Summary: In our Quest for God, we sometimes have to go against the flow and stand up for God's words. This takes courage and commitment. It promises a great reward!
1. Doing the right thing:
A man dies, arrives at the Pearly Gates, and (as always in stories like this), St. Peter is there and asks him to relate a good deed he had done. He thinks for a moment then says, “Well, there was the time I was driving down a road when I saw a group of hoodlums harassing a girl. I stopped my car, grabbed a tire iron, and walked up to the leader of the gang. He was huge—6 foot 4 inch, 260 pounds, with a studded leather jacket, tattoos, and a chain running from his nose to his ears. As I approached him, the others circled me and told me to get lost or I’d be next. So I grabbed the leader’s chain, ripped it out of his face, and smashed him over the head with the tire iron. Then I yelled at them, ‘Leave this girl alone! You’re acting like a bunch of animals! Go home before I teach you a lesson in pain!’”
St. Peter, impressed, says, “Wow! When did you do all that?”
“Oh [looking at his watch], about three minutes ago.”
Sometime you get killed for doing what is right, don’t you? Stephen, the first deacon, told people about Jesus, and so they killed him.
2. Sometimes it is not popular to do the right things – it can cost politicians an election; a Christian employee a promotion (or a job); a martyr his life
3. In his quest for man, God breaks into the world from time to time to get our attention (he sends a baby – Moses; John the Baptist; Yeshua (Jesus), he doesn’t create a commotion)
4. Then WE have to respond with our Quest for God
Not like the pagans trying to get the attention of Baal at Mt. Carmel
God is already watching
5. How DO we respond?
Stephen’s Sermon shows his commitment to God’s Quest for him in Yeshua (Jesus)
This sermon relates the history of God’s Quest and the response of some Key people in theirs
I. Stepping Up to Serve (6.8-10)
A. Stephen Displayed a Powerful Spirit in His Service (Acts 6.1-6)
Justin Martyr (early 2C) – early community of God’s actions when they came together:
On day called “Sun Day” believers gathered in one place [day of Helios – Greek Sun god]; writings of apostles or prophets [were] read; then when reader has ceased, the President instructs to imitation of these good things; pray; bread and wine and water brought; President in like manner gives prayers and thanksgiving; people say amen and there is a distribution to each; to those absent a portion is sent by deacons; each gives according to what they see fit; the President gives to those in need – widows, orphans, sick, in bonds, strangers, etc.; but Sun Day is when we hold common assembly because it is the day when God changed darkness to create world; Yeshua rose from dead; Yeshua crucified before day of Saturn and appeared to disciples on day of Sun.
1. Key Qualities of these Servants
Full of HS
Full of Wisdom
Stephen – Full of Faith and HS
2. They Played a Unifying Role
a. Possible Division Averted
b. Increased Outreach – 6.7 (Priests)
B. There Was Decisive Action Associated with Church Growth
1. Issue with the Hellenists – LXX; Priests
2. Power of gospel
3. Power of faithful service in displaying the gospel
a. Displays a “Whatever it Takes” Mentality
b. General Washington
During the American Revolution a man in civilian clothes rode past a group of soldiers repairing a small defensive barrier. their leader was shouting instructions, but making no attempt to help them. Asked why by the rider, he retorted with great dignity, “Sir, I am a corporal!”
The stranger apologized, dismounted, and proceeded to help the exhausted soldiers. The job done, he turned to the corporal and said, “Mr. Corporal, next time you have a job like this and not enough men to do it, go to your commander-in-chief, and I will come and help you again.” It was none other than George Washington.
Stephen accepted the offer of his church to serve them and to get in the trenches and love those around him. The Apostles had a job to do and needed men like Stephen to serve. He, along with six other men, accepted and were ordained. He was not perfect, but he worked with the Holy Spirit to use his gifts and talents among the people. He allowed himself to be used by God as a witness.
II. Speaking Up for Truth
A. Alone Against Adversarial Authorities
1. Alone but not – full of HS
The story is told of an old lady who had moved to the United States from Europe when she was a child, but now she wanted to officially become a citizen of this country. After months of going through all the necessary red tape, she was finally ready to take the required oath.