Key Principle #9 : Confrontation
In Stephen’s defense of Christianity, he used a number of Old Testament references. While sometimes theologians can allegorize the Old Testament a little too much, the Bible actually does say that the Old Testament prophets, stories and events are for our examples (1 Cor. 10:6-16). As such, the following Old Tesatment character were much like missionaries. As you read these passages, ask yourself, "How were these like missionaries?"
Abraham ? (verses 2-8)
2”The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, 3and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’’”
Joseph? (verses 9-16)
9”And the patriarchs, becoming envious, sold Joseph into Egypt. But God was with him.
Moses? (verses 22-44)
29Then, at this saying, Moses fled and became a dweller in the land of Midian, where he had two sons.
Missionaries will confront things out of their comfort zones when they leave their home turf. It forces them to rely on God rather than their familiarity with their surroundings.
Stephen was falsely accused of two things:
1) Speaking blasphemous things in regards to the temple and
2) Seeking to abolish the law.
In reality, verse 48 indicates that the Jewish leaders were the ones guilty of blaspheming by turning the temple into an idol. Secondly, it was the Jewish leaders who were not keeping the law. If you face confrontation and false accusations against you, pay sharp attention to whether those who are accusing you are actually revealing some of their own faults.
A caution about being too confrontational: Both Peter and Stephen used sharp and harsh confrontational evangelism in their witnessing to the Jewish leaders (read verse 51-53).
51 “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. 52Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, 53who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.”
Stephen could have used more tact in confronting the rulers. Read what years of being too controversial and too confrontational taught the Apostle Paul:
“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Col. 4:6)
“Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers” (1 Tim. 5:1);
“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” (Eph. 4:15)
Do you think there are times when sharp, confrontational evangelism is needed? If so, there likely will be sharp consequences, hopefully not the degree that there was with Stephen! Generally, a soft answer turns away wrath (Proverbs