I often think that when we read through the Bible we take different sections as stories. Even with the people involved, we might look at them as characters. I think that while it can help someone read the Bible more effectively, it can be very dangerous. Too often we can read a section and instead of looking through the scope of history with real people, we can fall into a trap of looking through the scope of stories with fictional characters and good ideas. We are looking this week at Stephen, the real person, that we see in the Scriptures. I would not classify Stephen as a person that many churches talk about regularly. In fact, I do not think that it's too far out of reach to say that some of you reading this may have never heard of Stephen before. If you have, perhaps it was all focusing on his death. So let us take a deeper look at who this person was from the Scriptures: Stephen, the first martyr of the Church.
In Scripture, there is not a lot of time between when Stephen is first mentioned and when he dies, so on the surface it does not give us a lot to work with. We first meet Stephen in Acts 6, when the Hellenists are complaining that the twelve Apostles are not caring for them as well as the Hebrews. Wanting to ensure that needs were being met, but also understanding the importance of delegating responsibility, the Twelve sought to assign the duties of daily distribution and care to other faithful followers. This allowed the Twelve to adequately preach and teach the Word. So, the whole assembly came together and chose seven men to serve; Stephen was one of those men. Some say these seven men are
the first deacons of the Church, but others say that they were front runners for the deacon office. Either way there are some character traits that we see in Acts 6 that tell us the kind of person Stephen was. Stephen had a good reputation, full of the Spirit, full of wisdom, and full of faith.
Stephen had a good reputation. A similar phrase that we see in other qualifications is above reproach. Stephen had such a good reputation that any charge against him would be laughable. Right after we are introduced to Stephen, we are told that he was full of grace and power, and was performing great wonders and signs. In Stephen's response to the opposition (Acts 7), we see where he was so wise that the religious leaders had no reasonable response. In the entirety of the time we see Stephen in the Scriptures, we see an immense amount of faith being portrayed. Whether it was his wise response to the religious
leaders, or when the mob was stoning Stephen, he never conceded. He never recanted his faith. He never spoke negatively about Christ. He never folded under the pressure to give up his faith. One last thing we know about Stephen is that he had forgiveness that only could come from God. He never asked God to avenge him, never asked God to save
him, never asked God to refuse salvation for his killers. He asked God to not hold this sin against them (Acts 7:54-60). One of the people in attendance of Stephen's stoning was Saul, later known as Paul. A theologian once said, when Paul got to heaven he was greeted by those whom he persecuted. Knowing who Stephen was through the Scriptures, he would have been in that group.
Written by Michael Chadwick