Nepaug Bible Church - http://www.nepaugchurch.org - Pastor's Evening Sermon Notes - http://www.nepaugchurch.org/ev/ev19970928.htm
ACTS: THE LOCAL CHURCH AS GOD'S AGENCY FOR DISCIPLING MEN
Part XII: Finding God's Lead In Verbal Confrontations For The Truth
Lesson: God supported Stephen's role in verbal confrontation for the truth WHEN he was (1) personally qualified with (a) an honest reputation, (b) the filling of the Holy Spirit, (c) a gracious demeanor and (d) functioning with obvious enabling to accomplish notable feats by means of the Spirit; (2) when he was functioning in the divinely-appointed task assigned to him under qualified Church leadership; (3) when this ministry attracted attention by God's use of him to the point that (4) opponents arose against him while Stephen was on his own "court" of service.
- Being called to witness for the truth to the world, the believer's light must shine against the backdrop of its opposite, the darkness of error and rebellion against God. That automatically means that there will be a conflict between what is right and what is erroneous and wrong.
- However, the believer is to live as peaceably with all men as is possible according to Romans 12:18.
- Question: How are we to live peaceably with all men and yet expose error and sin with the truth, an action that inevitably creates verbal conflicts?
- An illustration is offered in the events of Stephen's life in Acts 6:8-15:
- Finding God's Lead In Verbal Confrontations For The Truth, Acts 6:8-15.
- Stephen was a man of sterling spiritual and human qualities: (1) He was a man of an honest reputation (Acts 6:3,5), (2) he was full of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3,5), (3) and he was a wise, practical man, Acts 6:3,5. Stephen was (4) fu ll of grace, or of the kind, unmerited favor of God's compassionate disposition, and (5) full of God's power in use of his spiritual gift, Acts 6:8.
- With these human qualities, Stephen served the Lord in the capacity of his assignment by the Apostles, that of distributing the gifts of the congregation to care for the widows, Acts 6:1,3-5.
- It was in the process of serving the Lord with these qualities and in this dimension that the Lord equipped Stephen to perform great and miraculous deeds, Acts 6:8. We do not know just what these were, but we can imagine that they had to do with the provision of goods to the widows that might have led to great healing activities with the sick or dying whom he served.
- This sterling character with his ministry and its splash effects attracted the attention of detractors who heard Stephen teaching about the new dispensation of the Church: they took his teaching to be a subtle attack on Judaism with an alleged undermining of the Mosaic Law and its customs, and the destruction of the Jewish temple in divine judgment, Acts 6:9, 11, 14.
- Stephen stood up against these men, defending the Christian faith ardently to the extent that they could not withstand his debates, Acts 6:10. Accordingly, to get even, they stirred up the people with false witnesses in an effort to g et him discredited and executed, Acts 6:11-14.
- Stephen was summarily brought before the Sanhedrin for trial on the charge of heresy, Acts 6:12b.
- In the trial, God supplied Stephen's face with the same glow that Moses' face had under the dispensation of the Law, a sign of the credibility of his stand as the original facial glow had provided for Moses' original ministration of th e Law, cf. Acts 6:15 with Ex. 34:29-35. This supplied from God credibility for Stephen before the imposing leadership of the Sanhedrin, evidence that God was favoring his stand at this point.
Application: We can expect God to condone our getting into verbal confrontation for the truth IF (1) we are personally qualified by having an honest reputation, are filled with the Spirit, are gracious in demeanor and have a record of being used by the Spirit. (2) Also, we can expect God's support if the conflict exists in the "court" our divine job assignment as assigned to us under recognized Church leaders (3) so that our opponents are taking the argument to us on our own "ball court" of jurisdict ion and ministry. CONVERSELY, we should expect to be in sin opposite Romans 12:18 if any of these matters are missing and we speak up, getting into a verbal fray.