The Acts 6-8 account of the ministry and martyrdom of Stephen at the hands of the religious Jewish leaders is a stomach-churning read, but was important for us to cover yesterday.
Prior to his murder, Stephen is selected as a servant-leader in the local church to help care for widows in need (6:5). This ministry begins with fanfare as Stephen’s grace-filled life demonstrates true godly power and new converts. Success right? Soon enough, the fanfare turns from “great wonders/signs among the people”(6:8) to burning torches, all because Stephen was resolute in preaching the truth of God’s Word to anyone God put in front of him, at any cost.
Like His Savior, Jesus, Stephen was under fire because he wouldn’t relent pointing out to the Jewish leaders that their two most precious religious sacred cows, aren’t sacred at all. His lengthy and Scripture-filled sermon, while covering almost the whole history of Israel’s rebellion against God, can be summarized by pointing out these 2 things:
- The temple in Jerusalem isn’t where God lives. It isn’t “holy”. Jesus is the true temple where God’s fullness lives.
- The law of Moses isn’t where salvation is found, salvation is only in Jesus. (and the law of Moses is fulfilled in Jesus)
Upon hearing this things, the Jewish leaders were “enraged” and “gnashed their teeth” (7:54) at Stephen, soon dragging him to his death beneath a hail of rocks. While breathing his last breaths, in imitation of His Lord, Stephen commits His Spirit to God then prays for the forgiveness of his murderers(7:59-60).
4 ways I’m praying we can be encouraged and emboldened from Stephen’s example:
1. He was a full fledged “disciple” of Jesus. He didn’t just “go to church”. He was a committed learner under the ways of Jesus, filled with God’s grace.
2. He was committed to serving in the local church *and* in whatever mission God brought his way, at any cost.
3. He was committed to studying/learning all the Words of God. He patterned his life around knowing the Scriptures.
4. He was most concerned about pleasing God instead of men. He had no fear in losing his own life because he knew his life was safe inside the hands of God, at any cost.
How do you need to be encouraged and emboldened?
Praying for us all to find the deep freedom that comes from following Jesus, at any cost…