April 26, 2017
- By Ed Powell
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"And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost." Acts 6:5
The martyrdom of Stephen was the nucleus of a mighty working of God's power initiated through this tragedy. He was gifted and effective in preaching the Word, "a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit." He was a brilliant thinker, warm and personable, willing to give himself to others; a man of power, kindness, humility, and gentleness; and a man of strength, vigor, determination, and courage. What remarkable characteristics! Stephen had opened himself up completely to God. The Holy Spirit worked through him, performing signs and wonders among the people. There was healing, deliverance from demonic powers, prophesying, and effective preaching from this "committed uncompromising disciple."
Stephen's adversaries were no match for him, nor could they compete with his wisdom, because he was empowered by the Holy Spirit. He confounded them with his arguments; they had no alternative but to acknowledge their errors or to silence him by force. They stooped to devious means to bring him to the attention of the authorities. A plan was devised to have Stephen punished for his words and deeds. The schemers engaged unscrupulous men to falsely accuse him of showing contempt and lack of reverence to God and Moses. He was seized and brought before the Sanhedrin. Stephen was God's chosen instrument to deliver the final testimony to the Nation of Israel. He began to see the indignation welling up as he addressed the Sanhedrin. He applied convicting truths to their hearts and consciences with the energy, aggressiveness, fidelity, and authority that became a "Servant of the Living God." How directly and pointedly he addressed the hypocritical magistrates, who were the betrayers and murderers of Christ Himself.
How bold, steadfast, and courageous he presents these charges to the 71 ruling elders. Before he finishes, the "accused" becomes the "accuser" of the nation, and the one to be judged becomes the judge. The elders were so distraught by his charges that they halted his speech. "They were cut to their heart, they gnashed upon him with their teeth." But Stephen, "being filled with the Holy Spirit, looked steadfastly toward heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God." This inflamed them to madness and we read, "They cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city and stoned him."
A life wasted at the hands of sinful men? No. God's plan and purpose for it had just begun. His martyrdom scattered fearful believers to Judea and Samaria and the surrounding countries, spreading the gospel. Stephen's bold testimony in his death deeply impressed Saul and later influenced his ministry. Philip went to Samaria and a tremendous revival took place. He ministered to the Ethiopian eunuch, who believed, and through his life, churches were established and the gospel went into the utter regions of the known world. God multiplied the testimony of "a faithful disciple" who stood boldly and steadfastly, and faithfully proclaimed the Gospel fearlessly, even to his enemies. Certainly the account of Stephen's life is a constant challenge to every believer to stand steadfast and true, so that with Stephen, Peter, and John we can say, "For we cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20). The Holy Ghost possessed them! We should want His total possession for ourselves!
© 2007 by Ed Powell. Used by permission.
This page was reprinted by permission from: http://litmin.org/dare.php?date=2017-04-26
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