You wouldn’t think that being full of the Holy Spirit can get you killed, but it can happen and it has happened.
Stephen was a “Grecian” Jew – also known as a Hellenist; he spoke fluent Greek and was chosen to “serve tables” in order to meet the needs of Grecian, Jewish, Christian widows. He was known for being full of the Holy Spirit and power – I would like to have this reputation as well! In fact, every believer in Christ has the potential to have a reputation as a Spirit filled believer (isn’t that what we want?). However, the desire to have this kind of reputation among brothers and sisters can become a snare – pleasing men instead of God and seeking the praises of men instead of honoring God is a grave error, for we are to do nothing out of selfish ambition, vain glory, or conceit. (A friend of mine calls this “approbation lust.”) I wish I could say that I have never struggled with the desire to be important in the eyes of men, but I have and I have repented of this foolish desire many times.
Stephen, however, was void of selfish ambition because he was full of the Holy Spirit and power. Who wants to serve tables behind the scenes when there’s glory to be gained by hanging with the apostles? However, he faithfully served tables, and God used him mightily!
Stephen was brutally murdered – the Jewish supreme court condemned him and murdered him thinking they were doing God’s work. This is not unlike the Islamic terrorist, today, who murder, rape, and pillage Christians and others in the name of their god “Allah.”
Stephen’s martyrdom is a wonderful testimony to anyone who names the name of Christ. He was not persecuted for his faults (like me most of the time), but he was condemned because he was full of the Holy Spirit and rebuked the Jewish sages for always resisting the Holy Spirit. As a result, they dragged him out of the courtroom and murdered him.
While he was being murdered, he continued in the character for which his reputation was known. He was truly rooted and built up in Christ and established in the faith. Like a vibrant, fruitful tree planted in rich, nutrient soil, Stephen was rooted in Christ. As a human being rooted in Christ, he was nourished by Christ and built up in Christ – he became more and more like Christ in his heart and mind. This is what the Holy Spirit does in our lives – this is the work of the Holy Spirit! He is out to make us more and more like Jesus – Christlike.
We all have great potential if we are rooted and built up in Christ and established in the faith. The Holy Spirit is the One who makes this transformation in our lives and continues this work until we are with Christ. Praise the LORD!
There are awesome similarities between Stephen and our Lord Jesus. Stephen’s Christlikeness is both encouraging and contagious.
Look at his last words on earth:
1) “Lord Jesus receive my spirit” – Stephen, Acts 7:59. In comparison, Jesus said, “Father into your hand I commit my spirit” – Jesus, Luke 23:46.
2) “Lord do not charge them with this sin” – Stephen, Acts 7:60. Similarly, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” – Luke 23:34.
I am amazed by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in Stephen’s life; through his example, I am encouraged to be filled with Holy Spirit – not so I can be like Stephen, but like Jesus!
The Holy Spirit changes us, and He gives us the power to love our enemies in forgiving them and praying for them – Luke 5:43-48. This is what it looks like to be filled with the Holy Spirit – Stephen exhibited the fruits of the Spirit even when his life was threatened and while it was being taken from him!
In Stephen, we see our own potential; we see how the Holy Spirit empowers Christ’s kids to serve. We see what the Holy Spirit can do through a common person – a waiter on tables who served old ladies (please, no offense to anyone) but this is probably how a non-Spirit filled person would view this kind of service but not Spirit filled Stephen! It is safe to conclude that he loved serving widows because he was serving Jesus and that is all that matters to one who is Spirit filled:)
I’m serving Jesus and that is all that matters!
May we, too, be filled with the Holy Spirit and encouraged by the life of Stephen.