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“The Stand of Stephen – Part 1” (Acts 6:8-15)

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

‌Some of you may recall some of the happenings during the final days before the crucifixion of Jesus.

You may recall that Jesus was betrayed, that He was arrested, and that He stood trial before a group of religious leaders.

Though today’s sermon is not particularly about that time, I want to go back and look at that for just a moment.

Listen to what we read in Mark 14:55–58:

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they could not find any. For many were giving false testimony against him, and the testimonies did not agree. Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, stating, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands, and in three days I will build another not made by hands.’”

So, in this passage, we see Jesus falsely accused, and we see Jesus misrepresented by what He said.

Well, today we’re going to look at a man named Stephen who committed his life to following Jesus. We’re going to learn that Stephen went through a strikingly similar situation as Jesus, not only in today’s passage but in what will come.

Today’s sermon is entitled “The Stand of Stephen (Part 1).”

Before we go any further, let’s pray and ask God to speak to us through His Word.


Before we get into the meat of the sermon, remember that Stephen has already been mentioned in Acts. He was mentioned just last week as one of the seven chosen to serve the widows who were part of the church.

Now, he’s mentioned again in this passage.

Speaking of the passage, let’s dive into it. Look at Acts 6:8-15:

8 Now Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from some members of the Freedmen’s Synagogue, composed of both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, and they began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they were unable to stand up against his wisdom and the Spirit by whom he was speaking.

11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We heard him speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 They stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; so they came, seized him, and took him to the Sanhedrin. 13 They also presented false witnesses who said, “This man never stops speaking against this holy place and the law. 14 For we heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us.” 15 And all who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him and saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

Ok, let’s look at two defining characteristics of this passage.

First, . . .

‌I. There was something sinister about the opposition.

Put yourself in the position of those who opposed the cause of Jesus for just a moment. Not just those in this moment but those all the way back to when Jesus Himself first started ministering.

They did all that they could to stop Jesus and His ministry, yet they continued to fail, and the ministry of Jesus continued to flourish.

Then, they went so far as to have Jesus killed, yet Jesus rose from the dead to new life, and His ministry only got stronger.

Then, after Jesus was gone from the earth, the apostles continued the ministry of Jesus, and God blessed their work. Even after the Jewish leaders questioned the apostles, imprisoned the apostles, threatened the apostles, and beat the apostles, their ministry still continued to thrive.

Now, it’s not just the apostles who are doing great ministry; even regular people, like this Stephen guy, are doing great ministry in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Do you think that these guys might be frustrated about their inability to stop the mission of Jesus? You betcha!

So, they had to get a little sinister to try to stop Stephen and the other followers of Jesus.

To be sinister means to be evil or criminal.

Well, we’ll look at how these men became sinister in just a moment.

For now, notice in verse 9 that it says, “Opposition arose, however, from some members of the Freedmen’s Synagogue, composed of both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, and they began to argue with Stephen.”

So, let’s get our minds around who this opposition is.

First, we see that they are from the Freedmen’s Synagogue.

A synagogue is sort of a mix between a church and a school. It was a Jewish religious and educational organization.

Synagogues were often local. In fact, here is a picture of one that some from our church have visited in Capernaum.

Other synagogues, however, rather than simply being the community synagogue, were popular synagogues and attracted certain kinds of Jewish people. Such seemed to be the case for the Freedmen’s Synagogue.

This Freedmen’s Synagogue was probably called by that name because it was either started by a freed slave or because it was composed of freed slaves.

We also see that this opposition had two different pairs of people.

First, we see Cyrenians and Alexandrians, which would have been two groups of people from North Africa.

Then, we see people from Cilicia and Asia, which would have been Asia Minor, which is basically modern-day Turkey.

This map shows where these areas were located.

So, we have some particular members of the Freedmen’s Synagogue, composed of people from North Africa and Asia Minor, who began to argue with Stephen.

Well, these men were unable to prevail against Stephen, so things started to get sinister.

Look again at verses 11-13. It says they . . .

“ . . . secretly persuaded some men . . . ”

“They stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes . . . ”

“They also presented false witnesses . . . ”

Notice something, church: these apparent men of God from this synagogue resorted to acts of evil in order to accomplish their agenda.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the people of God should never resort to evil to accomplish the mission of God.

These men were, in fact, not accomplishing the mission of God by choosing to act on sinister deeds. Rather, they were fighting the mission of God.

As we read earlier about Jesus in Mark 14, these opposers are accusing Stephen of things that were taken out of context and used in a way that was deceptive.

Jesus never said He was going to destroy the temple. He did predict that the temple would later be destroyed. He also predicted that His body would be destroyed and then raised up again.

By the way, both those things would later happen. The temple would later be destroyed, and Jesus would later have his body destroyed and it would be raised to new life.

Jesus also didn’t come to change the customs of Moses (which refers to the Jewish law). Jesus came to fulfill the customs of Moses and God’s people to a greater level of understanding and thriving in the law of God.

It wasn’t true when they accused Jesus of these things in Mark 14, and it wasn’t true when they accused Stephen of these things in Acts 6.

These were sinister opposers rather than servants of God.

Brothers and sisters, there are some out there who are totally set against the true mission of God.

Some are outright vocally against the ways of God, while others are more sinister in their efforts. These sinister opposers may even pretend to be servants of God, but they are not truly God’s people.

Be aware, be wise, and be encouraged. Be encouraged because they will not succeed. Sinister opposition will not defeat the mission of God.

There may have been something sinister about the opposition, but . . .

‌II. There was something special about Stephen.

Listen to these multiple descriptions about how God was up to something special in the life of Stephen.

This passage says Stephen was . . .

“ . . . full of grace and power . . . ”

“ . . . performing great wonders and signs . . . ”

The leaders were . . .

“ . . . unable to stand up against his wisdom and the Spirit by whom he was speaking.”

We also see that . . .

“ . . . his face was like the face of an angel.”

These descriptions certainly indicate that God was doing something special through Stephen.

Let us not forget how Stephen was described earlier in the chapter (as we saw last week).

Acts 6:5 describes Stephen as “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit.”

You see, there wasn’t something special about Stephen, as much as there was something special in Stephen: the Holy Spirit of God.

The opposers were filled with sinister plans, but Stephen was filled with the Spirit of God.

Listen, church: when God is on your side, He’s going to accomplish what He wants to accomplish in you.

When you are filled with the Holy Spirit of God, there is no force on earth that can prevent the Holy Spirit from doing what He wants to do in and through you.

Stephen was unstoppable in this moment!

Now, we’ll learn later on that God had some other plans for Stephen, similar plans in several ways to the plans He had for Jesus.

In this moment, however, God’s plan was for Stephen to flourish as he ministered in the name of Jesus.

Despite the fact that these opposers were trying to stop Stephen, God was using him to do miraculous works, to speak in a persuasive way, and to minister effectively in the name of Jesus.

There was something sinister about the opposers, but there was something special about Stephen.

So, church: what is the message for us in all of this?

Well, let’s look at our bottom line together:

‌Bottom Line: The forces of evil are strongly opposed to the forces of God.

Listen, brothers and sisters: evil is real, sinister forces are real, and opposition to Jesus is real.

However, the gospel is also real, the mission of Jesus is real, and the Holy Spirit of God is real.

If you are on mission for Jesus, you will encounter resistance. If you try to live a life of love, holiness, and godliness, you will encounter resistance.

You may feel discouraged, you may feel defeated, you may feel despondent, you may feel depressed, you may feel downtrodden. However, let these words of Jesus from John 16:33 encourage you:

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

Church, Jesus has conquered the world. Expect opposition, expect knuckleheads, expect sinister plans, and then expect that the Holy Spirit of God will be right beside you along the way.

Also, listen to this: when I say that the Holy Spirit is right there with you, I don’t mean that you won’t encounter anything bad. After all, we just learned a couple of weeks ago about the disciples being beaten.

However, when you have the Holy Spirit of God, you have everything that you need to walk the path He’s calling you to walk.

Don’t be afraid of the sinister forces out there; be encouraged by the special force of God’s Holy Spirit within you.

Challenge yourself this week in this one way:

‌Weekly Challenge #1 – Ask yourself if you are in tune with the Spirit of God.

Stephen was in tune with the Holy Spirit. We see that here in this passage, and we’re going to see it more later.

Stephen was ministering by the power of the Spirit, he had wisdom from the Spirit, and he could listen to the leading of the Spirit.

What about you?

Pray for the Spirit to lead you. Read the Word of God to discover how the Spirit works. Listen for the working of the Spirit in your own life. Obey the Spirit as He leads.

The Spirit may be leading some of you to make some sort of spiritual decision right now.

(Gospel presentation)

(closing prayer)

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