Acts 6:5 introduces a faithful man of God named Stephen: “a man full of faith and of the  Holy Spirit.” It is noteworthy that there have always been those faithful  believers whose love for and commitment to the Lord seem to shine through so  greatly that others around them notice, and Stephen was such a man. Nothing is  known about Stephen’s personal life—his parents, his siblings, or whether he had  a wife or children; however, what is known about him is what is truly important.  He was faithful, even when faced with certain death.

Stephen found  himself in the middle of a conflict between the Jews who still embraced the  Jewish culture and those who had turned more toward the Greeks in their language  and culture. Satan always causes dissension within congregations, as a means of  division; therefore, faithful men such as Stephen were chosen to combat the  ever-increasing problems that were rising. After being unable to find a winnable  argument for their erroneous beliefs, the unbelievers decided to falsely accuse  Stephen, labeling him a blasphemer and having him arrested (Acts 6:11).

Acts 7 is the record of Stephen’s  testimony, which is perhaps the most detailed and concise history of Israel and  their relationship to God of any in Scripture. Stephen was not concerned about  his earthly existence, determining instead to stand firmly on the side of Jesus  Christ, no matter the consequences. God inspired him to speak boldly, rightly  accusing Israel of their failure to recognize Jesus, their Messiah, rejecting  and murdering Him, as they had murdered Zechariah and other prophets and  faithful men throughout their generations. Stephen’s speech was an indictment  against Israel and their failure as the chosen people of God who had been given  the law, the holy things, and the promise of the Messiah. Naturally, these  accusations, though true, were not well received by the Jews.

In his  speech, Stephen reminded them of their faithful patriarch, Abraham, and how God  had led him from a pagan land into the land of Israel, where He made a covenant  with him that was still in effect. He spoke of the journey of his people,  through Joseph’s sojourn in Egypt to their deliverance by Moses 400 years later.  He brought to mind how Moses had met God in the wilderness of Midian in a  burning bush, and he explained how God had empowered Moses to lead His people  from idolatry and slavery to freedom and times of refreshing in the Promised  Land. Throughout his speech, he repeatedly reminded them of their continual  rebellion and idolatry, in spite of the mighty works of God to which they were  eyewitnesses, thereby accusing them with their own history, which only irritated  them until they did not want to hear any more.

The law of Moses states  that the sin of blasphemy deserves a death sentence, usually by stoning (Numbers  15:30-36). Just before these arrogant, unredeemed Jews follow the prescribed  penalty and begin stoning Stephen, Acts  7:55-56 records his final moments of earthly life, just before he stepped  through the veil between heaven and earth: “But Stephen, full of the Holy  Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the  right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man  standing at the right hand of God.’”

The words of Colossians 3:2-3 could  have been written about Stephen, even though they are applicable to all  believers: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died,  and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Stephen’s life—and even more so  his death—should be an example of how every believer should strive to live:  committed to the Lord even in the face of death; faithful to preach the gospel  boldly; knowledgeable of God’s truth; and willing to be used by God for His plan  and purpose. Stephen’s testimony still stands as a beacon, a light to a lost and  dying world, as well as an accurate history of the children of Abraham.

Advertisements