This post is the third in our series, “Apostles’ Doctrine,” deals with the witness of the first martyr, Stephen and his understanding of the Apostles’ doctrine.
STEPHEN – PROCLAIMING THE DOCTRINE
Stephen was not an apostle. He was a deacon and a ministry of helps in the Church. He preached like an apostle because He was full of the Holy Spirit and understood the doctrine of the apostles. He was under the influence of the teachings of the apostles of Christ.
After He proclaims the works of God in the history of Israel, the Jews were furious and gnashed their teeth against him. The Jews were convicted by what he said, however, they still did not pick stones to stone him to death.
Acts 7:54 – “Now upon hearing these things, they [the Jews] were cut to the heart and infuriated, and they ground their teeth against [Stephen].”
They would not have killed him if He would not have said what he said next. Stephens’ next statement shocked the religious Jews.
Acts 7:55-56 – “But he, full of the Holy Spirit and controlled by Him, gazed into heaven and saw the glory (the splendor and majesty) of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand; And he said, Look! I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at God’s right hand!”
The moment He gave witness of the resurrected Christ standing at the Father’s right hand, the Jews could not bear it and shouted, dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death.
Acts 7:57-58 – But they raised a great shout and put their hands over their ears and rushed together upon him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him, and the witnesses placed their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.
Stephen became a witness of power which He received when the Holy Spirit came upon him. The witness was everywhere. As the church grows into the things of God, it will begin to bear a testimony with power and demonstration of the Spirit. As long as the Church portrays herself as nice with all worldly relevance, she will be powerless.
PERSECUTION MANIFESTS STRENGTH
Persecution is a part of your Christian walk. You will find many people who do not like you because you speak the truth. They are happy with their itching ears being tickled by sugar-coated sermons. When people in the assembly persecute us for Christ’s doctrine sake, we do not go into our closet and hide. This is a process of formation. God will teach you to handle these kinds of people. These people are in your life to help you increase in the things of God and decrease in your flesh and the world. This is the part where you are formed.
FORMATION BRINGS REVIVAL
Persecution gives you plenty of opportunities to forgive people and to love people. It demands giving up your will and the stretching of your faith. It also increases your endurance and patience with the testing of your faith. The end result: you are being formed into the image of Christ in areas of endurance, love, patience, self control, forgiveness, unity and much more. He had greater understanding than many teachers of his day about God and His Christ. This formation brings Restoration, Reformation and Revival.
Stephen lifts his eyes into heaven and sees the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. Stephen was looking at His master, and being the first martyr of the Church, this gives him strength to forgive as Jesus forgave.
Acts 7:59-60 – And while they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, Lord Jesus, receive and accept and welcome my spirit! And falling on his knees, he cried out loudly, Lord, fix not this sin upon them [lay it not to their charge]! And when he had said this, he fell asleep [in death].
The first begotten from the dead receives the spirit of martyrs to follow. This is the only place mentioned where Jesus is seen standing at God’s right hand. Persecution brought Stephen an opportunity to proclaim Christ and the resurrection boldly. This in turn leads to the opening of the heavens and his witness of the resurrected Christ and God’s glory. This strengthens him to forgive all who stoned him.
The Resurrection is one of the fundamental doctrines the apostles preached. We will cover other aspects of the apostles doctrine in the upcoming parts of the series.