Monday 13 May 2019
When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’
At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep.
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.
For the first few days of this week we are going to re-visit some of the Bible passages that Daniel Ho shared with us when he spoke to us on Sunday 5 May.
Daniel Ho gave us a definition of evangelism: evangelism is sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and trusting God for the results.
He also said that evangelism is the responsibility of every follower of Christ and he supported this statement with Acts 8:4, which says: Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.
What is the wider context of this verse? Stephen is not one of the twelve disciples (also known as apostles). He is one of the seven helpers who have been chosen to do the practical task of making sure that the Greek-speaking widows are not neglected in the daily distribution of food. The point of choosing these seven helpers is so that the apostles can have more time for prayer and preaching (Acts 6:1-6).
However, it turns out that Stephen is a gifted and bold preacher himself. God also uses him to perform ‘great wonders and signs’ (Acts 6:8). Most of Acts 7 is a record of Stephen’s preaching to the Sanhedrin after he has been arrested. The Sanhedrin is the council of Jewish leaders, the same people who have sentenced Jesus to death a few years previously. Stephen gives a summary of the Old Testament from Abraham to Solomon and the prophets. He finishes by reminding the Sanhedrin that they put Jesus to death and accusing them of disobeying the Law of Moses.
When we read through the book of Acts we can see a repeated pattern:
1 Preaching (sharing the good news of Jesus) and healing (Acts 2:14-3:26 and 5:12-16)
2 Persecution (Acts 4:1-22 and 5:17-42)
3 Delegating responsibility (Stephen and the helpers, Acts 6:1-6)
1 Preaching and healing (Acts 6:8-7:60)
2 Persecution (Acts 8:1-3)
3 Delegating responsibility (Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Acts 8:4)
Have you ever wanted evangelism to be left to the experts? This is not how the early church started. We do not know the names of all ‘those who had been scattered’. But we would not be Christians today if all the work had been left to the twelve apostles.
Thomas Halley, Sawyers Church Leadership Team