In Acts 6:5 we are introduced to Stephen as a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. Interestingly enough, he is the only one of whom any comment is made in the list of seven Deacons… This is not to suggest that the rest were not highly regarded. But it certainly suggests that Stephen’s qualities made him stand out. In fact, in Acts 6:3 the prescribed qualifications for being selected as a Deacon included being known to be full of the Spirit and possessing wisdom. Stephen undoubtedly was a role model for the Deacons. The result of their appointment was that the Apostles were freed from the necessary duties of waiting on tables and were able to give their full attentio9n to prayer and the ministry of the Word. Acts 6:7 tells us what the result was… “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith”.
Acts 6:8 gives us even a fuller description of Stephen. He was a man full of God’s grace and power, and as a result, he performed great wonders and signs among the people. It is worthy of note that the perception of the Deacon is that of a second-tier leader, below the Elders and definitely below the Pastor. In fact, the rationale advanced for the selection of the Deacons was that they were necessary to see to the daily distribution of food, and presumably, related matters. But yet, their qualification did not include having a “food handler’s permit” or possessing great culinary skills. Instead, they were spiritual qualifications. As a result we see Stephen excelling in ministry with the gifts of Spirit in attendance, and virtually leading a movement that resulted in his downfall, but ensured the furtherance of the Gospel.
This begs the question… What are your Spiritual Gifts? What is your office in the local Church to which you belong? Your Pastor may assign you a role for which he thinks you are qualified… but God is able and willing and ready to use you beyond your assigned role, and in the area of your giftings, definitely, outside the Church, even if not inside.
Is it not remarkable how many similarities there are between Stephen and Jesus?
- Acts 6:9-10 indicates that those who tried to find fault with his teachings “could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.” Very often, the enemies of Jesus tried to trap him with spurious arguments, but each time He answered with so much authority and wisdom and truth that the debate was short-lived. You will recall that this was first demonstrated when He was only 12 years old.
- Next, when they could not condemn Stephen on facts, they brought false witnesses to testify against him. They did the same with Jesus. Then on at least one occasion before His crucifixion, Jesus’ appearance was heavenly at the time of the transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36). Acts 6:15 tells us that everyone looking at Stephen saw his face shine like an angel.
- Stephen was killed by stoning and Jesus by crucifixion, and neither had done anything deserving of death.
- Jesus said on the cross, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) In Acts 7:60, the last words of Stephen were, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.
Is it any wonder that Stephen was blessed with a rare vision of Jesus who temporarily rose from His seated position to personally cheer Stephen home! (Acts 7:55).
The blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the Church. Clearly Jesus blazed the trail as He died on the cross for our sins. There is no comparison in terms of efficacy between the deaths of Jesus and Stephen. But it is most fitting that he first recorded Christian Martyr was a man who in so many ways, exemplified Jesus Christ. And remember, he was supposed to be only a Deacon. Are you the garbage collector or the toilet cleaner in the House of God? Like Stephen, a dynamic relationship with Jesus and flowing in the anointing of your Spiritual Gifts could result in your being a force to be reckoned with in the Kingdom of God. It could also mean your martyrdom.
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