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Stephen's Call and Martyrdom

(Acts 6:1-8; 7:55-60; 8:2)

Lesson 5 -- second quarter 2001
April 1, 2001

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2001, Christian Light Publications

The early church was human.

Many Christians in our day seem to put the early church on a pedestal. So do I. We imagine the early church as being the epitome of what God had in mind for His people in the New Testament. We tend to think that if our congregation could be like the early church (at least in spirit), then we would have the almost-perfect church. We want to know the specifics of what they believed and practiced so that we might emulate that in our age. We have this disposition to believe that if the early church said so, it must be so. The early church was it, you know. After all, they were the closest historically and geographically to the Master and His Apostles. They had and lived the truth!

Please do not misunderstand. I am not mocking that view and neither am I belittling the maturity and significance of the early church. However, we must never forget that these believers had every bit as much humanity in them as we do. They lived in the flesh just as much as we do. Notice two excerpts from Acts 6.

"There arose a murmuring." How do you respond when something irritates, offends or otherwise bothers you? Murmuring, whispering, complaining and sniping came just as easily to humans in the early church as they come to humans in our churches today! And that manifestation of the flesh is wrong. Reject it in your life. Begin by dying to self. Then find positive, godly ways of dealing with the problem you see. Work directly with those you perceive to be causing the problem; you'll get to a solution much more quickly that way than talking behind their backs.

"Their widows were neglected." Some things just don't get done. There will be times when people who deserve it will not get the attention and assistance they need...because someone else is getting it. What assumptions we draw from such happenings reveal a lot of what we have in our hearts. In this particular case, it seems the Grecians assumed their widows were being deliberately neglected, perhaps even because of a bias in favor of the Jews. When things (seem to) go against you or yours, to whom do you give the benefit of the doubt? To what conclusions do you leap? How we need to die to self! How we need to grow in charity and brotherhood!

Huh? Me? Serve tables?!

From the far-removed vantage point of the year 2000, I think it would have been a tremendous honor to have been one of those chosen seven. Imagine the Apostles saying, "Look ye out among you seven men" (Acts 6:3), and having a bunch of people think of you right away. Wow! But I wonder what I would think of being asked to be a server at one of our congregation's fellowship meals.

Actually, I don't wonder. I already know. The answer lies in the fact that I usually don't even think of going down to the kitchen or eating area to help out. I may not consciously think that I'm too something-or-other to serve tables, but I certainly live it. How about you?

For what would you die?

So Stephen said or did something that led to his death. Did you ever wonder if he had to make that much of an issue of it? How easily we pamper ourselves and water down our message sometimes! Do we believe anything worth dying for?

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