A friend recently observed a pattern in the Bible that I had not noticed before. The lesson is worth sharing here. Read the following statements and see if you can identify who is described.
1) His primary role was to be a servant.
2) He was full of the Holy Spirit.
3) He did mighty signs and wonders.
4) He spoke with supernatural wisdom that his enemies could not refute.
5) His enemies’ response was to bring him to trial for blasphemy before the Jewish high priest and engage in witness tampering to convict him.
6) His trial abruptly ended with his murder.
7) While he died, he asked God to forgive those who participated in his murder, a request that was apparently granted, in a supernatural way.
8) His death was followed by persecution of Christians that caused the gospel to spread more widely than ever.
If you came up with only one answer, then check the following Scripture references.
1) Mark 10:45 / Acts 6:1-5
2) Luke 4:1 / Acts 6:5
3) John 20:30 / Acts 6:8
4) Luke 20:39-40 / Acts 6:10
5) Mark 14:53-59 / Acts 6:11-12
6) Luke 23:23-25 / Acts 7:58
7) Luke 23:34 and Matthew 27:54 / Acts 7:60 and 9:1-22
8) Acts 4:1-4 / Acts 8:1-4
These references show that every statement above actually describes two people. What’s going on? Is this a Biblical variation of the “Amazing Lincoln/Kennedy Coincidences”?
Not at all. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me, the works that I do he will do also, and greater works than these he will do, because I go to the Father” (John 14:12). If we take that seriously, we will not read Acts only as history. Instead, we will see that the Holy Spirit is showing us what it looks like when Jesus’ followers live His kind of life.
To be sure, Jesus’ atoning death, triumphant resurrection and joyful ascension to the Father were unique actions. Only He could do them. But those unique acts of Jesus give to all who believe in Him a new kind of living, a supernatural life.
Sadly, we are not accustomed to think supernaturally about disciple life. You can tell that by how we categorize our churches in America. They are known by their type of worship style, their children’s programs, their seeker sensitive programs, and so on. While these issues matter, they don’t receive much attention in Scripture. But the supernatural expressions of the Spirit do. There are at least eight Bible passages that discuss spiritual gifts, one of them three chapters long. What would disciple life look like if our churches were known instead as places where the spiritual gifts were thriving, where the Spirit was doing clearly supernatural things?
The example of Stephen in Acts is strong testimony that supernatural living is Jesus’ intention for all His disciples. It is true that Jesus’ apostles did unique things, such as writing God-inspired Scripture. Inspired Scripture is finished. But Acts is more than a collection of stories about amazing things that Jesus’ apostles did. Stephen was a second or third generation disciple, not an apostle. We meet others like him throughout Acts, living supernaturally. It’s as if that was the Father’s plan for all Jesus’ followers all along.
The book of Acts is not a set of dance steps to imitate in hopes of being a super Christian. Jesus gave us something better. After He promised that His followers would do greater works than He did, He then explained how we would step into that kind of life when He was no longer physically present (John 14-16). He has poured out the Holy Spirit to empower us to live this life. He invites us into this life.
What are we waiting for?