Reading For Friday Acts 6:8-60
We must not over sentimentalize the early church. The New Testament church was not perfect and faced challenges. In the early church, there was complaining and conflict that was severe enough to necessitate the adjustment of their methods. This fledgling young church would also need to select some new leaders to maintain peace and cope with a significant issue that had arisen over benevolence and cultural divides. Among these leaders, was a man named Stephen. The evidence of grace surrounded Stephen, and when people rose up to dispute with him, they could not equal his wisdom and the way he spoke because of the Spirit's work within him. These people instigated others to bring false accusations against Stephen so that they brought him before the council to defend these statements. They could visibly attest to the fact that there was something different about this man.
The high priest asked if the charges were true. Stephen began a sermon that would survey redemptive history starting with Abraham. Stephen used these chronicles of faith to show God's activity in setting apart a people for himself. He moved through quickly to Moses and reminded these leaders that the people did not understand the salvation that God was bringing by his hand. He reminded them that although they had rejected Moses, God sent as ruler and judge to his people and he led them out of captivity. Stephen reminded these religious leaders that the people had refused to obey and chased after others gods. Stephen traced the disobedience and salvation of the people through Joshua, David, and Solomon. Then he dropped a gospel bomb on these men. He connected them to the nation's history of disobedience, called them uncircumcised in heart (a big deal), and exclaimed that they always resist the Holy Spirit. He pointed to their sins and stated that they have the law, but do not keep it.
At this point, the hearing deteriorated into a fury. Those present were enraged by the accusations and they "ground their teeth at him." Stephen saw God's glory and Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. He declared these things to the angry mob, but they cried out, covered their ears, and rushed at him. These leaders gave full vent to their anger, losing any semblance of self-control. They cast him outside the city and pelted him with rock after rock. Their anger would only be satiated by blood. It is at this point that Luke makes reference to a young man named Saul without any detail whatsoever. As the stones continued to pound his body, Stephen called out to Jesus that he might receive his spirit and with his last breath asked for God's forgiveness on the murderous mob. After he had said those words, he fell asleep.
Things To Consider:
- Do others see the evidence of grace in you?
- Where did Stephen's defense originate from?
- Why is it important to look at redemptive history?
- How does God's work in the past inform the present and the future?
- What pattern did Stephen establish?
- Why did Stephen point to the difficulty between Moses and the people?
- What is the relationship between the heart and the Holy Spirit?
- Why did Stephen call attention to their sin?
- How does God's glory help us when we are suffering?
- What do we learn about forgiveness from Stephen?