Summary: Stephen's death a challenge to all who love the Lord.
The Face of an Angel
Stephen, the first deacon and Christian martyr the first gospel preacher. He was also one of the first to work miracles under the new dispensation. His life gave the sacred writer cause to give a detailed account of his character, education, background and the things which led to is death.
The apostles had encountered some mild threats and imprisonment; but it was now bursting forth in full rage and madness, these leaders of Jerusalem wanted to put a stop the work of God.
The first chapter of Acts dealt with the promise Jesus made to the disciples and His ascension. The focus in chapter two was on the day of Pentecost or the birth of the church. Then in chapter three Peter and John confronts the lame man that was carried to the gate of the temple. Because of the miracle that took place Peter and John appear before the high priest in chapter four. In chapter five Ananias with his wife Sapphira lies to the Holy Ghost.
Chapter six begins with murmuring among the Grecians against the Hebrews. They felt their widows were neglected in their daily activities, which was results of the rapid growth of the early church.
So the apostles called the people together saying, “It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.” And they instructed the disciples to look for seven men who were of an honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom. So the apostles could give themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.
Stephen and six other men were chosen, and the apostles laid their hands on them and prayed.
The bible states, “The word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem, and many of the priests were obedient to the faith.”
Stephen, no doubt was diligent and faithful in the discharge of his office for the bible says, “He was full of faith and power, and did great wonders and miracles among the people.” He did not think being called to the office of a deacon was beneath him. And, being faithful in a little, he proved the truth of the gospel, by working miracles in the name of Jesus Christ.
He was full of faith and power, by which he was enabled to do great things. His faith so fill him that it left no room for unbelief and made room for the influences of divine grace, so that, as the prophet had spoken, “He was full of power by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts.”
When we are filled with faith and emptied of self, the spirit of Christ, who is the wisdom and power of God, fills our hearts. A believer does not need to be a preacher to operate in the nine gifts of the spirit, for one is given the working of miracles, and to another prophecy and these signs follow those who believed.
Verse nine tell us who Stephen’s opponents were, they were Hellenist Jews, Jews of the dispersion, who seem to be more zealous for their religion than the native Jews. Hellenistic Judaism combined Jewish religious tradition with elements of Greek culture. They were of the synagogue which is called the synagogue of the Libertines.
They were jealous for their righteous cause, and run down Christianity by force of argument. They would quote from the book of Isaiah 41:21, “Bring forth your cause, says the Lord, bring forth you strong reasons.”
But why did they dispute with Stephen? Yet, did not dispute with the twelve that Jesus had chosen as apostles? Could it be because they despised the apostles as unlearned and ignorant men, whom they thought it below their pay-grade to engage in conversation?
But Stephen was a scholar, and they thought it was an honor to engage or meddle with someone on their level. Some think it was because they stood in awe of the apostles, and could not be as free with them as with Stephen who was in an inferior office.
Verse ten tells us, “They were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.” They thought they could dispute with Stephen, but they were disputing with the Spirit of God in him, for whom they were no equal.
So these enemies of the cross set up false witnesses, which said, “This man continues to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law.” They were enraged against him because he had proved them to be wrong, and showed them the right way; for which they should have been thankful.
Because of the truth Stephen had spoken, the people were stirred up, the elders, and the scribes, came upon him, and brought him to the council. “And all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.”