This message was preached by Colin D'cruz at Word of Grace Church on May 21st, 2017. To listen/download the audio please click here. To listen to the Sunday's worship and prophetic contributions please click here.
Last week we looked at Acts 6 where we saw that the number of disciples were increasing. There was phenomenal growth taking place and in the midst of this growth, there was a problem. The Grecian widows were being overlooked and it could have derailed the whole move of God. The Apostles could have said don’t bother us with this kind of stuff. But they addressed it by appointing 7 men to wait of tables and they continued to minister. As they fixed this issue, there is great growth.
This week we look more closely at one of the heroes, who rose up to fulfill this need. Stephen, has been recruited to wait on tables. To make sure the widows get their food. In Acts 6:8, what does he do?
He did wonders and miracles.
Not only this, he was proclaiming the word and debating with the Jews who came from out of Jerusalem.
Acts 6 : 8- 15- “And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11 Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 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, 13 and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 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.” 15 And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.”
Then Stephen preaches a message which is the longest message recorded in the New Testament. In Acts 7:54, the people drag him out and stone him to death. That is the short life and ministry of Stephen.
1. Stephen’s calling:
The church was just formed. In Acts 1:8 there is a promise to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the regions beyond. Now great things were happening in Jerusalem. There must be about 30,000 people who became believers. Out of 30,000 they wanted to select 7 men who were people of repute. Out of them, Stephen’s name was the first name mentioned. Stephen was said to be full of faith and Spirit
2. Stephen’s Character:
There are so many similarities in the life of Stephen and the life of Jesus. He had a servant heart.
I. Like Jesus at the last supper, wrapped his robe and taking a basin of water washed the disciples’ feet. That’s what Stephen agreed to do.
II. Jesus performed great wonders and miracles.Stephen too did it.
III. Stephen, like Jesus, went preaching the gospel in Synagogues. There were synangogues based on where people had come from. Stephen was a greek speaking Jew. He preached the gospel to these people.
IV. When people could not stand his wisdom, they did not know what to do. Then, they slandered him. Lazarus was raised from the dead. The Pharisees were not happy with that and decided to kill Jesus and Lazarus. They had the same reaction for Stephen. They falsely accused him.
V. Death- In their death as well, there is a lot of similarity.
A. Stephen was full of faith. We know this because he was full of the word of God. Stephen did not have a paper and pulpit to speak. He was accused and people wanted to kill him. He just stood up and defended his faith.
B. He was full of wisdom. In verse 10, the Jews could not stand his wisdom and Spirit. One of the people who he could have been debating with is Paul. Paul is from Cilicia. Paul’s teachings show that they have been affected by Stephen’s preaching. He spoke about Salvation by Faith by Grace.
C. He was full of Grace. Like Jesus in his death when Stephen was being stoned, he prays for them. That’s not our reaction, is it? In Acts 7: 60- “And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
The length of our life doesn’t determine its impact.
Q. What was the impact of Stephen’s life?
The Promise of God was launched as a result of the persecution that came about. Stephen’s martyrdom sparked a persecution which pushed out the disciples to go into the world.
Saul’s conversion was the other implication of his life. He took over from Stephen. He was a bridge between the gospel going to the Jews and the Gentiles. Peter appointed Stephen. Saul was impacted by Stephen and he went to the Gentiles.
Tertullian- “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Jim Eliot and his friends went as missionaries and were killed. We could think, what a waste of young lives! But that year, more than 800 young people committed their lives to mission.
God has not changed his plans.
Q. What can we do to do God’s will?
We need to follow in the footsteps of Stephen. It means, humble ourselves and serve wherever we can. Without the preaching of the gospel, people can’t be saved. So all of us need to do that irrespective of your position. Stephen and Philip did miracles and wonders. Not only did he live well, but he died well. He was full of the Holy Spirit and Full of Grace. In everything we need to be full of grace. Stephen has set before us a tremendous example.
Next time, we look at the example as being full of the Holy Spirit. His face was like that of an angel. It happened to Moses as well. Let us seek to be people who are full of the Holy Spirit. Let us see what impact our life can have on the Gospel and the Kingdom.
Word of Grace is an Evangelical (Born Again), Spirit filled (Charismatic), Reformed, English speaking in Pune that upholds the Bible as God's inspired Word for life. We are a church community that have people from every part of India and parts of the world. We are here to put the Great Command and the into practice by equipping and releasing every member into works of service. To know about us please log onto www.wordofgracechurch.org.