Summary: As followers of Jesus, we must argue our case fairly, even when our opponents do not. They do not set our agenda.
Guilty Until Proven Guilty
1. Many changes come to us a step at a time.
I came across of illustration of this regarding trapping wild pigs.
You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come everyday to eat the free corn. When they are used to coming every day, you put a fence down one side of the place where they are used to coming. When they get used to the fence, they begin to eat the corn again and you put up another side of the fence. They get used to that and start to eat again. You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up with a gate in the last side.
The pigs, who are used to the free corn, start to come through the gate to eat, you slam the gate on them and catch the whole herd. Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom. They run around and around inside the fence, but they are already captive. Soon they go back to eating the free corn. They are so used to it that they have forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves, so they accept their captivity.
2. The enemy of the Gospel, Satan himself, often uses this tactic. If he can, he will hem us in and then we lose our freedom and our effectiveness for Christ. We forget how things used to be, and life gets to be just about us and our families. I wonder how many of us are trapped in this way?
3. But Satan also has another strategy for those too zealous to fall for the corn: persecution. What Satan knows but cannot accept is that God uses this strategy to seed and spread His church. Satan is so hateful and insane with destruction that he and his hoards cannot stop from frontal attacks, no matter how counter-productive they are.
4. After all, if you think about it, the whole "sin thing" is unreasonable.
5. In Acts, we have documented the beginning of Christian persecution. At first, the Jewish authorities scolded the apostles and ordered them to stop preaching. Then they flogged them. Finally, they began killing.
6. Stephen set an example for us about sharing our faith even in difficult circumstances.
Main Idea: As followers of Jesus, we must argue our case fairly, even when our opponents do not. They do not set our agenda.
I. The Conflict Begins With LEGITIMATE Debate (8-10)
A. Background: Stephen is having impact for the KINGDOM (8)
1. His name, Stephanos, means a "garland" or "crown," like that given to victors of the Olympic games
2. Whether coincidence or not, he would be the first believer to gain the victor’s crown for martyrdom
3. If he were not shaking things up, Stephen would have been ignored; but he was part of that pesky Nazarene sect of the Jews, and he was probably a trained and eloquent speaker in the Greek tradition of oratory…
4. Few people are offended by a contained faith, but even we are offended by cults and religions that seek to draw our people away… this is the same perspective they have of us!
5. They view us as preying on them and dangerous -- just as we view them. Have you ever thought about that?
6. Obeying Jesus Christ sometimes rocks the boat and sometimes creates conflict.
B. Synagogue members DEBATED him (9-10)
1. The ironical title, "Freedmen" -- this synagogue would be the source for a campaign to eliminate Christianity -- led by the zealous Saul of Tarsus.
2. Greek-speaking Hellenistic Jews and a Greek-speaking Hellenistic evangelist
3. Some of these Jews were probably gentile converts to Judaism; converts to a religion are often more zealous than those raised within it.
4. But even though Stephen had the stronger arguments, but we must remember, winning or losing an argument is but a factor
• Often times arguments are weak because the debater does not have all necessary information or is not skilled
• Sometimes new information is forthcoming
• Winning or losing a debate only deals with what is potentially known or knowable; logic can lead one in a completely wrong direction; there is a difference between a logically valid argument and truth!
• People are not purely logical creatures; we have emotions, and our emotions can over-ride our logic, and, sometimes, our instincts can be right while logic leads us in the wrong direction…intuitive people can smell stuff…
As followers of Jesus, we must argue our case fairly, even when our opponents do not. They do not set our agenda
II. The Conflict Moves Away from the ETHICAL to the DECEITFUL (11- 13)