Thursday, May 11, 2017
A Wise Response
Acts 7:1 Then the high priest asked him, “Are these things so?” 2 And Stephen replied:
“Brothers and fathers, listen to me. The God of glory appeared to our ancestor Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you.’
Stephen’s response to the high priest’s question isn’t simply a “yes or no.” Instead he makes use of this opportunity to bring a rather lengthy address regarding the history of the Israelites. This entire passage begins right after we are told that Stephen’s countenance was like that of an angel. The glory of God was visible in the life of the one who had spent time in God’s holy presence. Now, he begins a discourse which would draw a connection between Christianity, the law, and the temple. With great wisdom Stephen is able to make the connection by way of Old Testament history. He takes them back to the core of Judaism, before the temple, the land of Israel and the law. He wants the people to understand that these are all expressions of the core of Judaism, but there is a cornerstone which had been rejected and now upon which Christianity is being built. He had great knowledge and knew how to use it for the benefit of the gospel.
Interestingly later in life Paul would use the some methodology in arguing for the sake of the gospel. Could that have been something that he learned when he stood by, ready to martyr Stephen? Could Stephen’s wise response have planted a seed in the heart of an unbeliever that would someday bear much fruit? The wise response became another reflection of the glory of God which he also showed was revealed in and through those who were faithful. It was the glory of God which we see in his faith and that was revealed through his message in God’s faithful people.
Preparation for Stephen’s wise response began long before he found himself before the Sanhedrin. For those desiring to serve God faithfully there will be times when we must be prepared with a wise response. A simple yes or no will not suffice, but preparation for that day begins long before the moment.
Stephen had spent years in being educated in the scriptures. He was a man who was willing to make knowing the word of God a part of his vocation. For us to be able to have a wise response from the word, we must know the word. Enough time must be spending in learning the scriptures, not just on a casual level, but digging deeper and gaining a greater understanding and revelation of God through the written word. Stephen’s ability to make connections between what he had learned and how it could be used for God’s glory was really quite stunning.
Not only was he immersed in the Scriptures, but Stephen was immersed in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. The holy wisdom of God was at his disposal as he testified before the religious leaders. The influence of this testimony has lived out far beyond the day in which it was spoken. The wisdom of his words cut to the hearts of those listening that day, to the heart of the young man Paul, and to the author, Luke, who penned the words for all of eternity. God used the moment for Stephen to become influential throughout all of history. This happened because Stephen was a willing servant of God who laid down his life as an instrument in the hand of the Lord.
A wise response also comes from not just jumping in with the easy answer. Stephen could have said just a “yes” or a “no” but used the moment he had been given to touch all of history. The wise response makes the most of every opportunity for the sake of the kingdom.
Lord, may your wisdom lead and guide through the troubled moments of life, and may I be an instrument in your hands. Amen.