Today’s message summary from Pastor Gus Brown:
Who was Stephen? First, he was just a man. He was a man who loved the Lord and, in the same way as David, he was a man after God’s own heart.
A servant really is doing the highest calling for God. A servant remains in the trenches each day and stays in the battle. The servants of God are the ones who are advancing the kingdom of God.
Stephen loved the Lord and serves Him faithfully. Faithfulness is the asset of a believer, and God is looking for people with this asset. Faithfulness is not just to your beliefs; instead, it is about faithfulness to Jesus Christ Himself.
I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Are you confident in the God that you believe in?
Then I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write: The dead who die in the Lord from now on are blessed.”
“Yes,” says the Spirit, “let them rest from their labors, for their works follow them!”
Are you confident that your work and your deeds will honor God and continue on even after you leave here?
16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit.
God will be glorified in the midst of your difficulty. It is up to you to see the big picture as you seek God’s will in your life.
10 For God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you showed for His name when you served the saints—and you continue to serve them. 11 Now we want each of you to demonstrate the same diligence for the final realization of your hope, 12 so that you won’t become lazy but will be imitators of those who inherit the promises through faith and perseverance.
God wants you to remain faithful to the work and stay with it. Getting older is no excuse to not remaining faithful to Jesus Christ.
A quick look at Stephen (book of Acts):
- He was not an apostle. He had no other title except “servant”.
- He was one of the seven to work with the distribution of food (Acts 6:5).
- He was filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom.
- He was faithful.
- He was full of God’s grace (favor) and power.
- He performed great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.
Stephen understood that he was a witness for Jesus Christ. He learned the five books of Moses (he knew the Word of God), and he learned to trust his faith and the Person of the Holy Spirit (he trusted the Teacher).
Stephen’s opposition: Synagogue of Freemen (Acts 6:9)
- Jews of Cyrene – North African Jewish colony who followed their own laws and teachings. Simon, the person who carried the cross for Jesus, was from Cyrene (Matthew 27:32).
- Jews from Alexandria – Greek city by the Mediterranean Sea. It was second to Rome in wealth and second to Athens in science and literature. It had the greatest library of ancient times. The Septuagint was translated there in 285 B.C.
- Cilicia – Southeast Asia Minor. Jews who remained after the Babylonian captivity. This may be Paul’s birthplace.
- Asia: Seleucus, a Macedonia general, encouraged the Jews to settle in the towns of Asia by giving them freedom within the cities and the same social status as the Macedonians and Greeks.
These were all outsiders that had a different viewpoint. They argued with Stephen.
Then some from what is called the Freedmen’s Synagogue, composed of both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, came forward and disputed with Stephen.
Even with this, they could not stand up against his wisdom. Stephen spoke by the Spirit.
But they were unable to stand up against his wisdom and the Spirit by whom he was speaking.
So when they arrest you and hand you over, don’t worry beforehand what you will say. On the contrary, whatever is given to you in that hour—say it. For it isn’t you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
The opposition, as a result, fabricated a lie against Stephen stating that he was blaspheming against Moses. They brought him before the Sanhedrin, which was a large group of Sadducees, who only hold to the five books of Moses.
Stephen reveals his own knowledge of the five books of the law of Moses (Acts 7:2-50).
51 “You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit; as your ancestors did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They even killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. 53 You received the law under the direction of angels and yet have not kept it.”
54 When they heard these things, they were enraged in their hearts and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, filled by the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven. He saw God’s glory, with Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, 56 “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
57 Then they screamed at the top of their voices, covered their ears, and together rushed against him. 58 They threw him out of the city and began to stone him. And the witnesses laid their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 They were stoning Stephen as he called out: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin!” And saying this, he fell asleep.
Stephen was courageous and was led by the Spirit (Acts 7:51).
The opposition was furious. They covered their ears (Acts 7:54-57). They yelled at the top of their voices.
God was at work with Stephen in the midst of trouble. Stephen was now looking not at the crowd but at Jesus Christ–He was his focus (Acts 7:55).
Stephen prayed. He had a strong relationship with Jesus Christ (Acts 7:59).
Stephen knew he would be killed. He prayed to the Lord to not hold this against them (Acts 7:60).
God is looking at your heart for Him. You can say that you are following God and yet your heart can be thousands of miles away from Him. When a person witnesses about Christ, a person who rejects the message is not rejecting the witness–the person is rejecting Christ Himself.
Stephen ministered to his audience through the power of the Holy Spirit. It takes faith to carry out what the Holy Spirit is declaring to you. His courage came through his relationship with Jesus Christ.