One of the things we’re told in the Scriptures is that the servant is no greater than the Master—if people hated Jesus, they will hate His followers. We know that our Union with Christ brings to us every good thing (we have been seeing this in Ephesians 1). But our connection with Christ also makes us targets of the Enemy. How do we handle these attacks?
In Acts 6:8 this is the description we’re given of Stephen: “And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.” In fact, in verse 5, Stephen is said to be “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit . . . .” Clearly, this man (Stephen) had been changed by the Good News and wanted to honor the Lord.
In honoring the Lord, Stephen was speaking the truth of the Gospel and apparently was engaged in conversations about Jesus with Jews in the synagogues. Because of the Spirit’s presence in Stephen’s life, we’re told that those who were opposing Stephen “could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking” (v. 10).” Sadly, the issue with unbelief is never just the head, it is always the heart. So even though Stephen was showing clearly the Truth about Jesus, these men did not want to believe, instead they wanted Stephen dead.
False accusations were made, just like such were made with Jesus. They wanted Stephen to be brought up on charges of blasphemy when, in fact, he was the one glorifying God. Though the coming chapters will bring the story to conclusion, the end of Acts 6 has a powerful moment. In the middle of the accusations, in the middle of all the lies, they look directly at Stephen— “and gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15).
Stephen was not a blasphemer and the people knew it. He wasn’t in it for himself, he didn’t explode in anger or return their evil with evil. Stephen understood that the attacks against him were not about him but about his Master. I don’t know exactly what was going through Stephen’s mind in this moment, but from the narrative here’s what it seems: Stephen is resting in the Lord, praying for the right words, and gathering himself to testify about Jesus.
He is unafraid, but also not belligerent. He is at peace and aware that his calling in that moment is not about himself but the Lord.
How do we do with the opposition we experience as believers? Sometimes it seems that when we find ourselves attacked by the world, we think it is about us—it’s not. Sometimes it seems we desire to fight back with similar tactics as the world—we shouldn’t. We should instead heed Paul’s caution to the Ephesians:
Ephesians 5:15–17 (ESV)
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Stephen did… and the Lord used him powerfully. May He use us powerfully too.