And Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue… disputed with Stephen… But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke… and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and set up false witnesses… And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel. (Acts 6:8-15 RSVA)
And Stephen went on to say,
“Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands; as the prophet says, ‘Heaven is my throne, and earth my footstool. What house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?’ “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth against him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together upon him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:48-60 RSVA)
Stephen was the infant church’s first martyr and there is much to be noted here in this story that lead up to his death. . First, note that God had done a great work in Stephen and he was filled with the grace and power of God. It was not of him! Stephen’s message for the Jewish leaders was straight from God and they refused to hear it. If those who live a lie can’t refute the message, they often will kill the messenger. And what was that message? That God does not live in temples of stone and wood, but in one that is made of Living Stones (See 1 Peter 2:3-5). And that the carefully orchestrated system that the Jews had built up around the teachings of Moses was NOT what God had in mind. That those who saw themselves as keepers of the law were the worst form of law breakers, killing the very Messiah that the Father sent to them, just as they killed the prophets that were sent before Him to show them the way. God had even warned them that because they broke the old covenant, He was about to do something altogether new and that it would be founded on His own Son, NOT Moses (Read Hebrews chapters 7 and 8). But these lawless ones plotted to kill the Heir so that THEY could posses the vineyard of God for themselves (See Matthew 21:33-40).
What is interesting to me is that God spoke through Stephen with great wisdom and power, and emphasized what he was saying by changing the way he looked, making his face like that of an angel! These people were without excuse! God did all He could short of sending Jesus back in His resurrected body to warn them! But they already refused to hear Him!
Is it any different today? How many of us have run up against that same spirit that hates God and resides over HIS vineyard, the church, and always resists HIS Holy Spirit? How many of us have been cast out of the synagogues of church men because we spoke the words of the Holy Spirit? The more things change without the changing power of God, the more they remain the same. The church system that has evolved is the same bloody system that rejected Jesus and killed HIM. As long as they resist the Spirit of God, they will be controlled by that same evil spirit that took control of the first covenant and its temple system. Remember, it is the builders who reject the Precious Stone that God selected to be the Head of the corner (read Matthew 21:42-44).
The Witness of a Shining Face
For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:6-7 RSVA)
Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:49 RSVA)
Here we have this extraordinary witness of Stephen as the glory of God showed on his face. What a contrast he must have been to those authorities that had the darkness of Satan on their faces as they were filled with hate! God does that. He loves contrast. Where there was darkness and chaos upon the deep He said, “Let there be light!” Where people were the social rejects of Israel, He sent His son to be a friend of harlots, publicans and sinners! Like one dear brother said to me, “If you want to find where Jesus is working today, it is the same place He has always been, among the sick and the rejects. Get out of your churches and mingle with the outcasts of society and you will find Him there.”
But what I want to address here is not where it is NOT at, but where it IS. Consider the following passage:
You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Since you are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ toward God: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also has made us able ministers of the new covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life. But if the ministry of death, written and engraved in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministry of the Spirit be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation be glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excels. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remains is glorious. Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, who put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly see the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remains the same veil not taken away in the reading of the old covenant; which veil is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their hearts. Nevertheless when one shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:2-18 KJ2000 – emphasis added)
Actually, this whole passage is very enlightening. We know that the Old Covenant had the glory of the Lord in the form of the Shekinah that was over the mercy seat of the Ark. Moses’ face shown with that glory because of His visits with God on Mount Sinai. When that glory began to fade, Moses hid his face with a veil because he didn’t want the people to see that the glory was passing away. Because of the rebellion against Him, God had Moses take the tent of meeting outside the camp. As that rebellion grew, even Moses’ testimony was affected until he entered into it himself and was forbidden to enter the Promised Land. The glory of the Lord was rapidly fading because of the sin of unbelief. Dear saints, it is this same sin that we, the very church of Christ, are warned about in Hebrews chapter four which can infect us!
Now, imagine what was going through Saul’s (Paul’s) mind as he watched the glory of God reappear on the face of the first martyr of the NEW Covenant! The very man that he was partaking in the murder of! The old system had been Ichabod (the glory has departed) for hundreds of years! Even the Ark where the glory once rested was lost during the Babylonian captivity and in the temples that were built later, the Holy of Holies was just an empty room.
Now ponder these two verses:
“But if the ministry of death, written and engraved in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministry of the Spirit be more glorious?” (2 Corinthians 3:7-8 KJ2000).
YES! How can the ministry of the Spirit in the New Covenant not be MORE glorious on the faces of those who minister IN the Spirit and Life of Christ?
What changed my heart and got my attention when God captured me in 1970 was this very thing. I saw the glory of the Lord on the faces of a handful of young Spirit filled Jesus People. It was a glory and life I HAD NEVER SEEN in any church building or congregation I had ever been part of. Here was the witness that God used to change my life forever!
Did everyone see what I saw resting upon these kids? Probably not, no more than everyone sees what I have seen on the faces of the precious saints I have met since then and have come to love so much. Why doesn’t everyone see it? There is still the problem of the veil.
But their minds were blinded: for until this day remains the same veil not taken away in the reading of the old covenant; which veil is done away in Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:14 KJ2000)
The veil of empty sin-filled lives and empty religion must be taken away as we abide IN Christ and refuse to abide in anything less than HIS fullness and glory! As Paul put it, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” If we are truly abiding IN Christ and not just in dead religion, we will be beholding the glory of Jesus as Moses did. His glory will change us into that same glory as the Spirit of Christ continues to work in us. What a precious promise we have been given, dear saints!
May we all seek HIS face and never settle for anything less until the fullness of Christ is formed in and on us! And may Jesus’ final prayer be fulfilled at last, “That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me. And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:21-22 KJ2000).
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon you, and his glory shall be seen upon you. And the Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. (Isaiah 60:1-3 KJ2000)
that is so very inspiring of a message–this morning before I went to the gathering at Emmanuel I read your article and an article from T Austin Sparks that was from july 31 about the power of God–between the two of them im deeply motivated to have the glory of God shine out of me–we are fixin to have our yearly convocation at Emmanuel church on august 30 and 31–boy do I wish you could be there–by the way you are invited–just call–918-437-7064 or–918-838-1385.
Am I right to assume that your Emmanuel church you are speaking of is the same one that prints and distributes the books by T. Austin-Sparks in Oklahoma? If you told me this before, please forgive my failing memory. I am afraid that our schedule won’t let us be there with you at the end of August. We will be heading back home to north Idaho from Houston about the 13th of this month or so and Dallas is about as close as we will get to that part of Oklahoma. Maybe next year, Lord willing, we can make it a point to join all the saints there for that event. Thanks so much for the invitation.
yea Mike that is the Emmanuel church im talking about–maybe we will see you there next year–I will say hi to the folks there for you.
Thanks, Kenneth. Yes, do tell them all “HI” for me and thank them again for the wonderful book ministry that they have.
“What is interesting to me is that God spoke through Stephen with great wisdom and power, and emphasized what he was saying by changing the way he looked, making his face like that of an angel!”
Somehow that sentence sprang out on me, Michael.
How could a human being want to kill an angel? An angel is sooo beautiful, with a look of purity and innocence on his face, reflecting the glorious light of God that indwells him. What was it that made those murderers of Stephen so angry? Wasn’t it the fact that he told them THE TRUTH and they knew immediately that he was right?
If we indeed have this treasure in jars of clay (or earthen vessels), we can FEEL Him inside of us; His light is in us and shines out of our faces whenever He wants it to be seen. And through His indwelling Spirit we may also KNOW the truth about everything (regarding divine and earthly things) without having to think about it because His anointing teaches us, for it is written,
“I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.” (1 Jn 2:26-27 ESV)
There are NO teachers needed for those who have received the anointing of the Holy Spirit. What a freedom for those who were formerly dependent on the Pharisees and Scribes to tell them about the Law and what was written. Now they have God’s Law – which is LOVE – written on their hearts and they are gratuitously (!) taught by God Himself.
Oh, what a great pity for those whose income originally flowed from those who were taught by them! No wonder, that they were angry…
What could make humans so insane as to grind their teeth in rage? The only time I have ever seen a human grind their teeth in hate is when they were demon possessed! I have had this kind of confrontation myself and those demons were filled with hate for Jesus who was abiding IN me! There is a point where people are so angry against God that demons take them over and religious demons are some of the worst I have ever encountered. These people literally become a “brood of vipers” just like Jesus and John the Baptist said. I have encountered church groups that are exactly that! There love for the traditions of and the teachings of men more than they love Jesus had made them a brood of snakes!
So, yes, it was what Stephen said in the Light of the Truth of the Spirit of Christ that they hated as well as the Light of Christ within him. Remember that the religious mob at Jesus’ trial was so enraged that they cried out, “Away with Him! Let His blood be on us and on our children!” These Jews actually cursed themselves and following generations. THAT is demonic rage that goes way beyond reason. Jesus said that we who are in Him would get the same treatment, because Satan and his minions hate HIM and none are so blind as those who are blinded by the traditions of men. Jesus said, “The time is coming when those who kill you will think that they are doing God a service!” THAT is spiritual blindness in its ultimate form and that is what killed Stephen, though his face shown like that of an angel. And sister, in this evil hour we who shine forth with His light can expect the same treatment.
As for what John said about we who have the Spirit of Christ in us not needing teachers because the Spirit of Truth abides in us… AMEN! Jesus promised that He would not leave us alone but would come again in the form of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, and that He would lead us into all Truth. It is interesting that John writes the verses you quoted right after he tells the church that antichrist spirits were already among them and they were in the form of false teachers! There are any antichrists today that have come in the form of false Christian teachers, false prophets, false apostles and false shepherds as well. Upon discovering that antichristos in the Greek not only meant “against Christ” but also means, “INSTEAD OF Christ,” everything that is going on in the name of Christianity today that is false began to make since. Men rise-up (read Paul’s warning in Acts 20:29-31) like Diotrephes who love the preeminence (see 3 John), and Lord-over God’s inheritance in the saints everywhere we look. They put themselves in the place of Christ and their voices in the place of His Spirit in their lives. So, you see why John tells the saints that their protection against the antichrist spirit is not in heaping more teachers after themselves to tickle their ears, but it is found in hearing “what the Spirit IS SAYING to the churches!”
As for the financial threat that this walking after the Spirit poses to these false teachers and hirelings who love Mammon more than they love Christ, as it was true of the law enforcers and teachers of 2000 years ago (Jesus turning over the tables of the money changers in the temple was the last straw) so it is today of those who make and impose laws from the New Testament that was written to set all men free of not only sin, but law keeping as well. It is called, “job security.” You have to make yourself indispensable to the faithful in order to demand ever larger offerings and gifts from them for your own gain. This is the worship of the god of Mammon in its fullness.
Thanks for your comments dear sister!
yea Sue the truth hurts and it can even cause people to kill–true repentance that causes one to change is a gift from God–otherwise you better watch out when Gods spirit being is speaking out of you–you just might end up being martered–im sorry I could not spell that word.
Thank you for your Spirit-led reply, Kenneth!
My brother, you have reminded us of such wonderful treasure in Christ Jesus. I believe that my spirit can hold so much more than my mind. However, I am grateful for what my mind retains also. Perhaps when Jesus admonished His hearers that they needed eyes to see, that a part of their blindness was the inability to see – as you saw in l970 the light on the young Jesus people. So, I pray, Lord, give me ears to hear and also eyes to see.
Brother Michael, I thank God that I have been granted the joy of fellowship with you through your writings.
Love in Him,
Pat, your honesty and sincerity toward the Lord is such a blessing to me and others. I pray for the day when we can finally meet in person, Lord willing… If not now we will see our shining faces in His kingdom.
Arise and shine, your light is come and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you! Remember that YOU are a light unto the Gentiles because Jesus abides in you with His love, dear sister. Let the light shine and never doubt it that God is using you as His witness right where you live. Don’t let the enemy discourage you. Ignore the accuser at all times and believe that Jesus is greater in you than that darkness that is in the world.
Love you IN Him,
INSTEAD of judging those who are in the system, it would be FAR BETTER and FAR MORE SPIRITUALLY MATURE to LIVE THE SAME KIND OF LIFE as Stephen did.
Until we do, we are committing the same sins!
a bondslave in Christ Jesus, Dirk
Yes, living the life of a lowly servant ( the true meaning of the word translated “deacon”) and not that of a hireling… this is what Stephen was all about. It was THIS that made him such a contrast to the religious leaders of 2000 years ago and this same contrast is there today when His saints live by the Spirit of Christ and not by the spirit of religion and mammon.
Dear Brother, can you imagine what our brother, the soldier Stephen, experienced a moment later, after looking at the faces of the demon filled poor souls of religion….. and then the very light of glory changed his mortal flesh into immortality! How Stephen experienced that very micro second of total transformation into pure heavenly eternal light and absolute consuming life with joy inexpressible!!!! This is our future! For now, lets go on together in the battle in Christ’s glory and suffering. Together.
Amen, my brother! And by the way, WELCOME TO AMERICA!!!!
Yes, what was taking place in Stephen has been described as a martyr’s grace. Many feel that as we die in Christ He is there in a very special way. I was faced with the possibility of dying due to heart symptoms in the hospital a couple of times and felt this wonderful peace about the whole thing. Consider the context of these verses from the Psalms…
As God finally loosens what binds us to this world, what we call “life” in this body, and we pass over to join him in our new bodies, I am sure He is there to greet us. I have been present when Jesus showed up as my aunt was dying in 1980 and I saw this light enter into her comatose body and saw her jump as it did. I had just been speaking to her about surrendering to Jesus (while she was lying there in a coma) and then found out that my dad and his sister were standing behind me and suddenly they hugged one another and started weeping. My dad was never a person to show emotions, either. Something very special happened in that moment when the Light enter in and they felt it.
Thanks, my brother, for your comment and insight. We hope to see you soon.