Skip to comments.STEPHEN'S TIME TO SHINE -- Acts 6-8
Posted on 10/28/2018 6:45:40 AM PDT by Pilgrim's Progress
Many Roman emperors tried to destroy Christianity. One of them was Diocletian and he was particularly violent in his hatred of the Bible and Christianity. He killed so many Christians with such outrageous cruelties and destroyed so many Bibles that many Christians went underground and hid themselves from the wrath. When it seemed to Diocletian that he had made an end of them, he had a medal coined with this motto on it: The Christian religion is destroyed, and the worship of the Roman gods are restored. Boy, he knows different now, dont he? He knows different now.
He said that a certain unknown Christian was brought before him, and Pliny, finding little fault in him proceeded to threaten him.
I will banish thee, he said. Thou canst not, for all the world is my Fathers house.
Then I will slay thee, said the governor. Thou canst not, for all my life is hid with Christ in God.
I will take away thy possessions, continued Pliny. Thou canst not, for my treasures are in heaven.
I will drive thee away from man, and thou shalt have no friend left, was his final threat. And the calm reply, once more was, Thou canst not, for I have an unseen Friend from who thou art not able to separate me.
In that statement you are going to see that way back then, there was doctrine. Dont let nobody fool you.
And it goes on.
He says, What was a poor, harassed Roman governor with all the powers of life and death, torture and the stack at his disposal, to do with people like this?
Thats his letter, to the emperor! He didnt know what to do with him.
LEAVE HIM ALONE! BE CONVERTED!
Then, lastly, Eusebius.
Now these are way back in the earlier centuries. Im reading this just to let you know, that when He established His churchthe gates of hell cannot prevail against it. Im telling you. Its going to go and do its coursejust like God said.
When the emperor sent messengers to lure Eusebius into heresy by fair words and glowing promises, the saint answered them, Alas! Sirs, these speeches are fit to catch children. But we who are taught and nourished by the Sacred Scriptures are ready to suffer a thousand deaths rather than to permit one little tittle of the Scriptures to be altered.
Then the emperor threatened to take by force all his goods, to torture him, to banish him, even to kill him. Answered the courageous Christian, He needs not fear confiscation who has nothing to lose, nor banishment to whom heaven is his country, nor torments when his body can be destroyed at one blow, nor death which is the only way to set him at liberty from sin and not sorrow.
Now if you cant read into all that, man, youve got so much doctrineincluding the crucified lifethey had the Scriptures. And just like he said, NOT ONE TITTLE. Youre not changing nothing. That attitude was from the startdont mess with the Word of God.
We are going to study Stephens time to shine. Chapter six of the Book of Acts.
The name, Stephen means a crown, and this person, Stephen, receives the martyrs crown of Revelation 2:10. He is the first Christian martyr, and martyr means witness. He died for his witness about Jesus Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ did not die as a martyr, but as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. In a sense, Stephen died for exposing the sins of man. People get mad when you expose their sins.
Some comparisons. In both cases, the Lord and His . . .
- Their enemies could not answer them, and false witnesses were hired against them.
- Both were charged with blasphemy.
- Religious leaders stirred up people against them.
- Both were accused of breaking the Mosaic Law.
- Both were accused of destroying the Temple.
- Caiaphas, the high priest, was the final judge in both cases.
- Both of them made the same supplication when dying
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots (Luke 23:34).
And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep (Acts 7:60).
So, here we find in Acts chapter 6, the early church needed help with their widows, and those not able to care for themselves.
And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word (Acts 6:1-4).
It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Someone says that that is pretty arrogant. No, they didnt think that they were arrogant, they just knew where their priority was.
Now those chosen were ordained by the apostles according to verse 6, whom they set before the apostles and when they prayed, they laid their hands on them, and Gods plansyou have to understand thisGods plan always works.
Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith (Acts 6:6-7).
The results of obeying God. If we would have preached on just this one versewe would have thought—they were just so arrogant. Who do they think they are, not taking care of the widows. Isnt there is a commandment for them to do that? Theres a commandment for everybody to do that, but when God calls you to a position, you do that position first. You do what God called you to do.
They knew there was neglect, that is why they brought it up. Thats why they told everybody what they had to do in the church, and that is why they got these men in the church to help them out. What a blessing!
We are talking about Stephens time to shine.
Now our story focusesand this is not a parable, it is a true storyour story focuses on Stephen now.
And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people (Acts 6:8).
Father, I need clarity of thought and liberty of speech. I need Your touch, as always. Pray that the hearers are full of Your Spirit. And God, that we can communicate the message as intended. In Jesus name. Amen.
Point number 1 is that the presence of God alwaysalwaysstirs of the spirit of jealousy in others that dont have it and scares the others that do not know it.
Now, religious people talk the talk, but can not compete with those people that have Gods approval. They never can.
And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake (Acts 6:8-10).
When you are full of the Holy Ghost, doing what He wants you to do, and His anointing is on you, I mean, you stir up the devils of hell. You really do. Because all of a sudden there is a comparison that people can make. Well, how come you say this, this and this and you are a part of this but you aint got this. See the difference. Thats why you can talk to Catholics and other self-professed Christians and others, and you know what they will say, You cant know, unless you die first.
Oh, I beg to differ, I can know. I have perfect confidence that I know where I am going when I die. Ive got Scripture to back that upsorry you dontmister so-called Christian.
They dont like that. The voice of truth they try to snuff out, because of tradition and their religious beliefs. BAD! So, what are you saying? Well, it was time for Stephen to shine. God is going to confront them, like he always does.
Now, the presence of God always stirs of the spirit of jealousy in amongst those that dont have it and scares the others who dont know it.
Point number 2 is there is a price to pay for serving God.
Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us (Acts 6:11-14).
Man! Imagine that! Jesus told us . . . what did He tell us? If they hated Him they would hate you also.
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you (John 15:18).
Then they suborned men, which said . . . Suborned, what do you mean? They bribed them.
Now, the presence of God is not cheap. It costs. It costs us our body, and spirit (which is His). Now that is surrender that pleases Him is our all on the altar. See, we are a willful sacrifice. Being full of God shows up on our countenance. I mean, we can not help it. Everyone knows we have something that they dont have. Look at the next verse . . .
And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel (Acts 6:15).
You know you have little kids running around, you can read them like a book. If you are parents, you know your kids. They think you are like God at that stage, because how in the world do they know? You happen to come in at just the right time when they are too quiet and you bust them. You know, all the stuff. You can see it on their face. And a lot of times, thats exactly what we say, Man, its written all over your face! And believe me, people know when youve been with God. You dont have to be smiling and giddy all the time, people just know. Your countenance just changes.
So, there is a price to pay in serving God.
Point number 3, Stephen knew Gods Word.
I mean he was a man full of faith. And we know that faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. And he begins to expound in the next chapter . . . on the historical actions of God with Israel.
And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran (Acts 7:2).
What are you saying? Hes starting with Abraham. Why? Well, because the Jews say that we have Abraham as our father. God knows what they are thinking, Hes starting with that.
And for sake of time we are not going to read all those verses. Some of you may even complain about how long this one is going to be.
What he proves is, with their Scriptures, the unwillingness of Israel to follow God. Remember, he is condemned for blaspheming, for trying to change temple worship, for trying to override the Scriptures? He is using the Scriptures! Like they should be used. Israels leaders, he said, killed the prophets that God sent to help them in their deliverance. Now think about yourself for a minute. Isnt it true that we hurt the ones who loves us the most? We allow our friends and peers to come first, and ignore the warnings of our parents. Its bred in, almost. We dont stop and think, well, my goodness, I should go to somebody thats been married and had kidsno, we ask these young punksthese gals that aint never been married for their advice. And man, they will surely give it. Fools leading fools.
And here you have Israel. The experienced all the miracles of God. The problem is they never listened to Him about separation. They started acting, and worshipping, just like the heathen. And God brings judgment. And before that He sent His prophets as deliverers for them. And what did they do? They killed them.
So, hes lining up this history that they know very well. They cant argue the history, Im telling you.
Point number 4, Stephen applies his history lesson.
What do you mean? Theres a point to a messagejust like there is a point to this message.
Its amazing how these teachers say, When you preach you shouldnt call anybody names. You shouldnt do this, and you shouldnt do that.
What I tell them is, Would you please show me from the Scriptures.
And what they show you is the Christian attitude in the civilized world, right? Working next to everybody and you do it with love, and you do it with grace. No kidding, Sherlock. No kidding. But Paul didnt come with excellency of speech. As a matter of fact, he was crude, to get his point across. And these words that we use are defined by Scripture and a person that doesnt obey God is stiff-necked.
I cant see Stephen saying, Oh, will you please listen to me a little bit, you have a little problem psychologically, and you know, your attitude and your motives are wrong? YEA, RIGHT! I dont find that nowhere in here by preachers. But thats all you hear today.
So, Stephen is done being nice to them in telling them their entire history. I like how Stephen leads into the next passage, in verse 50: Hath not my hand made all these things? Who is he talking about? The Lord of heaven.
Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye (Acts 7:51)
Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears Whatd he call them? A dog and pigs. Yes he did. Uncircumcised are the Gentiles.
Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost Well, how did they know they were resisting the Holy Ghost? They know it right now. It is called CONVICTION.
Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it (Acts 7:52-53).
What are you saying? They have the oracles of God. From Who? From God! Of all people, they should know Who the Messiah is they got the Scriptures, they should have read them. They got the Law, from God! I mean to tell you, you look at this and say, Are you kidding me? Yea, its bad.
What does this show about Stephen? Well, it shows that he does not compromise, He does not sugar-coat it, and he does not fear. Why is that? He has the presence of God in him and on him. In him and on him. And conviction comes to those that hear the truth and are guilty of violating it, according to verse 54. They violentlyviolentlyresponded to the fact that they were guilty. Stephen had the touch of God, and because of his love for GodGod opened his spiritual sightto behold the Lamb of God which, Im telling you, conquered death and hell and is at the right hand of God. Who did that for him, God did, because he was obedient unto the Word of God.
Wheres the proof of their conviction?
When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth (Acts 7:54).
Gnash means they went through the flesh. The uppers met the lowers. When you and I have excruciating painbasically you burn yourself at the stoveyou gnash your teethits just automatic. Thats why Jesus says for those in hell, gnashing of teeth, thats proof that there is never-ending pain in hell.
And the conviction of the Holy Spirit, guess what, you are pricked in your heart. They responded negatively showing how full of the devil they were.
Point number 5 God honored Stephen in verses 55-56.
Stephen conquers the world, the flesh and the Devil.
But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God (Acts 7:55-56).
Now the Devil-possessed helps him unto God. They thought they were destroying him, but they are just helping him on to God.
Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit (Acts 7:57-59).
Im telling you, people, religious folks hate those with a relationship. Religious folks dont have a know-so religion. They dont. Thats why they need to get saved. They go back and say, I said a prayer. They never say they believed when they were younger, Im sticking with that prayer. Are you sticking with the prayer, or why you said that prayer? Its not semantics, really. Its just a fact! You either believe or you didnt believe. And if you believed, there ought to be someone at home. So, it aint the doubting of peoples salvationthe Devil will do that good enough for you, but if you dont have assurancemy goodness, get assured! You need that presence of God.
You need that relationship with God, knowing Who God is in your life. You need to know God.
Im telling you, these people with no relationship, and then us with the relationshipwhat do we long for? we long for His presence in our life. We long for that, it is in us. We want to see God operating in our life. Even if you are a backslidden Christian. Your new nature, man, and the Holy Ghostthe voice has sort of been snuffed outeven when you are backslidden, there is something in you that is just crying out for your Father.
Now those that want God in their life seek out those things that please Him from the Word of God. You dont make stuff up. Well, God I think is going to like this, or God is going to like that. The Word of God tells you what pleases Him, so you get your instruction from the Word of God. You got to have that and do them. Now, they dont fear, but rather accept the accusations and persecutions of the religious world. Those that know God and have a relationship with Him do not fear what the world can do unto them. They dont fear accusations or persecutions. I mean, we all have a little fear, but when you think about itwhen you know Godthis is part and parcel of our life down here, are the wrong accusations and persecutions.
If you are going to stand for the Lord, you have to understand that. This stuff will happen, and for a brief moment all of us get a little depressed over it, but when you think about itif the accusations are false, quit trying to prove that the accusations are false. God will fight for you. Just keep going on. There are too many people that accuse us all the time. Accuse our motives, accuse everything. Just keep going for the Lord. Thats all. God will make things happen.
Now God rewards the honest childthat child that realizes the wickedness of his heart and bodyand the necessity of the power of God to accomplish what God desires them to do. Remember, I can do nothing of myself, Remember, in my flesh I can do no good thing. Whats that? Thats Scripture declarations about your flesh. Thats the declaration about a Christian that wants to serve God, knowing that he does it by the power of God, because God gets the glory, the Christian does not. God will reward that Christian, for giving glory to Him.
Now maybe you are saved and have a desire to grow but you just fear the presence of God. Why? Because it might threaten your addiction, whatever that could be. It could be drugs, alcohol, pornography . . . itll threaten, that presence just threatens what you enjoy. It threatens your goals, and lifestyle. A lot of people dont want the presence of God because they got it all figured out, and since they are doing a good thing and not a bad thingIm cool with God. You better know that you are cool with God. If you start your life out with your goals and your practices without considering your relationship with God, you started wrongI dont care how good it is. God owns you.
When you make your goals and stuff, you say, Lord, in my heart and mind this seems like a good thing and you told me to be a laborer and to provide and so on, and this is the direction I am going in. But Lord, You direct. Close doors or open doors.
So, it threatens our goals and lifestyle, it scares you. What does? To give everything to Him. Them baby Christians need a whole lot of security, we understand that. Carnal Christians, it scares them because that forces them to admit that they are carnal. But God wants us all, and in order to have that presence we have to die to self, we have to give God everything. You are going to have to purpose that, at the altar at church, at the altar at home, in the car, anywhere. You just need to remove everything from your mind and say, God, I dont understand a lot of things about Your will, but this is what I can do. I can right with a vow say that Im giving You everything in my life.
I know, just looking at this storyStephen could die rightStephen ended rightconformed to the image of Jesus Christ. We saw that earlier in verse 60 . . .
And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep (Acts 7:60).
And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, . . .
Send lightning down and kill these people! No.
Send a plague on them, Lord! No.
Do this, do that, or the other thing! No.
. . . lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
What a blessing. We read it, man, what a story. What a movie we could make. But that is supposed to be our attitude. You see, Stephen shinedwe should shine for the Lord. Whatever it means. Either die naturally or whatever, but you want to shine for the Lord. You want to burn for the Lord. Stephens sacrifice though, whats interesting is that he didnt even know it.
You know, a lot of times we look at Jeremiah, he wrote Lamentations and was called the weeping prophet. He saw his people go into captivity, just rejecting his message of deliverance. They put him through all sorts of hellish thing, throwing him into a pit. I mean, if you ever read Jeremiah, man, my goodnesswhat a prophet going through something. And guess what, to die thinking he had no fruit! He saw no visible fruit. But Lord have mercy, when he was up in glory God said, watch this.
And next thing you know, the prophecies of the end-time kingdoms and the Antichrist, and all these were prophesied by Daniel. And you know what Daniel said, he read them in the Book of Jeremiah. And not only that, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednegowhat about them? where did they get that faith? Reading Scriptures. Well, who did they believe? Jeremiah. Somebody heard the preaching, he got fruitmy goodness what kind of fruit! Daniel even got put in charge of a heathen nation as a result of Jeremiahs preaching. What a blessing!
So, Stephen went out doing what he was supposed to do. He didnt know what was going to take place later.
And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. . . . As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison (Acts 8:1, 3).
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest (Acts 9:1).
And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven (Acts 9:3).
But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel (Acts 9:15).
Stephens sacrifice started the Gentile church movement, and he didnt even know it. Listen up, Christian, having and coveting the presence of God is a natural desire of the new nature, not the old one. Having too much flesh, and not enough God contributes to a bad ending in this life. You have chosen self over God, making yourself a God. Now Gods presence should be welcome in our livesit really shouldand our local church. Now Christian, be honest, If God were to view your temple what would He expose. What do you enjoy more than God? And if you are a lost person, you would know that you are lost. Lost and condemned to a Devils hell, yet God extends His invitation of mercy during the convicting time. We need you, our church needs you, our country need Spirit-filled Christians.
So, let us shine like Stephen, come hell or high water. Start to make some serious decisions in your life about your Christianity and your relationship with God. If we would seek the presence of God wed stop doing a whole lot of stuff. We really would. Wed start majoring on the major stuff. You know yourself. With my own kids, I know they aint reading the Bible every dayI just know it! Its just obvious. You get to doing your own thing, and God becomes a P. S. in your life. See, youre not listening to Him every day, therefore you are not praying to Him every day like you should. You give Him a thank you Lord for the day, and a thank you, Lord for thisand then you go around asking everybody else to pray for you because your prayer life is not what is should be.
As a Christian, you ought to be talking to God and saying, I need some answers! And when God starts answering you, some things will have to go in your lifejust will have tothey are taking up to much of your time.
And Im telling you what. God has been so merciful with our country, because apparently there are some things in His plan of things that He is pleased with. Hes still pleased with some people, but, killing innocent babies, and this lifestyle that is acceptablethat doesnt please the Lordthat brings judgment from the Lord. So, we as a church, ought to be praying for mercycontinued mercy and grace from our Father. Because where sin abounds, grace much more abounded. And I think that that is what we are experiencing in our country right now. But we dont want to presume upon Him.
We are all going to die. All of us are going to face the Lord Jesus Christ. So, it behooves all of us to start to understand how necessary the presence of God is, and what we need. So, here today, you think about that messagethink about when you go homehow you maybe ought to start praying and to read your Bible, and maybe that will clean up some stuff in your brain. Maybe God will give you more opportunities to talk about Him. You need to do that, life is short. You get up, you dont plan on dying and then Boom! Its here. Or He sends you to a doctor to get a shock waveoh my goodness, oh my goodnesswe are creatures of habit, people. God has to do certain things to drive us to Him. He will crowd you to Christin your life.
It is even more fun to put this into historical context. Diocletian [244-311] ruled 20 years from 285-305 AD and then abdicated to his Son-in-Law, Galerius. A mere single YEAR after his abdication, while he was still alive, Constantine I (the Great) [272-337], became Galerius' heir.
In the consolidation of his power and in ending the shared rule of the Roman Tetrarchy, he defeated his rivals in a series of civil wars [312-24], and made all religions equal to that of the Roman Gods with the 'Edict of Milan'! While remaining Pagan for most of his life, his mother was a devout Christian and he converted to Christianity on his deathbed in 337.
And Diocletian now knows the truth, but in his case, it certainly doesn’t make him free.
Who follows in his train?
The Son of God Goes Forth to War
The Son of God goes forth to war
A kingly crown to gain;
His blood-red banner streams afar
Who follows in His train?
Who best can drink His cup of woe,
Triumphant over pain
Who patient bears his cross below,
He follows in His train.
The martyr first, whose eagle eye
Could pierce beyond the grave;
Who saw is Master in the sky,
And called on Him to save.
Like Him, with pardon on His tongue,
In midst of mortal pain,
He prayed for them that did the wrong!
Who follows in His train?
A glorious band, the chosen few
On whom the Spirit came,
Twelve valiant saints, their hope they knew,
And mocked the cross and flame.
They met the tyrant’s brandished steel,
The lion’s gory mane;
They bowed their necks the death to feel:
Who follows in their train?
A noble army, men and boys,
The matron and the maid,
Around the Savior’s throne rejoice
In robes of light arrayed..
They climbed the steep ascent of heav’n;
Through peril, toil and pain;
O God, to us may grace be giv’n
To follow in their train.
—Reginald Heber, 1827.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.