As any organization grows, its members and leaders experience change. They have to trust the leadership to make the right decisions. Some agree, some disagree — it happens now, it happened back then. Also, we meet Stephen and we learn what it means to be “on fire” for Jesus. Let’s dig in…
Seven Men Chosen to Serve
But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.
2 So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. 3 And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. 4 Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.”
5 Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith). 6 These seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them.
7 So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.
Yes, it looks like a form of discrimination among the believers in the early church. The Greek speaking believers were either Jews and/or converts to Judaism who had lived in Greek-speaking areas. They were complaining that their needy people were being neglected. Thus, the apostles, who knew that their skills and time would be better spent teaching rather than organizing, selected 7 men to help with this important service. It was the first church committee! (I’ve served in enough of those!)
Without this drastic change, the Gospel would not reach the world. As anything or anyone grows, change is necessary. We always need to keep our hearts open for change.
Point to Ponder: Are there areas in your life that you may be unwilling to change? Why?
Next, we are introduced to Stephen…
Stephen Is Arrested
8 Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people. 9 But one day some men from the Synagogue of Freed Slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him. They were Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia. 10 None of them could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke.
11 So they persuaded some men to lie about Stephen, saying, “We heard him blaspheme Moses, and even God.” 12 This roused the people, the elders, and the teachers of religious law. So they arrested Stephen and brought him before the high council.
13 The lying witnesses said, “This man is always speaking against the holy Temple and against the law of Moses. 14 We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy the Temple and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
15 At this point everyone in the high council stared at Stephen, because his face became as bright as an angel’s.Acts 6 NLT
On Fire for Jesus
I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase before, “on fire for Jesus.” That’s a great way to describe Stephen.
I’m going to borrow from one of the bible study plans in the free Youversion Bible App by S. Beau Waldrup, called, “Walking with Him Daily” — a study on the Book of Acts…
Stephen was quite an awesome man. From the descriptions that we have in Acts about him, he was on fire for Jesus and was all about telling others about Him. However, he did not do these things out of his own strength, but he was full of the Holy Spirit. The verse above also says that he was full of grace. So what exactly does that mean? I think it might mean something like this: In order for the Holy Spirit to be the most that He can be in our lives we have to get out of the way by releasing our lives to Him through faith… So for us to be used to the fullest extent by the Holy Spirit, we must be full of faith and thus power will be overflowing from us.S. Beau Waldrup
No Free Speech
We in America take for granted our freedom of speech. There are still many countries in the world where you can get arrested for proselytizing (preaching Christianity). One of the missionaries our church supports worked in such a country. It was a mainly Buddhist nation. They could be arrested, imprisoned, tortured, even killed for sitting in a park teaching a group of children. Their teaching had to be under the disguise of service.
It takes amazing faith to have the passion to preach the Gospel even when your very life is at risk. That’s the kind of faith Stephen had and we’ll see in the next chapter what happens to him because of it.
What’s Your Faith Like?
If you’re not sure if you’re saved or not, if you truly want to be born again and have the assurance of salvation, receive the Holy Spirit, and get a 1-way, non-stop ticket to Heaven after you die, or that you won’t be left behind at the Rapture, this is what you have to do…