Study 6 STEPHEN: FULL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Ten New Testament Soul-Winners
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: Acts 6:1-10 and 7:54-60)
Stephen was one of the outstanding characters in the early Church, and we read about him in Acts 6:5-15; 7:1-60; 8:2; 11:19; 22:20. He was a radiant, mighty soul-winner and the secret of his life and ministry is the fact that he was “a man full… of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5). It is important for us to understand that the Spirit-filled life is God’s plan and provision for every Christian; the fullness of the Holy Spirit is not given to a spiritual aristocracy, to the more mature Christian, the minister or the missionary only. On the Day of Pentecost “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4); the promise is to “all” (Acts 2:39), and the command is to every Christian (Ephesians 5:18). As we look at Stephen we shall see what a man is like when he is full of the Holy Spirit. What are the characteristics of a Spirit-filled Christian?
1. A SPIRIT-FILLED CHRISTIAN IS AVAILABLE TO THE LORD FOR WHATEVER SERVICE HE MAY APPOINT.
In Acts 6:1-5, we read of a problem that arose in the early Church, of the way the apostles dealt with it and of their decision to select seven men to administer the benevolent fund. The qualifications required for these men are seen in verse 3, and their names are mentioned in verse 5, the first of which is “Stephen, a man full …of the Holy Spirit”. These men were wanted not for preaching or any prominent task, but to wait on tables. All seven were ready to do that, and Stephen headed the list. It is clear, therefore, that a Spirit-filled Christian is one who is available to the Lord for whatever work He may appoint. Are we available to the Lord in this way? Are we ready to obey Him? – look up 2 Samuel 15:15.
2. A SPIRIT-FILLED CHRISTIAN IS A CHANNEL FOR THE MANIFESTATION OF GOD’S POWER.
In Acts 6:8 we read that Stephen became a mighty preacher and performed miracles in the name of the Lord; but although verse 8 says, “Stephen …did great wonders and miraculous signs…” , was it Stephen who did these things? No! It was the Holy Spirit working through him; he was the channel, and through him flowed the power of God, and wherever there is a man full of the Holy Spirit the same thing will happen. If a man is “full of the Holy Spirit” then God’s power will be at work in him. Wherever a Spirit-filled Christian goes, lives will be touched, souls will be saved and miracles will be performed, for God the Holy Spirit does His work through human channels today, just as He did in the first century.
3. A SPIRIT-FILLED CHRISTIAN REACTS GRACEFULLY UNDER PROVOCATION.
Acts 6:9-14 tells us of the terrific onslaught that was made on Stephen by the religious people. They disputed with him, secured false witnesses and hatched up an evil plot to get rid of him. Has anything like this happened to you? Have people said unkind or untrue things about you? Stephen had all that - and much more! How did he react under this fierce provocation? - look at verse 15 and see, for this is how we shall react if we are full of the Holy Spirit. We would have sympathised with Stephen if he had retaliated under such pressure from his enemies, but he reacted graciously when he was provoked and pressed almost to the limit. What a tremendous testimony he bore in his life and on his face!
4. A SPIRIT-FILLED CHRISTIAN IS MIGHTY IN THE SCRIPTURES.
In Acts 7:2-53, we have the record of the defence that Stephen made before his accusers, and notice that his sermon was filled with quotations from the scriptures. A careful review of these verses reveals that:-
- 1. He KNEW the Scriptures. Only one who was familiar with the record of God’s dealings with His people could so accurately relate such a story.
- 2. He BELIEVED the Scriptures. He believed the historical parts of the Old Testament; he referred to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the twelve Patriarchs, Joseph, Moses and the deliverance at the Red Sea…, He also believed the prophetic scriptures, as verse 52 makes perfectly clear.
- 3. He PREACHED the Scriptures. How skilfully he wielded the sword of the Spirit! - look up and compare Hebrews 4:12 and Ephesians 6:17.
- 4. He presented CHRIST in the Scriptures. He spoke of the Lord’s incarnation, His sinless nature, His trial and of Calvary.
- 5. He APPLIED the Scriptures to his listeners. He did this powerfully and fearlessly, as verse 51 tells us.
A Spirit-filled Christian is one who is full of the Word of God - look up Colossians 3:16; 2 Timothy 2:15.
5. A SPIRIT-FILLED CHRISTIAN IS SUSTAINED IN THE HOUR OF TRIAL AND ADVERSITY.
In Acts 7:54-59 we read of the furious situation that built up around Stephen, ending with his death by stoning. What were his reactions in the midst of these tremendous sufferings? Was he filled with self-pity? Did he cry out to his accusers to spare him? No, he was wonderfully sustained, he rode the storm of trial triumphantly, and Acts 7:55-56 tells us how he was able to do this - “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up…“ This is what a Spirit-filled man does when death itself comes; he knows how to look up and to see Jesus exalted and glorified, and he is upheld in the hour of trial by the clear vision he has of his Lord – compare Hebrews 11:27; 2 Corinthians 9:8; 12:9-10.
6. A SPIRIT-FILLED CHRISTIAN IS LIKE HIS LORD AND MASTER.
Acts 7:59-60 gives us a moving picture of Stephen’s martyrdom. What was he doing while he was being stoned? He was doing what Jesus did when He was dying on the cross - compare Luke 23:34 and 46 with Acts 7:59-60. The one thing above everything else that will characterise a man as being full of the Holy Spirit is that he is like the Lord Jesus – look up 2 Corinthians 3:18.
7. A SPIRIT-FILLED CHRISTIAN IS ALWAYS LAMENTED WHEN HE DIES.
In Acts 8:2 we read of the sorrow that filled the hearts of the godly men who carried Stephen to his burial; they mourned deeply for him. What a loss it was to the Church when Stephen went to Heaven! A Spirit-filled man will always be missed.
This, then, is what “Stephen, a man full… of the Holy Spirit”, was like. Are you ready to be so emptied of sin and self that the Holy Spirit may fill and use you?