The Spirit Empowers

Acts 6:1-15

The choosing of the seven
6 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.’
5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

Stephen seized
8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 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. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.
11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, ‘We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.’
12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, ‘This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.’
15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

Reflection

Life doesn’t always go how we think it ought.

The church was expanding and the Spirit was enabling many signs and wonders. Yet, complaints regarding the welfare of widows (1), whose cause God had promised to defend (Deut. 10:18), started causing trouble. It was likely an administrative error, but the oversight rendered the vulnerable in society without food and further entrenched social divisions. The responsibility to resolve the issue was given to seven people ‘known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom’ (3).

Are you someone known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom? Do you want to be?

As Spirit filled people, part of our responsibility is to demonstrate love to the vulnerable in society. One way you can do this is through Demonstrate – the social action wing of St Mary’s (available via the App). Let us ask God for His wisdom so that we don’t overlook anyone and to be known for it in our work places, in our families, and on our streets.

One of the seven people was Stephen, a man ‘full of faith and the Holy Spirit’ (5), yet, ‘opposition arose’ (9). People argued with him and when they could not outsmart him (10) they resorted to a campaign of lies to smear his reputation (12-13). God’s presence, however, did not leave him. God’s grace, power (8), and irresistible wisdom (10) was evident to the point that Stephen’s face shone like an angel (15), a sign of God’s presence was with him (cf. Ex. 34:29, Matt. 17:2).

Perhaps you’ve been confronted by opposition, through argument, accusation, or personal attacks. God’s presence is with you. Your face may not be shining like an angel, but as we hold on to the presence of God we ‘shine like stars in the universe’ (Phil. 2:15-16).
Alex Perkin was once an extra in Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince. He was cast member 116 and, though his face didn’t make the director’s cut, he’s somewhere amidst the crowd robed in Gryffindor attire.
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