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The Scriptorium

An End and a Beginning

Stephen's witness is a legacy for us. Acts 7.51-60

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

Pray Psalm 62.1, 2.
Truly my soul silently waits for God;
From Him comes my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be greatly moved.

Sing Psalm 62.1, 2.
(Germany: Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness)
My soul in silence waits, O Lord – safely I stand within Your Word!
You are my Rock, my Stronghold true, and my Salvation, Lord, are You!

Read Acts 7.1-60; meditate on verses 51-60.

Preparation

1. What did Stephen do?

2. How did the religious leaders react? How did the Lord react?

Meditation
Stephen turned the table over on their toes, using perfectly Biblical language, to indict his accusers of being precisely what they were hoping to convict him of being, enemies of God and His people (vv. 51-53). He insisted that they were the stiff-necked, not him. They were the ones whose hearts and ears were shut to God. They were resisting the Spirit, just like their fathers did, who persecuted and killed the prophets. And in case they’d forgotten, they “betrayed and murdered” the Righteous One, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Stephen may well have understood where all this would lead. These same men had warned the apostles, then threatened them, then beat them. And they had already shown, in the case of Jesus, that they were not unwilling to take the most drastic step, if need be. Stephen understood the consequences of his bold witness, and sailed right into the teeth of them, unafraid.

Blind rage and passion got the best of these men, and they dragged Stephen beyond the walls of the city and stoned him to death (vv. 54-58). Rembrandt’s The Stoning of Stephen captures the violence of this scene. Stephen was not afraid to die for Christ. He seemed to be surprised, not at seeing Jesus at the right hand of God – I’m convinced he was a regular visitor to that venue (Col. 3.1-3; 2 Cor. 4.6). Otherwise, how could he have recognized what he was seeing? He was surprised, not to see Jesus, but to see Jesus standing (vv. 59, 60).

Ever true to His own Law, Jesus stood in the presence of a true elder of Israel (Lev. 19.32) to welcome him home and to receive him into glory. Stephen demonstrated his worthiness – which is really Christ’s worthiness – right to end, emulating his Savior and Lord, even in his death. Stephen’s end would be Saul of Tarsus’ beginning, for he would never forget the courage of this witness for Christ.

A new phase in the ongoing work of Christ is about to unfold. Stephen’s murder will embolden the authorities in Jerusalem, as we shall see. But it will embolden the believers more, who neither flinch nor cower before the reality of what they’d already taught themselves to expect.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Stephen’s beautiful and precise sermon (Acts 7.2-50). Then his accurate accusation (Acts 7.51-53). Then his beautiful observation of Jesus standing to welcome him home (Acts 7.55, 56).

This is an emotionally charged scene fraught with vindication, value, and victory!

Our hearts should swell with godly pride at this brother’s courage and graciousness. He not only pointed a finger at their horrendous sin; but he asked God to forgive their personal cruelty to him (Acts 7.60). It just does not get any better than that.

Oh, friends, the bar has been set very high for us! This humble man, Stephen, lived the gold standard for all believers to follow.

Stephen showed us the truth of God’s promise:
“But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”
“But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.”
“Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Matt. 10.19, 20; Mk. 13.11; Lk. 12.11, 12).

And then Stephen showed us how to rejoice and forgive in the face of persecution:
“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. 5.11, 12).
“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4.32).
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another…” (Col. 3.12, 13).

Stephen is our heritage, our brother in Christ. We have a calling, like his, to share the truth of Christ with those in our own Personal Mission Field. Just like he did. If it doesn’t go well, we have his example to follow, and Jesus’ words of encouragement that we are not in this battle alone. We are filled with His Spirit.
“By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit” (1 Jn. 4.13).

For reflection

1. What did Stephen do to enrage the Sanhedrin? Is there really a place for this in bearing witness to Jesus? Explain.

2. Stephen saw Jesus and was encouraged. What should we learn from this (Col. 3.1-3)?

3. Stephen, it seems, was ready for the worst from his testimony. How should you prepare for the fact that some folks might not appreciate your witness for the Lord?

Nothing is so comfortable to dying saints, or so encouraging to suffering saints, as to see Jesus at the right hand of God: blessed be God, by faith we may see him there. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Acts 7.54-60


Pray Psalm 62.3-12.
Remember that you are continuously engaged in a spiritual warfare, and spiritual foes want nothing more than to keep you from knowing God’s salvation and living for His glory. Commit your day to Him, and call on Him to guard and strengthen you against all opposition, and to fill you with His power.

Sing Psalm 62.3-12.
(Germany: Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness)
How long will foes give me offense, striking me like a tottering fence?
They counsel to destroy with lies; they bless, but all the while despise.

My soul in silence waits, O Lord, hoping in You, and in Your Word.
You are my Rock, my Stronghold true, and my Salvation, Lord, are You!

On You my hope and glory rest, Rock of my strength, and Refuge best!
Trust always in our God, the Lord; take refuge only in His Word.

Trust not in men of low degree; lighter are they than breath shall be.
Do not rely on strength or gold; trust in the Lord, Who rules from old.

Once God has spoken, twice I have heard: power belongs alone to the Lord!
And lovingkindness, Lord, is Yours; You recompense us for our works.

T. M. and Susie Moore

Check out our newest feature, Readings from the Celtic Revival (click here).

You can listen to a summary of last week’s Scriptorium study by going to our website, www.ailbe.org, and clicking theScriptorium tab for last Sunday. For more about what Jesus is doing at the right hand of God, order a free copy of our book, What in Heaven Is Jesus Doing on Earth? (click here).

You can download any or all of the studies in this series on Acts by clicking here.

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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.
Books by T. M. Moore

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