Where does God live?
“However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands.”
Acts 7:48 (NIV)
In reading the story of Stephen and his martyrdom one is struck by the grace that surrounded him, ‘Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people.’ (Acts 6:8). And it was the inspiration of the Spirit of God that energised him as he approached death. It transformed how he looked (like an angel), what he said (divine utterance) and what he saw (vision of heaven). His dying testimony demonstrated that God lived in his heart and mind.
Some of the qualities of those appointed to serve in the early Church included being of good repute and “full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3), and ‘full of faith and of the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 6:5). When God lives in us it changes everything and it will be clearly discerned by those around us, although sadly the goodness of God is not always recognised as good news by all.
Stephen saw the glory of God and his risen Saviour which removed his fear and filled him with confidence and compassion for the mob who were stoning him (Acts 7:55). Because God lived and was active in his mind and heart he was able to make two profound and incredible statements: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59), and “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). Wow! The fruit of the spirit – love – flowed out to those who opposed, lied and then murdered him.
To quote from two hymns, we know that, like Stephen, we ‘serve a risen Saviour’ and have ‘blessed assurance, Jesus is mine’ –
He lives (He lives), He lives (He lives), Christ Jesus lives today
He walks with me and talks with me
Along life’s narrow way
He lives (He lives), He lives (He lives), Salvation to impart
You ask me how I know He lives,
He lives within my heart. 1
Perfect submission, all is at rest
I in my Savior, am happy and blessed
Watching and waiting, looking above
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love. 2
In the story of Stephen we see the fulfilment of the two great commandments: to love and worship God, and to love our neighbour as ourselves. We are reminded that the price can be high when we live this way, and proclaim the Gospel. But because God lives in us we know it is worth it, no matter the cost.
1 Alfred Ackley He Lives (I Serve A Risen Saviour).
2 Fanny Crosby Blessed Assurance.
Loving Father, help us through your Spirit, that like Stephen and Jesus, we daily commit our lives to you and the service of others. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Study by David Gibbs
About the writer:
David Gibbs is a Minister in the Birmingham congregation of Grace Communion International, and also serves on the Pastoral Council.
All Saints Church
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