Wisdom and the Spirit:
The Need of American Pulpits Today

Acts chapter 6 is best known for being the story of Stephen, the first recorded martyr in the history of the church. Stephen was a “proto-deacon,” who was chosen by the early church as a man “full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3), as well as full of faith (6:5). These men stepped into a hard situation in which a certain demographic in a growing church was being neglected. Stephen was a man whose spiritual insight and wisdom was of great value to the early church. 

Stephen was also a preacher, and the Holy Spirit was accompanying his speaking with “signs and wonders.” You can almost see the picture. The church is growing, people are following Jesus, and the society around them, including the establishment religion of the day, wanted to put a stop to it. Standing out from the crowd in this way was a dangerous place to be. Yet Stephen is known in two ways, both for his wisdom in the church to deal with hard situations and for his Holy Spirit fueled proclamation of truth. 

A confrontation was inevitable. The growing church movement of the first century had a local face. They want to challenge Stephen, but there’s a problem. Acts 6:10 brings this out: “But they were unable to stand up against his wisdom and the Spirit by whom he was speaking.” This text is amazing in its simplicity and implications. In an age of celebrity pastors and CEO leadership models, the things that shut the mouths of critics, and render attacks impotent are wisdom and the power of the Holy Spirit. 

First, Stephen was full of wisdom. Spend a few minutes in Proverbs, and you’ll realize that wisdom is not an internal attribute. Stephen wasn’t born with it. It isn’t his wit or intellectual capacity. It’s applied knowledge. It’s taking the Word of God and being able to apply it in any given situation. Where does this come from? Proverbs 1:7 tells us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Second, Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:18 to be filled with the Spirit. Again, this is not a superhuman or internal ability. It occurs when we submit our desires and wants to the Holy Spirit to the point that it is the Holy Spirit who guides our attitudes and actions each day. This was Stephen. And when he found himself under attack because of his faith, it was these two attributes that gave him peace and courage while under fire and which ultimately silenced his attackers.

Now obviously, Stephen’s story ends with his martyrdom. But if that’s all you glean from his life, then you’ve missed the point. The point isn’t how Stephen died…it’s how Stephen lived. Pastors, teachers, Christians, stop trying to emulate the latest fad in communication techniques or emotional manipulation. Show us the wisdom that only comes from diving deep into the riches of the text and a Spirit-filled life that can only come when you are walking daily with your Savior. We need that from you.

Photo by Mitchell Leach on Unsplash