Eyewitness testimony: Stephen, January 19

I mentioned day before yesterday that Stephen used “Son of Man” in Acts 7:56: “Look”, he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Stephen, one of seven men with Greek names chosen to wait tables by the early church, is not an Apostle (one who saw Jesus in the flesh), although he did miraculous things (Acts 6:8) and contended with the wisdom of the Spirit (6:10). For a guy chosen to be a mere waiter, Stephen had a fairly comprehensive knowledge of the Bible, and preached a pretty effective sermon before the Sanhedrin in Acts 7. The Sanhedrin condemned him and dragged him out to be stoned, and he became the first martyr in Jerusalem. (Oh yeah, his stoning was approved by a guy named Saul, who probably heard that sermon and had it bear unexpected fruit in his life just a little ways down the road…) A couple of things about Stephen: in the face of death he continued to proclaim his belief in Jesus; he died even while forgiving those who were casting stones to kill him. So how do we normal folks apply Stephen’s experience in our lives? I think he makes a pretty strong argument that seeing Jesus “in the flesh” is not necessary to have faith or to experience life-changing belief in Jesus. We can do that too. Also, we should realize that it’s not what we DO or how we serve that gives us value. You can be a waitress or a salesman or a sanitary engineer, but if you know Jesus and God’s word, you can contend with wisdom, and you can live a changed life.

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