by Tony Nester

Christians Under Fire
Tony Nester
Acts 7:55-60

At first it looked like Christians had a charmed life.
Jesus had risen from the dead. The Holy Spirit had
come upon them in power. Peter was a powerful
preacher and many believers had been won to Christ.
The Church was formed into a close knit community
where people willingly shared their belongings with
one another, prayed and worshipped together, and
gained the admiration of others who saw how much they
cared about one another.

But this charmed life didn't last long. Jesus, after
all, had taught the disciples that part of
discipleship was carrying their cross. By the 7th
Chapter of the Book of Acts the cross of persecution
makes its presence known. Christians would suffer and
die for their faith.

Today we look at Christians under fire. Stephen
becomes the first martyr of the Church.

Stephen was one of seven men ordained as deacons to
oversee the distribution of food to those in need
within the church. This was a sensitive ministry
because there had been complaints that favoritism and
discrimination had affected who received what. The
situation had erupted into a church conflict that was
distracting the Apostles from their ministry of
preaching and teaching the Word of God. The church's
solution was to find seven men who could be trusted to
treat everyone fairly. Stephen was the first of seven
chosen to step in and help solve this problem. (See
Acts 6:1-6).

Stephen, however, did not limit his ministry to
overseeing the distribution of food. Luke tells us
that Stephen, "full of grace and power, did great
wonders and signs among the people." (Acts 6:8). When
he attracted a crowd Stephen spoke powerfully of
Christ as the Savior, Messiah, and promised Son of
Man. That brought down on him the same condemnation
that had been made against Jesus by the Jewish
authorities. (See Acts 6:8-15).

(Acts 7:54-60 NRSV) When they ...

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