Here’s the notes for my sermon on Acts 6:8-15 “Stephen’s SETUP” preached at Cross of Christ Fellowship in Naperville.
INTRO: A persistent myth we hear as Christians is this: if we faithfully follow Jesus, then we will avoid suffering.
-REALITY: Following Christ will not exempt us from suffering in this life, but lead us into new forms of suffering.
-Suffering can often come in ways that is perplexing and hard to understand.
–HOPE: God rules over it, He is trustworthy, and will work all things out for our good.
–JOY: knowing Christ is better than a life free from suffering & perplexity.
KIDS: Do you know what a martyr is? =someone who dies for their religion or cause.
-Stephen, the first martyr recorded for us in the Book of Acts.
-We’ll spend 3 Sundays looking at him together as we work through Acts 6:8-8:3.
-Luke tells us about what led to Stephen’s arrest, his final sermon, and his death.
-It is not just an interesting account, but also tells us about God!
-What does this account of Stephen teach us about God? What does Luke hope we’ll see?
-As the gospel is preached Christians will face unjust suffering, but God’s kingdom continues to advance.
-CONTEXT: REMEMBER LAST WEEK: Appointment of the Seven (6:1-7)
-Stephen was one of the seven…
-The word continued to be preached and many were added to the church.
TODAY: Introduced to the preaching ministry of Stephen and learn of the unjust circumstances that led to his death
*MAIN IDEA: God is with his people as they preach the gospel and endure unjust suffering.*
I. Stephen’s Gospel Ministry (8)
In addition to being one of the SEVEN who led the ministry to widows, he also had a preaching ministry!
-Stephen’s godly character: full of grace and power,
-These are traits we can pray God manifests in our lives as we minister to others.
-God’s supernatural signs: was doing great wonders and signs among the people.
-Was a unique season when apostles were alive, and God used this to confirm truth of gospel.
APP: -Not just the apostles had gospel ministry; today, not just pastors do gospel ministry!
-You have people in your lives that the pastor will never meet or be able to speak with.
-Who has God placed in your life that you can pray for and share the gospel with?
-By God’s grace, use those opportunities to proclaim Christ.
*You may suffer, but God is with his people as they preach the gospel and endure unjust suffering.
II. Opposition to the Gospel Message (9-10)
In Acts, and church history, we see that as the gospel is preached and the kingdom of God grows, it faces opposition.
-Opposition comes in different forms: sometimes religious, sometimes secular.
-In our section, we see it is the religious leaders who are opposing the gospel and Stephen’s ministry
-Varied Opposition (9)
-5 different groups, or different groups from one synagogue!
-“ rose up and disputed with Stephen.”
-Active attempt to defeat Stephen with arguments
-One versus the many.
How will Stephen overcome?
-Will the gospel be overcome by arguments and varied opposition?
-Resistance to the gospel is Futile (10)
-COULD NOT WITHSTAND: 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.
-Numbers of people and learning cannot overcome the truth of the gospel!
-WISDOM: God’s wisdom.
– Prov 21:30; Col 2:3
-SPIRIT: Holy Spirit.
-Numbers do not matter, God’s wisdom is irrefutable.
-Time at meetup with many atheists vs one Christian
God helped Stephen, and he will help you as face opposition to the gospel!
-Gospel is wisdom of God: this is true even if you feel like you are not good as testifying or arguing for Christ
-It does not depend on our ability to argument, it stands on its own indomitable ground.
-We need to remember this as we live out our faith here in suburbia.
*CONSIDER WITH ME THE Wisdom of living for Christ in Suburbia*
-WISDOM OF Treasuring Christ about the TRINKETS of programs and sports
-WISDOM of Prioritizing Church over PROGRAMS and Sports or activities on Sunday mornings
-WISDOM of Sacrificially Giving to God’s kingdom over Spending our all on pleasures of this life
-WISDOM of Embracing God’s plan for sexuality over culture’s approach (ruled by feelings which can deceive)
-WISDOM of Living for a kingdom that endures forever, rather than merely accumulating possessions for now.
-Be REASSURED: this is wisdom, and it is indomitable wisdom.
-You may not see the results in this life—but be assured you will in eternity (as Stephen did!)
III. Stephen’s Shining Face (6:11-15)
As the narrative continues, we see Stephen’s opponents—knowing they cannot win the argument—resort to immoral, deceptive tactics to overcome Stephen. They play dirty!
-1997 Boxing Match of Iron Mike Tyson vs Evander Holyfield.
-Lion King: Simba vs Scar (rakes hot coals in his face)
-Jews Secretly Instigated Men to Turn Crowd Against Stephen (11-12a)
-“secretly instigate”=the leaders, in secret (because they knew it was wrong) secured individuals to slander Stephen
-Inflammatory message: “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.”
–Stirred up crowd: 12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes,
-Stephen before council (12b-14)
-Arrested (12b) and brought before council
-SET UP FALSE WITNESSES (READ 13-14)
-Luke wants us to see the character of Stephen’s opponents: deceitful, sinful.
-Stephen faced an unjust persecution and so will other Christians.
-You too, may be slandered, and set up to fail.
APPLICATION: Be READY: Being a Christian will spare you from unjust suffering!
EXAMPLES WE EXPERIENCE
-Work Place: Exclusion, firing.
-Social: Ignored, left out.
-Relational: Strains and awkwardness, slander, gossip
-STEPHEN’S FACE (15) 15 And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
-Stephen’s face was aglow with the glory of God!
-Moses’s shining face
God is with his people as they preach the gospel and endure unjust suffering!
APPLICATION: God will be with us as we preach the gospel and face unjust persecution.
-We follow a Savior who was unjustly persecuted.
–JESUS: arrested, persecuted, crucified.
-He did this in love for you and me, to pay for our sins and make us right with God.
God is with his people as they preach the gospel and endure unjust suffering.
God was with Stephen and He will be with you.