Summary: Are you available to God in Spirit, wisdom, faith and power? Let us get into the dimension of the anointing that Stephen had.
Even as the early church was growing in numbers, problems began to erupt amidst the believers.
The early church consisted primarily of Jews who could be classified broadly into:
1. Hebrews - Jewish Christians who were from Palestine and spoke mainly Aramaic and/or Hebrew
2. Hellenists - Jewish Christians who were from outside Palestine and spoke mainly Greek
It was only in the later stage of Acts that the Gentiles accepted Christ and were added to the church primarily due to the evangelist works done by Philip (in Samaria), Peter (in the house of Cornelius) and Paul (in his missionary journeys).
Now the early church had everything in common (4:32).
Acts 4:35 says that everything was distributed to everyone according to their need.
Problem arose in the early church since the Hellenists felt that their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. This issue was addressed to the apostles who wanted the disciples to choose 7 men to serve tables.
However, apostles had set certain eligibility criteria for the selection process:
The men to be chosen must be:
1. Of good reputation
2. Full of Holy Spirit
3. Full of wisdom
There is a huge difference between being filled with the Holy Spirit and being full of the Spirit.
Filled with the Spirit - At salvation, we experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit. When in worship, as the Holy Spirit moves, we are filled. Probably every born-again believer of the early church would have experienced it.
Full of the Spirit - being full of the Holy Spirit is different. It is reflected in the Godly character of a person and power with which they minister to God.
Now, seven such people were chosen. Acts 6:6 - the apostles laid hands on them. It was and is still a practice in many places to dedicate a person for a particular work by the elders laying hands on them. We have many such examples both in the Old and New Testament:
Deut 34:9; Numbers 27:12-33 - Moses laid hands on Joshua to anoint him as the next leader
Acts 13:3 - Apostles laid hands on Paul and Barnabas
(One needs to be very careful when laying hands on somebody and dedicating them for ministry. That is why, Paul warns Timothy - 1 Timothy 5:22)
The apostles here were also very careful that the men whom they dedicated were filled with Holy Spirit and wisdom.
Now, 7 men were selected. We are not told whether they were Greeks or Hebrews. However, their names are Greek names.
A spirit filled person is available to the Lord for whatever service he may appoint.
We must note that these 7 men filled with Spirit and wisdom were not called to preach but to wait on tables. A fact to be appreciated is that all of them were ready for that. However, Stephen tops the list - with detailed description about him - a man full of Holy Spirit and faith
Are we so available for the Lord for whatever work He may appoint? Are we ready to serve the Lord with all obedience and commitment?
How was Stephen available?
1. Available in Spirit
Acts 6:5 - he was full of the Holy Spirit
Acts 6:10 - And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.
This is a testimony to him being full of the Spirit.
Acts 6:55 - But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
His fullness of Spirit enabled him to see the supernatural.
2. Available in wisdom
Acts 6:3 - it was a mandatory requirement for the post
Acts 6:10 - a testimony to his wisdom
Wisdom comes from knowing and fearing God and from knowing the Scriptures.
1 Cor 1:18,24 says Christ is the wisdom of God.
To have wisdom is to know more about God and His word.
Wisdom of Stephen in the Word of God is evident as he speaks in Acts Ch. 7. He is said to have quoted 7 different passages from the O.T.
- Deut 18:15
- Isaiah 66:1,2
He narrates around 40-50 other incidents.
3. Available in faith
Acts 6:5 - He was a man full of faith.
Acts 6:8 - Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people
His very sermon shows his faith in God who called Abraham, sent Jesus into the world through the lineage of Abraham to save His people.
Faith is something that must be manifested not just in easy times but also in tough times.
Hab 3:17 - Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.