“These men began to argue with Stephen, but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.” Acts 6:9-10
Stephen was described as a “man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (6:5), “a man full of God’s grace and power” who “did great wonders and miraculous signs” (6:8). All of his Jewish listeners saw that his face was like the face of an angel (6:15), like one they knew to be a messenger from God. But in spite of these signs of God’s empowering, they rejected God’s message and His messenger, which Stephen pointed out their forefathers had throughout history (Acts 7). Rejection can be expected because the enemy is powerless against God’s wisdom and His Spirit by which His people speak. There is no case against God’s Truth, so they stir up lies (Acts 6:12-13). But the powerful Word of God which stirs up the opposition is also the sword of the Spirit which conquers it. So how does Stephen’s example help us to participate in the conquering power of God’s Word and overcome fear of rejection?
Stephen spoke God’s message with wisdom by the Spirit, the Spirit that reminds us of Jesus’ teaching (John 14:26). To be reminded of something, you have to have known it before. How well do we know God’s Word so the Spirit can do His work when the time comes? Jesus taught His disciples “do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At the time you will be given what to say” (Matthew 10:19). Stephen didn’t have notes to read and didn’t use a teleprompter while giving the longest speech in the Book of Acts. But he knew the Word of God and relied on the Holy Spirit’s leading. How often does a lack of trust in the Holy Spirit cause us to plan out our own weak words or to not even speak at all? The Spirit guides us into all truth (John 16:13). Stephen spoke the Truth of God’s Word. He didn’t try to make it more appealing or politically correct for his listeners. How often do we decide to omit parts of God’s message because we think it will be less offensive? Are we being trained in our churches to tell His whole Truth?
Stephen’s crowd was hostile and didn’t want to hear the truth, but fear didn’t stop him. God’s Truth is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18), but that’s exactly why they need to hear it. God doesn’t want anyone to perish, and only He knows who will forever reject Him. But how often are we tempted to not tell someone His Truth because we don’t think they’ll be open to it? Stephen fully unloaded the Spirit’s weapon without fear of the outcome because he wasn’t focused on his enemy’s response but on God, Jesus and his eternal home (Acts 7:55-56). He wasn’t fearful because he prayed for his persecutors which Jesus taught is an act of love (Matthew 5:44), which drives out fear (1 John 4:18). As followers of Jesus, our job is to give out the entire Word of God by the power of His Spirit, not to fear rejection or worry about the outcome. Yet how often do we back off from much less formidable opposition? Fear of someone’s eternal rejection should compel us to share all of God’s Truth with everyone, but how often does fear of worldly rejection keep us from doing just that?
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you that we can trust that your word is powerful and true. Thank you that you promise your Word will not return empty, but accomplish the purpose for which you send it. Forgive us for adding to it or taking away from it, for thinking we know best what people need to hear and who needs to hear it. Father like Stephen, we want to be so full of your wisdom and Spirit that no one can stand up against us. May our churches be diligent and intentional in training us in this. Help us to be courageous in sharing all of your Word and not fear rejection. May we be emboldened by worldly rejection because we know it means the enemy sees you coming. Help us to keep our eyes on You and Jesus and our eternal home not on the opposition around us. In the great name of Jesus, who is the truth and the way and the life. Amen!