Open Your Bible
Acts 6:1-15, Acts 7:1-60, Psalm 23:4
BY Erin Davis
God’s people are to be filled people. Not barely-enough people or just-a-trickle people, but filled to overflowing. The apostle Stephen knows what I mean.
Perhaps your frame of reference for him is “Stephen the Martyr,” the one who died at the hands of an angry religious mob just as the Church was being birthed. I don’t dispute the facts; Stephen did, in fact, become the first Christian martyr when he was mercilessly killed for his faith. It’s Stephen’s legacy I take issue with. As I look again at the details of Stephen’s life, recorded in Acts 6–7, it’s not his death that reaches through the pages and grabs my heart. It’s his life—his filled-to-overflowing life.
Scripture records that Stephen was a man “full of faith and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5). He didn’t have a teensy measure of faith, or enough faith to get by. Stephen was full of faith, and because of his faith in Jesus, he was also full of the Holy Spirit. Fast forward a few verses and we read that Stephen was “full of grace and power” (v.8), and again, the image is more than enough.
When pressed by the religious leaders, Stephen started preaching. Boy howdy, did that boy preach! His powerful words show us that he was full of wisdom and full of the truth found in Scripture. When his opponents became enraged and moved to silence once and for all, Scripture records:
Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven.
He saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
He said, “Look, I see the heavens opened
and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:55–56).
As he breathed his final breaths, Stephen cried out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” and asked that God would “not hold this sin against” those who’d killed him (vv.59–60). Sound familiar? If so, that’s because they echo the words Jesus uttered as He hung and died on the cross (Luke 23:46, 34). It’s as if Stephen was so filled with God’s words that they were at the very surface of his heart. When Stephen was squeezed, it was Jesus’s words that spilled out.
Oh, do not picture our brother Stephen buried and bloodied, for that is not all he was. Stephen’s heart was filled with love for his Savior because he was running over with wisdom, grace, and power. Because of Christ’s work for us and in us, we can be filled up too. Didn’t the apostle Paul urge us to “be filled with the Spirit”? (Ephesians 5:18). Doesn’t Scripture record that we can be “filled with encouragement” and “overflowing with joy [even] in all our afflictions”? (2Corinthians 7:4). Didn’t the prophet Micah proclaim that he was “filled with power by the Spirit of the LORD”? (Micah 3:8). Yes, God’s people are to be filled people.
Lord Jesus, make us more like Stephen, filled to overflowing with you.