As the early church began to grow by leaps and bounds, the Hellenistic or Greek-speaking Jews began to complain that their widows were being overlooked. (Acts 6:1) So the twelve called a meeting to propose a solution to this problem.
They could not spend all of their time waiting on tables and preach and teach at the same time. What they could do, however, was delegate that responsibility to others and this is exactly what they did. Seven men of good reputation, filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom, men with a heart to serve others within the Body of Christ were chosen to oversee this task. One of the men was a man named Stephen.
You find the names of these men listed in Acts 6:5. It is interesting to note that while the this passage simply lists the names of six of these men, there is an additional note after Stephen's name. The Bible says that he was full of faith and Holy Spirit. I think it is important to remember that.
After these men were appointed to serve the Church, the Bible tells us that the Church flourished in Jerusalem. The Gospel was embraced not just by the common ordinary people but in Acts 6:7 we learn that a great many priests came to Christ as well. Needless to say, trouble was brewing.
The Bible tells us that Stephen did great signs and wonders among the people. As a result, some Jewish religious leaders disputed him but their arguments failed. Unable to find error in what Stephen preached, they accused him of blasphemy and stirred up the people.
Stephen was brought before the council and as with Christ, false witnesses were presented who claimed Stephen had spoken blasphemous words against the Temple and the Law. At this point the Bible tells us that Stephen s face was like that of an angel. (Acts 6:15).
When the High Priest asked Stephen if the accusations were true, Stephen spoke. He told of Abraham. He spoke of Joseph and going down into Egypt. He spoke of Moses whom God used to lead the people out of Egypt and into the promised land but as he did so, he spoke of the people s rejection of God.
He spoke of Joshua and King David and the building of the Temple by King Solomon. Then he said that God doesn't live in temples made with human hands.
Then Stephen brought their attention to the hardness of their hearts. Throughout the centuries they would resist God and rebel against him. He spoke of the prophets who were persecuted by their ancestors and sometimes even murdered. Then they had murdered Jesus, the Messiah.
Filled with fury, Stephen s accusers threatened him but in Acts 7:55-56 Stephen sees Heaven and the Glory of God and declares that Jesus is standing at God s right hand; the place of honor.
His accusers would hear no more. They grabbed him and dragged him out of the city where they stoned him. Even as he was dying, Stephen prayed. He asked God to receive his spirit and... he asked that God forgive his murderers...
Stephen could have walked away that day. All he had to do was confess that he was wrong and that he would not preach of Jesus again. That's it.
Stephen was fully aware of what had been done to Jesus. He knew what could happen to him. He counted the cost of following Christ... and he was willing to pay for it with his life. Are we?
This blog is part of a series entitled Those Who Counted The Cost... And Paid It