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The witness of Stephen_CHANTILLY_8Feb04

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February 8, 2004

Text:               Acts 6:8-10

Subject:          “The Witness of Stephen”

Scripture:       Acts 7:51-60

Acts 6:8-10

8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. 9 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. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.

We spoke last week on the subject of witnessing and being a witness.  Christ Jesus has given us the mandate and the power to be a witness for Him

Acts 1:8

8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

We also said that if you are a Christian, if you are born again, then you are a witness whether you intend to be or not.  You will either be a good witness or a poor witness.

But if you want to be a good witness, you need to do just three things:

  • Tell what you know
  • Tell Who you know
  • Tell why you know – what He has done for you
  • Then you need to tell them how they can know what, Who and why for themselves…share the Gospel

Today we want to look at the life of a specific witness for Jesus Christ.  We can learn a lot from character studies.  We have recently looked at the life of Abraham and learned something about real faith and how it manifests itself in our actions, especially in our giving.

Today we want to look at a man named Stephen.  You see, Stephen come on the scene at the time of the first century of the church when Christianity was not even called Christianity yet.  It was a time when Satan had an all out frontal attack on the church to keep it from expanding and strengthening. 

Satan was opposing the church through inward dissension and discord among the congregation in the fledgling Church.  There was murmuring because of strife among the Grecians and the Hebrews over the daily ministration.  The fact is that in this young and growing church, much of the problem was innocent and was due simply to the rapid growth of the church.  And when people joined at that time they literally turned everything over to the church and the church had to administer to the resulting dependence on of the people on the church body.

So the Apostles called a meeting to have the congregation to look among themselves and select seven men for their approval

Acts 6:3

3 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.

These were the first deacons of the church.  Notice that they had to be full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom before they could even be considered a candidate for the deaconate ministry.  The congregation did this and selected the seven

Acts 6:5

5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:

This organization caused great growth in the church because the Word could be focused on and there were fewer distractions.  People got saved and the church grew even faster.

Acts 6:7

7 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.

But Satan was also attacking the church from the outside also.  And so often Satan’s attacks are focused not on the Pastor directly, but he attacks the leadership to see if there is a weak link that he can exploit.  But these deacons were ready.  And Satan picked the wrong deacon to mess with.

Acts 6:8-10

8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. 9 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. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.

Stephen, then, was a dynamic witness for the Lord.  We, then, would learn a lot from looking at deacon Stephen to see what made him such a dynamic witness for the Lord.

He Had Full Confidence in the Word of God

You see, Stephen’s main impact was not in the church but in the community which validated his work in the church.  He was a great witness in the community, sharing the Word with everyone he met.  He was fully engaged in evangelism in a great way.

Acts 6:8

8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.

But when Stephen began to witness, persecution began to well up against him.  And when the Libertines, Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and Cilicians tried to attack the faith and beliefs of Stephen, the Scripture says that “they were not able to resist the wisdom and spirit of Stephen.. 

So they did what Satan always does.  They trumped up some charges against him and had him arrested.  Stephen did what Jesus did and Satan did what Satan always does.  They dragged him before the Sanhedrin Council, the religious ruling body of the Jews in Jerusalem.  When you do what Jesus wants you to do, you can bet that persecution will not be far behind…but you have the victory.

But Stephen relied on the Word of God to see him through.  Stephen’s defense before the Sanhedrin Council began and ended with the glory of God

Acts 7:2

2 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, (Haran)

Acts 7:55

55 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,

Stephen’s entire witness before the Council was filled with Scripture.  Stephen did not give them his opinion but he gave them the Word of God.  And the Word will draw you or drive you.

Stephen’s very life was a stake here.  But Stephen denied himself and took up his cross and was obedient to the mandate of Jesus Christ.  You know, it is one thing to quote Bible verses in Church on Sunday but it is quite another thing to stake your life on those Scriptures.  Stephen declared his faith in God’s Word when to do so meant martyrdom.  But Stephen knew that witnessing with Scripture guarantees that our words will be effective because it is the Word of God.

Isaiah 55:11

11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

He Was Fully Committed to His Savior

Acts 7:56

56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

You see, the Council reacted violently to the witness of Stephen.  They were filled with anger at this bold believer and immediately demanded his death.  The Scripture says

Acts 7:54

54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.

We should not be surprised when the world rejects our witness.  Jesus said that believers would be rejected because he was rejected.  Rejection should never cause us to be quiet and let opportunities to share the truth with someone pass by.  This is our greatest purpose.

On the other hand, a life committed to self will shrink from the danger of witnessing.  That type of person, a person that is not willing to lay his all on the altar, will fruitful only as long as it is convenient.  That type of person will be surrendered only as long as it doesn’t mean sacrifice.

The life of the committed believer is bold even in the face of danger and death.  The Savior will always meet you at your time of need.  And when He meets you, He will give you a glimpse of glory. 

He Felt Compassion for the Lost

Acts 7:59-60

59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 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.

If you are going to be a witness for Jesus, heaven has to be real to you.  Stephen looked up and saw heaven but more importantly, Stephan saw Jesus.  Jesus was standing, not sitting.  He was standing to minister to His faithful servant. 

Stephen uttered a moving prayer just before he fell asleep.  He said

  • Lord Jesus, receive my spirit
  • Lord, lay not this sin to their charge

Stephen knew where his power came from. 

  • He stood on the Word of Scripture
  • He was surrendered to Jesus Christ and His commission
  • He was passionate about the saving of souls

Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid

Your heart does the Spirit control

You can only be blessed and have peace and sweet rest

When you yield Him your body and soul

You have longed for sweet peace

And for faith to increase

And have earnestly, fervently prayed

But you cannot have rest or be perfectly blest

Until all on the altar is laid

Then the song writer asks a question

Would you walk with the Lord

In the light of His Word

And have peace and contentment always?  (Then he answers)

You must do His good will,

To be free from all ill

On the altar your all you must lay

Even as Stephen died, his witness was bearing fruit because his passionate prayer was heard by another man who was standing nearby, approvingly holding the coats of those who stoned Stephen.  And we will talk about the witness of this man next week.  His name was Saul, later known a Paul.

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