Acts 1:3-4 — “After His suffering, He presented Himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”
On another occasion He was eating with them and gave them the promise of the Holy Spirit. He said in verse 8:
Acts 1:8 — “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
WHAT A GREAT PROMISE!
In Acts 2 you see that indeed the Holy Spirit came upon them as Peter was preaching. In Acts 3, 4, 5 many were saved and miracles were happening. And then we get to Acts 6, Luke, the writer, tells the story of an early church hero Stephen, the first Christian martyr.
Stephen was one of seven leaders chosen to serve. This is what we know about who Stephen was : “a man of good reputation, full of the Spirit of Wisdom” and “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit”. A man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. Nothing is known about the personal life of Stephen—his parents, his siblings, or whether he had a wife or children; however, what is known about him is what is truly important. He was a resurrected witness.
As I looked closely at Scripture and as I took time to study more, I noticed three things that stood out in the whole portion talking about Stephen and his death. Three things that Stephen understood and that will help you understand why I call him a resurrected witness.
- Stephen understood the little tasks and took ownership of it.
- Stephen understood who he was doing it for.
- Stephen understood that a resurrected witness resurrects others.
In Acts 6:1-2 you read the main or initial reason that Stephen and the other six people were appointed by the disciples. It was because the widows weren’t getting the help they needed. You say; man, I thought it was to do miracles and travel and preach. No, it was, maybe in the eyes of others, a small task but Stephen understood the responsibility. He understood the small task that God gave him through the disciples. Stephen took ownership of this. He was faithful in the little.
Luke 16:10 — “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.”
We move forward to Acts 7:26. Opposition arose, but the men who argued with Stephen were no match for the wisdom given him by the Holy Spirit. So, the men decided to falsely accuse Stephen, labeling him a blasphemer and having him arrested. Stephen was not concerned about his earthly existence, determining instead to stand firmly on the side of Jesus Christ, no matter the consequences.
Acts 7:55-56 records his final moments of earthly life, “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.’”
There are about 16 New Testament references to Jesus or the Son of Man being at God’s right hand. Acts 7:55-56 is unique in describing the Son of Man as standing, four verses describe Him simply as “at” God’s right hand, and the remainder describe Him as seated. Just as Stephen declares the lies of the Jews and accuses them of betraying and murdering Jesus, Stephen has a vision of Jesus standing. Some commentaries see in the story of Stephen’s vision a picture of the Savior standing beside those who testify on His behalf, or perhaps the Good Shepherd greeting the soon-to-be-martyred saint.
What a vision and what a new strength and courage. Stephen was able to take this martyrdom, because he understood who he was doing it for. The one who died for him, the King of Kings! The Savior of the world stood up for him.
Lastly, Stephen understood that a resurrected witness resurrects others.
You see through all his speech and defending of his faith till his final words before they killed him, Stephen lit up. Acts 6:15 says Stephen’s face was like the face of an angel and everyone could see it. All those who looked upon Stephen were struck with awe and wonder at his appearance. Having an angel-like appearance was an expression frequently found in Judaism. It was used to illustrate a brightened, enlightened, or awe-inspiring appearance. According to Ecclesiastes 8:1, “Wisdom lights up a person’s face”. When Stephen stood before his accusers, glowing with the face of an angel, he was radiating God’s wisdom and heaven’s glory. Without speaking a word, Stephen’s appearance gave witness that he was the Lord’s faithful servant.
First moment martyr in christian history. Glorified because he was willing to die to self and guess who was watching? Saul of Tarsus who later became one of the greatest evangelists in the New Testament; Paul! Jesus resurrected the world by His death, Stephen’s endurance was the start to resurrecting Paul. Resurrected witness resurrects others!
Today as you read this, I want to encourage you to take ownership and be faithful with the little, know who you do it for and be mindful that people are watching you and your endurance can just be someone else’s resurrection!
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