Acts devotional: Stephen
“The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places. But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.”
The introduction to Stephen begins with a description: A man full of the Spirit and of wisdom. As you read on it continues with, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. Acts 6:8 describes Stephen as full of grace and power; a man who would be the first martyr. His is the first death recorded after the resurrection of Jesus.
You and I start off chosen by God full of the Spirit and wisdom; and the description about us will grow. The act of God’s full downpour grows into an abundant faith. Fullness of faith leads to fullness of grace and power. Stick with it, stay the course. Grow even in difficulty, keep fixing your eyes on Jesus.
While my mom was in her last few weeks of life I had to do just this: I pen sketched an eye to remind me.
Stephen preached our God is the God of the pilgrim. God is directing each stage of his people’s pilgrimage. Stephen taught of Abraham, Moses, and David- all men who were pilgrims in this life.
The wonder as we travel here- is we go with God. I’m sure if you have read anything in the last year from me you understand this a bit.
However good things need repeating. Good recipes, good days and good books are all worth repeating.
Stephen preaches these stories, to the counsel of men, the Jewish leaders, among them is Saul. We know Saul was highly educated in Jewish custom and law. These were a difficult group of men for Stephen to preach to them their own history. Are you following me?
We need someone to retell the message of the gospel to us powerfully in order to shake complacency off and help us find our awe again. Pause and ask God for awe at the history we often glaze over.
Moses would lead an incredible journey of Israel’s deliverance. In his interaction with God about the journey we see our theme, the purpose of Stephen’s sermon. Now, keep in mind Stephen had been charged with slandering Moses and the temple. In all grace he preaches the message behind Moses life.
Within Moses was a loud petition, oh God go with me.
Exodus 33:14 And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. 16″For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?”
Stephen’s sermon about God is confirmed by God. He is one of three men described in the Bible to have his face illuminate.
Moses, Jesus (Immanuel: God with us! Yes, his whole body was transfigured) and Stephen’s face is radiant!!! God’s witness confirmed by God.
And as far as the accusation of the defamation of the temple by Stephen, he reinforces our God is beyond the building, beyond the temple, beyond the work of men.
Acts 7:49 “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? 50 Did not my hand make all these things?’
All is made for Him and by Him!
Moses’s encounter with the burning bush is holy ground, and where you encounter God is holy.
Where did you encounter God?
When did you realize God is with you?
After preaching, Stephen looked up steadfastly (see Acts 6:15; Acts 3:4), and beheld the glory of God; i.e. the visible glory which surrounds and proclaims God’s near presence (see Exodus 24:10, 16-17; Isaiah 6:1-3; Ezekiel 1:28; Revelation 21:14, 23, etc.).
In the hardest trial of Stephen’s life- the moment before his death, instead of looking down- he looks up. Jesus is standing. We know the word of God says Jesus is at the right hand of God. However, being seated is the posture of Jesus as a sign of His victorious rest.
Theologians describe Christ posture of standing- with the whole tide of His Spirit which He was at that moment engaged in pouring into the heart of His faithful, Stephen.
Theologians also say Jesus could’ve been standing as a welcome.
Stephen’s faith is perfected. He sees Jesus. He sees the glory. He sees the finisher of his faith, standing for him.
“For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:3-4
When it’s not finished in you, Christ pours his powerful Spirit upon you and you’ll find: Love still grows.