Like the Face of an Angel
Stephen was one of the seven chosen by the Hellenistic Jews (Jews who had lived in parts of the empire other than Palestine) and commissioned by the apostles to see to the needs of widows and, we may assume, various other groups. These men are sometimes referred to as the first deacons, though that office seems to have developed later in the Church. Still, it certainly is an accurate description for their assigned duties. But what is obvious in this passage is that, though they took care of widows in the daily distribution, they were also men of the word who could preach and even work miracles, or at least Stephen could (and Philip, Acts 8). I have noted elsewhere that only the apostles could be the apostles based upon the qualifications for being so (having witnessed the resurrected Christ, ministered with Jesus during his earthly visitation, and, of course, specifically called of God); however, this does not mean that the gifts which went with specific offices in the New Testament were exclusive to those offices.
And so we have this man, Stephen, preaching as well as any before him and working miracles. He was obviously bold since some were riled up against him. These are the first Jews we read of, besides the members of the Sanhedrin, who persecuted Christians, indicating matters were getting worse. He especially angered some because “they could not withstand his wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.” I take this to refer to his new understanding of the Old Testament in the light of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit in those words. Well, when people lose an argument that was debated sincerely, they can do one of two things: 1) Admit defeat and convert to the right opinion, or 2) Do something mean to the person who defeated them (I leave out “walk away” as that seemed not to be an option). They chose option two, falsely accusing him of speaking against “this holy place [temple] and the law [of Moses],” and even that Jesus of Nazareth would “destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” Serious charges, indeed!
No doubt, Stephen said something about the temple and the law and matters under the old covenant which were fulfilled in Christ and which were now giving way to the new covenant he instituted; but certainly not under the terms they described. But the important point is that even the Sanhedrin could not help but notice that Stephen had the face of an angel. Christians should be passionate about their faith but always in the spirit of love. This is how Stephen spoke, and his angelic appearance they could not help but see.