The Day Stones Began To Fly

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Introduction:

  • The day the stones began to fly. The first stone hits, the second stone strikes, the third stone finds it’s target, while rivers of courage flowed freely from above… just weeks before.
  • We will be reading from Acts chapter 6, but let’s first be reminded of what is happening at the end of chapter 5.

Acts 5:41 “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”

  • Take note of the shift that took place in the heart and mind of the Disciples. 
  • Just months before they were afraid and hiding and now ere rejoicing that they were counted worthy of criticism, shame and suffering.
  • Today we are working our way towards one of the pivotal moments in the early Church.

Text passage:

Acts 6:1-7 (ESV) 1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

  1. In the days when the disciples were increasing. 

Acts 6:1 (ESV) Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number,

  • The year was 31AD, still roughly the 1st year of the Early Church. 
  • People were getting saved, joining the number of disciples.
  • There were no Church buildings yet. 
  • People were meeting in their homes and still going to the local synagogue. 
  • The five fold ministry was a not yet understood or even established. 
  • There were there Apostles and a growing number of disciples. 
  • A lot of growth, increase and good things were happening.
  1. Then came the complaint that set in motion a series of events that catapulted the Church forward into Global Evangelism. 

Acts 6:1 (ESV) … a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.

  • “A complaint arose.”
  • Now I am not giving you permission to begin complaining but it is remarkable how the Lord uses it all. 
  • It was simple matter, tough it seemed. 
  • Right when it was all seemingly good, it was not good for everyone.
  • People began to feel neglected and perhaps actually being neglected in the daily distribution of goods.
  • The disciples, though saved, were still working through their old-man’s biases. 
  • The Church was just months or a year plus old and growing. 
  • Like any growing work there arose some matters of contention. 
  1. The grievance was that the hellenist windows were being neglected. 
  • A hellenist jew is: Hellenistic Judaism was a form of Judaism  that combined Jewish religious tradition with elements of Greek culture.
  • These were Jews from different parts of the world that were jewish ethnically but were cultural like the secular world.
  • In a loose description they looked like worldly Christians…
  • It is very likely they were being overlooked. 
  1. A leader arises. 

Acts 6: 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,

  • Stephen was picked first.
  • Picked out from among all the disciples.
  • Stephen was like the 13th of the 12
  • He became the leader of the seven
  • Out of all the disciples who had been converted Stephen’s name was called first. 
  • Stephen had no idea what lie just around the proverbial sovereign corner. 
  • He was a just going about his life… living for Jesus… in his newly saved life. 
  • They were all brand new baby Christians. 
  • The value of his ordinary life was going to worth for the centuries to come.
  1. The qualifications of a leader. 

Acts 6:3 pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty

and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch.

  • The Apostles had a meeting and said you recruit and bring before us…
  • From among you…
  • “Good repute”  one who is well reported of… along with
  • Full of Spirit, Full of wisdom, Good reputation
  • Note the qualifications of the team who job was to distribute food:
  • Seemed like maybe overkill for food distribution. 
  • assigned a Core Team to oversee the distribution of goods. 
  1. Stephen’s ministry quickly grew…

Acts 6:8-12 (NKJV) 8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. 11 Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council.

  • Another first… Stephen was not one of the 12 yet signs and wonders were flowing from his ministry. 
  • He must have begun to preach and pray for people as he was distributing food and supplies. 
  • The Lord was with him and began to confirm his Word through his life. 
  • The Lord has a way of raising people up. 
  • There is a difference when the Lord raises you up and one when one tries to promote and raise up themself. 
  • Again, because of the growth of ministry more opposition arose and Stephen was brought in for questioning. 
  1. The moment Stephen went too far, or did he…

Acts 7:51 (NKJV) “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.

Acts 7:54 (NKJV) When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. He looked up into Heaven and saw Jesus standing by the throne of God…

  • The history lesson was going well enough, but when the focus shifted to a swift correction of the people resisting the Holy Spirit… it was too much and he had gone too far. 
  • He watched as their faced changed, their eyes went from curiosity to rage, the devil filled their hearts with murder, and they all began manifesting the spirit of the antichrist. 
  • But the same was true while he was just distributing food, there did not seem to be a problem, but when people lives were being changed, and signs and wonders began happening. 
  • When God begins to move in your life you have to be prepared both for the blessing and the opposition to arise. 
  • What took place next sent a shock wave through the Church which set the standard for the depth of resolve a man and women of God are to possess. 
  1. In Stephen’s Final Moments. 

Acts 7:55 (NKJV) But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 56 and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; 58 and they cast him out of the city and stoned him

  • This is the only martyrdom which is recorded in the New Testament in detail, the Holy Ghost foreseeing that there would be martyrdoms enough before the church’s history would end, – Spurgeon
  • If our life can teach one lesson, and when that is taught, if our death can teach another, it is well to live and well to die, and far more desirable than to tarry long and take one’s flight in the dreary winter of declining influence. – Spurgeon
  • The Lord used Steven to throw this first volley toward global evangelism, it cost Steven his life. 
  • Luke said Steven was full of the Spirit. 
  • Next, notice that Jesus was invoked, for that is the meaning of the text. “They stoned Stephen, calling upon,” or invoking, “and Saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Dying Christians are not troubled with questions as to the deity of Christ. – Spurgeon
  • Dear friends, Unitarianism (and other religions) may do to live with, but it will not do to die with, at least for us. At such a time we need an almighty and divine Saviour; we want “God over all, blessed for ever” to come to our rescue in the solemn article. So Stephen called upon Jesus, and worshipped him. He makes no mention of any other intercessor. – Spurgeon

Conclusion: 

Stephen’s visions of glory would appear to spilt the expanse above him to open up clear passage for the departure and soon arrival to his eternal home. 

  • More particularly, however, I want to call your attention to the fact that Stephen’ s departing moments were calm, peaceful, confident, joyous. He never flinched while he was addressing that infuriated audience. He told them the plain truth, with as much quiet deliberation as if he had been gratifying them with a pleasing discourse. When they grew angry he was not afraid; his lip did not quiver; he did not retract or soften down a single expression, but cut them to the heart with even more fidelity. – Spurgeon
  • Steven was given a glimpse into eternity as his death approached. He saw Christ rise from the throne welcoming His first martyr into the kingdom. 
  • Obviously Steven was a man of the Spirit experiencing a state of being filled to overflowing in the most needy time in his life.
  • The Blood Of the Martyrs from the first to the very last continue to seed and fertilize the soil of the Church. 
  • The day will come once again when the ordinary Christian man and women will have to be ready not only live for their faith but be willing also to die for it.