GROWING CHURCH

Opening Prayer

Blessed Redeemer, thank you for the inheritance that is mine because you gave your life for me.

Read ACTS 6:8–15

Stephen Seized

Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.

11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”

12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”

15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

Read full chapter

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Meditate

Stay open to the Spirit, both as congregations and as individuals.

Think Further

The account of the wise decision to restructure the leadership of the community, so that the apostles were freed to ‘give attention to prayer and the ministry of the word’ (v. 4) while those chosen to ‘wait on tables’ (v. 2) took responsibility for what we might call social ministries, is followed by the story of Stephen, whose remarkable gifts meant that his ministry transcended the new arrangements. A second member of the diaconal group, named Philip, also became an evangelist, preaching in Samaria and being instrumental in the crucial conversion of an African civil servant.1

This does not mean that the selection of ‘the seven’ was mistaken, but it suggests that church structures should never become so rigid as to prevent the recognition and use of previously unrecognized gifts. There must have been a lapse of time between the appointment of the seven and the new ministries of Stephen and Philip, because the fact that the gospel spread and the number of disciples increased rapidly (v. 7) suggests this was related to the reorganization. However, that very growth meant that the apostles alone were now unable to meet the demand for teaching and instruction. In this situation people with previously unrecognized and different types of gifting were needed. Enter Stephen!

This remarkable man is twice singled out as being full of the Holy Spirit (vv. 5, 8). He also appears to have possessed exceptional intellectual gifts which confounded the opposition in debate, leading them to resort to deceit and dishonesty in formulating charges against him. Even then, his very face convicted his accusers and he went on to preach the longest sermon in the entire book of Acts.

Apply

Might you have unrecognized gifts that will require openness to a new direction in life?

Closing prayer

Give me wisdom, Holy Spirit, to discern where anything is taking the place of Jesus himself in my thoughts, my actions, my interactions with others. Help me to put him first always.

Last Updated on June 5, 2024 by kingstar

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