Summary: What do we know about the first martyr for the gospel? Are we willing to lay down our own life, to death, for Jesus?
By Pr. Paddick Van Zyl 20 Aug 2014
Title: A Man Named Stephen
How does a child of God go from obscurity to waiting on tables, a waiter, to being falsely accused and then become the very first martyr for the gospel? Well, Stephen, can help us on this as we look at his biography today as found in Acts 6 & 7.
Acts 6:1-6;8-12 NIV
The Choosing of the Seven
6 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.
2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.
3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them
4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.
6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people.
9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen.
10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.
11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”
12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin.
13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law.
14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
Acts 7:54-59 NIV
54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.
55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him,
58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
We are not given much, if any info on the early life of Stephen before he was chosen by the Apostles to be a helper. We know that according to Acts 6, Stephen was not an apostle.
The following is clear from Scripture about him, Acts 6, ***:
*He was able to relate to others since he was most probably a Greek v.1
‘Stephen, you remember, was one of those Greek-speaking Jews called the Hellenists in this account, one who had been born in another country and who spoke not Hebrew or Aramaic but Greek. He was among those converted by the witness of the apostles and so he had become a Christian.’****
*He was willing as well as available v.2
*He seemed to have a good reputation with his peers v.3
*He was filled with and full of the Holy Spirit and a prayer v.4
*He was filled with wisdom from God v.3
*He was a person of faith v.8
*He was also full of power v.8 (faith then power)
*He was an example, similar to Paul who went to the synagogue challenging the leaders as did Jesus v.9
*He had heaven on his face v.15
*He firmly believed that God was in control of history (yesterday, today, tomorrow) chapter 7
Eddie Arthur *notes about Stephen:
‘People sometimes read Jesus words as saying that if we are brought before the authorities the Spirit will prove our innocence and we'll get off. Of course, Jesus never said such a thing. Stephen's story shows us that there is no guarantee of an easy ride. Far from getting off, Stephen was executed - and years later we can still learn things from what the Spirit did in Stephen's life. God's purposes go beyond our own comfort.’ *