Monday: Stephen’s Ministry

After their appointment, the Seven engaged not only in church ministry but also in effective witnessing. The result was that the gospel continued to spread, and the number of believers kept increasing (Acts 6:7).

Stephen Preaching

Image © Lifeway Collection

This growth started, of course, to bring opposition to the early church. The narrative then focuses on Stephen, a man of rare spiritual stature.

Read Acts 6:8-15. What do these verses teach us about Stephen and his faith and character? Also, what was Stephen preaching that so enraged his opponents?

As a Hellenistic Jew, Stephen shared the gospel in the Hellenistic synagogues of Jerusalem. There were several such synagogues in the city; Acts 6:9 probably refers to two of them, one of southern immigrants (Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria) and one of northern immigrants (those from Cilicia and Asia).

Jesus was no doubt the central issue of the debates, but the charges raised against Stephen indicate an understanding on his part of the gospel and its implications that perhaps surpassed that of the Judean believers. Stephen was accused of speaking blasphemies against Moses and God; that is, against the law and the temple. Even if he was misunderstood on some points—or his words were deliberately twisted—and false witnesses were induced to speak against him, the charges may not have been totally false, as in the case of Jesus Himself (Mark 14:58John 2:19). Stephen’s explicit condemnation before the Sanhedrin for the idolatrous veneration of the temple (Acts 7:48) reveals that he understood the deeper implications of the death of Jesus and where it would lead, at least in regard to the temple and its ceremonial services.

In other words, while perhaps many Jewish believers of Judean origin were still too attached to the temple and other ceremonial practices (Acts 3:1Acts 15:1Acts 15:5Acts 21:17-24) and were finding it difficult to abandon them (Gal. 5:2-4Heb. 5:11-14), Stephen, and perhaps the other Hellenistic believers as well, quickly understood that Jesus’ death signified the end of the entire temple order.

Why must we be careful not to be so locked into some of our cherished notions that we close out new light when it comes?

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Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons