The Blessing and the Cost of an Honest Report

June 15, 2009 at 4:06 pm | Posted in Acts | 14 Comments
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Previously, we saw the powerful prayer of the Apostles. When they had prayed, God shook the whole building.

And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

Acts 4:31

We are tempted to wonder what would happen if such an occurrence took place today. However, the early church leaders did not determine to stage this prayer meeting over and over again, hoping for more signs and wonders. Instead they went to work. Instead of selling admission, they started giving.

Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

Acts 4:34-35

This was not an example of what we know today as Communism – this was giving motivated by love, not by force or for political ideology.

Satan had tried to attack the Church from without. Now he would try to attack it from the inside.

But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Acts 5:1-2

This is the beginning of the account of Ananias and Sapphira. They were Satan’s counterfeit givers. Contrast their giving with that of Barnabas.

And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Acts 4:36-37

Barnabas had not been motivated by fame. However, I’m sure his noble act had brought some coincidental fame to him. This fame made Ananias and Sapphira jealous. That’s when Satan pounced. We see the motivation of Satan in the pride and hypocrisy involved in Ananias and Sapphira’s sin.

Hypocrisy and pride are two sins that are especially abominable to the Lord. But before we look down our nose too much at Ananias and Sapphira… Their sin was a way of trying to look more spiritual in church than they really were, for their own glory. It was sin that involved lying to the Holy Spirit, and it was against the Church. If they could have gained a good standing in the Church, Satan would have had a couple of effective “inside agents.”

If a fighter is losing a fair fight, and he is a dirty fighter, he may try to get an unfair advantage by picking up something handy and throwing it at his opponent. My younger brother’s favorite projectile was a steel-spiked track shoe. I have a friend whose younger brother once threw a cat at him!

Satan, the dirtiest of all the dirty fighters, will often pick up a person, the way we would pick up a rock or a vase (it may be a person very close to you – maybe even a fellow church member), and throw this person at you.

Satan picked up Ananias and Sapphira, and threw them at the other Christians. For their sin, God killed Ananias and Sapphira. Their punishment was severe because their sin occurred at the outset of a new period in the history of salvation.

There are other instances like this, where God, at the beginning of what some people call a “dispensational period” of salvific history, will deal very harshly with sin that challenges or threatens the onset of a new revelation by Him, or a new era in Christian history.

Here are a couple of examples: Just after the tabernacle was erected, God killed Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10). This was the incident of strange fire in the censer. Just after Joshua entered the promised land, God had Achan killed (Joshua 7). Achan “took the accursed thing” in the sacking of Jericho.

At the end of Acts Chapter 5, the Apostles are arrested, and they go before the Sanhedrin and the Sadducees. They are beaten, and Gamaliel attempts to get rid of them by trivializing their Lord.

The next recorded problem to arise in the Church had to do with the Greek-speaking widows, who believed that the Hebrew- (or Aramaic-) speaking widows were getting preferred treatment.

Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

Acts 6:2-3

The Apostles were spending too much time “waiting tables,” and it was taking away from their time studying the Word, preaching, and praying. So, inspired by the Holy Ghost, they commanded that seven men be found. The Apostles were not “too good” to wait tables, but they were doing what others could be doing just as well. And Acts 6:3 sets forth the qualifications for what type of men they were looking:

Honest report:
Someone who can be trusted. All Christians ought to establish a reputation for trustworthiness. If you want to obtain an honest report, you will need to show up, even when you’re not feeling well. You will need to consistently raise your hand, and say, “I’ll help clean up;” “I’ll volunteer to do that; “Somebody’s missing – I’ll fill in.” And when these opportunities arise, you will strive to do a good job.

Then, people will say, “You know, we trusted him to do that last time, and he did a good job; we can trust him to do that again.” Pretty soon you’ll have an “honest report.”

Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.

Proverbs 20:11

If even a child is known for his “report,” how much more a man?

Too often we want to be known by our sayings, when we should want to be known by our doings.

Full of the Holy Ghost: The Apostles weren’t looking for men who had filled up on the Holy Ghost once a week, after 45 minutes of music. They were looking for men who were “being filled” continually with the Holy Ghost. If I’m going to be continually filled with the Holy Ghost, I’m going to have to do more than sing and exuberantly worship. I’m going to have to get rid of the sin in my life. This does not mean I won’t ever sin, but I’ve got to hate that sin – confess it, and forsake it right away. Is the Holy Ghost comfortable in your heart, or are you grieving the Holy Ghost?

Full of wisdom: Too often, people are claiming to be full of the Holy Ghost, but are acting like muttering drunks. A characteristic of being filled with the Holy Ghost is wisdom.

Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

Ephesians 5:17-18

What a shame if the Spirit truly wants to lead us, and the best thing we can do in response is to act big, talk loud, sit around, and do nothing. That’s what drunks do. They talk big, but they’re too uncoordinated to do anything. God has called us to do much more than just show up once in a while – even more than just to show up regularly. He wants us to be actively involved in ministry. We have an example of this in Acts 6 – an example of a man who met these qualifications: Stephen.

I’m not a Greek scholar by any means, but my understanding is that there are two different Greek words for “crown:” diadem and stephanos. (Stephanos is probably where we get the name “Stephen.”) A diadem can be inherited; a stephanos must earned – or won in an athletic contest.

Stephen was full of faith and full of the Holy Ghost. We know he was full of faith because, as he began to preach, and as the crowd he was preaching to got angrier and angrier, and as they began to stone him, he kept right on going. We know he was full of the Holy Ghost, because he preached with power. The Bible even says he was full of power.

And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.

Acts 6:8 (emphasis added)

He was so filled with the Holy Ghost that he even asked the Lord to forgive them as they killed him.

And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.

Acts 6:15

We say that someone who is really smart is “bright,” or that someone who comes up with a great idea is “brilliant.” Stephen was visibly brilliant! He told the truth from God’s Word.

His sermon is recorded in Acts Chapter 7. Part of it reads like a lecture on Jewish history. He preaches about Joseph from the Book of Genesis. He preaches that God does not dwell in houses built with human hands. He preaches that the temple of the Jewish faith is of God, but that the temple is not God. He preaches that the Law of the Jewish faith is of God, but that the Law is not God.

This preaching drove the unconverted Jews who heard it mad. Yet, they could not speak honestly against it, or intimidate Stephen. He was full of the Holy Ghost, he knew the Scriptures forward and backward.

In the Old Testament there are a number of “types” of Jesus Christ, which foreshadow the importance of His coming in the Incarnation. Stephen is a sort of New Testament “type” of Christ, in the sense that we can draw some comparisons between them. No one can truly be like Jesus. He was and is perfect. However, Holy Spirit-filled Christians ought to strive to be as much like Him as possible.

The Bible tells us Jesus was full of grace; it tells us the same thing about Stephen. Jesus performed miracles; so did Stephen. Jesus boldly confronted the religious establishment of the day; so did Stephen. Jesus was convicted by lying witnesses; so was Stephen. Jesus was executed despite being innocent of any crime; Stephen was executed for a crime he did not commit. Both Jesus and Stephen were accused of blasphemy. Both died outside the city, and were buried by sympathizers. Both prayed for the salvation of their executioners.

How much are we growing in Christ-likeness each day?

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  1. […] saw Stephen stoned, and he approved of it. But you have to wonder if it affected him – if God used it to […]

  2. […] Lord sent Ananias to him. (This is a different Ananias than the one who was killed for lying to the Holy Ghost.) All the Christians knew who Saul was, and feared him. He received his sight back, and he received […]

  3. […] John Mark, with them. They go to six different cities in Chapters 13 and 14. Satan packed up his bag of evil tricks and went after them, or, actually, it appears that he may have gone before them in some […]

  4. […] Apostles: Activated, Authorized, Audible, and Accountable From Power to Proclamation to Prayer * The Blessing and the Cost of an Honest Report Exposing the Enemy and Going Forth with the Truth Changing Names and Calling Names Preaching, […]

  5. […] you could find somebody more recent – ah, how about Stephen? In Acts Chapter 6 they made him a deacon, and in Chapter 7 they stoned him to death… talk […]

  6. […] Apostles: Activated, Authorized, Audible, and Accountable 6. From Power to Proclamation to Prayer * 7. The Blessing and the Cost of an Honest Report 8. Exposing the Enemy and Going Forth with the Truth 9. Changing Names and Calling Names 10. […]

  7. […] seven men be found. These were men, not women. They were looking for certain qualifications: men of honest report, men full of the Holy Ghost, and men of wisdom. The reason that more men are not serving in church […]

  8. […] you’ve ever had your enemy gnash his teeth at you (or on you – like Stephen), that can be scary, but God says not to melt away – because ultimately He will see to it that […]

  9. […] brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this […]

  10. […] Acts 4:31 (emphasis added) […]

  11. […] feet. This sounds spiritual and inspiring, but the problem was that Satan influenced them to lie about what they were doing. They pretended to turn over the total amount of money they received from the sale of the land, but […]

  12. […] The same leaders that allowed John the Baptist to be killed asked for Jesus to be killed, and killed Stephen themselves. The king whose invitation had been rejected sent armies to destroy those who rejected his kingship […]

  13. […] Herod feared God a little, but he feared men more. He loved God’s messenger a little, but he loved himself more. This is unbelief, and this was the first step on the way to the unpardonable sin, which the Jewish leaders committed, and into which they led many of their people. They rejected God (John the Baptist, His prophet). They rejected Jesus, God’s Son (consentin to, and helping to instigate, His Crucifixion). And they blasphemed (rejected, always resisting) the Holy Ghost – God’s final witness – when they stoned Stephen. […]

  14. […] by members of a Christian church, and allowed to go unchecked by the leaders and the congregation, affects more than just the specific sinners involved. Consider some of our metaphors for the […]


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