Summary: Steven’s preaching, like Jeremiah who said the word of God is like fire in my bones, was an outpouring of Spirit filled power. The opposition had no choice but to silence him or submit to his message.
Of all the weapons of mass destruction that have ever been available in the world, words are the most powerful. Of all the forces that shape and change cultures and societies, words are the most powerful. “The tongue has the power of life and death,” says the Proverbs. James warning us of the dangers of the tongue says, “It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison, and it is set on fire by hell.”
But there is a word from heaven that has power to reverse all the evil in the world. It is God’s word. When John describes the way God initiated the destruction of the works of the devil he says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” And when God wanted to preserve the light of truth that gives us new birth into eternal life, he did so by having men record it in words. The word of God is living and active, sharper than any double edged sword, dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. The Word of God – the sword of the Spirit, handled by Christians who are filled and guided by the Holy Spirit – has the power to change the world. But not without a fight.
Words carry ideas. When the ideas of God and the ideas of Satan clash, Satan shows his fangs and there is warfare. The thing about Jesus that drew out the greatest violence and enmity among the religious leaders was not what he did, but what he said… His words. The Scribes and Pharisees were constantly confronting Jesus, hoping to catch him in his words.
We all understand the power of words to some degree. Just listen to the politicians today. Just a sentence in the wrong direction can cost a man the position of president. We can be tough on people because of what they say. But when was the last time you heard a preacher say things that made you so mad you wanted to kill him?
In Acts 7 we have the only sermon recorded by Steven. At the end of this sermon, Steven will be killed. Not for anything he did, but simply because of his words. It is the longest sermon recorded in the book of Acts, and it is the only one recorded where the speaker was immediately killed after it was given. Actually, Paul has a defense speech in Acts 22 that would have resulted in his death, were it not that he was in the protection of Roman authorities. Earlier, in chapter 14 while at Lystra, Paul was stoned after preaching Christ there but the executioners didn’t finish the job. They thought they had killed him, but they were wrong.
This is not unusual in the Bible. All through the scriptures there are prophets and preachers and confessing Christians that have been met with persecution for their efforts. I had a friend, John Crevack, in Vermont who preached at the Church of Christ in Brattleboro. John used to write editorials exposing the dangers of homosexuality and their movement. That was back in the late 1980’s. He actually received death threats in the mail at times, and had visitors come into the services who shouted at him and the church calling them names. He eventually left the church there when several of the members who wanted peace there told him to stop. We like peace don’t we. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, said, "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets. Luke 6:26 Jesus pronounced the blessings of God on those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. Matt. 5:11 "Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.
12 "Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The Christian faith is not a faith of the most popular ideas and politically correct words. Our faith makes us loyal to the truth of God, the saving work of Jesus Christ, and our responsibility to submit to his Lordship without compromise. Paul describes it well when he says that the message of the gospel is to those who are perishing the smell of death, but to those who are being saved it is the smell of life. 2 Cor. 2:15-17.
Lets look at Steven here. To see the whole picture we need to go back to chapter 6:8. Read Acts 6:8-15
We see that Steven has become entangled with a bunch of opponents. They can’t seem to win the arguments so they round up some false witnesses and take him to court.