We need people like Stephen today. We need Holy Spirit-filled people today. It would be great to have men and women in this church who can respond to any accusations against the church. If you are already such a Holy Spirit-filled person, then I applaud you. For this church needs men and women who can speak what the Holy Spirit of God gives them to speak.
Stephen had been chosen to wait on tables. He had good standing among the disciples. He was full of the Holy Spirit. He was full of wisdom. Stephen also had faith in God which allowed him to do great signs and wonders among the people. Oh, to have people like Stephen today!
Again, I want to say, if you are already like Stephen, praise the Lord! For you would not get upset with me saying that we need people like Stephen. You are so filled with wisdom, faith, and the Holy Spirit you don’t mind hearing about the desire for more people filled with the Holy Spirit. You realize I am not putting down anyone. You realize we need more people like you!
With accusations being levied against the church throughout time, we need people who can live their faith despite the accusations. We can try legal action against our accusers, but legal action is not the way of Christ. We can try violence against our accusers, but violence is not the way of Jesus. We can try a media blitz to get public opinion in our favor, but publicity is not the way of our Lord. Stephen shows us how to respond to accusations.
A. Accusations were made against Stephen (6:11-14)
1. “He spoke blasphemous words against Moses and God.”
2. “This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us.”
3. These are serious allegations. If the allegations were true, then we could see what made the elders and scribes want Stephen to speak before them. But we are familiar with how people can be. We have heard people make false accusations against other Christians, pastors, and neighbors. Our blood can boil when we hear false accusations against someone we know. We want to get even with the accuser. Stephen shows us how to respond to false accusations.
B. Stephen responds to the high priest (7:2-53)
1. God made a covenant with Abraham (7:2-8)
2. God was with Joseph’s family in Egypt (7:9-16)
3. God provided Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt (7:17-34)
4. Moses told Israel God would raise a prophet up from their people (7:35-41)
5. God turned from Israel when Israel continued to turn from God (7:42- 43)
6. Even with the Tent of Testimony, the Israelites wanted to build a Temple, again disobeying God (7:44-50)
7. The elders and scribes are just like Israel of old! (7:51-53)
8. This infuriated the elders and scribes. What was Stephen saying? The Holy Spirit directed Stephen to speak the truth about the people of God! God had done much for Abraham and his descendants. Yet, the elders and scribes were continually turning from God. They persecuted any prophet who challenged the power they had from directing Israel to worship the temple. The Israelites were worshipping what they made. They were not worshipping God. Oh, to have spirit-filled people today who call us back to worshipping God. Yet, we would persecute the spirit-filled people. We still need spirit-filled people. For when we are persecuted, we have to know how to act and speak.
C. Stephen speaks and acts even as his persecution ends (7:54-60)
1. For the elders and scribes were highly upset with Stephen
2. Stephen continues to be Holy Spirit-filled & sees Jesus at God’s right hand in heaven!
3. That was all the scribes and elders could take, they had to get him out of Jerusalem
4. Stephen continues to pray and cry to God
a. Stephen knew his life was hidden in God, thus: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
b. Stephen loved his enemies and prayed for them as Jesus told us to do, so he said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.
5. Stephen died
6. Do I want people like Stephen to die? No, I don’t want them to die. When we die, the fellowship is changed. When we die in this fashion, the fellowship realizes the good news of Jesus Christ will be told in a different way. For when Stephen died the scribes and elders knew he had faith in Christ. If we live our faith in Christ and we die in a similar fashion, then may everyone around us know that we had faith in Christ.
Years ago as I began to follow Jesus Christ, I looked up to the men who were older than I was. There was something about their faith in Christ that made their life better, different. There was something about their walk, their talk, and their attitudes that reflected Jesus. I wanted to be like them, for I thought they were living with Jesus everyday. It placed in my mind that they were like Stephen. For Stephen lived like Jesus.
Will our lives show that we lived like Jesus? Stephen did. Stephen had been chosen to wait on tables. He had good standing among the disciples. He was full of the Holy Spirit. He was full of wisdom. Stephen also had faith in God which allowed him to do great signs and wonders among the people. Oh, to have people like Stephen today!
What can we do to live like Stephen, who lived like Jesus? We can keep time with Jesus. We can serve the church. We can pursue the Holy Spirit and do what the Holy Spirit tells us to do. Then we will be prepared for when our death comes. If we die a natural death, then people will see our faith in Jesus. If we die at the hands of our accusers, then people will see our faith in Jesus. However we die, I hope people know they can have faith in Jesus, just like we had faith in Jesus.