Reflections From ACTS 6&7: “PERSECUTION BECAUSE OF THE NAME”—Part Three


    acts-of-apostles     With growth comes pain that must be addressed.  Apparently, the Hellenistic Jews were not being cared for as the native Hebrews, for the widows portions of daily sustenance were not being allotted fairly to the former (6:1).

            It’s the human experience here that God points out to us that even while all of these exciting events are occurring (E.g., signs and wonders, church growth, etc.), all is not well.  Sin remains and manifests in favoritism.  The Twelve did not excuse the situation, but realized they were not to neglect their duties in order to serve tables.  Thus, they wisely ordered the brethren to select a certain seven men from the Greeks to rectify this matter.

This order solved several problems and demonstrates God’s wisdom.  First, through delegation, those complaining were now responsible for solving the issue.  Second, these were to be men from a Hellenistic background so that the Hebrew/Hellenistic rivalry would be quelled at the apparent source—the issue of ethnicity.  Third, ethnicity and favoritism were only symptoms of the real problem—the need for leaders with specific qualities in order to rule well.

These men had to have a good reputation, but more than that, they needed to be “full of the Spirit and wisdom.”  One of these men was Stephan and his life illustrates what it means to have the “Spirit and wisdom.”  He is seen ministering through acts of power because he’s filled with the word of God—Acts 7 his salvation history sermon.

How desperately the church in every age needs deacons like Stephan and the others mentioned, for they are like a fount that gushes out life from God’s throne as they submit to God in word and in deed.  In their obedience to the word persecution assuredly follows as Jesus predicted because of the His Name’s sake (Mt.5:9-12).  It’s amazing how through Gods word spreading (6:7) the church continued to grow.  [I say amazing because true church growth here occurs through gospel proclamation, not programs and clever ideas.  Today, the church would do well to heed this example so that less false conversions occur].  And yet persecution was just around the corner.

When someone picks a fight against you, like Stephan, don’t back down (6:9-7:1), but also like Stephan, you must be filled with the Spirit and wisdom which comes through the word of God richly dwelling in you, or else you will cower.

Stephan faced a mob who falsely accused him of doing many things, but the text says: “But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking” (6:10).  In Jesus’ ministry this often took place where the rulers presented him some difficult dilemmas in order to catch him in a falsehood or contradiction only to be silenced through the Spirit and wisdom in which he walked.  Jesus is described as one who spoke with authority and not as their scribes.  Why?  When the Spirit and the word are working alongside each other any falsehoods or lies are exposed and the truth is seen.  The effect is silence and awe.

Stephan knew the story of redemptive history as he so cogently displays in (7:2-53) and because the hearers rejected God’s word they opted to kill him through stoning (7:54-60).  If we reject God’s word as Stephan’s executioners did, we may find ourselves imitating their hard hearts.  But even in death, the genuineness of Stephan’s faith hearkens back to Jesus crucifixion, “Lord do not hold this sin against them!”

It seems that Luke here wants the reader to be clear on what it means to be filled with the Spirit and wisdom—it includes living to God’s glory which will often include the death of his servants for the sake of the Name.  What will become of me and my family, or what will become of you friend?

(SDG)

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