Summary: This sermon illustrates how we can have peace even in the midst of difficult circumstances when when we let go of everything else and simply seek God.
The Face of an Angel
April 14, 2002
A. [Change, 1000 Windows, Robert C. Shannon, Standard Publish Company, Cincinnati, OH, 1997, p. 20]
Gaston Bachelard wrote, "If one were to give an account of all the doors one has closed and opened, of all the doors he would like to reopen, one would have to tell the story of one’s entire life."
B. You see the truth is that all of life is change.
1. Jill’s grandmother lived to the age of 87; she saw the first automobile that rode off Henry Ford’s assembly line.
2. We live in a time where things change very quickly.
3. And although God is in the business of change, strangely one of the slowest places to accept change is in church.
4. Today we come to the end of Acts 6 and the beginning of the story of Stephen, a messenger of change; let’s see what we can learn from his story…
I. The man of God
A. Stephen was one of the seven.
Acts 6:5, This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.
1. Stephen was one of the seven that we read about last week who were chosen to take responsibility for the daily distribution of food.
2. Stephen was already saved and a member of the church and he was one of the seven chosen by the 15,000+ members of the church to take care of the widows.
B. Stephen was a man of God.
Acts 6:3, Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them
1. Stephen was known to be full of the Spirit (before he had hands laid upon him by the apostles).
2. Stephen was known to be full of wisdom. Stephen was known to be full of faith.
C. Stephen was a man of God.
Acts 6:8, Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.
1. Stephen was known to be full of God’s grace and full of God’s power.
2. Stephen was a man of God.
II. His opposition
Acts 6:9, Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)--Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia.
A. Now it is clear that something is going on beyond what we actually read in the text.
1. At first reading the text just seems to indicate that Stephen was a nice man who was helping out with the widows and doing a few miracles on the side.
2. But there has to be more going on than this for these religious people to get this upset.
3. I’m not going to preach all of this story today, because it doesn’t actually end until chapter 8.
4. And these religious people are far too upset for this to simply be a nice man who is feeding widows and healing some of them.
5. There is clearly more going on that Luke actually records.
6. The text doesn’t come right out and say that Stephen was preaching.
7. The text doesn’t come right out and say that Stephen was preaching things that some religious people didn’t like.
8. And as you will se, this is strong opposition.
B. Let me tell you a little about those who opposed him…
1. These "Freedmen" were descendants of former Jewish salves who had become very influential.
2. They were powerful religious leaders.
3. There were also Jewish scholars from Alexandria and Egypt.
4. There were also preachers, scholars, professors, and religious experts from all over the world ("Cilicia and Asia").
5. Literally all types of religious, academic, preachers, and other experts all converged on one man.
6. You see there was clearly more going on here that Stephen was doing that Luke doesn’t record.
C. What Luke doesn’t record is that Stephen is preaching and teaching things that these religious people didn’t like.
1. As we continue to study this story we will see that Stephen was preaching change.
2. And these religious people didn’t like what he was preaching.
3. And all of these different religious authorities converged on Stephen.
4. Even today, when there is some change in the church, some people will converge on the preacher (or other messenger of change) to try to get them to conform and not to stray from the old ways, never bothering to ask if this is what God wants.
III. Their arguments
Acts 6:9-10, …These men began to argue with Stephen, 10 but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.