“Preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2)
Father, replenish and renew my heart toward You. You are my Lord and my God.
Read Acts 7:1–16
Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these charges true?”
2 To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran. 3 ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’
4 “So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Harran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. 5 He gave him no inheritance here, not even enough ground to set his foot on. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child. 6 God spoke to him in this way: ‘For four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated. 7 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,’ God said, ‘and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.’ 8 Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. And Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him eight days after his birth. Later Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs.
9 “Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him 10 and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt. So Pharaoh made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.
11 “Then a famine struck all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great suffering, and our ancestors could not find food. 12 When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our forefathers on their first visit. 13 On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family. 14 After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all. 15 Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our ancestors died. 16 Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
What a challenge: our task today is for “the whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world” (Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization).
Stephen and six others were appointed to “serve tables” (Acts 6:2-5, KJV), while the apostles devoted themselves to the ministry of the word, but evidently that ministry was not the exclusive preserve of the apostles. Right from the beginning of the church it was recognized as a task for all who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the only way by which the great commission can be accomplished.
“To teach mathematics to John you need to know mathematics, and you also need to know John.” Stephen not only knew the Gospel but also demonstrated an impeccable appreciation of his audience. He was on solid ground in taking them back to their roots, tracing the history of the race from the founding father of the nation. We can almost see the high priest and other learned dignitaries nodding in agreement as he carried them along with his story. Any error of fact and that would be the end of his case. Similarly, we too need not only to be capable of a lucid presentation of the Gospel message but also to have an empathetic grasp of the basic facts concerning the lives and beliefs of those with whom we share it.
God has a habit of turning the tables on the enemy. Jesus predicted that his followers would be persecuted and dragged before the authorities, but that this would in fact provide God-given opportunities for bearing witness to him (Luke 21:12–15). Stephen’s experience was a wonderful fulfillment of those words. The high priest and the Sanhedrin wanted to silence the apostles, but they now had an occasion to hear the Gospel faithfully proclaimed so that each could make a decision to accept that salvation, which the Messiah brings, or to reject it.
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Pet. 3:15). How are you equipping yourself for this?
Lord, I want to be a part of the worldwide movement of those sharing Your great, good news! Help me to clarify my witness, and empower me by Your Spirit.
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