Lesson 5 -- fourth quarter 2005
October 2, 2005
© Copyright 2005, Christian Light Publications
Probing Your Own Heart
What is your response when truth cuts to your heart?
Will you forgive evil speaking and unjust opposition against you?
Building on Some Foundational Concepts
The wisdom and spirit by which Stephen spoke were not his own.
The adversaries of the Gospel found themselves facing a wisdom and Spirit with which they were quite familiar by now. They had faced it in Jesus. They had faced it in Peter and John, taking "knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13). And now they faced it again in Stephen. Thus the disciples experienced that which Jesus had promised earlier: "But when they deliver you up...it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak" (Matthew 10:19; see also Mark 13:11). This promise is for us as well and can be the reality of our own experience!
The disciple received the same treatment as his Master.
Just as Jesus had promised (as we just saw), so He also forewarned. Peter and John had already experienced it in a measure. Now Stephen faced it full force. "The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20). The servant, even to this day, is not greater than His Lord.
Stephen proclaimed the truth despite the personal cost.
Stephen surely knew the resistance, animosity, and hatred in these men for Jesus and the Gospel. He surely knew Jesus' forewarning. But he valued men's souls more than his own life, so he faithfully proclaimed the truth to them. That's what this was about and not about winning any sort of debate or argument. May we too have a passion for the lost, even those who resist, oppose, and abuse us.
Questions and Responses
Do faith and power always result in great wonders and miracles?
Stephen was "full of faith and power" (Acts 6:8) because he was also "full of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 6:3). That kind of fullness does not always result in great wonders and miracles as they did in Stephen's life. However, this kind of fullness does produce the wondrous and the miraculous, as you will notice in the following sampling from the Scriptures.
"And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them" (Ezekiel 36:27).
"But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Romans 8:11).
"That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man" (Ephesians 3:16).
"That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness" (Colossians 1:10,11).
"But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me" (Acts 1:8).
"The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5).
"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26).
We may wish that our faith and power would produce great wonders and miracles as they did in Stephen. But those aren't the only gifts given by God through His Spirit! Carefully the consider the preceding verses once again.
How could Stephen forgive his accusers and killers?
How could he not? He himself had been the beneficiary of God's forgiveness. How could he dare withhold it from others? Forgiven, he forgave.
The God of mercy, love, kindness, peace, and patience had made him once in His image. The God of forgiveness and reconciliation later had recreated him that he should bear the image of His Son. Therefore, his contacts with other individuals were characterized by mercy, love, kindness, peace, patience, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
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