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Your Countenance is Your Living Testimony (Acts 6:1-15)

Acts: The Book of Mission, Pastor Heo, Sermons

Your Countenance is Your Living Testimony (Acts 6:1-15)

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Your Countenance is your Living Testimony

Acts 6:1-15 (Pastor Heo)

6:1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian 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, 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.

8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous 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. These men began to argue with Stephen, 10 but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke. 11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy 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.


In Greek, angel = “angelos” = messenger

Have you ever seen the face of an angel?

If you become a full messenger of God, your face will be like the face of an angel.

Two parts

  1. v. 1-7 Selection of 7 men
  2. v. 8-15 Arrest of Stephen before the Sanhedrin

When we read of the early church, the fellowship, breaking of bread, ministry, etc, we think they were perfect. But NO. The early church had problems just as we do today. Know that there is no perfect church. No church has ever been, nor will be perfect until Christ returns.

Today, some Christians are wandering from church to church looking for a “perfect” church. If a church were “perfect” – then it should not accept you and me as members in order to remain “perfect.” But if a church did not accept imperfect members, it would not be a biblical church.

A church does not have to be “perfect” to be a powerful witness for Christ.

Early church grew 120 -> 3,000 -> 5,000 – more and more added each day. “So the Word of God spread and ” (v. 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.”

This growth created logistical problems that would have consumed all the apostles’ time. So, in order to take care of this, they commissioned 7 men who would spend their whole lives to take care of this (deacons of the early church). In the Korean Bible, Philip is mentioned as an evangelist and one of the 7 deacons.

v. 1

“In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.”

At that time, almost all the early church members were Jews. There were two kinds:

  1. Hebraic Jews = Hebrew speaking (native, local) Jews (spoke Aramaic – the Semitic language)
  2. Grecian Jews = Spoke Greek, couldn’t speak Aramaic because they lived outside Israel

At that time, there was a long tradition of care for the poor in the synagogue – and the early church continued this practice. The Greek speaking Jews complained that their widows were being discriminated against.

At that time, there were many MORE widows than usual because many Jews from Greek-speaking nations had returned home to be buried with their ancestors. But, all their money was gone – because property was passed on from father to son. So widows often needed help. They had no property of their own.

In my parents’ generation, in Korea, they said, “Whole life depends on man – father in childhood, husband in marriage, son in old age.” But today is not exactly like that. But 2,000 years ago in that society, widows were totally dependent on others. But discrimination occurred because of language and class barriers.

v. 2-7

“6:2 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, 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.”

So the 12 apostles called a meeting of the church and suggested the selection of 7 delegates. They chose 7 workers for this ministry of distribution and management. But there is no record about HOW they did it – but they solved this issue and the church grew, became more mature, and they experienced revival once more (growth in quality and quantity).

From this story, we can apply 3 lessons to our daily lives.

#1 Grow from problems

There is no “perfect” church – there is no “perfect” Christian

Jesus: “In this world, you will have troubles of many kinds, but take heart, for I have overcome the world.” (Matthew?)

In this earth, we live with problems – so many. But what is important is our ATTITUDE when confronting problems.

  • If we receive problems negatively, then that problem will be negative to us.
  • If we receive problems positively, then it will be positive for us and help us to grow and mature.

Met a problem? “Good.” Grow.

From Exodus, on the way to the land of promise, Moses’ father-in-law was a Gentile priest named Jethro. He’d heard of all the news that God had done for Moses and the people of Israel – so he visited them. He saw Moses doing all things alone for all the people – from early morning until evening.

Jethro said, “What are you doing? Why are you alone as judge? Why all the people come to you from early morning to evening? You will be burned out soon. You cannot handle this job alone. Choose capable men who fear God and do not like dishonest gain, to delegate this job to, and appoint them as leaders over 1000s, 100s, 50s, and 10s.”

Yes, Moses had a big problem, but Moses received that problem with an open mind and solved it positively – so the nation grew in maturity and unity.

  • If we receive problems negatively, those problems will be negative to us.
  • If we receive problems positively, those problems will be positive to us.
  1. In school, a student can grow and learn through many problems.
  2. Also a church, or a Christian can grow through many problems.

Met a problem? “Good.” Grow.

#2 Be clear in your priorities

In your life, in your home, in church, what is your priority?

We must be careful not to miss our priority #1 because of secondary jobs.

Both spiritual and physical needs are important and must be met. But, church’s priority #1 is spiritual needs. Jesus, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Administrative burdens (like the distribution of food for widows) is very important, but is NOT the #1 priority for the apostles.

v. 4

“[We] will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

In the local church, pastors are called to focus on the preaching of the Word. “I cannot do all things in AICF. I need your hands to help me. Please pray for me to pray for you. We need to pray for each other.”

So, in this story we must be very clear in our priorities – in ALL our jobs and lives.

#3 Every believer can be a minister

  • Are you a member of AICF?
  • Are you a believer in Christ?
  • Then, are you a minister of Christ in this church?

God wants every member to be a believer, and every believer to be a minister.

Requirements:

  • Believer: Believe in Christ as Savior and Lord
  • Minister: (3 things)
    1. Good reputation (integrity, faithfulness, obedience)
    2. Full of the Holy Spirit (no matter what we are doing in the local church, the guidance of the HS is essential – a Spirit-led life, focusing on Christ)
    3. Full of wisdom (“The fear of God is the foundation of wisdom” – Wisdom in Greek = “sophias” – demonstrating
      • the ability to apply God’s truth appropriately to life situations
      • the ability to get to the best ends through the best means
      • ability to put our knowledge into practice for the best outcome)

To be a minister of the local church:

  1. Good reputation
  2. Full of the HS
  3. Full of wisdom

Here are the 7 who were chosen:

v. 5

“5This 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.”

  1. Stephen
  2. Philip
  3. Procorus
  4. Nicanor
  5. Timon
  6. Parmenas
  7. Nicolas

From these 7, we can learn at least 2 things.

  1. ALL 7 of their names are Greek (they are Grecian Jews) – this would lay a good foundation for the future spread of the gospel to the Greek world
  2. Stephen and Philip’s names are put first because their ministries will be explained later (Stephen in chp 7 – the longest chapter in this book, Philip in chp 8) – even though they were chosen as ministers inside the local church, outside they were also very powerful evangelists.

Remember, no matter what ministry you’re chosen to do inside the church, you are also an evangelist outside the church.

In this record, we can see, there is NO record of what they did INSIDE the church – there is only the record of what they did OUTSIDE the church.

At that time, the Word of God spread like ripples on a pond, wider and farther over time. Like this, the Word of God spreads today. So, you do not have to change the world single-handedly. It is enough to be a part of this wave, touching the next person, until ALL have felt this wave. How important is your part.

Next, we see Stephen’s arrest.

v. 8-15

“6:8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous 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. These men began to argue with Stephen, 10 but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke. 11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy 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.”

Stephen is one of the 7 deacons of the early church. He is said to be “full of” 5 qualities:

  1. Holy Spirit
  2. wisdom
  3. faith
  4. grace
  5. power

Stephen provides an ideal model for us to develop in our lives and ministry. It is not Peter (apostle) but Stephen for today’s Christian to develop in our character and ministry.

He was also a skilled debater, minister, and preacher. He is a record holder.

  • In church history, since the resurrection of Christ, Stephen is the first non-apostle to whom miracles are ascribed.
  • The first non-apostle who was arrested and tried before the Sanhedrin.
  • The first non-apostle whose sermon is recorded in the Bible (the longest in the NT).
  • The first martyr in church history.

They could not match Stephen’s wisdom and power – so their only choice was to destroy him. The Sanhedrin’s treatment of him parallels the way they treated Jesus.

  1. Hired false witnesses
  2. Stirred up the people saying he was attacking Moses, the Law, the temple
  3. Executed Stephen

As he stood before the Sanhedrin, his face glowed like the face of an angel. In Exodus, when Moses talked to God on Mt. Sinai, his face shone. Also, Jesus’ face shone at the Transfiguration. And here, Stephen’s face shone.

Very important lesson:

We face this lost world (and others) with our face. Our face is a living testimony – our countenance – should exude rightness and warmth. Our face should reflect unearthly peace and joy that comes from knowing Jesus Christ. Are you a walking advertisement for Christ? Can others look at your face and see something different? Something attractive?

This is a big challenge from Stephen.

  • God bless our face.
  • God bless our countenance – because we can be witnesses to the lost world through our word, breathing, character, face, and faith.

We can be strong witnesses to the lost world through our countenance. Shining?

“My face is evangelizing. My countenance is evangelizing.”

Let’s pray.

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So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Listen
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