Summary: Exposition of Acts 6:8-15 about the character of Stephen
Text: Acts 6:8-15, Title: What Angels Look Like, Date/Place: NRBC, 10/07/07, AM
A. Opening illustration: tell about the Rick Gage Crusade in TN, tell a little bit about George Whitfield as an example from his biography – p. 98 & 105,
B. Background to passage: Coming off the selection of seven men to handle the church’s benevolence ministry, the church was still rapidly growing and ministering to thousands, transforming a whole city. But as Satan usually does, he sets his sights upon God’s man of the hour to destroy him. And so we see the beginning of a story that stretches over to the beginning of chapter eight, and has much further reaching implications and effects.
C. Main thought: Today our text reflects the character of a man that would become the first Christian martyr.
A. Deep Communion (v. 5, 8)
1. From the previous passage we know that Stephen is a man of great faith and also full of the Holy Spirit. Here we learn that he is full of grace and power; and that an apostolic like ministry was his lot as well. To be filled with the Spirit as a regular occurrence and be considered a man full of faith, grace, and divine power, one must have a close walk with Jesus. Stephen had a lot of parallels with Jesus because he was close to Jesus and shared a deep fellowship and communion with his Master.
2. John 15:4, Gal 2:20, Col 2:6, Ps 42:1, 63:1-2, 84:9-10,
3. Illustration: I remember the first time that I saw Ronnie Owens overcome by the presence of God in his prayer time in the old tobacco barn that we slept in…Ravi Zacharias states, "What is the difference between companionship and communion? In companionship with God we come to Him recognizing our limit of strength. In communion with God we stay with Him, recognizing our depth of spirit. In companionship with God we long to see and understand. In communion with God we long to feel and belong. Those who seek companionship without communion seek power without commitment, a display without dedication, and proof without love." Speaking of prayer, “It is duty, yet is one that rises far above and goes beyond the ordinary implications of the term. It is the expression of a relationship with God, a yearning for divine communion. It is the outward an upward flow of the inner life toward its original fountain. It is a statement of the soul’s origin, a claiming of sonship that links man to the eternal. Prayer has everything to do with molding the soul into the image of God. It also has everything to do with the elevating and enlarging the measure of divine grace. It has everything to do with bringing the sold into complete communion with God. It has everything to do with enriching, broadening, and maturing the soul’s experience of God.” –E. M. Bounds, On New Year’s Eve 1739, John Wesley, George Whitefield, and some of their friends held a “love feast” which became a watch night of prayer to see the New Year in. At about 3 a.m., Wesley wrote, “the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground.” Revival always begins with a restoration of the sense of the closeness of the Holy One.
4. This is probably the most neglected thought of evangelical Christianity. We talk a lot about going to church, serving the Lord, about the music style, or the preaching content or quality, about church growth or lack thereof, but seldom do we talk about our closeness to Jesus in real terms. And it is hard to quantify, and therefore we can’t really brag about it. But you know it when you are around someone who walks close to Jesus. Desiring Him is really important, but so is the action of pursuing and communing with Him. We know the cliché that says our faith is about a relationship, not religion; but do we really put the time into the relationship. Do you have a closeness with Jesus? The people that God uses the most are the ones that know him the closest (not from a knowledge standpoint, but from a relationship one). In fact sometimes I think that we are so scared of emotions and emotionalism, that we have turned fact into a hollow mental or intellectual assent in which there is no “real relationship.” And the scary part is that we have many among the ranks of the church that have never made anything other than an intellectual decision—they have never sold all that they have for the love of their newly found Treasure. Do you love Him? Desire Him? Do you want Him? Do you pray? Just a few at prayer meeting, because of all the other important things besides prayer, and fewer still at special times of prayer.