Summary: Lessons from Stephen
Acts 6b - 3/12/17
Turn with me this morning to Acts 6. We saw last week God’s example for us in dealing with conflict within the church. This is how the role of deacon became established, but it was not about a title, but about a testimony. The disciples set a beautiful example for us in achieving consensus - they bring everyone together to come up with a solution, they admit their constraints - they know they can’t do everything, they activate the concerned - they let the ones most concerned with the problem help with the solution, they assess character - they put godly individuals in roles of ministry, and they affirm and commission others for service - when God raises up others to serve, they bless them and turn the ministry over to them. Far too often in the church we want to hold on to power; but ministry is not about power and control, it’s about service and blessing.
We ended last week in verse 7, and the story continues in verse 8 in looking at the testimony of one of the 7 early deacons, a man named Stephen. One lesson that we find to be true in life is that whenever God is doing a good thing, we shouldn’t be surprised to see Satanic attack and opposition. And sometimes it even comes from those in the CHURCH! We expect attack from outside, but we also need to be prepared for attack from inside the church - wolves in sheep’s clothing. If you want Satan to leave you alone, do nothing for God. You won’t be a threat to Satan and he’ll put his focus somewhere else. But if you are going to be obedient to God, speaking the truth to a world in need, Satan WILL seek to attack you. And that’s what we see here. I’m going to begin reading at verse 8 of Acts 6.
Read 6:8-15 Pray
The first thing we see in the text today is the
Opposition - God is doing great things in His church - Stephen is doing wonderful things through God’s power, and so Satan steps in to give opposition. He first tries to shut Stephen down through
Argument - Stephen has been teaching the truth of Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one of God, crucified, risen, ascended, glorified, at the Father’s right hand in heaven. And as he goes from synagogue to synagogue teaching the truth, people try to argue against him.
First, what is a synagogue? In Jerusalem the Jews had a temple - going all the way back to the days of Solomon. It was not a house to contain God - because God does not live in human houses; but it was a central location where all could come and worship the one true God. Three times a year every faithful Jew was to return from whatever location in Israel they lived and worship God. But God doesn’t just want periodic worship - He doesn’t just want a Christmas and Easter crowd - so in each local town there were synagogues - churches if you will - places for local worship and teaching to take place.
So when we see the life of Jesus in the gospels - much interaction in Jerusalem takes place in the temple. But in other towns and regions, the teaching takes place in synagogues.
Here in Acts 6, Stephen has been arguing with Greek Jews. Remember what we saw last week - Stephen was a Greek, he spoke Greek, as did many Jews, even Jews in Jerusalem. Those who weren’t raised in the area didn’t speak Aramaic, they spoke Greek.
Growing up as a boy in Pennsylvania, there was a town nearby called Steelton. It was the home for a big Bethlehem Steel plant, and there were people from many European countries who lived there. So in town there were a number of different churches, all related to the language of the people - Polish, Romanian, Serbian, Croatian, Hungarian, etc.
This synagogue has freemen - Jews who were Roman citizens because they had been given their freedom - with parishioners from a number of other countries. They tried to argue religious viewpoints with Stephen, but they were no match for the wisdom that God had given him. Look at verse 10 - they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke. So when they can win by argument, then they move on to
Attack - they can’t win the argument so they begin to attack his person. They hire people to slander him. This is a good reminder for us: don’t always believe everything you hear or read or especially what you see on the internet. Good men are always slandered and defamed by others. Does that mean they are always in the right? Of course not. But always deal with fact, and not with “hearsay.”