In today’s Bible reading, we come to Stephen’s defense. He has just been asked if the (false) allegations are true. (Acts 6:11-15) Stephen then spends the next 49 verses recounting the faithfulness of God throughout the history of God’s people. No one in the room, including the High Priest, can disagree with anything Stephen has said up to this point. And then
Unfortunately, we preachers are often tempted to do just like Stephen up to this point; we present the content of the Bible and faithfully explain its meaning. It’s easy to play it safe. If Stephen wanted to play it safe, he would have stopped there, but he couldn’t leave well enough alone.
In Acts 7:51-53, Stephen continues:
51“You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit. As your ancestors did, you do also. 52Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They even killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. 53You received the law under the direction of angels and yet have not kept it.”
Stephen points his finger at his accusers and applies the message. God sends the message straight to their hearts. They are enraged by what they hear so they drag him out of the city and stone him to death, making Stephen the first Christian Martyr. (Note: the word “martyr” simply means “witness”)
As you read Acts 7, Stephen never says, “I’m sorry.” So why would I title this morning’s blog, “Stephen Apologizes”?
1Peter 3:15 tells us to always be ready to respectfully tell other people about our hope. Some translations will say something like, “be ready to give a defense”. The word translated “defense” is the basis for the word “apology”. So, Stephen is defending his faith, but not apologizing for his faith.
Are you always ready to defend your faith? Do you know how? Do you know why you believe? It’s important that we know. And under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, we can know when to apply that message so that God sends it deep into the heart of the person you’re talking with.
One book that I found helpful when I began to grow as a believer is Paul Little’s Know Why You Believe (affiliate). You might want to get a copy and read it. It’s a great resource!