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The Scriptorium

Overpowering

We need faces like Stephen's. Acts 6.8-15

Kingdom Sign and Outpost: Acts 6 and 7 (3)

Pray Psalm 46.1-3.
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling.
Selah

Sing Psalm 46.1-3.

(St. Chrysostom: We Have Not Known Thee As We Ought)
God is our refuge and our strength; He is our help in times of need.
Thus though the earth beneath us should change, the sea consume the mountain range;
waters may roar with raging speed; yet God will rescue us at length.

Read Acts 6.1-15; meditate on verses 8-15.

Preparation
1. How is Stephen described in these verses?

2. With what was he charged by his opponents?

Meditation
Stephen, “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (v. 5), was also “full of faith and power” (cf. Acts 1.8). While the wonders and signs Stephen performed were miraculous in nature, it’s not necessary to think of signs and wonders exclusively in this way. Any extraordinary act of love or kindness would “sign” something significant and cause people to “wonder.”

The blinding power of sin is again in evidence here. Why else would anyone want to stop someone doing so much good, or refuse to hear the message which, Stephen would have explained, was the source of such goodness?

We note the trumped-up charges as being the same as hurled against Jesus (vv. 11, 13, 14) – it worked then, so hey, why not here too? We note also that opposition to Stephen arose from Jews from various places (v. 9). Luke mentions this to foreshadow the rest of his story: Opposition will arise wherever the Gospel goes. The great victory here in Jerusalem, followed by opposition and persecution, is typical of what the Gospel will meet all over the Empire, and down through the ages of Church history.

Rembrandt portrays Stephen’s face as peaceable, calm, and shining – “the face of an angel” (v. 15). With all due respect to the master, I think he might have missed it. Whenever angels appear in Scripture the response of those who see them isn’t, “Oh, how sweet, how cute.” Rather, they’re terrified. Stephen’s wisdom, grace, eloquence, personal piety, and power of witness struck fear in the hearts of those who opposed him.

Christians are called to be witnesses for the Lord. They will also do the work of evangelism as part of that witness. Thus they signthe Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit by their love for God, one another, and their neighbors; and they serve as an outpost for the progress of the Kingdom by their spoken witness for the Lord. Stephen is an excellent example of how God can use each of us in our Personal Mission Fields to show and advance His rule of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14.17, 18).

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
As the church continues to grow, they all continue to learn, and their faith is solidified. How? And why? Because God’s words, Jesus’ words, are all coming true. As always.

God said to Samuel, “…they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them” (1 Sam. 8.7). Ditto for the religious leaders of the day.

Jesus told His disciples: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5.12, 13). True. Then and now. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16.33). And true. Now and then.

Our job, as the followers of Jesus Christ in this generation, is to be obedient. To trust in God. To be “full of faith, grace, and power” (Acts 6.8); and like Stephen, to take upon ourselves whatever we are called to do, for God’s honor and glory.

The opposition now, as then, will not be able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which we speak (Acts 6.10).

As we stand against our opposition may we have the same face of an Angel that Stephen had. The same determined face of the Angel that stood before the false prophet Balaam and that caused his donkey to cower in fear. “Then the LORD opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the Angel of the LORD standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand; and he bowed his head and fell flat on his face” (Num. 22.31). Our courageous and determined faces, and armed with the sword of the Spirit (Ps. 149.5, 6; Eph. 6.17).

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1.7).

Overpowering. Perhaps persecuted. Always overcoming. Blessed. That is us.

For reflection

1. Do you know of places where Christians are being persecuted? Do you pray for those believers?

2. Again, Stephen’s story shows us the importance of standing firm on the Word of God. How do you prepare to stand firm each day?

3. How can believers encourage one another to be more consistent in their witness for the Lord?

Stephen was full of wisdom (v. 3), full of the Holy Spirit (v. 5), and full of faith and power. He had the gifts, the boldness, and the brilliance to be a powerful witness; yet even his witness would be rejected by the religious leaders. Hearts are opened only by God, not by our gifts, boldness, or brilliance. Earl Radmacher (1931-2014), NKJV Study Bible Note on Acts 6.8

Pray Psalm 46.4-11.
Seek the Lord’s guidance and protection for the day ahead. Pray for those believers who are persecuted for their faith, that they may find true refuge and strength in the Lord. Praise and exalt the Lord, and commit yourself afresh to Him for this day.

Sing Psalm 46.4-11.
(St Chrysostom: We Have Noto Known Thee As We Ought)
God’s everlasting, joyous grace gladdens the city where He dwells.
Safely in Him, we will not be moved; when morning dawns, His love will be proved.
Fears and distresses Jesus dispels for His beloved, chosen race.

Kingdoms arise and rage and roar, threat’ning the earth with sore distress;
nations may fall, earth melt away, His Word is yet our hope and stay.
God is among us, ever to bless; He is our stronghold evermore.

Come see the works of God’s Right Hand! He breaks the nations of the earth,
shatters their foolish weapons and pride, sets all their sinful strength aside;
them He will show His infinite worth as they before His judgment stand.

Rest in the Lord and be at peace, all who are mired in sore travail:
Lift up our God, praise Jesus our Lord; proclaim to all the earth His Word!
God is our stronghold, never to fail: thus may our hope and joy increase.

T. M. and Susie Moore

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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