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STUDIES IN ACTS      Studies in Acts

7. STEPHEN - a faithful witness

"While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit'" (Acts 7:59).

In Acts Luke demonstrates how the gospel spread from Jerusalem to Rome (Acts 1:8) and, in so doing, he presents a cross section of the early church's life and its believers or disciples. Church growth brought its problems.

Consider the person
Stephen was one of the Seven chosen to serve the Hellenistic widows in the Jerusalem church. They were being overlooked as the church expanded. Consider Acts 6:1 – 7:60.

Study the Scriptures
Notice the apostolic requirements demanded of those called to distribute funds or food. They were "to be filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom" (Acts 6:3). Stephen is seen as "a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 6:5). The church grew as the apostles delegated responsibility and concentrated on the ministry of the word of God and prayer. This policy encouraged further growth as those given responsibility exercised their God-given gifts. Stephen is an example of this (see Acts 6:7,8). His ministry extended to a Hellenistic synagogue. His witness was irresistible: "they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke". (Most modern translations take 'Spirit' in Acts 6:10 to represent the Holy Spirit rather than an attitude.) Stephen compares with Bezalel (Ex.35:26), Joshua (Dt.34:9), Daniel (Dan.5:11) and the Lord Jesus (Isa.11:1,2; Lk.4:17-19). Miracles were an evidence of God's grace and power. Stephen's ministry of word and power led to his arrest and trial before the Jewish Council. He made his own defence, appealing to Scripture. He bravely condemned the Jewish leaders, who in turn condemned him (Acts 7:1-54). The Spirit gave Stephen the ability to witness in death (Acts 7:55-58; cf. Mt.10:18-20).

Ask questions

1. As Stephen applied himself to his ministry of service the Lord began to use him in a greater way. Is there a principle here? See Lk.16:10.

2. How does Stephen's trial and death compare with the Lord's in Luke's Gospel?

3. Did Stephen's martyrdom affect Saul of Tarsus? (The Greek word for 'martyr' - martus - means 'witness'.) Consider Acts 8:1; 9:45.

Apply some thoughts

1. Stephen is not called a deacon, but he is a good example of one. Deacons may chosen by a congregation, but their acceptance and consecration is the responsibility of the church's spiritual oversight.

2. Consider the qualifications of deacons found in 1 Tim.3:8-12.

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Copyright 2008 Vernon Ralphs

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