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  • Writer's pictureFirst Pres Bakerstown

Witness by Pastor Paul Becker

The Bible contains chapters that offer high drama and Acts 7 is one of them. In this chapter, Stephen's arrest, trial, and execution by stoning grabs our attention. And from this, we learn how to be faithful witnesses to Jesus in the face of opposition.

Stephen was one of seven men who were set apart to serve as the first Deacons. The Office was established to care for church members, mainly widows and orphans who needed support with food. Deacons also set up tables and the meals served when believers gathered to hear the Apostles' teachings. During these meals, the early believers also remembered Jesus in the sacrament of communion. The Office of Deacon preserved the time and effort of the Apostles to be focused on teaching and preaching.

In Acts 6, Luke describes Stephen as a man full of God's grace and power who performed great wonders and signs among the Jewish people. Luke tells us that Jewish leaders were concerned about his popularity among the Jews. Their primary concern was that people would put their faith in Jesus being the Messiah. These leaders charged Stephen with blasphemy, which is the sin of speaking irreverently or falsely about God. They had Stephen arrested to appear before the highest court of Israel which was the Sanhedrin.

In Acts 7, we read Stephen’s defense before the Sanhedrin. In his defense, he offered a history lesson about Israel. He demonstrated that Israel had a consistent track record of rejecting the leaders and prophets that God provided to them. His defense was undeniable. Everyone knew that Stephen spoke the truth. And then, Stephen accused the Jews of rejecting the Holy Spirit of God when they betrayed and murdered Jesus. The rejection of Jesus was a rejection of God himself. The members of the Sanhedrin were outraged! As they expressed their anger, the Lord gave Stephen a vision. He said, "Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." The Sanhedrin covered their ears, rushed Stephen, and took him out of the city to be stoned to death. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Stephen offers us an example of how to be an effective Witness to our resurrected Lord. An effective Witness is acquainted with scripture, and this is important for several reasons. 

  • Scripture is a means by which the Holy Spirit guards our hearts from rejecting the ministry of God's messengers. We need to be aware of our own tendency to reject the leaders God sends to teach and proclaim his Word. An effective Witness is an informed witness to the character and will of God.

  • Scripture is a means by which the Holy Spirit trains our eyes to be on the glory of God and on Jesus, who is our advocate at our Father's right hand. We gain courage in the face of opposition by keeping our eyes on Jesus.

  • Scripture is a means by which the Holy Spirit enables us to forgive those who sin against us. Stephen showed up at the pearly gates with empty hands, extended to reach for the hands of Jesus. Stephen did not arrive with hands that carried baggage loaded with offenses, grudges, and unforgiveness. An effective Witness to Jesus is one who forgives like Jesus.  This is how you confound those who oppose your faith in Jesus.

In closing, think about this: How is the Holy Spirit leading you to become acquainted with scripture, to receive God’s messengers, to keep your eyes on Jesus, and to forgive those who sin against you? 

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