Acts 6:8-15

Sunday Morning Bible Study

October 19, 1997

Introduction

As the early church continued to grow, we saw how the apostles responded by delegating some of their jobs to a group of men known as "deacons", or, "servants". These guys would help run the churchís food ministry.

We now get a little better peek at one of the guys in the cafeteria.

:8-15 Stephenís Side Ministry

:8 full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles

wonders and miracles Ė

teras Ė miracle performed by any one

semeion Ė of miracles and wonders by which God authenticates the men sent by him

It seems that the implication is that Stephen did wonders and miracles because he was full of faith and power.

Lesson #1:

Trust the unseen.

I think sometimes we can get the wrong idea about "faith". We can almost get to thinking that itís some kind fuel to perform miracles or something. We can get to thinking that faith is something I can have twenty gallons of, while you only have five.

But in reality, faith is simply trusting God. Itís trusting even when you donít understand or donít see the outcome.

(Heb 11:1 NLT) What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.

The idea of Stephen being "full of faith" is that he had been learning to completely trust the Lord, even when he didnít understand the circumstances. He had been learning to obey, even if he didnít understand what he was doing.

Jesus had said,

Joh 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater [works] than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

Illustration

An example weíll see in a few chapters is that of Phillip, when the Lord prompted him to leave his hugely successful ministry in Samaria, and head south to Gaza. He wasnít told why, but he obeyed. When he got to Gaza, he just happened to run into the Ethiopian Eunuch, an important official in of the Ethiopian queen, and ended up leading this man to the Lord.

Illustration

About four weeks ago, this little chorus started going through my head, and I thought to myself, "Iím going to have to find the words and chords to that song and teach it to the church." Then a week and a half ago, I found out why, because it was the actual text of our Bible Study in Revelation 19:6. I remember being kind of disappointed in myself for having missed out on a great opportunity. But it didnít end there! Last Thursday at practice, Dave Dunagan introduces a new song to the Worship team and guess what it is? The very same tune. Incredible. God works. He speaks. Pay attention to the promptings.

Faith is learning to obey those little urgings and promptings that the Lord gives you. Itís learning to distinguish between the Lordís promptings and my own silly thoughts. Itís learning to trust that the Lord has a reason for prompting me, even if I donít see it.

Lesson #2:

The power is from the Holy Spirit.

We saw last week that Stephen was described as "Ö a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost" (Ac 6:5). Now itís "faith and power". In reality, itís the same.

Power Ė dunamis Ė strength power, ability

This is the word that Jesus used when He said,

(Acts 1:8 KJV) But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

When Paul is describing the gifts of the Holy Spirit, one gift we call the "workings of miracles" is actually the "workings of power". (1Cor.12:10)

Stephen was able to work the miracles he did because he was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.

The quality of your ministry will depend on how much of you is controlled by the Holy Spirit.

Illustration

My old leather gardening gloves are pretty useless. They canít do a thing, at least not until my hand is in them. Without my hand, I can stand there and command them to do yard work all day, but they wonít get a thing done. Yet when my hands fills the gloves, they can do everything I do, because Iím the one doing the work. You are the glove. The Holy Spirit is the hand. Let Him fill the entire glove. See what God can do in you.

Lesson #3:

Be faithful in the little things.

Keep in mind, this is just one of the guys who works in the cafeteria at church (Acts 6:1-5).

Sometimes we can get our eyes on wanting to do the "big things" for God. But I think that God is often looking for those who will be faithful in the small things before giving them the big things.

Luke 16:10-12 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. {11} If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? {12} And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?

God rewards faithfulness.

(Luke 19:17 KJV) And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.

So donít despise the days of small things. Be faithful to what God has for you today. Even if itís helping in the cafeteria.

Illustration

The sign in the window read: "Boy Wanted". Young John Simmons, though he was lazy, saw his opportunity and applied. He was quickly hired by elderly Mr. Peters. The pace was leisurely so he enjoyed the job. Toward the middle of the afternoon however, he was sent up to the attic -- a dingy place full of cobwebs and infested with mice. "You will find a long, deep box there," explained Mr. Peters. "Please sort out the contents and see what should be saved." John was disappointed. It was a large container, and there seemed to be nothing in it but old junk. After a few minutes he went back to the ground floor. Asked by the proprietor if he had completed his work, he replied, "No, sir, it was dark and cold up there and I didn't think it was worth doing." At closing time he was paid and told not to return. The next morning the old sign "Boy Wanted" appeared in its usual place. Crawford Hill was the next to be employed. When he was asked to tidy up the same box, however, he spent hours separating the usable nails and screws from the things to be discarded. Suddenly he raced down the stairs all excited. "At the very bottom I found this!" he exclaimed, holding up a 20-dollar bill. At last the store owner had discovered a conscientious boy to whom he could entrust his business when he retired. Years later Mr. Peters said, "This young man, who is now my successor, found his fortune in a junk box!" Then, correcting himself, he added, "No, he actually found it in his mother's Bible because he heeded the verse she made him memorize: 'He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much!'"

:9 there arose certain of the synagogue Ö

A synagogue was kind of like a local church. It took ten Jewish men in a city to be able to form one. Apparently in Jerusalem at this time, there were upwards of 480 synagogues in Jerusalem, and apparently they were formed with different things in mind, based on what people had in common. It appears that five of these synagogues were:

Libertines Ė this was actually a Roman word, and applied to Jewish people who had once been slaved under the Roman Government, but had achieved freedom, either by buying their freedom, or being born to parents who had bought their freedom.

Cyrenians Ė the city of Cyrene was located on the northern part of Africa, near modern Libya.

Alexandrians Ė the city of Alexandria was in Egypt, on the Mediterranean Sea.

Cilicia Ė this was a region in modern Turkey, in which one of the main cities was a city named Tarsus.

Asia Ė this was Asia Minor, the name for the entire area known today as Turkey.

What do these five groups have in common?

They would all be "Hellenists", or "Grecians" (from 6:1, Jews who werenít born in Israel, and who had adopted some of the Greek culture and language).

Stephen himself was most likely a "Hellenist", since his name is a Greek name.

These were the people that Stephen had been ministering to, people that had something in common with Stephen.

Note:

It is very likely that a young student named "Saul" was in the synagogue of Cilicia, and had been among those arguing with Stephen. Heíll be present at Stephenís execution, consenting to the decision to put him to death.

(Acts 7:58 KJV) And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.

(Acts 8:1 KJV) And Saul was consenting unto his deathÖ

And yet, one day, this argumentative man Saul will meet Jesus while on his way to Damascus. His name will be change to Paul, and he will become one of the most effective apostles of all time.

Lesson #1:

Donít be discouraged with the arguing.

An old Eskimo proverb: When you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the one that barks the loudest is the one that got hit.

They may be very strong against you now, but who knows what God is doing in their heart?

Illustration

G.F. Pentecost told of a man in great distress who came to see him at an evangelistic meeting. He was under deep conviction and was frantic with the terror of a conscience that was continually condemning him. He was also very angry with D.L. Moody who had preached the week before, and with Pentecost himself. "I wish you and Moody had never come to this city!" he shouted with a terrible oath. "Before you came, I wasn't troubled about my sins. You talk of peace and joy, but you have turned my soul into a living hell. I can't stay away from the meetings, and to come to them only makes me worse. You promise salvation, but all I find is torment. I wish you would leave, then I'd get back my old peace."

Sometimes the arguing is only because of the conviction.

Lesson #2:

The way you respond has great influence.

I may be a little off, but I canít help but wonder if the manner in which Stephen talked didnít have as much impact as the content of his message.

As weíre going to see, heís going to have a lot to say. But the manner in which he said it seems to have also been very important.

Everything about him was bathed in the Holy Spirit.

He spoke with wisdom, power, and from the Holy Spirit.

He had this "glow" thing about him.

Even though he would have some harsh things to say, look how he ends his life:

(Acts 7:60 KJV) And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

He apparently spoke with a measure of gentleness and grace.

Paul himself would later write,

(1 Cor 13:1 NASB) If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

Sometimes we can get so caught up in having all the right answers and snappy responses that we lose sight of the fact that God is vitally concerned with how we respond. That we respond in with grace and compassion.

(Prov 12:18 NASB) There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing.

:10 they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.

they were not able Ė lit., "they were not strong enough to resist"

the spirit Ė I believe Luke is referring to the Holy Spirit here, not just the enthusiasm of Stephen.

Last week, we saw that one of the requirements of the apostles for those working in the food ministry were men "full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom".

Now we see that God was able to take this quality of Stephenís that he used in his cafeteria ministry, and use it out in the synagogues.

:11 they suborned men

suborned Ė hupoballo Ė to bribe someone into doing a bad thing.

:12 they stirred up Ö the scribes

the scribes Ė these were the men who were the experts in the Scriptures, and were usually Pharisees. Whereas with Peter and Johnís last trial, Gamaliel, a Pharisee, stood up to defend them, this time the Pharisees are against the Christians.

:12 came upon him, and caught him

caught him Ė sunarpazo Ė to seize by force and carry away

The last time they brought the apostles to the council, they treated them kind of gingerly, so they wouldnít cause a riot among the people. This time, theyíre not so careful with Stephen.

:12 the council

council Ė "Sanhedrin"

:13 false witnesses

As weíre going to see, some of what these people are going to say is probably the truth. Itís very likely that Stephen said something along the lines of what they say he said. But the falseness is in how theyíre quoting him, how theyíre twisting the things heís said.

:13 blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law:

this holy place Ė the temple

the law Ė the Law of Moses

:14 this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place

Perhaps Stephen has repeated some of the things that Jesus said regarding the temple.

Mt 24:2 And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.

Jesus had predicted that the temple would be destroyed, but He didnít say that He would be the one destroying it.

:14 and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.

Stephen is going to address these charges.

Heís going to point out that when Moses received and gave the Law, it wasnít that well received by the people. The people disobeyed. The people at first didnít even like Moses.

:15 looking stedfastly on him

looking stedfastly Ė atenizo Ė to fix the eyes on, gaze upon. There was something about this guy that held their gaze.

:15 saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.

as it had been the face of an angel Ė An interesting idea, considering that many in the Sanhedrin didnít even believe in angels.

I donít think this means that they thought that Stephen was cute or something, like when you say that someoneís child has "the face of an angel".

I think that somehow, there was a kind of "glow" to Stephen about this time. I think itís what Mark Bove calls "Holy Ghost eyeballs".

Itís interesting to think that these men say that Stephen is blaspheming Moses, when he probably looks more like Moses than they do:

Ex 34:30 And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.

All of this is just further evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in Stephenís life.

Lesson:

Expect the Spiritís help in times of trouble.

When you stand up to do whatís right, you wonít be alone. God will be right there with you.

Jesus said,

Mt 10:19-20 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. 20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.

Peter would write this later:

(1 Pet 4:14 KJV) If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.