“And he told them, ‘Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!’” (Acts 7:56 NLT)
The only time in Scripture where it’s mentioned that Jesus was standing at God’s right hand is when He stood at Stephen’s stoning. In every other reference He is seated. The word translated “standing” means “to stop, stand still, to stand immovable, stand firm.” The same word can be used in reference to the foundation of a building. What was so special about Stephen that Jesus rose to His feet?
Stephen’s name is mentioned only seven times in the Bible, but in those few verses we learn a lot about the kind of man he was. In the opening verses of Acts chapter 6 we see that as the Church grew, just like today, there were “people” issues. The believers were compelled to care for one another, so the leaders selected seven men who were “well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom.” Stephen was among those seven. Then in Acts 6:8 it says: “Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people.” But, as is often the case, no good deed is left unpunished, and Stephen is falsely accused, leading to his arrest and murder.
But before he’s killed, he gives a clear accounting of God’s activity in the lives of the Jews, leading to the execution of Jesus, which infuriated the Jewish leaders, so much so, they dragged Stephen out of the city and stoned him. Yet, even as he was being stoned, with his last breath he shouted a prayer: “’Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!’ And with that, he died.” (vs 60) Hmm! Sounds a lot like Someone else’s prayer. (see Luke 23:34)
What can we learn from Stephen that will help us better understand how we should be living?
- Foremost, Stephen was a man full of faith. The word “full” means: “thoroughly permeated with, complete, lacking nothing, perfect.” (Strong’s) And “faith” means: “belief with the predominant idea of trust or confidence in God and Jesus.” It means: “fidelity, faithfulness, the character of one who can be relied on.” (Strong’s) My prayer is that you and I can exhibit that kind of faith in and through our lives as we pursue others for Christ.
- But the Bible also says He was full of the Holy Spirit. And you may be thinking,“Yes, of course, but isn’t every believer in Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit?” To which I would remind you to look above at the definition of “full,” then look in the mirror and YOU decide whether you are as full of the Holy Spirit as was Stephen. The point is fullness must translate into obedience and submission to God’s authority in and through our lives. That’s our goal as believers in Jesus. Yes, of course, we get all of the Spirit, but does the Spirit get all of us?
- Through Stephen God was able to perform “great wonders and miracles.” God is doing “great wonders and miracles” throughout the world today, resulting in millions of people coming to the Lord. Why do you think God’s Spirit is restricted in manifesting His presence in miraculous ways here, in America? Could it be we’re more full of ourselves than of Jesus and His Spirit? God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so the only thing limiting His activity in and through our lives is our lack of fullness, our focus on so many other things.
- I thought it was interesting to learn that Stephen’s name means “crowned.” Perhaps that was what brought Jesus to His feet, so He could place the “crown of righteousness” on Stephen’s head, crowning his final act of faith in His Savior.
Two more things briefly. First, Paul, the writer of roughly 2/3rds of the New Testament was present at Stephen’s murder. God never wastes an opportunity to put people where He wants them, when He wants them there. I can’t help but believe that God used the revelation of Stephen to impact and multiply the effectiveness of Paul’s revelation of Jesus on the Damascus Road. Paul’s life became a replica of Stephen’s faith, power, and Holy Spirit fulness.
Then lastly, it’s important to recognize what Stephen’s death ushered in: “A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers EXCEPT THE APOSTLES were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria.” (Acts 8:1b NLT) The believers, not the leaders, led the spread of the Gospel across the regions, followed by the conversion of Paul and the spreading of God’s Kingdom throughout the then known world.
Please let the Spirit convict you, as He’s convicted me, with this truth. It wasn’t the Pastors and leaders of the Church who took it upon themselves to be instrumental in the spread of the Faith in the first century. And it’s not just the Pastors and leaders who are responsible to continue the spread of our faith in Jesus today. It’s mine and yours, if you profess to know Him. If you don’t yet know Him, you’re missing the adventure of a lifetime.
Of course, I have no idea if Jesus will stand when I die, but this much I do know with absolute certainty – I will stand for Him as long as this body of mine has breath!
Blessings, Ed 😊