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.
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.
The newborn Church continued to grow very quickly, and with each milestone a new organizational strategy or approach developed. In today’s passage, a “food distribution team” was formed to make sure no one was overlooked. Stephen, a man “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” was the very first person named to the team. The writer shined a spotlight on Stephen early on in this passage to make sure we notice how he grew along with the Church.
The apostles recognized how critical it was for them at this point to remain focused on their role of sharing the Good News. So they delegated a portion of their responsibilities and authority to the “food distribution team”. The apostles prayed, laid their hands on this newly formed team, and empowered them to serve. In doing this, they created a whole new level of responsibility and leadership in the Church.
In verse 8, Stephen performed “great wonders and signs among the people.” He grew in authority and spoke with “the wisdom of the Spirit.”
The Jewish religious leaders, who lacked discernement, opposed Stephen. Perhaps they were jealous of his position, authority and giftedness. So, they plotted against him.
The writer ends this passage with a description of Stephen’s appearance as he stood before the Sanhedrin, the religious leaders. In verse 15 we read, “His face was like the face of an angel.”
When Stephen began serving on the “food distribution team,” this was probably not a very glamorous place to serve, but it was a next step that helped grow the Church and led to profound spiritual growth for Stephen.
What next step are you ready to explore?
Who can you have a “next step” conversation with today?
Lord, I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, place me with whom you will. Let me be put to work for you or set aside for you. I freely and fully surrender all things to your glory and service. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.