The Redemptive Work of God

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11 Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council,13 and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” 15 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

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Some of the flowers at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA | Photo taken March 2017

Some people will surprise you. You expect one thing from them, only to discover that they preform way beyond expectations. She starts in the outside lane only to end up winning the race. He is hired to help out with clerical tasks only to propose a solution that saves the company.

Stephen’s transformation is remarkable in and of itself: from one of the seven deacons who were chosen to care for the widows to one now who is witnessing and confounding the enemies of the gospel. Stephen, it seems, did not stick to caring for the widows. He is now doing great wonders and signs among the people. And when confronted by his detractors, Stephen confounds them. They are unable to silence him or prove him wrong. They had to resort to subterfuge – much like those who accused Jesus himself. The plot is thickening.

Two things do not align as we might think they should. Enemies of the gospel do not give up easily. Even after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, they continue to oppose God. And for a time they will appear to gain the upper hand. Stephen’s witness and ministry is not as you might expect. This “table-waiter” will go on to become not only a Spirit-filled man of signs and wonders, but also the first Christian martyr.

Remember this well: God has a plan in mind that will not be thwarted by threats, enemies of the gospel, or even death itself. This is not merely a matter of God’s sovereignty. It is a matter of his redemptive plan, and an outgrowth of God’s desire that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth of his love and salvation in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit will continue to work this out, come threat, persecution, or death.

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