Stephen was a mighty man of God. He was faithful and never backed down in the face of opposition. He died proclaiming God’s word.
Who was Stephen? Who opposed him? What was Stephen’s message? What was the response to Stephen’s message?
Stephen’s Message: Israel’s history (Acts 7:1-36)
2 And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran,3 And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.4 Then came he out of the land of the Chaldeans, and dwelt in Harran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell.5 And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.6 And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years.7 And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place.
Covenant of circumcision (8)
8 And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs.
9 And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him,10 And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.11 Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance.12 But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first.13 And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph’s kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.14 Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.15 So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers,16 And were carried over into Shechem, and laid in the sepulcher that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Shechem.
17 But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt,18 Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph.19 The same dealt subtilly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live.20 In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father’s house three months:21 And when he was cast out, Pharaoh’s daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son.22 And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.23 And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.24 And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian:25 For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.26 And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another?27 But he that did his neighbor wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Wilt thou kill me, as thou didst the Egyptian yesterday?29 Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Midian, where he begat two sons.30 And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sinai an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him,32 Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold.33 Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground.34 I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt. 35 This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush.36 He brought them out, after that he had shewed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years.”
Stephen was well versed in the history of Israel. So far he was on common ground. No one could argue Israel’s past.
When witnessing to others about Christ, find the common ground. This will help to get the conversation started. Then move to how Christ came to earth to redeem of their sin.
Tomorrow, we will see more history, and then the contentious issue of Jesus Christ.
Tom Stearns, WASI Chaplain, 907 715-4001