The believers in the early church rapidly multiplied which also produced some rumblings of discontent. It is at this point we are introduced to Stephen and his short-lived story.
Here’s what was happening. The Greek-speaking believers complained, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.
So the apostles decided that the church should choose deacons to handle such matters. The qualifications were as follows.
Brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Acts 6:3
Seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them.
Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith). Acts 6:5
Five of these seven men we never hear about again. We do, however, learn more about Philip’s story and that of Stephen.
In Acts 8, God used Philip to start a revival in Samaria. He then ministered to an Ethiopian eunuch. Followed by the Spirit of the Lord “snatching” him away to the town of Azotus.
Stephen, A Man of God
With Stephen, we know he was full of faith and the Holy Spirit, but his story doesn’t stop there. God also gave him a special ministry as well.
Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people. Acts 6:8
A group of men challenged Stephen one day by starting to debate him. They soon found out that they could not stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.
So they persuaded some men to make up a story about him. These men said that they heard him blaspheme Moses and God. And they succeeded in bringing trouble Stephen’s way.
This roused the people, the elders, and the teachers of religious law. So they arrested Stephen and brought him before the high council. Acts 6:12
The high priest asked him if the accusations were true. Stephen didn’t even try to defend himself instead he gave a brief history of the story of Israel.
He spoke about when God chose Abraham and also when He called Moses. Then he continued by speaking of the reign of King David. He concluded by talking about the prophets.
Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One—the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. Acts 7:52
If you are not familiar with the history of Israel, God’s chosen people, then read Stephen’s sermon. Found in Acts 7:2-53, it’s a snapshot of the history of Israel.
The Fury of the Jewish Leaders
Furiously, the Jewish leaders began to shake their fists at him. And at that very moment, Stephen experienced a vision from heaven.
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Acts 7:55
Then he told everyone present including the religious leaders his vision. They didn’t want to hear it. So they took immediate action to silence him.
Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Acts 7:57-58
Stephen didn’t leave this earth crying out or shouting profanities. He didn’t even try to defend himself. He entered into eternity praying for his accusers and those hurling stones at him.
As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died. Acts 7:59-60
With Stephen, the Story Didn’t End
That day the religious leaders killed Stephen but they didn’t end his story. His story continues every time we read chapters 6 and 7 in the book of Acts.
Who do you suppose stood there and witnessed this awful event? None other than Saul of Tarsus who would later be known as the Apostle Paul.
His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. Acts 7:58
We will never fully understand how or why God does some things. But we must never turn away from the Lord.
Even when it seems like everything is going against you keep your focus on Jesus. Stephen has become a wonderful example of that as his life’s story came to an end.
God has given each of us a story just like He gave one to Stephen. Continue to tell your story because your relationship with Jesus is the best legacy you have.
Lord, thank you for sharing the story of Stephen with us. Help us to keep our focus on you, no matter what comes our way.
Check out these other “stories” I have written about.