Summary: Stephen was Prayed up, Prepared, Projected Christ and was Profitable for the Kingdom
We’re looking today, at the account of possibly the shortest lived Deaconship in the history of the church. The Apostles are finding themselves, as the Jerusalem congregation grows, having to deal with mundane issues that threaten to take them away from their appointed mission, which is prayer for the saints and the preaching of the gospel.
So they call the congregation together and suggest they choose the first deacon board; seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.
This suggestion is met with approval, so the congregation chooses their men, the first mentioned being Stephen.
Here in verse 5 of chapter 6 is our first introduction to Stephen, and Luke begins to tell his tale, and what a significant story it is. But before we move on there is a little nugget I gleaned as I began to study for this sermon, and I want to share the blessing with you.
Look at verse 5 and see these names of those who were chosen; there is one that struck me as very interesting.
Stephen, of course, then, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and finally, Nicolas. Now, of Stephen it says he was full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. We’ll talk about that.
But nothing is said of the others except their name, until we get to Nicolas, and the Holy Spirit chose to inspire Luke to share with us that Nicolas was a proselyte from Antioch.
Now what that means is that he was a Gentile who had converted to Judaism.
This is what blessed me as I paused to consider this man’s history. Not that we really know his history, but just think about the providence of God in this man’s life.
He is a Greek, from Antioch. Whatever his circumstances were, we can only speculate about. He is mentioned here, and nowhere else in scripture. But there came a point in his life where he was exposed to the beliefs of the Jewish religion, and was drawn into it because he desired to worship the one true God. They called people like Nicolas, ‘God fearers’. Gentiles who believed in God.
We can only guess at the opposition he might have gotten from friends and family who may have been themselves, steeped in the worship of the many lesser gods of the Greek world at that time.
Maybe he had no family. Maybe he was on his own and there was no one to oppose him at all. We don’t know. But by God’s mercy and providence, this man is led to give himself to the Jewish faith, which probably brought him to Jerusalem for the Passover, where he was witness to the crucifixion and resurrection of this Jesus of Nazareth.
Now we don’t know if he was in the upper room on the day of Pentecost, or if he was maybe one of those in the street hearing the 120 praising God as they spilled out onto the streets at 9am.
All we know is that he became a believer, and apparently a believer quickly recognized as a Godly and Spirit-filled man, because out of this very large Jerusalem congregation he is one of seven chosen to serve in a position of trust and respect.
What a wonderful, merciful, gracious God we have, who plucks a man out of obscurity, leads him one step at a time into the faith, raises him up in a place of service, and names him for all future generations as an example of God’s far-reaching grace.
“For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.” (2:39)
So here is a Greek who became a Jew, who became a Christian. For him, Romans 1:16, which says salvation is for the Jew first and also the Greek, must have offered a double sense of security.
(By the way, his name means “Victorious over the people” – and if you’re going to serve as a deacon I guess that’s a plus, if not an absolute necessity for survival)
A LEGACY OF FAITH AND POWER
Of Stephen, Stuart Briscoe said;
1. What he was--irreproachable
2. What he did--irrefutable
3. What he said—irresistible
(Getting Into God pg 36)
So here is this account of Stephen, a man highly esteemed and spoken of by the Holy Spirit.
We won’t try to study the entire 6th and 7th chapters of Acts today. I just want to look at this man and focus on four points of interest that stand out to me from this scriptural account.
Point 1. He was Prayed up.
Ok, I chose ‘prayed up’, only because I wanted to stick to my theme of having a ‘p’ word in each of my four points. Nevertheless, the text, without actually saying so, indicates that he was a man of prayer.