Stephen: The Powerful Legacy of a Deacon
We see in the beginning of Acts 6 that the Hellenists (secular Jews) are grumbling and complaining that their widows are not being cared for in the same way that the Hebrews are caring for their vulnerable. This statement shows a racial, cultural conflict and is a potential disaster for the budding church. Thankfully, the disciples made a good plan. They realized that they had a specific task before them in teaching the Word and in prayer. They called up seven men (who spoke Greek and could minister to the Hellenists) to this specific task of service. It is a modest beginning of the roles of elder and deacon.
Every church must be about the Imago Dei! All are welcome to hear the gospel and we must see that we are all equal and better together. We must all find our "lane" and run well.
We see in verse 7 that "many of the priests became obedient to the faith". It is another example that the greatest apologetic is love, because this doesn't make sense logically. The Spirit moved and the church grew in a great way despite disagreement, racial tension, and disunity.
In verse 8 we are introduced to Stephen, a man "full of grace and power". What we are "full of" matters for the Kingdom. The opposition "secretly instigated men", "stirred up men", and bore "false witness" against Stephen for his faith. In Ch. 7:3-50, Stephen gives an amazing and comprehensive history lesson of Israel, and he does it in a way that shows he understands his audience.
In verses 51-53, Stephen points the people to Jesus and has some harsh rebuke. The people were enraged. "But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus STANDING at the right hand of God." This was the only time Jesus is portrayed as standing because Stephen was the first martyr for Jesus. Because he was filled with the Spirit, he was even gracious and forgiving in his death by stoning. His words mirrored the words of Jesus on the cross.
Stephen's name means "crown". To the Greeks, the crown was given to the victor. We are all called to die daily to our selfish desires. When we are daily filled with the Spirit, we can be used by God in life-changing ways. Remember, to be filled with Spirit is not each of us gaining more of Him, but Him gaining more of us.
As a result of Stephen's death, the believers scattered and the gospel exploded towards Samaria.
To Discuss Today:
1. What are you "filled" with? The Holy Spirit, disappointment, bitterness, anger, joy, etc? How does that affect your ability to live for Him?
2. People filled with the Holy Spirit are difference-makers. Where is your "lane"? What role does the Spirit have for you? What are your spiritual gifts, and are you using them? How?
3. Ask somebody you love, "Do you see Christ in me?" Listen and adjust where needed.