“…and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus and Nicanor, and Timon and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands upon them.” (Acts 6:1-7).
Far too little attention is given to the second generation Disciple Stephen who becomes the first to follow Jesus in ‘dying for this faith’. Something about the character of Jesus and Stephen that would cause ‘the crowd’ to want to take their lives for what appears to be ‘no reason’. When I survey the wondrous cross…
We have already seen miracles performed ‘for’ persons of faith. Throughout the Gospel witness, Jesus is said to have ‘seen the faith’ of persons whom he healed. It does appear that in this faith event of The Acts of The Apostles that, they ‘get this’— a gift for ‘seeing faith’. Stephen, (something in the way he moves, his walk, his talk, his touch) Stephen, in their eyes; for their seeing; IS ‘a man full of faith’.
It is not only his faith and ‘Holy Spirit’ fulfillment, that give Stephen notice. But, the grace and power in which he “did great wonders and signs” led him too, like Jesus, to be confronted in his ministry with an identifiable set of adversaries. For “some from the synagogue of The Libertines (freedmen), and of the Cyrenians and Alexandrians” and still “of those, from Cilicia and Asia” arose to dispute him. And so, as The Acts of The Apostles goes on to record— “But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.” And they stirred up people; and the charges: (you already know) “blasphemy!”
Still again, in the tradition and character of Jesus, ‘Stephen’s Sermon’ of Acts 7 has prophetic scriptural base as he, too, proclaims the Word of God from the prophet Isaiah. But, when you consider the outcome of this sermon, it must not go unnoticed that there is something more than what meets the eye. Not withstanding the wisdom and Spirit with which he spoke; not even withstanding his skill for recounting the most significant parts of Israel’s ‘salvation history’ in this sermon. Nor withstanding the full of grace ‘charismatic’ (Obama-like) image of his face, (Acts says that all who sat on the Council which he was brought before for judgement, “saw that his face was like the face of an angel”); not even withstanding the ‘Power’ that they speak of him having in this Pentecostal Age. But without even having mentioned the name of Jesus, only to say— “.. The Righteous One whom you have betrayed and now murdered,”
I can’t speak for you, but I can see Stephen now, after having delivered this message ‘full of faith’; receiving their response of ‘outrage’ as he “full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” Death by stoning! Hu(man)ity at work, again. Were you there? Sometimes it causes me to tremble!
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