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MARCH 2018

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The Stoning of Stephen


Act 7:51-52  "You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.  (52)  Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers,


Is this the Way to win Friends and Influence People?

Stephen had done wonders and signs among the people.  He spoke with wisdom in the power of the Holy Spirit.  But he was in Jerusalem and there were Jewish teachers there that did not like him or his message or his following.  They couldn't win a debate with him so they bullied him and brought him to the "council".  This was likely the same ruling council that had condemned the Lord so I don't suppose they would have liked the message that Stephen was preaching either.  So Stephen defends himself against the accusations of false witnesses.  What can we learn from Stephen's approach to witnessing?


Stephen Knew His Stuff

Stephen goes through the national history of Israel and shows that the nation has always been a rebellious nation.  He shows that they had rejected Joseph and Moses and the prophets and now they had rejected the Lord Jesus.  He then calls them "stiff-necked” and "uncircumcised".  I think he was saying that they were rebellious unbelievers.  He caps it off by saying that they had betrayed and murdered the Lord Jesus.  Now this was not what we would call "friendship" evangelism.  Our courses in evangelism do not seem to include Stephen's message as a model for our methods.  Don't misunderstand me, I try to get people to like me before I preach to them, although I don't always succeed.  I try to avoid situations that I know are going to be confrontational.  But Stephen did not do it the way we think it ought to be done.  He had done wonders and miracles before this confrontation, but when it came time to be honest, he did not draw back.


What Did Stephen Accomplish?

First of all, he managed to accomplish his own martyrdom.  He was stoned.  He was not stoned by another culture and religion. He was stoned by Jews who claimed to worship Jehovah.  I would compare this to being stoned by other Christians today who believe that their church doctrine and traditions are more important than Biblical doctrine.  I would liken this to be being stoned by those who call themselves Christians who are more concerned with changing the world through the ballot box than by the preaching of the Gospel. 


Second of all, he made at least one convert.  Oh, this man wasn't converted immediately, but Stephen's praying for those who stoned him caused one man by the name of Paul to reconsider his persecution of those who were followers of the Lord.  He then met the Lord on the Damascus Road and the rest is history.  Stephen may have made only one true convert (although likely there were others), but that one turned into a multitude.  Most of us who are saved today have been greatly influenced by if not saved through Paul's writings.


Third and most importantly, he managed to please the Lord.  The Lord gave him a vision of heaven and of Himself just before he was stoned.  I believe the Lord was meeting Him to take him over to the "other side."  Stephen deserved the commendation, "Well done thou good and faithful servant." 


What about Us?

Sometimes I wonder if we preach the gospel in situations and environments where people realize the seriousness of the message.  Do they realize that following the Lord is likely to cost them friends?  They are not going to be the most popular kids on the block.  Do we realize that we have the ONLY message that saves?  Do we realize that actually preaching a faithful message is going to sting because we have to preach about sin and its consequences before we can preach about salvation from the consequences of sin?  Sometimes, I think we preach today so we can save the saved. But the Lord came to seek and to save the lost.


Sometimes the message has to be confrontational.  Do you suppose that Stephen (had he lived) would have been commended for the loving way he preached or for would he have been criticized for antagonizing his audience?  Times have not changed.  Stephen is still one of the great Gospel preachers of the New Testament.  He was full of faith and controlled by the Holy Spirit.  He did love his audience or he wouldn't have told them the truth.  Sometimes the truth hurts.  We should never forget that.  

Meditation for the week of March 4, 2018