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
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).
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
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