Summary: Stephen is the embodiment of godliness. Let us be humble enough to serve. Put the needs of others before self. Stay faithful to God no matter what.
There was a need in the church. With the growing number and increasing needs, one aspect of the ministry was neglected.
• In the daily distribution of food, some widows were being overlooked.
• They needed some people to oversee the “daily distribution of food” (6:1) – basically, people to ‘wait on tables’, the apostles said.
• Probably similar to what we do today when we have a buffet – someone to dish out the food, and make sure that everyone has a fair share.
The apostles announced it this way: “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables” (6:2), so let’s choose some men who are “known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.” (6:3)
• Notice their solution was not to find men skilled in logistics or distribution. They did not seek out men with a background in business or management.
• Later we read Stephen was chosen, a man “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.”
They didn’t look for abilities, they looked for CHARACTER. They didn’t look for giftedness, the apostles look for GODLINESS.
• This was unexpected, especially when you announced for people to help with the distribution of food, to wait on tables.
• If the people are to have confidence in this group of people, entrusted with this responsibility, the apostles knew they needed men of good reputation.
It was all about CHARACTER. It’s a good reminder – God is looking for CHARACTER.
• God is concern with character, not charisma and capabilities.
• He is concerned with WHO we are, more than WHAT we can do; WHO we have become, than what we have ACHIEVED.
• Whatever we can really achieve for God flow from who you are.
And so the congregation chose these seven men – listed in 6:5 – and among them, Stephen was highlighted - “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.”
• Luke pointed him out again in 6:8 that he was “a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.”
• Obviously Stephen was outstanding, and Luke needed to highlight him because he viewed him as the embodiment of spiritual character. He is the model for us.
The description given to Stephen was exceptional.
• We read the word “full” several times – 6:3 “full of the Spirit and of wisdom”; 6:5 “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit”; 6:8 “full of grace and power”.
• The members of the Synagogue debated with him but “could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.” (6:10)
• 6:15 “All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.”
Stephen may be serving as a “server” (deacon) in the church distributing food, but he made a GREAT IMPACT in ministry.
• 6:8 says he did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.
• He was eventually arrested for preaching passionately for the Gospel and was brought before the Sanhedrin.
• And he preached on – delivering a passionate plea to the Council members - to understand what God has done for them (Israel) and urge them to trust the “Righteous One” (7:52) whom they had murdered.
And the result of this passionate plea (longest recorded sermon in Acts) - the authorities decided to stone him.
• And as a result of this event, they decided to launch an all-out attack against the church, spearheaded by Saul.
• Acts 11:19 “Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews.”
This man left an imprint in the history of the church. Luke wanted his readers to know, that this man made an impact because of his character.
• In so many ways, we see glimpses of Jesus’ nature in Stephen’s character – he speaks the truth, with authority, wisdom, courage even in the face of opposition. He was so filled with the Spirit that his face shines like an angel (6:15).
• At the end, he prayed for the Lord to receive his spirit as he dies and asked God to forgive those who were stoning him, very similar to Jesus’ prayer on the cross.
• He lived and died like his Master. Both died young but made a huge impact.
That’s a life well lived. And that’s what I liked to share with you this morning – what makes a great life? It need not be LONG. It has to be significant and worthwhile.
• I saw a few common treads in both the lives of Jesus and Stephen.