Today we going to look at the day in the life of the martyr Stephan
Familiar passage found in the book of acts ,chapter 7
We first read of Stephan in chapter 6, where he was chosen to be a deacon, Full of Faith and the Holy Spirit and wisdom.
Steven was chosen to be a deacon along with six others to free up time for the apostles, so that they could dedicate them self to preaching and to the word. They would attend to the elderly and widows, they would organize events, serve on tables etc.
We also read that he was doing great signs and wonders in chapter 6 vs 8. And then he was falsely accused of blasphemy. Some of the synagogue of the freed men disputed with Steven, yet they were not able to resist the wisdom of the Spirit by which he spoke. Vs 10
And then in Ch 7: we read that Stephan spoke so boldly and testified of his Lord Jesus Christ that it brought down great persecution up on himself and upon the church.
In chapter 6 vs 12 that they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him, seized him and brought him into the council. 13 they also set up false witnesses accusing him of speaking blasphemy's against the synagogue and against the law... saying that Jesus was going to come destroy not only the place but the customs of Moses. And they all looked at Stephan steadfastly and saw his face as the face of an angel.
We have to be mindful of this part of scripture. And as we go further into this message we will see what some of the "benefits" of persecution were. And then we can ask. Ourselves, what could've been done differently? But for now just hold that thought.
Then chapter 7 the high priest asks Stephan "are these things so?"
And Steven here shows his complete devotion to the law, to the traditions, in the Scriptures. He answers with such precision. Gives the whole history beginning with how God called out Abraham vs 2. Said get out of your country and from your relatives , go to the land that I will show you vs 3 goes on to tell him how he moved him into the land and God gave me an inheritance and a promise even when Abraham had no child. He promised to give him a possession. That they would dwell in a foreign land and be in bondage and oppressed for 400 years.. 3 that God would judge that great nation. And begin the covenant. Of circumcision.
He continues to testify the patriarchs and of Joseph but that God was with him and delivered and out of all of this trouble's and God give him favour and wisdom in the presence Of Pharaoh King of Egypt.
He continued to testify how God delivered Israel by Moses vs 17 how Moses was born and raised in The ways of the Egyptian.
When Moses was 40 years old, how he thought he could free Israel in his own strength, when he killed the Egyptian for persecuting The Jewish slave.
And how Moses fled into the wilderness to the land of Midian stayed there 40 years. Of Moses and the burning bush, and how God instructed him to go to Egypt and set his people free. And how the nation despite been shown all the signs and wonders ultimately lacked faith and rejected Moses. And Israel rebels against God verse 37 Stephen recites how the people made a golden calf etc. Then in verse 42 God turned and gave him up to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets. Did you offer me slaughtered animals and sacrifice during 40 years in the wilderness or house of Israel? You also took up the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of your God Remphan images which you made to worship, and I will carry you away beyond
He testified of God's true tabernacle vs 44
Our fathers had the tabernacle of witnesses in the wilderness, as he appointed, instructed Moses to make it according to the pattern that he had seen, which our fathers, having received it in turn, also brought with Josh walked into land possessed by the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers until the days of David, and found favour before God and I have to find a dwelling for the God of Jacob, but Solomon built Him a house vs 47.
Then finally chapter 7 verse 51-53
"You stiff neck and uncircumcised in the heart And ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit, as your Father's Day, so do you Which of the profits did your father not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the lust one, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of Angels and
have not kept it."
Well as you can imagine that didn't go Over well...
Vs 54 IT. 60. read...
So what are some of the ripple effects from Stephan?
Because of Stevens bold stand, when he testified and spoke the truth.
i-ie was murdered.
That persecution and murder was led by Saul Who would later become Paul! Ch 8 vs 1-8
The believers were scattered because of persecution that was in Jerusalem
(and the church grew and grew..)
His testifying before Saul, I'm sure had a big impact on the life of Paul. That is on his conversion. Acts eh 22 : 17 21
Steven's death was the catalyst that set the motion the wheels of evangelism outside of Jerusalem. Up to this point the church had been basically disobedient..
Why do I say that? Well both the apostles and the believers were not heading the words of Christ
Acts chapter 1 verse eight. "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to me, in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." The Lord commanded them... go you therefore into all the world making disciples. Baptizing them
But years went by and the apostles stayed in Jerusalem, as did most of the believers.
They were to go to all the Gentiles, to the utter ends of the world. And ultimately they did, but only after the death of Stephen and the persecution of the church,..
Other ripple effects?
Today we continue to read the same account that has been read for thousands of years in churches just like this all across the planet. And the power of that testimony, still speaks to us today. What can we learn from it?
We can be bold. Not rude, not arrogant, but yes, wise and bold and not ashamed of what Christ has done, we need faith like Stephan, to know and believe that God forgives and still moves in the lives of people today when we pray and intercede for others.
Here's something for us to think about..
Think of how Steven, and all the apostles ultimately were martyred persecuted, imprisoned. Think of what they died for! ? Their faith? Yes and no. Let me explain. Yes they died for their religious convictions for their faith. They died for what they believed, sort of...
Think of it. They actually died from what they saw, And knew to be true! They testified under torture or death comment to what they saw and bore witness. They didn't testify to stories handed down, they were not like us who by faith in the Scriptures and in Christ believe the word, and therefore make a decision. But rather they're just testifying to what they saw. They can't help but say anything different. And that is why they had that incredible resilience to not waiver. They saw Jesus healed the sick and the blind, raise people from the dead they saw Jesus himself , Risen from the dead! They saw him taking up to heaven in a cloud. They saw him calm the seas , When all hope was lost. They saw him walk on water. They saw him cry, laugh, eat. Teach like no man has ever taught before...
There was no stopping Stephan, there was no stopping ultimately all the apostles_ There is no stopping of this blessed gospel that continues to go up to the world even today, it changes lives, it touches people. It still does miracles in the lives of people.
So finally I want to close with this thought, question and challenge,
First I want us to think what kind of ripple effects have we caused. Positive or negative.
The things we say and do, matter!
Are you willing to be a bold witness for Christ, for things that matter in eternity?
1 know the internal voice in the our heads say things like, "1 can't do that" it's not in my nature.
We reason with Ourselves and say, I wasn't raised like that. What will people think of me? Etc.
Well that's exactly the way it was, and that's exactly how all the apostles, and how Stephan used to think before they had an encounter with Christ.. they were less than ordinary men come with less than ordinary skills. But were turned into the boldest of followers because of their encounter with the living Christ.
Maybe what we need is not training, boldness. Maybe we just need an encounter with Christ. And when we do, there will be no stopping us.
The Lord Jesus said to his disciples. "Blessed are you because you see and believe, but I say blessed are those who on't see and yet believe"
That is you and 1.
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