Stephen was not afraid to stand up for Christ and we can learn how to be like him. (see Acts 6)
Positive – Signs and Wonders
He is a man full of God’s grace and power. Stephen was one of the guys that was sent out by the apostles to take care of the passing out of resources to the widows. There was a controversy where the Greek speaking Jews thought they were being left out. So, some greek speaking Jews were commissioned to go and do this.
This is Stephen, he is a man full of God’s grace and power. What does a life full of God’s grace and power look like? What sets Stephen apart from the others?
If I take a milk jug here and fill it up, when is this it full? It is full when there is nothing in it but water. So, to be full of God’s grace and power means that the complete person of Stephen is about God’s grace at work in him and his power.
He did, what they described as great signs and wonders. This was not a simple magic show or card trick. This was purely the spirit of God, healing people, doing miraculous signs, making Himself known through Stephen. And, naturally, people took notice. These people get noticed! I remember I was in Mexico for a missions trip and there was this man, who during the red lights would run out into the road, dump a little alcohol in his mouth and throw a little fire in there and blow fire. He did it over and over and over again while people watched. People naturally notice when things out of the ordinary happen. But, this causes a negative reaction also.
Really, it doesn’t take long for people to start to get upset with him. Why would they do that? Because what he is doing is a threat to them. Put yourself in the position of these people- the Greek Jews. They were the outsiders, already looked at as a little strange by the long-time Jews. Now, one of their leaders is stirring up controversy and making them look bad. They are embarrassed.
But, also, there was certainly something else. Stephen is challenging the way things have always been.
So, they start to argue with Stephen. Stephen why are you doing this? What do you believe? Where is this power from? Why are you happy? What is your purpose in life? How are you saved? And one, after one, whatever they brought to him, he answered.
Positive….Wisdom is showcased
This is like stacking the deck in your favor, but they knew that Stephen was a man with a Godly reputation. They obviously didn’t have any real idea what that meant. Stephen had the Holy Spirit; He was filled with the power of God and yet they somehow thought they were going to outwit him. That’s amazing. =
Let’s see, how can we get people to turn on Stephen. I know, let’s use blasphemy. Blasphemy in this culture, was any sort of slander spoken against God or anything associated with His majesty and power.
Except, Stephen hadn’t blasphemed, so it would be hard to get that on him, unless they took something he did say and twisted it to say something he didn’t. So, Stephen, talking about how the worship of God was no longer just for the temple was accused of attacking the temple, the law of Moses, and God.
So, that being the case he had to go before the Sanhedrin who oversaw those types of trials. Except, what would a Sanhedrin trial be without witnesses. But, seeing as he didn’t do this, it would be hard to find some. What if we bribe some. They produced false witnesses; ones that testified that he is speaking against the law and this place and he is talking about changing customs that moses handed down.
Positive: God is glorified
Stephen on trial for his life, as a man of grace and the power of God, had the face of an angel. God was blessing Him, not saving Him, but revealing himself in the midst of hard persecution.
Stephen was a man that was all about God. It was not about him at all, but his entire life was lived like this: to God be the glory. He had an opportunity to save himself, to not be here, but He recognized it was not about him. It would be hard to not back down in the midst of heavy opposition.
I had someone tell me one time that if they were persecuted like that, they would just renounce God and then ask for forgiveness later. But, see, that is not what God has in mind. If we are really serious about our faith, we will be willing to die for it. Who gets the glory when someone is killed for their faith? It is not the killers; it is the one who with gun to their head would not turn their back on the one who saved them from sin. Why would someone die for something if they truly were not captivated by it?