Scriptures

Stephen, The Servant

Introduction

Three friends from the local congregation were asked, ‘when you’re in your casket, and friends and congregation members are mourning over you, what would you like them to say?’

One guys says, ‘I would like them to say I was a wonderful husband, a fine spiritual leader, and a great family man’.

The second guy says, ‘I would like them to say I was a wonderful teacher and servant of God who made a huge difference in people’s lives.’

And finally, the third guy says, ‘I’d like them to say, ‘Look, he’s moving!’

I would like to encourage everyone, especially those who are deacons by looking at God’s servant Stephen. As we know he was a man who was chosen by the church and appointed by the apostles to serve the church in a very practical way.

Stephen Was A Servant With A Spiritual Mind

‘In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “it would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.’ Acts 6:1-6

Luke reports some complaints from a group of Jewish Christians called Hellenists. These guys are likely to be converts from among the Jews who had been scattered throughout the world and now spoke Greek and followed the customs of those using the same language.

The Grecian were born of Jewish parents outside Palestine and spoke Greek and they would have used the Septuagint. They were influenced by other aspects of Greek culture.

Hebraic Jews were born in Palestine and spoke Hebrew, Philippians 3:5, generally, the Grecian Jews would look down at others. The 12 apostles were Hebraic Jews.

Discussion Questions

What was the Grecian Jews complaints?

The Grecian Jews felt that their widows were not being cared for as well as the widows of the Hebrews, in the daily distribution, or serving of tables.

How was the charge against them brought to light?

We don’t know how the charge against them came about but that isn’t really that important.

What was the real danger in all of this?

What was important was the more serious issue of unity in the young church.

How is Stephen described in these verses?

He is described as a man of faith, Acts 6:3. In other words, he totally believed in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

He is described as a man who was ‘full of the Spirit,’ Acts 6:3 / Acts 6:5, in other words, his life reflected the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23.

Although Stephen wasn’t a deacon, in terms of meeting the qualifications of being a deacon, 1 Timothy 3:8-13, he certainly gives us a practical example of someone who knew what serving was all about, John 13:1-17.

Stephen Was A Man Who Did What He Was Asked To Do

‘So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.’ Acts 6:7

Discussion Questions

How do we know that Stephen did as he was asked to do, that is, distribute the food evening among the Grecian and Hebrews widows?

We know because the task of feeding the widows is not mentioned again.

Why didn’t the apostles want to distribute the food? Acts 6:2.

The apostles didn’t want to ‘serve at tables’, because they had other important work to be getting on with, that is preaching God’s Word to the lost.

What was the result of Stephen’s efforts in feeding the widows?

It allowed the apostles to continue to preach and so, the church begun to grow, even some the Jewish priests became Christians.

Stephen was a man who knew why he was serving the church, he understood by serving the church, he was actually doing God’s work in serving others, Colossians 3:23-24.

Stephen Was A Man Who Submitted To Leadership

‘Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people.’ Acts 6:8

Stephen could have easily allowed being chosen by the church and appointed by the apostles to go to his head.

Stephen could have easily become big headed because he was full of faith the Holy Spirit.

Stephen could have easily become full of himself because he was full of God’s grace and power.

Discussion Question

Where did Stephen get the ability to perform wonders and signs?

When the apostles laid their hand on him, they bestowed him with miraculous gifts, Acts 6:6.

What did Stephen do with all that grace and power?

He simply allowed God to work through him. Despite having all this power to perform great wonders and signs among the people, he continued to with the apostles and submitted to their leadership.

Stephen Was A Man Who Used His Talents

‘Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.’ Acts 6:9-10

Discussion Questions

What other criteria did Stephen meet when he was chosen by the apostles to serve in the distribution of food to the widows?

Why couldn’t the Jews successfully argue with Stephen?

Stephen was a man who not only was filled with the Spirit, but he was also filled with wisdom, Acts 6:3.

A man heard a talk show was looking for people with unusual talents and when he showed up to audition the talk show host asked him what talent he was going to perform.

The man explained ‘I imitate birds’. The talk show host laughed, waving him away saying ‘thousands of people can imitate birds. We want something nobody has ever seen before.’ The man shrugged his shoulders, flapped his arms, and flew away.

All too often, we think that some people have only one talent, but the truth is many people have multiple talents.

It’s so important for those who serve to continue to develop their God given talents and not to be afraid of using them.

Stephen wasn’t only a food distributer, he was also a man who used wisdom to defend his cause.

Discussion Question

What gift or gifts do you possess? Are you using your God given talents? Romans 12:6-8.

Stephen Was A Man Who Was Able To Take Criticism

‘Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “we have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.” So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.” All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.’ Acts 6:11-15

Discussion Questions

What was the reaction from those who couldn’t handle Stephen’s wisdom?

What did his accusers do to Stephen?

What was Stephen being accused of?

Serving the Lord will usually end up with us being criticised by those who want to accuse us of all kinds of things.

Being accused of something you haven’t done or said can be painful.

Discussion Questions

Have you ever been accused of doing or saying something which wasn’t true? How did it make you feel.

Why did Luke record that Stephen’s face was like the face of an angel?

Remember in Exodus 34:29-35, the writer there tells us that Moses’ face shone after he had been with the Lord to the point that people could not look directly at him.

Luke tells us that Stephen’s face was like that, like an angel’s face. Being at peace with God, walking with God, face like an angel implies, innocence.

Stephen Was A Man Who Studied God’s Word

In Acts 7, Stephen, as he is brought before the religious leaders, and notice that he was more than able to defend the faith that he has.

The very fact that He takes them through their Jewish history, tells us that he knew the Scriptures well, 1 Timothy 3:9.

Discussion Question

Why is it important to know our way around the Scriptures and study the Old testament? Romans 15:4 / 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Because Stephen studied the Old Testament, this helped him defend his case against his Jewish accusers.

To live, walk, be led, live and keep in step with the Spirit, we first need to know what God’s will is, Galatians 5:16 / Galatians 5:18 / Galatians 5:25.

Stephen Was A Man Who Lived And Died For Christ

‘When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.’ Acts 7:54-60

Discussion questions

Who did Stephen turn to when his accusers got angry with him? What did Stephen see?

What does Stephen see Jesus doing?

Usually in the Bible, Jesus is pictured as sitting at the right hand of God but here Stephen sees Jesus standing.

Stephen saw Him standing which tells us that Jesus not only cares about us but He stands up for us and we need to believe that He does that for us every time we’re trouble.

In other words don’t look to the world for protection and all the answers look to heaven for them.

Discussion Questions

What was the reaction of his accusers?

While Stephen was being stoned, what did he pray?

He must have been told what His Lord had prayed whilst He was on the cross, Luke 23:34 / Luke 23:46.

Stephen was a man who not only was willing to serve the Lord and His people, but he was also a man who was willing to die for the cause.

It’s interesting to note that we don’t know how long Stephen lived as a Christian, but we do know that he was the first Christian who was willing to die for the cause.

All Christians are servant, but those who hold the position of deacons must remember that there is nothing wrong with waiting on tables, because the time will come when you may be asked to preach and defend God’s Word.

The time may come when we have to choose between life and death, Philippians 1:20-24.

Discussion Question

What will people remember about you by when you die?

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."

2 Timothy 1:7

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