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Sep 23, 2018

This is Us: Witness

This is Us: Witness

Passage: Acts 7:54-60

Speaker: Betsy Hudson

Series: This is Us

Category: Faith, Power

Keywords: power, strength, witness

How can you be a witness for Jesus Christ?


 Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)-Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia-who began to argue with Stephen. But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.
   Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, "We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God."
   So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. They produced false witnesses, who testified, "This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us."
   When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."
   At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
   While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.
   And Saul approved of their killing him.
- Acts 6:8-14, 7:54-8:1a (NIV)


As we continue in our study of the early church through the Book of Acts, I'm continually struck by the witness of the first Christians. Stephen's response to persecution is not to be quiet, to be politically correct, to fit in. He responds to pressure by connecting the sacrifice of Jesus to the whole story of Israel, and telling the "elders and the teachers of the law" that in fact, they are the ones failing to keep the law.
And I am self-conscious about saying grace in a restaurant! I'm not going to be persecuted, stoned to death, or perhaps even noticed, and I shy away from this one simple act of witness. Stephen's witness convicts me.
And yet even in this chilling end to chapter 7 and the beginning of chapter 8 I see some hope.
Saul at this point is among the worst offenders against the early church. He oversees the stoning of Stephen and "approved of their killing him." But God doesn't leave him there, in his sin. Jesus comes to Saul at his worst, and calls him to turn from his evil path and toward service and indeed witness. As we turn from our own missteps and toward service and witness, we share more with the early church than we imagine.


Lord Jesus, live in me. Help me to be the disciple You call me to be. Don't leave me where I am, but let Your Spirit dwell in me, to love, to serve, and to witness. Lord, strengthen me to point others toward the joy I find in You. In Your precious name I pray. Amen.
Written by Jon McHenry. Jon leads our devotional team, is a council member, worship speaker and part of the men's ministry at Arcola Church. He is a devoted husband and father. He owes a debt of gratitude to the devotional team for their many edits and improvements of this devotional, and to Vern Milholen for sharing his simple and profound prayer, "Lord, live in me."