I know, I know, I’ve been really terrible about getting these posts out. Been a busy time around here and just haven’t gotten around to posting things. Finally I’m gonna post the final part of my series on Teaching the Lost Like Stephen from Acts 7. If you haven’t already, I might suggest first reading Acts 7 and then going back and reading my previous posts in this topic.
We have already discussed three ways that Stephen taught the lost. He taught using something the knew and understood, he taught them the truth, and nothing but the truth, and he taught them without fear. Today we are going to discuss how Stephen taught with love.
In Acts 7, beginning in verse 54, the Bible reads:
Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at 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 at 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 called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Even as Stephen fell to his knees about to die from stoning, he spoke with love toward his fellow man. His statement, “Lord do not hold this sin against them,” should remind us of what our Lord said from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Love is such a central theme to so much of the Bible. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 that no matter what gifts we may have, or what knowledge or faith we may possess, without love, we have nothing. Jesus told his followers in Matthew 5, “Love your enemies.” In John’s first epistle, he reminds us that if we say we love God, but hate our brother, we are lying. Paul encouraged the Ephesians to speak the truth, “in love (Eph 4:15).”
There are three kinds of people when it comes to this idea that Paul discusses in Eph 4:15. First, there are some who ignore the truth. They are loving and love to say, “Jesus loves you,” but they leave it at that. They don’t teach the truth about sin. While the message may sound good, it doesn’t teach the whole counsel of God, so it is actually leading souls away from God.
Second, there are some who ignore the love. Sure, they teach the truth, but they do so in such a way that anyone who hears that message will not receive it because the message is so hateful.
Thankfully, there is a third option, and in reality it is the only option if we hope to bring people to Christ, and that is “speaking the truth in love.” No doubt we have to teach the truth, even concerning sin, but when teaching that truth it should be with an attitude of, “I’m doing this because I care about you,” and not, “Look how good I am and how bad you are because you are doing this sin.” Remember what the Lord said about removing the plank from your own eye before removing the speck from your brothers.
If we are ever going to hope to reach someone who is lost, we have to have love in our hearts. That doesn’t mean we don’t say what needs to be said. But, so many people, who may in all honesty have good intentions, are so unloving when they talk about the Gospel. Some I’ll even go as far as to say are hateful. For this reason, there are some, who are lost, who won’t even come near a church building. They believe that all Christian’s are like that. I’ve heard people say that. They’ve been around so many hateful “Christians” that they think that’s par for the course. But that’s not how we are is it? That’s not the example we have from the early church is it? And that’s not the example we see from Stephen.
Paul who was present at Stephen’s stoning would later write in Colossians 4:5-6:
Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
How are we conducting ourselves when we reach out to the lost? Are we following Stephen’s example? Stephen was a preacher of the Gospel who should serve as a great example for Christians today. He gives what I consider to be a great pattern, or blueprint if you will, for which we can go about teaching the lost. I encourage that when we go to teach others about Christ, we look to Stephen, and Acts 7, as an example for how to do that.
I hope you have enjoyed and been uplifted by this series, even though it took me far too long to post so few posts. Thank you for taking the time to read this.