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Bearing Witness to Christ – in a Hostile World – Acts 6:8-14

15/12/2019

Bearing Witness to Christ – in a Hostile World

Text:  Acts 6:8-14

In this practical lesson from the main thrust of the narrative, I’d like us to notice how effective was the witness of Stephen, a deacon, in the midst of the godless hostility the day.  

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So let’s see:-

1 The Foundation of a Christian Witness.  v8  

Stephen wasn’t an elder – or an apostle but a deacon,  BUT – even though Stephen’s appointed role was practical he was a spiritual witness for Christ!  He was involved in evangelism.     Note:-

  • He was a man, full of faith.  He was trusting God for his salvation! The secret to living a faith-filled life is not to do something, or be more energising in your worship – it is to simply trust in what Christ has already done – to rest your faith in him.  To empty yourself of any delusion of self worth, and depend upon the Lord.    
  • He was ‘power-filled.’  We don’t have any power of our own.  Remember the advice given to the disciples by Jesus about persecution in Mark . 13:11  We have the Holy Spirit within us, indwelling every single believer.  Acts 1:8  We are spiritually indwell, with supernatural power.
  • His ministry was followed by spiritual signs.  People witnessed the transforming work of God in the ministry of Stephen.  

The basis of personal evangelism is a humble, repentant living faith in trust in Christ, resting in him and his finished work. 

2 The Fury Against a Christian Witness.

There always is a reaction – and most of the time it will be negative.  It will be:

  • Argumentative. v9  These were Greek-speaking Jews who had their own place of worship in Jerusalem.  Some of them may have been converts to Judaism, and they were incensed with Stephen’s witness to Christ.  They resented him speaking out about Jewish guilt in Hs crucifixion, and especially about the resurrection – and of course, they couldn’t prove otherwise, even though this was just shortly after the event.  So they argued back.  It’s a tactic often used by the pagan world.  We should expect it.  We should expect:-
    • Personal arguments.   One to one arguments with heathens rarely results in their conversion.  No point getting involved in an argument.  
    • Public Arguments. Martin Lloyd-Jones declared that his calling was not to go onto radio programmes to provide entertainment for people by getting involved in some foolish debate about Christianity with pagans.  His calling was to preach the Gospel.  2 Timothy 2:23   
  • Underhand.  When they found their arguments were pointless, they used underhand methods to advance their anti-Christian cause.  v11-13  Perhaps like the methods used by the people who ask a Christian baker to craft a cake that will advance a political and moral cause against which they profoundly disagree, when there are plenty of other shops that that will willingly make that cake.  A malicious case of discrimination is then dragged through the courts with the help and finance of the government.
  • Disingenuous. v 14    Sin in the heart always involves telling lies.  Christians should be aware of this, and know that if you are faithful to Christ you will be lied about.   John 8:44  

How will the Christian, then, be able to influence this world to turn to the Saviour?  Here’s Stephen’s example…

3 The Fascination of a Godly Witness.  v10  

There was something irresistible about Stephen’s witness.  It couldn’t be beaten with arguments or overcome by deception, so what was it that made his witness so powerful?  

  • What the pagan world can easily resist in a Christian.  Self-importance and Pride.  Believe me, when I say that one of the greatest hindrances to Christian witness is to encounter an arrogant Christian!  Acting like the world. Ungraciousness.  Open hypocrisy.  BUT:-
  • Here’s what the pagan world can’t resist.
    • On our part – Spiritual Wisdom. 2 Timothy 4:2   Simply knowing hen to speak and what to say.  Knowing that there is a time for every purpose under heaven!  
    • On God’s part – Irresistible grace.  When Stephen spoke, he spoke with the divine presence and authority of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 9:19 We are ever confident that if God so wills to draw a inner to himself, he will accomplish that task for us.    It is an encouragement to pray!  Knowing that we cannot create an anxious thought in any sinner’s heart, we beseech the Lord to do the work.

To be a good witness is simply to live everyday for Christ, and to speak up for him when given the opportunity.  And to know that the real battle for the souls of men is a spiritual battle, in which the act of conviction and conversion is wrought by God the Holy Spirit alone.

4 The Face of a Godly Witness.  15 And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.

Now, this is a problem verse!  When they looked at his face, it looked like the face of an angel.  What does that mean?  How did they know what an angel looked like anyway?  This has caused some confusion.    Was that what happened?  When they looked at Stephen, he had the face of a spiritual divine being – a seraph?  But an angel is a messenger from God  – no more and no less.  Those divine beings are messengers, but so every Christian who brings the good news.  When the Jews looked at Stephen they knew he was a man sent from God to bring a message!  Isaiah 52:7  

We have seen that our life of witness flows from our spiritual new birth – out of gratitude for Christ’s saving work in our lives as we seek to live humble repentant lives.  We have learned that the pagans often resent that witness, and will go to great lengths to destroy it, and we have learned that in our witness, a good testimony or spiritual wisdom, and the understanding that we are relying on God to do the work, and not our own persuasiveness or dialectical skills.  Finally, we saw that to be a ‘bringer of the good news’ is a lovely and worthy and beautiful thing.

© BobMcEvoy December 2019

From → Acts, Bible Study

One Comment
  1. Andy permalink

    Bob that was simple and to the point but a great eye opener, thanks for sharing this. 👍

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