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Stephen: Boldness     Acts 6:8-15; 7:51-60     June 15, 2008

I like to see a Christian display holy boldness. Catch that I said holy, not haughty. There is a very significant difference. Stephen displayed holy boldness and we can simple say when we think of him he displayed a proper kind of boldness all of us can follow.

1. Boldness In . . Declaration. 6:8-10

A. Bold Declaration Through The . . Power Of The Spirit. 6:8-9
8 Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then some from what is called the Freedmen's Synagogue, composed of both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, came forward and disputed with Stephen.

B. Bold Declaration Through The . . Preaching Of The Spirit. 6:10
10 But they were unable to stand up against the wisdom and the Spirit by whom he spoke.

        Stephen gave a fine declaration of spiritual boldness as the Spirit performed wonders and signs. The people were confounded by this, but some wanted to dispute Stephen and the power of his presentation. Stephen declared with wisdom and boldness inspired by the Holy Spirit, and these men called "Freedmen" could not match his God given abilities. This accomplishment occurs over and over again even today as a child of God yields to the Spirit's empowering and speaks under this anointing.

. Boldness In . . Dispute. 6:11-15

A. Bold Dispute In The Face Of . . Antagonistic Accusations. 6:11-14
11 Then they induced men to say, "We heard him speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God!" 12 They stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; so they came up, dragged him off, and took him to the Sanhedrin. 13 They also presented false witnesses who said, "This man does not stop speaking blasphemous words against this holy place and the law. 14 For we heard him say that Jesus, this Nazarene, will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us."

B. Bold Dispute In The Face Of . . Angelic Appearance. 6:15
15 And all who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him and saw that his face was like the face of an angel. HCSB

The Freedmen accused Stephen in four areas as they said; 1) He spoke blasphemous words against Moses, 2) He spoke blasphemous words against the Temple, 3) He spoke blasphemous words against the Law, 4) He declared Jesus would tear down the temple and the rituals and regulations that Moses handed down. All of these claims are taken out of context, and on top of this they acquired false witnesses to support their case. While Stephen listened to these accusations his countenance gave the appearance of an angel. The Lord does shine through His people, and it is sad that all the Freedmen did not yield to Him through this additional witness.

3. Boldness In . . Determination. 7:51-54

A. Determination To Speak Boldly Against . . Past Wrong Doing. 7:51-52a
51 "You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit;
as your forefathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They even killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One,

B. Determination To Speak Boldly Against . . Present Wrong Doing. 7:52b-54
". . . whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. 53 You received the law under the direction of angels and yet have not kept it." 54 When they heard these things, they were enraged in their hearts and gnashed their teeth at him.

        Stephen's boldness led him to speak out about past wrongs of dissident persons. He accused them of persecuting the prophets, and killing those who announced the coming of the Messiah. Can you hear someone telling Stephen to be careful, and quit stirring up their anger? But then he would not be Stephen nor the example he is to all Christians. So rather than soft pedaling his remarks Stephen proceeded to accuse the present dissidents of resisting the Holy Spirit just like their fathers. He told them they were murderers, and law breakers. To illustrate their rage they gnashed their teeth at Stephen. I wonder when they later thought about this, if they thought they acted insanely?

4. Boldness In . . Death. 7:55 -60

A. Boldness In Death Seeing The . . Standing Jesus. 7:55-56
55 But Stephen, filled by the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven. He saw God's glory, with Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, 56 "Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!"

B. Boldness In Death Feeling The . . Stones Hurting. 7:57-58
57 Then they screamed at the top of their voices, stopped their ears, and rushed together against him.  58 They threw him out of the city and began to stone him. And the witnesses laid their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

C. Boldness In Death Crying Out For Others . . Sins and Forgiveness. 7:59-60
59 They were stoning Stephen as he called out: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin!" And saying this, he fell asleep.

        It is interesting that Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Normally Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God. Some suggest Jesus was standing to welcome home the first Christian martyr. This passage also gives us an example of the Trinity as Stephen received the infilling of the Spirit and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. It amazes me that Stephen at this time could feel the pain of the stones hurting his body, yet still cried out for the Lord not to charge them with this sin. What a man, this Stephen! Amen? Amen!