Read - Acts 6v8-15
Message - Scott Woodburn
The Lord Jesus was clear when He warned "They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God." (John 16v2). There were days of trouble ahead for the followers of Christ and by the time we meet Stephen, he has become a target for the anger of Christ's opponents.
He is ministering among the people and doing mighty acts (v8), which cause many to band together to argue with Stephen (v9). Unfortunately for them, Stephen's wisdom could not be withstood (v10). He was equipped and strengthened by the Holy Spirit and his opponents soon found they didn't have a leg to stand on. Once more we see the hand of the enemy.
Instead of debating the issues and striving to learn from their defeat, Stephen's opponents secretly instigated men against him (v11). To do this they told blatant lies saying that Stephen had said blasphemous things about Moses and God Himself. Their work was so successful that eventually Stephen was arrested with more false witnesses spreading lies about him (v14).
Do you see the schemes of the devil? Secret, false gossip stirs up the sinful intentions of the crowd. They couldn't out argue Stephen but they could out gossip him. They couldn't find gaps in his teaching but they could find willing ears to hear their false witness. Jesus tells us that we are to expect such opposition. "In the world" says Jesus "you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16v33).
We shouldn't be surprised when the enemy uses every trick in the book to wound Christ's people and to damage Christ's church. Indeed quite often the opposition is more fierce inside the four walls of our fellowships. I know one man who for several years received abusive anonymous letters from a church member. They were posted to him in clear plastic envelopes so that the postman could read the accusations. Another man and his wife have spent months wondering when the next anonymous letter will arrive or the next unsigned poster will be stuck up on a neighborhood lamppost. Still another received abusive emails for three months, an anonymous abusive Christmas card and was accused of being in league with loyalist paramilitaries.
All of this came from individuals who regularly sat in fellowships Sunday by Sunday. Can any of this be justified? Of course not. It is satanic in origin and utterly disgusting. Yet my brothers and sisters Christ's promise remains true. He urges us to take heart for He has overcome the devil and all His schemes. If you have known or know the sting of gossip. If you dread the visit of the postman or the ring of the telephone. If you have extended the hand of friendship only to be rjected. Take heart! Christ has overcome and in Christ so will you. Regardless of what your faceless critics say or write, only the opinion of Christ matters. Over everyone who has received Him by faith, Christ publicly declares "REDEEMED!"
Q92 What is a Sacrament? A Sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ; wherein, by sensible signs, Christ and the benefits of the new covenant are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.