The Changes the Winds of Adversity Bring
January 30, 2005
INTRODUCTION: The narrative about Stephen constitutes a major turning point in Acts. It ends a series of three trials before the Sanhedrin (Jewish Supreme Court of that day). The first ended in a warning (4:21), the second in a flogging (5:40), and Stephen's in his death. The Stephen episode is the culmination in the witness to the Jews of Jerusalem, which has been the major subject of Acts 2-5. To this point a growing opposition toward the Christians from the Jewish leaders had been thwarted by the favor of the people toward the young movement. Then the picture changed. The people joined in the resistance to Stephen. With the death of Stephen and the scattering of his fellow Hellenists, the focus would no longer be on Jerusalem but on Samaria and all of Palestine and, finally, on Paul and the further reaches of the Roman Empire.
Stephen is a key figure in the narrative of the wider Christian mission, and the lengthy treatment of his martyrdom is no coincidence. The account begins with his arrest and trial (6:8-7:1). There follows a lengthy speech by Stephen (7:2-53), which though set in the context of his defense before the Sanhedrin, was more a critique of his contemporary fellow Jews then a defense. As a result, he was stoned to death by his enraged audience. Stephen set the scene for Philip's work in Samaria.
I. THE DEVOTION OF STEPHEN. 8 (5)
A. THE CONFIDENCE OF HIS LIFE. 5
"full of faith" – to be filled up; Stephen was totally controlled by faith. His sermon before the Sanhedrin reveals the content of his faith. He believed that God ruled history and was confident of God's control of his life. He could say with Paul, "If we live, we live to the Lord, or if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's." (Romans 14:8)
Many believers, while trusting Christ for their eternal destiny, find it difficult ...
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