June 16 – Who Does Your Face Reflect – Pastor John Thompson

Acts 6:8-15                           “WHO DOES YOUR FACE REFLECT?”

Or, Do You Really Want to be Like Jesus? 

Have you ever noticed that our children and grand-children can at times look just so angelic?  And at other times they can look pretty much the opposite.  I still remember one of our children in her baby walker.  It was some time ago because we had the one that had wheels.  They were actually banned from sale in Canada in 2004.  Which is no wonder because in them children could be injured in any number of ways.  Stairs were especially dangerous. 

Anyway, our daughter was enjoying her newfound mobility and was up near the curtains on the front window.  She was also learning at that time what “No, don’t touch” meant.  And I remember well

her angelic face gazing back at us as she reached out her hand to grab the curtain with a bit of an impish grin even as we said “no, don’t touch” and she smiled back at us so sweetly.  Her face reflected innocence even though she wasn’t really innocent. 

The question I want to ask you today is “What does your face reflect.”  Really I’m asking, “Who does your face reflect?”  I think in answering that we also answer the question: “Do you really want to be like Jesus?” 

The reason I ask is because in Acts 6:8-15 we encounter the life and ministry of Stephen and the fact is his life reflected Jesus.  What I found most exciting as I studied this passage in preparation for today is how Stephen’s life aligns with what we have learned through the ABC’s of Discipleship.  As you know we have defined our Mission: “To Glorify God through the Making of Disciples!” 

The mission of the church is to glorify God and to make disciples.  For that reason we took a break from our studies in the Book of Acts which talks about how the early church fulfilled that mission to explain the ABC’s of Discipleship.  The ABC’s form the basis for us to fulfill the mission here at Forest City Bible Church.  We want you to understand the Biblical process for becoming a mature and committed follower of Jesus Christ, a disciple. 

A – Accepting the Lordship of Christ above all else.

B – Being in Christ and Christ being in us. 

C – Committing and Submitting to a Church and a People. 

D – Devoting ourselves to prayer and study of Scripture. 

E – Engaging our gifts in the mission to make disciples. 

F-G – Filled with the Holy Spirit and Going. 

And now as we rejoin the book of Acts looking at the life of Stephen it picks up right where we left off.  Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit and Going.  When seven men were chosen to take on the responsibility of ministering to the widows in the early church Stephen was chosen to be one who served.  The criterion laid out for that service was that they be full of the Spirit and of wisdom. 

Acts 6:3 (ESV) 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. Next, in Acts 6:5 (ESV) we read:  “And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.”  Now in Acts 6:8 (ESV) we learn more of Stephen: “And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.”  He is immediately opposed but what we read next brings us full circle in Acts 6:10 (ESV) “But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.”

The fullness of the Spirit was evident in Stephen’s life, he was serving, he was filled and he was going out to share the gospel.  F-G – Filled with the Holy Spirit and Going.  He was like Jesus. 

1.  EMPOWERED EVANGELISTIC OUTREACH: Acts 6:8

Stephen shared Jesus’ grace and power. 

2.  ELOQUENCE ANSWERING OPPOSITION: Acts 6:9-14

Stephen spoke with wisdom and faced rejection like Jesus. 

3.  ENDURING PERSECUTION, REFLECTING GOD’S GLORY: Acts 6:15

Stephen reflected Jesus’ glory. 

1.  EMPOWERED EVANGELISTIC OUTREACH: Acts 6:8

“And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.”

The name “Stephen” means “victor’s crown.”  The Greek word was used for the reward given to  a civic leader or to the crown of glory received by a victor in the Olympic games.  Stephen was soon to be crowned as the first Christian martyr.  Tertullian the early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa was the early church father who said:  “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Stephen’s example shows us how to live and how to die.  Luke describes Stephen’s Christlike character, his ministry and his death.

Over the next three chapters 6-9 Luke presents to us the growth of the early church in Jerusalem and the persecution that begins to develop causing the spread of the gospel throughout Judea, Galilee, Samaria and even to Syria.  Stephen’s death is mentioned three times in the book of Acts and is seen as a marked turning point in the story of the gospel’s progress.

But today we want to consider Stephen’s life and how he was like Jesus?  Stephen shared Jesus’ grace and power. Stephen had accepted Jesus and through God’s grace and power he was enabled to live a life that reflected His Saviour.  As we have seen already Stephen was a man filled with grace gifts from God.  Putting together what we looked at a few moments ago we see that Stephen was full of the Spirit and of wisdom, full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, full of grace and power.  He was doing great wonders and signs among the people and he spoke with wisdom and the Spirit.

The Christ Centered Exposition Commentary says:  God had poured out his grace on this man. The Spirit empowered Stephen to do ministry, which involved caring for widows, speaking and acting with wisdom, and performing signs and wonders. In this way Stephen followed the Master. Jesus was

also a man “full of the Spirit” (e.g., Luke 4:1) and wisdom (Luke 2:52) and is himself wisdom (Colossians 2:3-4).

This reminds us that wisdom is more than a set of principles; wisdom is a Person. When you are united to Jesus, he makes you wise. He enables you to make sense of this life.

Are you asking God to fill you with faith, power, and wisdom? Remember: you are controlled by whatever fills you. If you are filled with jealousy, the success of others will infuriate you. If you are

filled  with lust, your sexual appetites will lead you into great darkness. If you are filled with anger, you will quarrel and even murder with your thoughts. But if you are filled with God’s power and wisdom, you will live a life like Stephen demonstrated—an others-oriented, Christ-exalting life.

Do you really want to be like Jesus? 

Acts 2:22 uses similar words to describe what Jesus did as Luke uses here to describe what Stephen was empowered to do.  Stephen was doing great wonders and signs among the people. 

In Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost he said:  Acts 2:22 (ESV)  “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know.”  The apostles continued the work of Jesus evidencing His grace and power through wonders and signs and now as Acts goes on we see that same power at work in the life of Stephen and we will see it as well in the life of Philip. 

The testimony of God was upon Stephen’s life as it had been upon the life of Christ.  It was all through Jesus’ power not through Stephen’s.  That brings us to Christ’s promise to His followers and the key verse of the book of Acts: Acts 1:8 (ESV) “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

2.  ELOQUENCE ANSWERING OPPOSITION: Acts 6:9-14

Acts 6:9-14 (ESV) “Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen.  But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.  Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.”  And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law,  for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.”

Stephen spoke with wisdom and faced rejection like Jesus. In spite of all Stephen’s outstanding qualities, his ministry provoked fierce opposition.  He was vehemently opposed by those from the synagogue of the Freedmen.  This synagogue was in part made up of former slaves and others from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia and Asia.  Cilicia was Paul’s home region.  He may have been one who disputed with Stephen but he and the others who argued with him could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.  The word used for argued or disputed is “suzeteo” which refers not to a quarrel but to a formal debate. 

Stephen was among those chosen to serve in the care of the widows because he was full of the Spirit

and of wisdom.  This brings it full circle. He spoke with wisdom and the Spirit.  He was like Jesus!  Jesus wisdom was so great that we read in Luke 20:40 (ESV) “For they no longer dared to ask him any question.” The best trained scholars of the day could not withstand Jesus’ wisdom

Stephen spoke with wisdom and faced rejection like Jesus. These men were unable to defeat Stephen in a fair debate so they resorted to bringing false charges against him.  Inducing some to say Acts 6:11 (ESV) “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” The Greek word used is “hupoballo” which means “to throw under or put under; to suggest to the mind; to instruct privately; to bribe or induce someone unlawfully or secretly to perform a bad deed or crime; to give a false witness.” It is used only here in the New Testament.  They willfully slandered Stephen. 

Note that they so exalted Moses and the law that they put him before God!  The mob mentality took over the they dragged Stephen (literally “seized him with violence”) and brought him before the Sanhedrin, the same council that had condemned Christ.  Stephen was like Jesus. 

When you speak who are you like? We are told in Colossians 4:6 (ESV) “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” 

2 Corinthians 10:5 (ESV) “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

Speaking for Jesus may bring you rejection just like it did Stephen. 

When the trial begins they bring forward false witnesses just like they did against Jesus and the accusation is much the same as that brought against Christ.  “This man never ceases to speak words

against this holy place and the law, for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” Against Jesus the false witnesses said:  Mark 14:58 (ESV)  “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’”

Jesus had warned His followers that they would be hated in John 15. He told them to be prepared to face opposition in Luke 21:12-18 (ESV) “But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake.  This will be your opportunity to bear witness.  Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.  You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death.  You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.  But not a hair of your head will perish.” 

Their hatred of Stephen is because of their hatred of Jesus.  Stephen spoke with wisdom and faced rejection like Jesus.  And he reflected Jesus’ glory. 

3.  ENDURING PERSECUTION, REFLECTING GOD’S GLORY: Acts 6:15

Acts 6:15 (ESV) “And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.”

Stephen reflected Jesus’ glory. His face shone.  One other individual in Scripture is described as bearing the face of an angel.  Moses, when he came down from the mountain, having been with God, carrying the tablets of stone.  Yes in Moses day they had tablets.  The law of God. 

Stephen was Moses-like, his face was shining like an angel.  This is God’s testimony that Stephen had faithfully represented the law of God and the customs of Moses by declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ!  Stephen’s life and testimony would have a profound and lasting effect upon one of his persecutors.  Paul, who some time later made his own presentation to the Hellenist Jews in Jerusalem recorded in Acts 9:29 (ESV) “And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him.”

Stephen reflected Jesus’ glory and the day would come when Paul would no doubt call Stephen’s appearance to mind as he wrote these words.

2 Corinthians 3:7-11, 16-18 (ESV) “Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?  For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.  Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it.  For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory. …when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

Stephen’s first recorded sermon would be his last and as he delivered it I have no doubt his face continued to shine.  The hearts of those observing were so hard they had no reaction. 

Does your face shine when you talk about Jesus? 

When you share the glories of the gospel does your face light up? 

Do you really want to be like Jesus? 

Ask God to fill you with Spirit and wisdom. 

An unknown poet penned these words:

‘Twas not just the words you wrote, to you, so clear, to me, so dim.

But ‘twas that when you spoke, you brought a sense of Him.

In your eyes He beckoned me, and in your smile His love was spread.

Until I lost sight of you, and saw the Lord instead.

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