Stephen Accused of Blasphemy

from the Acts reading plan

Acts 6:1-15, Exodus 34:29-30, 1 Timothy 3:8-13

BY Jen Yokel

What makes a leader good? I ask myself this question all the time, because leaders with integrity are sadly hard to find. We see power in the hands of the charismatic and connected, wielded by the ones who can command a room and summon a following. But who are the real leaders in Jesus’s upside-down kingdom? We can learn so much from the first generation of Jesus followers, and today we’re getting to know an early church leader named Stephen.

Throughout Church history, Stephen is considered the first martyr. Acts 6 gives us a glimpse into his life and character. He’s the first name on the list of seven men who were chosen to care for the Jewish and Greek widows in the community. Think of these seven as the original deacons, if that’s part of your church tradition. These seven were chosen not for their charisma, education, or commanding presence, but for their “good reputation” as men who were “full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3).

In fact, you may have noticed words like “Spirit” and “wisdom” are used over and over to describe him in this short passage. He’s “full of faith and the Holy Spirit…grace and power,” and he quickly becomes known for “performing great wonders and signs among the people” through a power beyond his own ability (vv.5,8). Stephen beautifully fits Paul’s later portrait of a deacon: “worthy of respect, not hypocritical,” tested and proven “blameless” (1Timothy 3:8–10).

In his service, Stephen led. In his integrity, he became a reflection of God’s glory, like Moses whose face shone after he spent time in the presence of God (Exodus 34:29–30).

So again, what makes a leader good? The kind of integrity that comes from the Holy Spirit and time seeking God. It’s a commitment to following the way of Jesus so strong it cannot be shouted down, a faithfulness that bears up under accusation, that’s tested and proven worthy of respect—especially when the respect is questioned by the powerful.

For Stephen, that meant holding steady under the weight of judgement and lies. We’re told that his commitment to truth-telling offended a certain group of religious leaders, but “they were unable to stand up against his wisdom and the Spirit by whom he was speaking” (Acts 6:10). The only way they could even build a case against him was through lies and rumors. Of course, we have to seek wisdom and discernment when challenges come, but our character can be our truest witness.

There are so many competing stories about how to lead and serve well in this world, but in Stephen’s life, we see how following Jesus and seeking the Spirit’s wisdom can give us the humility, courage, and faithfulness we need to find our way.

Post Comments (39)

39 thoughts on "Stephen Accused of Blasphemy"

  1. Gerin Thomas says:

    Acts 6:5 stands out to me because Stephen is the only one of the chosen servants called out for being full of the Holy Spirit and faith, although all of the men chosen were supposed to meet the criteria of being full of the Spirit and wisdom. Was it’s Stephen’s fullness of faith that distinguishes him from others? I also find it interesting the process for choosing servants to meet the needs of the widows. I’m used to seeing an ask for anyone who’d be willing to volunteer approach but it’s cool how in this situation that called for serving a vulnerable group in need , there was such care and thought put into it. Lord please help me to be full of the Spirit, wisdom, and faith to carry out your good work you have appointed me to do.

  2. Laurel Kinsey says:

    Good devotional- keep remembering WHO I represent

  3. Mary Jane Papacoda says:

    WOW is Right! good word, thanks for pointing that out!!!!

  4. Adrienne says:

    Does my face shine (like Stephen’s and Moses’… not b/c it is oily or sweaty… Heeheehee!)

  5. Amy Bishop says:

    Did anyone notice that the names of the 7 chosen were all Greek names, not Hebrew? This suggests to me that the church as a whole chose men who would properly see to the complaints of the Hellenists (Jews who followed the Greek culture more than the Jewish culture).

    Also, this is yet another picture of practical service being spiritual service as well.

  6. Lynda Pontious says:

    To be filled by the glow of the Holy Spirit.

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