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Summary: Stephen is a model for us of a Holy Spirit directed witness.

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Stephen the Witness and Martyr Acts 6:8—8:1

Intro: There is a Conspiracy of Silence in so many churches… Thinking that we can merely live good Christian lives as our witness, without telling people the why: telling about Jesus Christ. God’s acts have always needed explanation to be clear.

Our testimony and witness about Christ is absolutely needed. It was His last word of instruction to us: Acts 1:8; Matt 28:18-20.

Stephen is a good example of a witness. Paul and Peter may seem like superstars that we find hard to relate to… but not Stephen.

1. Stephen’s background (Acts 6:3-5)

* Ordinary believer; not been with Jesus or trained by Him.

* Recognized by others as a servant and reliable.

* A man known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom and faith

2. Stephen’s Qualities as a Witness

These are the points I want to make from Stephen’s story:

* He loved the Lord with all his heart, soul, body and strength

* He valued the Holy Spirit and was filled, empowered and led by the Holy Spirit

* He knew the facts of the faith; he could tell the story, and his own story

* He spoke in words his listeners could understand; he tailored his story to his audience

* He pointed them to Jesus

* He was not afraid of the consequences; he was not a people-pleaser but a God-pleaser

Acts 6:8-15

He becomes a full leader among the Greek-speaking Jews. He does signs and wonders (healings) in Jesus’ name. He is one of theirs; no split yet between Jews and Messianic Jews (Christians).

He witnesses in the synagogue and stirs up opposition. They finally resort to the same tactics as with Jesus – false accusations, and trial before the Sanhedrin

* He loved the Lord with all his heart, soul, body and strength

* He valued the Holy Spirit and was filled, empowered and led by the Holy Spirit

Acts 7:1-43

He answers 2 charges: blasphemy against Moses and his teachings, and against the Temple of God.

He recites the history of Israel in brief (about 15 minutes to read chp. 7 aloud). From the jealousy of Joseph’s brothers to the rejection of Moses in Egypt to the rejection of God at Sinai, Israel has always resisted the Holy Spirit. It is what eventually sent them into exile in Babylon (quote from Amos in vv. 42-43). {Are you so sure you are obeying Moses now?}

Acts 7:44-50

And the Temple is not, nor ever has been the dwelling place of God. {Don’t make it more important than it is} God dwells in the hearts of those who trust and love Him.

Acts 7:51-53

The Application: You like your forefathers have not obeyed the law, and have more grievously, betrayed and murdered the Messiah God sent you, the Righteous One, Jesus.

* He knew the facts of the faith; he could tell the story, and his own story

* He spoke in words his listeners could understand; he tailored his story to his audience

This was the Sanhedrin. They knew their bible. It was the appropriate form. With other people in other situations, you might not even use the bible except for a very few verses like John 3:16-17.

* He pointed them to Jesus

Acts 7:54—8:1

Their reaction: violent rejection.

There are 3 reactions we can get: positive interest and acceptance; disinterest and apathy; rejection and possibly anger and occasionally violence.

Stephen, the servant, knew he was not greater than His master, Jesus. Indeed this was the exact same kangaroo court set-up that Jesus went through. He was not intentionally rude or obnoxious, nor set out to become a martyr. But he was led by the Spirit, was forthright and clear, and probably knew that if he was, if he did not “recant” (which he would never do), he was likely going to end up like His Lord. And he did.

* He was not afraid of the consequences; he was not a people-pleaser but a God-pleaser

We pray we may never come under persecution unto death. But we still can fear people’s reactions when we witness. We can be people-pleasers in so many aspects of our lives as well. We must become God-pleasers.

1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out fear….” While the primary focus of that verse is God-ward, it is true that the more we love God, the less we will fear man.

* He loved the Lord with all his heart, soul, body and strength

Before he was killed, Stephen saw the glory of God and the vision of Jesus at the right hand of God. Cf. Matt. 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”

And he spoke 2 final words like Jesus spoke: “Lord Jesus, receive my Spirit” and “Do not hold this sin against them.”

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