STEPHEN’S LAST SERMON (The First Martyr)
Scripture: Acts 6:8-15; Acts 7
Key verses: Acts 7:51-53
In Chapter 6 of Acts, the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputed Stephen. This Synagogue of men, though they were compelled to hear the wisdom Stephen preached and the Spirit by which he spoke (a/k/a the Holy Spirit), they stirred up the people, the elders, the scribes and the council (Sanhedrin), and “SECRETLY” induced men to FALSELY BEAR WITNESS saying, “We have heard him [Stephen] speak blasphemous words against Moses and God. . . . this man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.” Nonetheless, Stephen was so filled with the Holy Spirit, even when the counsel saw Stephen’s face as the face of an angel! That’s what the Holy Spirit looked like on Stephen.
How does the Holy Spirit look on you, Warriors?
Stephen’s rebuttal to the council (Sanhedrin) begins in Acts Chapter 7, which was the “last sermon” he would deliver. Stephen was bold, tenacious and zealous. He was steadfast in his commitment to God and faithfully preached the truth, in spite of the consequences.
Stephen reminded them of the many times God showed the Israelites (God’s Chosen People) His favor, love, and faithfulness. God had saved them from Pharaoh’s destruction, led them, fed them, protected them, forgave them, and wrought miracles one after the other for their benefit. Yet Israel gave God ONLY “lip service.” What God desired from them was obedience and true worship – the same thing He desires from us today. Stephen called it like he saw it: straight up—no chaser! This is what Stephen had to say to them:
Verses 51-53, “You stiff-necked [Inflexible and obstinate sinners, not bowing your necks to God’s yoke;] and uncircumcised in heart and ears [not willing to acknowledge that Law and submit to it]! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, 53 who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.”
Warriors, we live in a world today that is hard set against God, against Christ and against all who will worship and obey God. We are faced with choosing to stand up for what’s right or cowering to the wicked majority. Fear comes into play, though we have come to think of fear as it applies to horror movies. God tells us in Romans 14:23b “for whatever is not from faith is SIN.”
Stephen must have discerned how these people felt about him. That did not stop him from speaking God’s truth. He didn’t care what they thought or what they did (to him) . . . He was living for AND ready to die for God!
With nearly every attack of the Enemy each of us are fraught with fear of the opinions of others outside of Christ and the affects their thoughts and feelings may have on our social life, our employment, our children, our finances, etc. Sound familiar?
Stephen’s response to the mob: “He gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” With that, the mob ran at Stephen all together (in one accord) and cast him out of the city and STONED HIM. As they stoned him, they heard him say, “Lord Jesus, receive my Spirit. Lord, do not charge them with this sin.”
This is the ongoing Battle we face every day imposed on us by the Enemy (principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age and spiritual wickedness in high places) and much of the time the Enemy uses people (flesh and blood) for the delivery (see Ephesians 6:12).
If you’re operating in complete faith like Stephen, there is no room for worry and fear! Father, forgive us for our stiff-necked attitudes and uncircumcised hearts and ears – for giving you only “lip service.” Father, may we be bold, tenacious and zealous, like Stephen, knowing that regardless of the consequences imposed by the world, You will never leave us or forsake us, that you will lead us, protect us, feed us, and work in miraculous ways if we are fully committed to You!
Living Large for God,