Summary: Stephen set us a good example of a committed, Spirit-filled evangelist who has a unwavering trust in God.
True life examples are inspiring because they are real and they show us what is achievable; it is not something fake and unreal.
• So we are going to look at Stephen today. He was chosen as one of the first deacons of the Church, and given the responsibility of overseeing the “daily distribution of food” (6:1)
• This was the need at that time. They needed people to ‘wait on tables’ the disciples said. Some of the needs were overlooked.
• They needed not just helpers, but people “full of the Spirit and wisdom” (6:3).
So 6:5 says they chose Stephen, “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.”
• Again Luke (author) tells us in verse 8 that he was “a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.”
• He is a godly man. There is a certain spirit in him.
• He is passionate about people – he was tasked to distribute food (to the poor); and then we see him preaching a strong sermon, urging the people to repent.
Someone says he is a ‘great commandment’ and a ‘great commission’ Christian.
• He cares for the needs of the people – feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and those in prison (like what the Lord says) - “loving your neighbour as yourself.”
• And he is also a ‘great commission’ Christian – we sense that in the sermon he preaches, and eventually died for.
• We are all called to be the ‘great commandment’ and the ‘great commission’ Christians, caring for both the physical and spiritual needs of the people.
His passion for the Lord made him a prime target for the Sanhedrin.
• They wanted to stop him but “could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.” (6:10)
• “All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” (6:15)
• The presence of the Lord was so intense that it showed. Just like Moses when he came down from Mt Sinai after spending time with the Lord (Exo 34) – his face shines. You see, people can sense it if you have been with the Lord!
This is what we learn in the last few chapters - obedience to God does not mean no problems – it just mean that God is with you.
• When we obey God, we are doing His will and He is there with us. He gives us the strength and courage to go through the difficult times.
• I don’t think Stephen understands his predicament, but he trusts God. Things weren’t easy for him but he was willing to pay the price.
God will do His part, we see that subsequently. We need not have to understand God’s part; we just need to trust Him.
Stephen makes the longest speech in Acts, and it became the landmark sermon.
• It shows that Stephen knows the Scriptures very well. He saw the workings and ways of God in the OT as part of God’s redemptive plan, and it points ultimately to Jesus Christ.
• No wonder he was a man of faith. He was able to see the hand of God in history. He was able to see God in the Scriptures. Faith comes through the Word.
And Stephen died preaching. He died with the same attitude as Jesus – asking God to forgive his enemies.
• Now we know why he was able to do that – he was full of the Holy Spirit, the Bible says. Like what Caleb shared last Sat, the ability to love your enemies does not come from you; it is the work of God in our heart.
• The Lord has not left him, despite the darkness of sin he sees around. And he proved it – the sky opened up and “he looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus…” (7:55)
• God is watching over His servant. This is true for us as well. You may be in a very difficult situation and feeling all alone. Nothing has change on God’s side. He is still there watching over you.
• God’s light breaks through even in the crazy, sinful world like ours today. We just need to see it with eyes of faith.
Why was his sermon a landmark speech? It marks a turning point in the history of the church.
• Stephen’s sermon led to his death and intense persecution of the church.
• It marks the start of another milestone for the church - read Acts 8:1-2. Believers were forced to move out of Jerusalem and to the regions beyond.
• Acts 11:19 “Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews.”