Please Read Acts 6:8-7:60
The Bible says Stephen was a man full of God’s grace and power. We see the signs and wonders God performed through him in Acts chapter 6, and the wisdom God gave him to refute his enemies. We can read his famous speech in Acts chapter 7 where he skillfully testifies that Jesus is the foretold Messiah. And he scolded the religious leaders for their betrayal and murder of him. But this is not what made Stephen full of the Holy Spirit. There’s this wrong belief that if a person can preach and teach well, or if they have a lot of knowledge, or can perform miracles, they must be filled with God’s spirit. But nowhere in the Bible can that be found.
Please Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-7
Did you notice in 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 what really counts? Love. And this love is what made Stephen full of the Holy Spirit. We will prove that in a moment. No matter how much knowledge one has, no matter how much faith one has, if one gives his body over to suffer hardship, or gives all he has to the poor, or can fathom all mysteries, or can speak in the tongues of men and of angels, or has the gift of prophecy, but does not have love, that one is nothing to God. The Bible says that whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8) For the Bible to say that Stephen was full of the spirit means he knew God well. He was filled with the love of God. We will prove this.
Please Read 1 John 4:18
The Bible says there is no fear in love. That perfect love drives out all fear. And it says that those who fear have not been made perfect in love. How do we know that Stephen was made perfect in love? In Acts chapter 6 and 7 we see Stephen speaking boldly in the name of Jesus during a time when persecution for being a Christian could mean death or imprisonment. Stephen did get arrested on trumped up charges for his faith. And he was also killed for his testimony of Jesus. During his trial he spoke boldly in the name of Jesus not fearing for his life. He was tried by hypocritical religious fanatics. The same fanatics that conspired against and had Jesus killed. Stephen stuck to his mission in the face of death. He had the perfect love that drives out all fear.
STEPHEN PERFECT IN LOVE
Please Read Matthew 5:43-48
Jesus teaches us in Matthew 5:43-48 that we must love and even pray for those who persecute us. And as God cares for the just and the wicked alike so must we. After saying this Jesus then said, “You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Jesus is saying loving others the way God does, even to the point of loving our enemies, makes us perfect in God’s sight. We are imitating Him. Being perfect to God doesn’t mean what being perfect means to human beings. To people being perfect means you never make mistakes. Or you never do anything wrong. That’s impossible. (Romans 3:23) Being perfect to God means that we love like Him. Did Stephen have this kind of love? He sure did. After hearing Stephen’s testimony the Sanhedrin decided to stone him to death for his faith. While they were stoning him; inflicting pain on him, killing him, Stephen prayed to God, “Lord, do not count this sin against them.” Then he fell asleep. Hmmmm, Jesus prayed the same kind of prayer for those who were crucifying him. (Luke 23:33-34) Wow! Stephen’s love indeed had grown to the love of God and Christ. (Ephesians 4:15-16) He was perfect in love to the very end, just like his master. What an example!
Stephen was a fearless preacher of the gospel. He cared more about others eternal salvation than his own temporary life on earth (just like his master). He defeated the evil one (just like his master). (Revelation 12:11) And again, right before he died his prayer proved he had the perfect love Jesus talked about in Matthew 5:43-48. Stephen’s obedience to God to love contributed to him being a man full of the Holy Spirit. God used him in mighty ways.
We too must grow to perfection in love. (James 1:2-4) Let us pray to God to give us the love that drives out all fear. The same love that prays for and does good even to our enemies. (Proverbs 25:21-22)