Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Jealousy in the world

Acts 6:8, "And Stephen, full of faith[a] and power, did great wonders and signs among the people."

The key words here are full of faith and power. Stephen was a man moved by the Spirit’s leading to perform the miracles and signs that God wanted to do; too testify to His ministry through Stephen. Stephen was a willing vessel full of faith and the understanding of the working of the Spirit in His own life. Thus, God was able to move through Him freely, because He didn’t have hang ups or hold backs, but instead God moved through Him.

Stephen’s role in the congregation was not only in the operations of the congregation but also in the outward witness as we will see later. The faith and power in Stephen’s ministry was only in direct relation to his own outgrowth and development as a man of faith moved by the power of God. Hill, in his article Hellenists and Hebrews p.59; cf. also Richard, Acts 6.1-8.4; p.281 points out the Parrels between the passion of Yeshua and Stephen need to be enumerated: 1) Trial before high priest/Sanhedrin (Mark 14:53 and par./ Acts 6:12;7:1) 2) False witnesses (Mark 14:56-57; Matthew 26:60-61; not in Luke/Acts 6:13). 3) Testimony concerning the destruction of the Temple (Mark 14:58; Matthew 26:61; not in Luke/Acts 6:14). 4) Temple ’made with hands (Mark 14:58; not in Luke/Acts 7:48). 5) Son of Man saying (Mark 14:62 and par/Acts 7:56) 6) Charge of blasphemy (Mark 14:64; Matthew 26:65; not in Luke/Acts 6:11). 7) High Priest’s question (Mark 14:61; Matthew 26:63; not on Luke 22:67, ’they" Acts 7:1). 8) Committal of spirit (only in Luke 23:46/Acts 7:59) 9) Cry out with a loud voice (Mark 15:34=Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:37 and par/Acts 7:60). 10) Intercession for enemies forgiveness (Only in Luke 23:34/Luke 7.60)."

"Several things must be said about this list; however, two of the ten items are found only in Luke and Acts and nowhere else (no.8 and 10). Five of the ten items are found in Acts and in the other Gospels of Jesus death, but not in Luke’s Gospel. Here is compelling evidence that Luke had Acts in mind while writing his Gospel, and edited certain items out of his Markan source about Jesus; Passion, but wrote up the Stephen story using language reminiscent of the Markan Passion account! The end result in any case is to highlight the close parrels between Stephen’s end and that of Jesus. (Witherington, Ben: The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary; p.253).

It is time that we had a few Stephen’s in our congregations today, a people who were full of faith and power, not tossed two and fro by every, which doctrine which proceeds out of the mouth of the preacher. It is time that we studied the Word of God ourselves, and become full of faith and power in Him, and for His glory. Its time in a sense that we understand who we are in Him. God didn’t call us His children for no reason, and He certainly didn’t call us so that we wouldn’t do anything for His glory. Rather He paid the ultimate price so that we could have eternal life, and live for His glory.

Acts 6:9, "Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen."

The synagogue of the Freedmen where composed of Jews who were either formerly Roman slaves or the free children of Jewish slaves. Stephen debated with four international factions within this one synagogue, Cyrenian Jews from Libya, Alexandrian Jews from Egypt, Cilician Jews, and Jews of various provinces of Asia Minor.

The synagogue is said to have arisen during the Babylonian exile circa 586 BC, as a stopgap measure to keep Judaism alive absent the destroyed Temple. The local synagogues served as localized community centers for prayer and Torah study. As the conclusion of the exile, the returnees established local synagogues in Israel, and those who remained in the Diaspora continued regular meetings in their synagogues. It had proven a useful institution as a supplement to formal Temple worship.

Over time the synagogue has become as central to the Jewish community in Israel as the Temple itself, and even more so within the Diaspora. Synagogues served not only as community centers, but also as places of worship, prayer and preaching. They provided gathering places for the celebration of social occasions and the debating of contemporary and political issues. In addition and perhaps most critically the synagogue functioned as schools for the theological education of Jewish adults, children and prospective proselytes. The synagogue was situational most often near water to facilitate the Jewish ritual baptism (mikvah in Hebrew and baptisma in Greek).

It is important for us to understand the role of the synagogue in the early 1st century. "Luke mentions the synagogue nineteen times in Acts which indicates the incontrovertible role the institution played not only in Jewish cultural life, but also as a medium for the propagation of the gospel. Indeed, one may only speculate at the magnitude of the task the apostles, Paul in particular would have faced in sharing the gospel without the multitude of previously established synagogues strewn throughout the Roman Empire (Flavius Josephus, the Works of Jospheus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996), Ant. XIV, vii2.)

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