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There is a lot of interest today in the activity of Profiling the criminal mind. It is interesting that in certain arenas it is not politically correct to use this tactic of profiling. But if you are looking for a serial killer apparently the value of this discipline is recognized. TV shows are dedicated to this relatively new discipline in law enforcement. I just read a book by Pat Brown – who grew herself into a national expert in this arena by using the media to feature her commentaries on specific cases of interest. She started out as a homeschooling housewife in this area of Prince Georges County and studied the subject on her own. She read over 400 books on the subject. She would immerse herself in a case and make a number of observations that would guide the detectives in their search for the perpetrator of the crime. Or she would open up a cold case and try to breathe new life into the investigation.

As we come to Chapters 6-7 and the account of Stephen, the first martyr in the Christian church, we see that Luke is essentially Profiling a Spirit-filled Christian servant. What does one look like? How does one act? How would we recognize one? What would be his qualifications?

Surprising that first Christian martyr was not one of the heavy hitters = one of the initial 12 apostles

Focus here is on Stephen

Contrast between Spirit-filled Christian servant – pictured in life of Stephen – and those who are always resisting the control of the Holy Spirit and living lives of selfish rebellion

7:51-53 “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.”

Passage is about Spiritual Leadership … that is why it is about Servant mindset

Matt. 20:26-28 “It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”





A. (:1) Spiritual Leaders Must Be Deal Effectively with Problems in the Flock

“Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food.”

All believers are disciples – ridiculous to try to create some type of artificial two-tiered system

Constable: This is the first mention of the word “disciple” in Acts where it occurs 28 times. The word appears about 238 times in the Gospels but nowhere else in the New Testament.

Support of widows is very important to God – who undertakes to provide for them – ideally through immediate family … and then through the church family; older Jews may have migrated back to the Jerusalem area with a longing to be buried in that locale … your ministry to support your aging parents is valuable – not a very high profile ministry; remember how your parents cared for you as an infant – not much benefit returned to them initially …. Now it is our turn to serve

2 Key Threats here:

1) Dissension that would harm the church’s unity and health and testimony

2) Distraction of the apostles from their primary calling of the ministry of the Word and prayer

The solution will be teamwork with the proper exercise of all the gifts by the entire body

Kent: the Jerusalem believers were of two groups, and there had been friction between these groups since long before the Christian era. Both groups were Jews. The “Hebrews” were native Palestinian Jews who spoke Aramaic and used the Hebrew Scriptures. The “Hellenists” were Greek-cultured Jews, many of whom had returned to Palestine in their later years. These spoke Greek regularly, used the LXX as their Scripture, and were sometimes resented by their Hebrew brethren.

So you have the “King James only” contingent over against those who swear by the New American Standard version . . .

Stott: [distinction goes beyond just language difference to a cultural mindset] In this case, the Hellenistai not only spoke Greek but thought and behaved like Greeks, while the Hebraioi not only spoke Aramaic but were deeply immersed in Hebrew culture.

John Hamby: How could the leaders have dealt with the problem in the church?

(1) They could have Ignored the Problem.

(2) They could have Resented the Problem. They could have taken the criticism personally and reacted with resentment.

(3) They could have Over-reacted to the Problem.

B. (:2,4) Spiritual Leaders Must Maintain the Priorities Consistent with Their Giftedness

“And the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.’”

“But we will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.”

Nothing wrong with serving tables – in fact we are going to appoint some very spiritually qualified leaders to oversee this important practical and necessary ministry – but meeting the physical needs of the saints still is a lower priority than meeting the spiritual needs of the saints – different roles based on our giftedness and calling; must have the right people plugged into the right roles

Stedman: Now, it would be very easy to read that as though the apostles were saying, “We’re too good to serve tables. After all, we’re apostles. Let’s pick out seven flunkies who can do that, while we devote ourselves to the tremendously spiritual work of prayer and preaching the word.” But if you read it that way you completely misread this passage because that is not what they did at all.

1. Priority of the Ministry of the Word of God

How can the congregation free the right people up to pursue this most important function? – same word for ministry used here as for the different form of ministry in vs. 1

2. Priority of Devotion to Prayer

Stott: The devil’s next attack was the cleverest of the three. Having failed to overcome the church by either persecution or corruption, he now tried distraction. If he could preoccupy the apostles with social administration, which though essential was not their calling, they would neglect their God-given responsibilities to pray and to preach, and so leave the church without any defence against false doctrine.

Hiebert (quoted by Constable):

“Prayer is the most powerful and effective means of service in the Kingdom of God . . . It is the most dynamic work which God has entrusted to His saints, but it is also the most neglected ministry open to the believer.”

“The Bible clearly reveals that believing prayer is essential for the advancement of the cause of Christ. It is the essential element for Christian victory . . .”

“We may marvel at the spiritual power and glorious victories of the early apostolic church, but we often forget that its constant prayer life was the secret of its strength . . .”

“If the church today would regain the spiritual power of the early church it must recover the truth and practice of prayer as a vital working force.”

C. (:3) Spiritual Leaders Must Delegate Ministry Responsibilities to Qualified

Spirit-Filled Servants

1. Qualified by Personal Association

“But select from among you, brethren,”

Not just recommended by others

Fully participating in fellowship and ministry already

2. Qualified to Function as a Team

“seven men”

3. Qualified in the Eyes of the Watching World

“of good reputation,”

Just like requirement for elders

4. Qualified by the Control of the Holy Spirit = Key to passage

“full of the Spirit”

5. Qualified by Practical Wisdom

“and of wisdom,”

Good judgment; can make wise decisions; can implement the vision

6. Qualified by Willingness and Availability to Oversee the Work

“whom we may put in charge of this task.”

Not to perform all of the work … but to effectively manage the ministry

This was a big task – maybe 20,000 – 30,000 disciples by this time

D. (:5a) Spiritual Leaders Should Solicit Buy-In From the Flock

“And the statement found approval with the whole congregation;”

Steven Cole: Note also the blend between apostolic direction and congregational participation. The apostles did not choose these seven men; they delegated that job to the congregation after giving the necessary qualifications. The congregation brought the seven back to the apostles, who validated the choice by praying and laying hands on them. Later, Paul appointed elders in every church to have oversight. He gave us the qualifications to recognize elders (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). The church is not a democracy, but wise elders will involve the congregation on important decisions. The entire church must be functionally under the headship of Jesus Christ, seeking to honor Him and follow His will.

E. (:5b) Spiritual Leaders Must Be Genuinely Walking by Faith and Controlled by the Holy Spirit

“and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch.”

That is how you recognize additional spiritual leaders

Stephen and Philip are the only ones mentioned later in the book of Acts – emphasis here is on the introduction of Stephen

Faith in what?

– Personal dependence on Jesus Christ:

o For forgiveness of sins and entrance into heaven

o For power for living a life of freedom from sin

o For provision of personal needs

o For direction and guidance in his life

– Belief in the revealed Word of God and especially the Promises of God:

o Promise of the Presence and Protection of God – Matt. 28:20

 “lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”

o Promise of the Power of God for ministry and effective witnessing – Acts 1

 “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you”

o Promise of Participation in great works

 John 14:12-14 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”

o Promise of the Personal Return of Jesus Christ and coming Kingdom

 John 14 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

Stedman: The glory of this church was that they were conscious of the superintendency of the Holy Spirit — so aware that the Lord Jesus himself, by means of the Spirit, was the head of the church. He was apportioning gifts, giving certain ministries to various individuals and sending them out, giving the orders. All through this book of Acts you can see tremendous manifestation of the direction of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that sends Philip down to Gaza in Chapter 8. It is the Spirit that arrests Saul on his way to Damascus. It is the Spirit that allows the persecution that sends the disciples down to Samaria. Through this whole book of Acts the Spirit of God is at work. . . .

Spirituality is dependence on the activity of God. It is the fact that you recognize God is within you and that he intends to work through you, and you expect him to do it. That is what makes you spiritual. Its opposite is carnality. A carnal Christian is one who counts on something within himself. He says, “I’ve got what it takes. Just give me a chance, I’ll show you what I can do for Christ. What a tremendous thrill it must be for Jesus to have me on his team! Look at all the qualifications I have! Look at my ability, look at all the experience I have. You can count on me, I can do it.” That is a carnal Christian. He may be very zealous, very dedicated, impressively so. He may be ready to give up his sleep, his wealth, and his girlfriend or what have you. But he is still carnal because he is not resting on Christ, he is not relying on the work of God, as does the spiritual man. These men had to be spiritual men.

Spoken of as the background for the first deacons in the church –

MacArthur: These were not deacons in terms of the later church office (1 Ti 3:8-13), although they performed some of the same duties. Stephen and Philip (the only ones of the 7 mentioned elsewhere in Scripture) clearly were evangelists, not deacons. It seems, therefore, that a permanent order of deacons was not established at that time. The 7 men chosen by the church all had Gr. Names, implying they were all Hellenists. [but not necessarily because many Palestinian Jews also had Greek names like the apostle Philip – Kent] The church, in a display of love and unity, may have chosen them to rectify the apparent imbalance involving the Hellenistic widows. . . Stephen’s martyrdom became the catalyst for the spread of the gospel beyond Palestine (8:1-4; 11:19). Philip also played a key role in the spread of the gospel (cf. 8:4-24, 26-40). Nothing certain is known of the other 5. According to some early traditions, Prochorus became the Apostle John’s amanuensis when he wrote his gospel and Nicolas was a Gentile convert to Judaism from Antioch.

F. (:6) Spiritual Leaders Must Make Decisions in the Context of Prayer

“And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.”

Never assume anything or act presumptuously – look at what happened in the history of Israel when they failed to seek the Lord in prayer and wait upon His leading

Kent: Hands were laid on them, symbolizing probably the blessing of God as well as their official identification as the duly appointed functionaries. Nothing mystical was conveyed by the action, however, for they were “full of the Spirit” prior to their being chosen.

Constable: Laying hands on someone symbolized the bestowal of a blessing (Gen. 48:13; et al.). It also represented identification with the person (Lev. 1:4; 3:2; et al.), commissioning as a kind of successor (Num. 27:23), and granting authority (8:17-19; 9:17; 13:3; 19:6; 1 Tim. 4:14; 5:22; Heb. 6:2). Here commissioning for a task is in view (cf. 13:1-3) rather than formal ordination, which came later in church history. Prayer accompanied this ceremony on this occasion, as was customary.

Some people would argue that this passage supports not needing to follow the organizational structure that we see in the early NT church – cf. Constable:

“the early church was willing to adapt its organizational structure and administrative procedures to minister effectively and to meet needs. It did not view its original structure and practices as binding but adapted traditional structures and methods to facilitate the proclamation of the gospel and the welfare of the church. In contrast, many churches today try to duplicate the form and functions of the early church because they feel bound to follow these.”

However, I would respond that where the structure is presented as normative (for example: offices of elders and deacons) we do need to adopt the pattern. There certainly is freedom as well … but not to contradict any of the important principles (male leadership, multiple team leadership, etc. You would not want to appoint a bishop over multiple churches as the early church ended up evolving towards.). Yes, a new church does not have to begin with a fully developed structure of deacons, etc. … but it should be launched under the direction of at least a plurality of elders as opposed to a non-Biblical model of a one-man pastorate. Better to have no formal authority and work towards the biblical model than to begin with an unbalanced structure that will be difficult to correct later.

G. (:7) Spiritual Leaders Desire to See Spiritual Results

1. Impact of the Word

“And the word of God kept on spreading;” = Theme of Book of Acts

2. Increase in the number of disciples

“and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem,”

3. Inroads Into Spiritual Strongholds

“and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.”

Cost them their job working in the temple – were they supported as leaders in the new movement??

Kent: These were hardly the Sadducean aristocrats, but were most likely common priests, many of whom were godly men who were open to the gospel (cf. Zacharias, Luke 1).

Here faith is spoken of in objective sense as the body of truth concerning Jesus Christ

Robertson: Here meaning the gospel, the faith system as in Romans 1:5; Galatians 1:23; Jude 1:3, etc. Here the word means more than individual trust in Christ.

Takes great faith to live this way

Piper: But what Stephen had to deal with was that the dismantling of the old temple system did not happen overnight. It was happening gradually. This puts a whole new slant on Acts 6:7 from last week’s text, where it says, “A great many priests were obedient to the faith.” What that really means is: a great many priests came to believe that they were out of a job. A great many priests came to believe that Jesus is the one and only high priest now, and will never die, and all Christians are priests in his service.

* * * * * * * * * Conclusion to Part 1:

Illustration: D. L. Moody was to have an evangelistic campaign in England. An elderly pastor protested, “Why do we need this ‘Mr. Moody’? He’s uneducated, inexperienced, etc. Who does he think he is anyway? Does he think he has a monopoly on the Holy Spirit?”

A younger, wiser pastor rose and responded, “No, but the Holy Spirit has a monopoly on Mr. Moody.”

Stephen was also a man who the Holy Ghost had a monopoly on.

* * * * * * * * *

(:8-15) INTRODUCTION to Part 2:

A guy dies, arrives at the Pearly Gates, and (as always in stories like this), St. Peter is there and asks him to relate a good deed he had done. He thinks for a moment then says, “Well, there was the time I was driving down a road when I saw a group of hoodlums harassing a girl. I stopped my car, grabbed a tire iron, and walked up to the leader of the gang. He was huge—6 foot 4 inch, 260 pounds, with a studded leather jacket, tattoos, and a chain running from his nose to his ears. As I approached him, the others circled me and told me to get lost or I’d be next. So I grabbed the leader’s chain, ripped it out of his face, and smashed him over the head with the tire iron. Then I yelled at them, ‘Leave this girl alone! You’re acting like a bunch of animals! Go home before I teach you a lesson in pain!’”

St. Peter, impressed, says, “Wow! When did you do all that?”

“Oh [looking at his watch], about three minutes ago.”

Sometime you get killed for doing what is right, don’t you? Stephen the first Christian martyr – but remembered as an exemplary Spirit-filled Servant – Some would look at the life of Stephen and say, “What a waste! Snuffed out in the prime of life” – But here we are in 2010 still learning lessons from his Spirit-filled testimony – What an impact by a man of God!



[Last message dealt with Dimension #1 – vv. 1-7]




A. Spirit-Filled Ministries Highlight the Grace of God

“And Stephen, full of grace”

Stephen was certainly full of it:

– “full of the Spirit and of wisdom” :3

– “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” :5

– “full of grace and power”

Sadly, too many of us are full of ourselves

Graciousness, attractiveness, charm

Grace – a special manifestation of the divine presence, activity, power, glory, and favor of God

Not a works-oriented, performance-oriented believer; but one who appreciated the grace of God in his life; divine favor blessing his efforts in a supernatural sense

Both received grace and lived in the realm of grace and demonstrated grace towards others

2 Cor. 12:9 – “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Lenski: the Lord singled out Stephen as his instrument through whom He wrought miracles when and where the Lord desired.

B. Spirit-Filled Ministries Are Sourced in Divine Power

“and power,”

nothing weak or lame about Stephen’s ministry

could minister in boldness and confidence

C. Spirit-Filled Ministries Produce Great Works

“was performing great wonders and signs”

D. Spirit-Filled Ministries Connect with Needy People

“among the people.”



Quote: In every believer the Holy Spirit is resident, but what He wants to be is President! [call the shots, be in full control!]

A. (:9) God’s Servant Ambassadors for the Truth Face Strong Opposition

“But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen.”

Lenski: in 61 B.C., Pompey had taken many hundreds of captive Jews who were then sold as slaves. Numbers of them and of their descendants gained their liberty and were considered Romans. They were rapidly Hellenized. . . numbers of these freedmen migrated to Jerusalem

Toussaint: The members of this synagogue were from three divergent areas – North Africa (Cyrene and Alexandria were two of its leading cities), Asia (the western portion of modern-day Turkey), an Cilicia. Possibly this was the assembly Paul attended because Tarsus was located in the province of Cilicia.

How must the servant of God respond under such pressure and attack?

With meekness and gentleness; not being contentious; but not backing down either

Not just serving tables; taking a verbal stand for the truth as well; standing up on the front lines and taking some shots from the enemy

People wanted to pick a fight verbally with Stephen

B. (:10) God’s Servant Ambassadors for the Truth Excel in Wisdom and Spirit-Filled Power

“And yet they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.”

Seek God’s wisdom to effectively do what He calls you to do. James 3:17 “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

C. (:11-14) God’s Servant Ambassadors for the Truth Are Falsely Charged with Trumped up Charges

“Then they secretly induced men to say, ‘We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.’ And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and dragged him away, and brought him before the Council. And they put forward false witnesses who said, ‘This man incessantly speaks against this holy place, and the Law; for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us.’”

Reminds us of the trumped up trial of Jesus and the false witness that were brought forth to accuse Him wrongly (John 2:19-22; Matt. 26:61; 27:40)

Bruce: Whatever form of words Stephen used which gave rise to the charge that he said Jesus the Nazarene would destroy the temple, it seems plain that he had not only repeated the words which Jesus Himself had spoken, but also grasped and expounded their inner meaning. The apostles and many of the rank and file of the Jerusalem church might continue to attend the temple services and be looked upon as devout and observant Jews; Stephen saw that the work of Christ logically involved the abrogation of the whole temple order and its supersession by a new edifice not made with hands, and yet within the main stream of OT revelation. Jesus Himself had said, “one greater than the temple is here” (Matt. 12:6); these and other sayings of His about the temple were apparently preserved by the early church in Jerusalem, but it was Stephen who appreciated their full force. The gospel meant the end of the sacrificial cultus and all the ceremonial law. These were the outward and visible signs of Jewish particularism, and could not be reconciled with the universal scope of the Christian message of salvation accomplished. This was the argument, pressed by Stephen in synagogue debate, which formed the real basis of the case for the prosecution.

1. Attacking Moses (and therefore God)

2. Attacking the Temple – “this holy place”

Piper: What Jesus meant when he said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up,” was that he himself was taking the place of the temple—by dying for sin once for all, and by rising from the dead to reign as the everlasting priest and Lord of glory. When I die, the temple system dies. And when I rise, I am the temple. I am the sacrifice for sins. I am the priest and go-between with God. I am the presence and radiance of his glory. The temple is finished.

3. Attacking the Law

4. Attacking their Expectations regarding the Promised Messiah by promoting Jesus the Nazarene

5. Attacking Jewish Traditions

Guzik: Why would they make such accusations? Because Stephen was clearly teaching that Jesus was greater than Moses; that Jesus was God; that Jesus was greater than the temple; that Jesus was the fulfillment of the law; and that Jesus was greater than their religious customs and traditions.

Tyler Edwards: His sermon in Acts 7 is one of the most brilliant sermons in the entire book of Acts. So much so that you almost don’t notice what Stephen is really doing when he speaks. Stephen was on trial for four forms of blasphemy: Blasphemy against Moses, against God, against the Temple, and against the Law. What Stephen is doing here is using Jewish history to make a legal defense against the charges brought against him while at the same time pointing all of the things he was accused of blaspheming toward Christ.

Piper: If the Messiah is coming down from heaven, with forgiveness and advocacy and glory, and the light of God shining upon him, then the first thing that will be seen is his shadow on the earth. And so it was in the sacrifices and priestly service of the old temple. But as the reality gets closer the shadow becomes smaller, and when the reality lands on its shadow, it swallows it up entirely and it is no more. But that does not mean that the reality was against the shadow, or that it blasphemed the shadow. It fulfilled the shadow. And in that sense destroyed the shadow.




“And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel.”

Whitcomb: What does our face look like when we are falsely accused? Phil. 1:28

Love and concern for our accusers? Peace and confidence in God?

Remember how Christ acted before His accusers

Moses came down from the Mount with a glowing face – he needed a veil covering his face until the light faded out (Ex. 34:29-30)

Cf. Jesus on Mount of Transfiguration – face like the shining sun; a rare time in His earthly existence when humans were allowed to see his glory

A. Angels Reflect Light Rather Than Darkness

Light of God’s revelation and truth

B. Angels Reflect Peace and Tranquility rather than Anxiety and Fear

C. Angels Reflect the Presence of God—His Glory and Majesty and Preeminence

Kent: The enigmatic statement that Stephen’s face had the appearance of an angel’s may indicate a supernatural glow, similar to that of Moses when he came down from the mount (Exod. 34:29-35). The vision of Christ which he received later in the council makes the comparison with Moses somewhat similar, although the unusual appearance of Stephen’s face seems to have begun before the vision, whereas in the case of Moses it came afterward. Saul of Tarsus was probably Luke’s source for this report.

Lenski: We must recall the promise of Jesus given to the disciples that at their trials before tribunals the Holy Spirit would inspire them (Matt. 10:19, 20; Mark 13:11-13; Luke 12:11; 21:14, 15). This was Stephen’s supreme hour. That Spirit now filled him to such an extent that his countenance shone with supernatural radiance, light, and power, which were comparable only to those that appear on an angel’s countenance. The Sanhedrists gazed in astonishment. They were struck by this phenomenon – struck but not moved.


How would a profiler characterize your character and conduct?

What is the controlling power behind your life?

Does your countenance reflect someone who spends time in the presence of God?


He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater

He sendeth more strength when the labors increase

To added affliction He addeth His mercy

To multiplied trials His multiplied peace

His love has no limit, His grace has no measure

His power has no boundary known unto men

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus

He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!”

(the more you need the more you get!)

Think a moment about a water-saturated sponge. If we push down with our finger even slightly, water runs out onto the table. We immediately know what fills the interior pockets of the sponge. The same is true of ourselves. We can tell what fills us on the inside by what comes out under pressure. (Robert Schmidgall)