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The Stoning of Stephen

Acts 6:5-15

 

Stephen’s ministry was a like a meteor flying thru the night sky…very brief, but brilliant and bright, powerful and spectacular!

 

We don’t know much about him and his background, but his name tells us much:  Stephen=a victor’s crown…and he’ll have a crown in heaven, the martyr’s crown…he was faithful to his ministry, even unto death!

 

He wasn’t a pastor or an apostle, he was simply a layman who served [deaconed].

 

Stephen took God’s business seriously, as we all should.  And the qualities in Stephen’s life were worth recording in the Bible, and thus they are worth cultivating in our own lives!

 

He was filled with the Holy Spirit…didn’t just have the Holy Spirit.

        The Holy Spirit had him!

In every believer the Holy Spirit is resident, but what He wants to be is President!  [call the shots, be in full control!]

 

4 Words Which Describe Stephen:  [in the Bible]

 

These words describe his spirituality.  Being spiritual:  it’s a lot easier to talk it than to walk it.  I meet a lot of people who talk very spiritually, but just scratch a little beneath the surface and you find there’s not much there!  No real devotion/commitment/roots/depth…all talk and no walk.  My mentor once said, “they’re all suit and no underwear!”  I wouldn’t say that, he did…I think it’s crude and not worth repeating!

 

Stephen’s spirituality ran deep, and it manifested in his life in some very tangible ways…here’s 4 of them:

 

1.     Faith

v. 5          How did Stephen get faith?  The only way any of us can…from the Word of God.

Romans 10:17

    So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

 

The fact that he was a man of faith tells us 3 things:

He read his Bible/studied his Bible/memorized his Bible!

 

The evidence is in chapter 7…read it at home—he preaches an impromptu sermon, extemporaneously w/ out notes!  Completely from memory, he gives the entire history of Israel, from Abraham to Moses, Egypt and slavery, to the wilderness, the promised land…he knew where Abraham was buried when he died, and even gave the names of the men he bought the burial plot from!

        I’m painting in broad strokes, here, because you can read in ch. 7 the great detail he gave in a lengthy sermon…how many agree w/ me that he must’ve known his Bible?!  He was a man of this book…no wonder the Bible says he was full of faith!

 

May I remind you than you are not truly spiritual if your Bible is collecting dust from Sunday to Sunday!  Read it.

David said:

Psalm 119:16

    I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.

Study it.

2 Tim. 2:15

    Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Memorize it.

Psalm 119:11

    Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

 

Faith…

2.     Wisdom

v. 10        We know where he got his faith, from the Word, but where did he get his wisdom?  College books?  Seminary?  No!  He got it from the spirit of God in prayer!  The Bible says in

James 1:5

    If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

        Since he was a man of wisdom, we can know he was a man of prayer!

 

Ill.—young preacher wanted to preach in a robe—tailor took measurements, asked “I need to know how long you’ve been in the ministry.”  “What does that have to do w/ it?”  “Everything, I’ve made a lot of robes, and if you’re young in the ministry you think you know it all and you walk around w/ your head held high and your chest stuck out…so I need to make it longer in front and shorter in back/but if you’ve been in the ministry for some time, you know you don’t know it all, you’re pretty level headed and level hearted!/finally, once you’ve been serving God a long time, you realize you don’t know anything, you spend most of your time w/ your head bowed in prayer asking for wisdom, or on your knees looking to the only One who can help!  You need it shorter in front and longer in back!

 

This is our 30th year in ministry and thru the years we’ve come to know that we haven’t come to know anything!

 

Joke—I’m like the guy in Arkansas who got pulled over by HP…officer asked “You got any id?”  He replied, “’bout what?”

 

We need wisdom every day…you may need it in your marriage, finances, work, ministry, children, parents, health, plans for future.

 

Joke—lady had prob. w/ husband, would come home drunk, fall into bed and start snoring so loud she couldn’t sleep…she went to dr., finally, and said, I don’t know what to do, I need your wisdom!  Dr. said, I don’t know how or why it works, but just do this:  tie a ribbon around his nose!  “I’ll try anything!” That night it happened again, she did it…morning he gets up and she finds him in the bathroom staring at himself in mirror, a blue ribbon tied around his nose.  She said, “Where were you last night and what were you doing?”  “Don’t know, but whatever I did, I won first place!”

 

Do you need wisdom?  Ask and you shall receive!

 

Joke—man called dr. about getting an appt. for uncle Harvey/ “I know your uncle Harvey, he’s a hypochondriac, he just THINKS he’s sick/2 wks. Later/same thing/month later he ran into the dr. on the street/ “how’s your uncle Harvey doing?”/we buried him last week, he thinks he’s dead!

 

I’m being silly, but seriously, whatever you’re facing, don’t try to face it alone…let’s learn from Stephen, if we need wisdom, ask for it!

 

Stephen was a man of faith [Bible], wisdom [prayer]…

3.     Power

v. 8          This tells us he was a man of purity.

The Bible says he gives that spirit of power to them that obey!

        God has no desire to fill a dirty vessel/He doesn’t put His Almighty hand into a filthy glove…we need to daily repent, confess, keep short accounts w/ God.  [a glove has no power, it’s the hand filling it, but if you fill that glove w/ dirt, grease, and if spiders are allowed to enter in, build their webs or lay their eggs, don’t expect anyone to want to put it on!]

 

None of us are perfect, but if we want God’s power, we must daily protect our eyes, ears, hearts.  At salvation you got that once and for all, all over bath, yes…but you still need that daily footwashing as you tread down the dusty sinful streets of the world!

 

Faith…book/wisdom…prayer/power…purity…

4.     Grace

v. 15        The word isn’t used here, but can’t you see it?  Have you seen the face of grace?

There is saving grace.

Eph. 2:8

    For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

        Stephen had experienced saving grace.

 

John Newton was a drunken slave-trader.  After coming to Christ as his Savior he wrote: “Amazing Grace, how sweet…” (quote)

That’s saving grace!  All born again Christians have experienced it!

 

But there is another kind of grace available…not to lost sinners, but only to children of God:  Sustaining grace!

2 Cor. 12:9

    And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

 

        It’s the grace that holds you up during times of trial/sorrow/loss/grief/temptation/stress/pressure

        It’s the grace that keeps you going when you don’t think you CAN keep going/holds you up when you don’t think you can hold up/sets you apart when you’re about to come apart…and Stephen had it as he was under fire from the council.

 

v. 15        He’s in a lot of trouble/standing on trial before the Sanhedrin as they accuse him of blasphemy…he knows it’s punishable by death…he knows how they treated Jesus, he knows this can’t turn out good for him.

 

Joke—like the guy who fell from 30 story bldg:  on way down somebody called out, how’s it going?  “So far so good!”  But it can’t turn out good!

        Yet as Stephen stares death in the eye he has the face of an angel!

 

That’s the face of perfect peace!  Jesus won’t keep the storms out of your life, but He’ll give you peace in the midst of the storm…sometimes He calms the storm, but other times He calms His child! [eye of the storm!]

 

Another songwriter wrote:

“He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater

He sendeth more strength when the labors increase

To added affliction He addeth His mercy

To multiplied trials His multiplied peace

His love has no limit, His grace has no measure

His power has no boundary known unto men

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus

He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!”

(the more you need the more you get!)

 

Dying Grace

We all fear death, it’s a natural, healthy aversion…but for the child of God, when your time comes, you won’t be afraid!  It’s a grace God gives his children.

Psalm 23:4

    Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…

Acts 7:54-60 [read]

 

You can see it all over his face!

        You saw it on the face of Jesus on the cross, in the midst of all of that suffering… “Father, forgive them”… “Into Thy hands I commit my spirit!”

 

Sometimes it takes grace to accept what God gives!

 

Ill.—preacher spoke from this text/atheist stood and said, why do you follow God, just look at this story, what did God do for Stephen?/ “A lot!  He gave him the grace to forgive the very men who were killing him!”

 

“Sleep”=simply a metaphor for the peace and grace in a believer’s death!

 

So, Stephen was a man of faith=man of Word, reading, studying, memorizing…there was a price to pay!

Wisdom=thru prayer…there was a price to pay!

Power=thru purity…there was a price to pay!

Grace=here’s the good part, it was free, can’t earn it, can’t pay for it…no price to pay, not us, but Jesus paid the price for our grace!

Need more faith?  Need to get into your bible?  Raise hand!

Need wisdom?  Repent of prayerlessness, ask for it!

Need Power?  Get a divine footwashing at the altar!

 

Believer—you may be in need of sustaining grace in what you’re going thru.

Not saved…you need saving grace!  [raise hand]

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