Today a complaint arises about widows in the church being neglected. So the disciples select seven men to oversee the care of the widows, allowing the twelve disciples to stay focused on prayer and ministry of the word of God. Stephen, a man of faith and full of the Holy Spirit, and who did great wonders and signs among the people, is selected as one of the seven. Philip is also selected and we will hear more on him tomorrow.
There arose men from the Synagogue of the Freedmen who argued with Stephen. “And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. Then they secretly induced men to say, ‘We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.’” So Stephen is brought before the Jewish council where his face shines like an angel. When Stephen is asked to defend himself, he explains who Jesus is the same way Jesus revealed Himself to the men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35); he tells the story of the Bible. Stephen begins with the forefathers:
- God called and promised land and descendants to Abraham. The promises were passed down to Issac and Jacob, who begot the twelve patriarchs.
- Joseph’s brothers sold him as a slave into Egypt. The Lord elevated Joseph in Egypt as a ruler who saved the nations from famine.
- Jacob and his family of seventy-five moved to Egypt.
- Jacob’s family grew so much that they became a threat to Pharaoh; so Pharaoh oppressed them and killed their babies.
- God saved Moses and raised him up to deliver His people. – “This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear.’”
- The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years where God gave them the law which they did not obey.
- Joshua brought them into the promised land.
- God found favor with King David, but Solomon, David’s son, built the house for the Lord.
Then Stephen turns his attention to the council – “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.”
When they hear the story of Jesus, their hearts burn too, like the hearts of the men on the road to Emmaus. However, instead of burning in love and hope, their hearts burn in anger because people either love Jesus or hate Him; and depending on how your heart burns for Jesus you will either receive eternal salvation or condemnation – “When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
“Now Saul was consenting to his death.”
Tomorrow, Saul has a change of heart when he personally encounters Jesus. Keep reading.