We have seen a common theme of the Apostles ministering through the demonstration of the power of the Spirit and many people come to know Jesus. They had a greater boldness and confidence in Jesus because they had been filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. No matter what opposition came their way they continued being faithful to proclaim the message of the cross and the Kingdom of God continued to advance.
Now we come to a new challenge within the church. The church is growing rapidly and there are some turmoil among the believers. I want to highlight some insight from how the Apostles navigated through this situation. I also want to look at the life of Stephen and how his ministry and life impacted the Kingdom of God.
I. Challenges in Church Growth
Acts 6:1-7: But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.” Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith). These seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them. So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.
There were obviously some issues with how the food was being distributed between the Greek-speaking and Hebrew-speaking widows. They called in the Apostles and they came up with a solution.
A new ministry was birthed. They chose seven men to oversee this food distribution ministry.
Qualification for ministry
Well-respected, honest, trustworthy, of good character
Full of the Spirit - led by the Spirit and working out of the strength of the Spirit
Wisdom - God is the source of their wisdom
They laid hands on them. They were commissioning and empowering them to do the work that God had called them to do.
These adjustments brought more growth to the church. Even Jewish priests were coming to know and follow Jesus!
II. God desires every believer to minister with the power of the Holy Spirit
Acts 6:8-10: Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people. But one day some men from the Synagogue of Freed Slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him. They were Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia. None of them could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke.
Up until this point we only read of the Apostles doing miracles. Now Stephen is perform amazing miracles and signs. This has always been God’s plan. We all have the same Holy Spirit at work in our lives and just need to step out in faith and do what Jesus did!
Stephen was challenged to a debate and it says that none of them could stand against he wisdom and Spirit with which he spoke.
Stephen had a faith and revelation of the word that we all need. He was someone that spent time with Jesus. This is the only way that he could do these things.
1 Corinthians 2:12-14: And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.
God put His Spirit in us so that we know Him and have access to all that He is, including His wisdom.
Colossians 1:9: So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding.
Pray and ask for God’s wisdom. Pray and ask God to give us wisdom as a church as we move forward.
III. More opposition and more growth
Acts 7:55-56: But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”
Stephen was falsely accused and speaks a powerful word from the Holy Spirit. He challenged their beliefs and they didn’t like that.
Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit is mentioned a few times throughout the text. We can only accomplish God’s purpose and plan for our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. The only way that we can be full of the Spirit is through being in the presence of God.
Full means overflowing
Stephen shared a vision that he was having of the heaven being opened and seeing Jesus at the right hand of the Father. We know that he was stoned to death next. He was the first martyr. His death ultimately shook up the believers in Jerusalem and caused the message of the Gospel to spread throughout the region and beyond.
God wants to use you to reach this city. He wants to use you to heal the sick, to set people free, and to bring people to salvation. God will do these things out of relationship. We pursue Him and He fills us with Himself to overflowing and that overflow begins to change people’s lives in our city. He wants us to tap into His wisdom for whatever challenges and obstacles we may face individually and as a church. We don’t have to force these, but we do need to be ready do whatever He asks us to do. I am excited for who God is and what He is doing in our church. Let’s keep going after Him and see Him do great things in our city!