Christian history is stained with the blood of martyrs. Stephen was the first, and many men and women have followed suit. Acts 6 and 7 tell his story.
Stephen Was Full of Faith and of The Holy Spirit
We first meet Stephen in 6:5 where he is described as a man “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.” He believe in Jesus. He held on to Jesus with his life. He believed God and took him at his word. He was a man full of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit led him. The Spirit guided him. The Spirit empowered him.
Because of the work of the Spirit in his life and because of his faith in Christ, he was able to do many wonders and signs among the people. He was a living testimony to the greatness of God’s power attained and expressed through faith. And, God was pleased to use him in a drastic way in the advancement of the church.
I will take a moment to challenge us here. I believe that Stephen received a unique gift of God’s Spirit that allowed him to do the astonishing wonders and the signs among the people. But, I also believe that we can learn much from him by way of his willingness to be used by God. He allowed himself to be used by God for great things. He gave himself totally to Christ in faith. He willingly submitted to the Holy Spirit. If we will do the same, we will be surprised at just how much God can and will use us.
Stephen Was Seized
Some men of the Synagogue tried to dispute him, but they were unsuccessful. So, they decided to trump up charges against him.
“[T]hey secretly instigated men who said, ‘We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.’ And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and they set up false witnesses who said, ‘This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us'” (6:11-14).
Then, Stephen preached, and it was quite a sermon. The Holy Spirit spoke through him, and he challenged the men of Israel with clarity and boldness.
Stephen was Stoned
After he preached this powerful sermon, the people were enraged. They bitterly ground their teeth at him and resolved to kill him. But, Stephen saw the glory of the God by the power and witness of the Holy Spirit.
A Forgotten God and A Forgiving Heart
As I read Stephen’s story, I’m reminded of a book I leafed through a few months ago — Forgotten God by Francis Chan. Chan’s desire is for Christians to reverse our tragic neglect of the Holy Spirit. This challenges me. It hits close to home. I struggle to be “in-tune with” and rely upon the Holy Spirit in my life of faith. I often find that I have practically neglected the Holy Spirit. Stephen didn’t. I want to be more like Stephen. I pray you do as well. May the Lord help us to do so.
Verse 7:60 amazes me. Look at it again. “And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.'” As he was dying an unjust death, Stephen prayed for mercy on his accusers and murderers (including Saul). That blows my mind. That’s evidence of a heart given to the Holy Spirit.