply that, because the Son is not the Father (as all trinitarians know), then the Son cannot be equally divine - equally 'theos- as per John 1:1-14. Stephen knew that, to Christians, there is only one Lord - Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 8:6) and one Father. That's only a problem for those who insist that Jesus was but a creature, created by God at a certain point in time. I will not discuss this further in comments. There can be no meeting of minds between those who say Jesus was created and those who say he is the uncreated, eternal Son.
    – Anne
    Apr 27 at 11:13
  • @Anne. John 6:57. God is the source of Jesus' life. No equivocation can change the meaning of Jesus' plain statements. Some would rather believe Jesus' enemies to give substance to a teaching that does not exist in the bible. Apr 28 at 18:55
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Not necessarily, since a first century Jew could also be imagined to have cried out, "Recieve my spirit, father Abraham!" (since the souls of the dead reposed in this spiritual abode where the patriarches were until Christ led them out and into heaven) without thinking the patriarch is a god or is God. More significant, I think, is Luke's account of the event itself, in that he describe Stephen as having "called upon the Lord." In Scriptures, to "call upon the Lord" (or "call upon the name of the Lord") is exclusively language reserved for solemn worship or prayer to God (inasmuch as the referent of "Lord" in this phrase is always God). For example:

Genesis 4:27 But to Seth also was born a son, whom he called Enos; this man began to call upon the name of the Lord.

1 Kings 12:17-18 Is it not wheat harvest to day? I will call upon the Lord, and he shall send thunder and rain: and you shall know and see that you yourselves have done a great evil in the sight of the Lord, in desiring a king over you. And Samuel cried unto the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day.

2 Kings 22:11 In my distress I will call upon the Lord, and I will cry to my God: and he will hear my voice out of his temple, and my cry shall come to his ears.

1 Chronicles 16:8 Praise ye the Lord, and call upon his name: make known his doings among the nations.

Etc.

The New Testament unabashedly applies this to the most common referent of Lord in the New Testament (Christ), meaning they believe Him to be that same Lord:

Romans 10:9-13 For if thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thy heart that God hath raised him up from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For, with the heart, we believe unto justice; but, with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith: Whosoever believeth in him, shall not be confounded. 12 For there is no distinction of the Jew and the Greek: for the same is Lord over all, rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved.

Clearly the Apostles are happy conflating "the Lord" of these Old Testament qutoes with "the Lord Jesus." Moreover, there was no category in first century Judaism of speaking in a work like a history like the Gospel, of referring without qualification to an important figure as simply "the Lord." One suspects they perhaps would have used the Tetragrammaton of Jesus in the New Testament, where they writing in Hebrew, at least in some instances ("the Lord" being the way "Yahweh" was rendered in the Greek Bible and New Testament). At least that's what St. Paul is doing by conflating the Lord God with the Lord Jesus directly in the above passage, by quoting an Old Testament passage as support.

Secondly, it's notable that Stephen (whose name means "crown" by the way, which is significant, since he was the first martyr proper) calls out a second time: "Lord, do not hold this sin against them," at least very strongly implying the referent of "Lord" is still the same as, well, 3 seconds ago/the last sentence. And of course, the One who recieves the souls of humanity and forgives those who wrong those souls is God, needless to say.

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    Good answer. I don't agree with some of what is said(particularly the part about 1st-century Jews calling out to Abraham) , but I like the point you make about ἐπικαλούμενον, about Stephen "calling" on the Lord Jesus' name, and how that is the same as OT saints calling on the name of Yahweh. +1 :)
    – Rajesh
    Apr 28 at 18:00
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    You , nor Paul or any other NT writer cannot 'conflate" Jesus with Yahweh, unless specifically, as the agent of God. Quite simply because Jesus has God as his God since he was born and forever.
    – steveowen
    Apr 28 at 22:11
  • Your reply begs the question. For Christians throughout the last 2000 years, Jesus Christ most certainly is Yahweh. You simply disagree with them, and this is not the place for such disputes. Apr 28 at 22:12
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    We are intended/encouraged/warned to go by the word of God, not men. God disagrees too, as do the Apostles!
    – steveowen
    Apr 28 at 23:37
  • Very good answer as well. +1.
    – Dottard
    Apr 29 at 0:17
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It’s fascinating how many different theologies are expressed to explain the same passage.

55But he, being full of the holy spirit, looked intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

Stephen is clear regarding who he was requesting receive his spirit - to make sure, we are told twice. As Jesus would say, ‘Verily verily… this is important!’

Stephen sees God, and by the side of God, is God. Oh no, that’s not right, he sees his Lord Jesus next to God. As is often pointed out, this is the God Jesus had, ‘my God and your God’, he told Mary, rendering Jesus to be quite not God!

No, Stephen does not believe Jesus is God.

Jesus has the new ability and privilege to give the spirit, and obviously receive it back as well.

since he (Jesus) has been exalted at the right hand of God, and has received the promise of the holy spirit from the Father, he has poured out this which you both see and hear. Acts 2:33

As is often the case, some strange, unbiblical ideas have been proposed. Interestingly, it’s ok to quote the Pharisee’s, but not Jesus who only ever said he was a man.

  • only God can forgive. No, this authority was given to the disciples. John 20:23
  • Just as Jesus was given authority Matt 9:8

The OP proposes - would it be perfectly valid to use the terms [God and Jesus] interchangeably just as Stephen did?

Really? Stephen didn't. As already noted, Stephen had a perfectly sound grasp of who was who, and he isn't the least bit confused about calling Jesus God or God Jesus and would prefer we didn't read such things into the bible, let alone change the words he used.

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Well, no, if we take seriously the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus which, unlike the parables generally told by Jesus, included two named men (Abraham and Lazarus) indicating Jesus considered these persons to be real.

22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. -Luke 16:22

Here we see that the spirit of Lazarus (having not yet been resurrected) was found at the side of Abraham having been carried by angels.

Taking Ecclesiastes 12:7 seriously we'd have to conclude that returning to God included the concept of being carried by angels to the side of someone else who is not God (Abraham in the case of Lazarus).

Therefore, returning to God does not rule out being received by someone else who is not God.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 7 at 12:57
  • The rich man knew not God and could only be instructed (about someone else's blessed state) by a description of 'father Abraham' (since he knew not God as 'Father').
    – Nigel J
    Apr 26 at 20:53
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Does Stephen asking Jesus to receive his spirit indicate that he believes Jesus is God?

Acts 7:59-60 "They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" Having said this, he fell asleep." (NASB)

The answer is "NO" Why.

Jesus after his resurrection and just prior to ascending to God’s heavenly realms, told his disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.[Mt 28:18 NASB] Stephen was aware of this and was also aware that Jesus was given the power to resurrect the dead [John 5:28-29] Knowing this, it would be natural on the part of Stephen to appeal to Jesus to safeguard his spirit -"the breath of life" [ NET]when the resurrection takes place.

In his vision [Vs 55-56 ] Stephen saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, a completely separate identity from Jesus, hence Jesus is not God. The holy spirit was not seen with Jesus and his father.

What is the spirit?

The Greek word translated as “spirit” is “pneu-ma”,(from the Greek verb “pne-o” =breath or blow) It literally means “wind”, "breath" the movement of air. Wind is a force that we can feel but cannot be touched or seen. e.g. pneumatic, pneumonia.

God's word shows that both humans and animals have a spirit, the breath of life and that humans have no advantage over the animals insofar as the spirit is concerned. Compare Genesis 7:22 YTL and NET

Ecclesiastes 3:19 YTL

19 For an event [is to] the sons of man, and an event [is to] the beasts, even one event [is] to them; as the death of this, so [is] the death of that; and one spirit [is] to all, and the advantage of man above the beast is nothing, for the whole [is] vanity.

Genesis 7:22 YTL 22 all in whose nostrils [is] breath of a living spirit -- of all that [is] in the dry land -- have died.

Genesis 7:22 NET 22 Everything on dry land that had the breath[a] of life in its nostrils died.

Kneeling was a common attitude of prayer.

Jesus himself knelt in the garden of Gethsemane. [Luke 22:41] and Solomon knelt and prayed at the inauguration of the temple. [1Kings 8:54] Following the practice Stephen also knelt [Vs 60 ] and prayed to Jehovah: Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep. [Acts 7:60 NASB] Obviously here Stephen echoes Jesus' words to his Father “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” [Luke 23:34 ] Stephen was also aware of Jesus temptations, in which Satan asked Jesus to fall down and worship him, Satan wanted Jesus to abandon his father and worship him: Jesus replied:

Matthew 4:9-10 NET

9 “I will give you all these things if you throw yourself to the ground and worship[a] me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Go away,[b] Satan! For it is written: ‘You are to worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’”[c]

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    Praying to Jehovah? He was praying to Jesus... That's extraordinarily obvious(Stephen was talking to Jesus just a few seconds ago, and called him LORD Jesus). Also, Luke 23:43 is spurious, not part of the inspired word. Also also, where the spirit goes has nothing to do with authority. A boomerang doesn't come back to me because I have authority; it comes back to me because it's designed to come back to the person who threw it. The spirit is designed to go back to the person who gave it; if the spirit goes back to Jesus, then a simple deduction tells you that it was Jesus who gave it.
    – Rajesh
    Jan 4 at 16:57
  • @Ozzie. Very good answer. Matthew 4:10 has the word "serve" (latreuseis) λατρεύσεις (latreuseis) Verb - Future Indicative Active - 2nd Person Singular Strong's 3000: To serve, especially God, perhaps simply: I worship. From latris; to minister, i.e. Render religious homage. There is no record in the New Testament where (latreuseis) sacred service was offered to Jesus. Apr 28 at 20:59
  • Acts 7:59-60 in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures says that after Stephen addressed Jesus with the words: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit," he then bent his knees and cried out with a strong voice: "Jehovah, do not charge this sin against them." And after saying this he fell asleep in death." This is one argument I've heard to support the view Stephen was not praying to Jesus but was praying to Jehovah.
    – Lesley
    Apr 29 at 15:11
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Does Stephen asking Jesus to receive his spirit indicate that he believes Jesus is God?

In short, no. Let us look at the context to answer this question. In the topic of "Prayer" in the Insight on the Scriptures, we can see what was going on and a similar event that clarifies the situation:

Though some claim that prayer may properly be addressed to others, such as to God’s Son, the evidence is emphatically to the contrary. True, there are rare instances in which words are addressed to Jesus Christ in heaven. Stephen, when about to die, appealed to Jesus, saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Ac 7:59) However, the context reveals a circumstance giving basis for this exceptional expression. Stephen at that very time had a vision of “Jesus standing at God’s right hand,” and evidently reacting as if he were in Jesus’ personal presence, he felt free to speak this plea to the one whom he recognized as the head of the Christian congregation. (Ac 7:55, 56; Col 1:18) Similarly, the apostle John, at the conclusion of the Revelation, says, “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.” (Re 22:20) But again the context shows that, in a vision (Re 1:10; 4:1, 2), John had been hearing Jesus speak of his future coming and thus John responded with the above expression of his desire for that coming. (Re 22:16, 20) In both cases, that of Stephen and that of John, the situation differs little from that of the conversation John had with a heavenly person in this Revelation vision. (Re 7:13, 14; compare Ac 22:6-22.) There is nothing to indicate that Christian disciples so expressed themselves under other circumstances to Jesus after his ascension to heaven. Thus, the apostle Paul writes: “In everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known _to God.”_​—Php 4:6. [bold mine]

Stephen was very wise and educated in the history of the nation of Israel as seen in his defense to the religious leaders in the Sanhedrin. (Acts 7:2-53) He was appointed to a special ministry to feed the widows of the Greek-speaking Jewish community. (Acts 6:1-6) This appointment was made by the apostles, men who spoke and walked with Jesus himself. Of these apostles, Peter was the one when asked who Jesus was answered “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) Jesus even acknowledged from where Peter had gained this knowledge, "flesh and blood did not reveal it to you, but my Father in the heavens did". (Matthew 16:17) So if Peter or any of the apostles knew that Stephen held a different view of who Jesus was then they would not have appointed him to his special ministry.

[All scripture quotations from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]

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