Updated: Nov 18, 2022
Introduction: Everyone wants to be a person of consequence or significance. We all have an innate desire to make a difference in the lives of others. The Bible teaches that if we want to be people of consequence, we must first be “people of conviction.”
Our Current Situation
Unfortunately, we live among a generation where there are many more people of compromise, cowardice, and conformity than there are people of conviction.
So many people just want to get along. These are people eager to compromise. Others avoid conflict at all costs because they are cowards. Some individuals look for common ground wherever they can find it, even if it means relegating truth. They are happy to capitulate to the culture. Often, they will emphasize the positive and fail to ever confront the negative. Their behavior is always in accordance with what is socially acceptable because these people lack the backbone and the fortitude to push back against a decaying culture.
People like this operate under the banner of compassion, but it is misguided compassion because they lack any sense of godly conviction and ultimately, they are people of little consequence.
A person of conviction is compassionate but is also firm. They are unbending. They are iron-willed and resolute. When people around them are saying, “well I don’t know” a person of conviction shouts, “I do know! I am sure! That is wrong! This is right. Stop that and start this.”
They understand that there are times when a bold proclamation is required.
A person of conviction seems to be free from doubt. They have a sense of certitude and confidence even in the face of potential peril. When others are vacillating, capitulating, and conforming, a person of conviction speaks clearly and decisively, as one who has authority.
Distinction Between Types of Conviction
Acts 6-8 showcase a man of conviction. Stephen was more specifically a man of “Christian” conviction.
I respect men like Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis and Kentucky Senator Dr. Rand Paul. Certainly, they are both men of deep conviction. Their willingness to push back against many of the cultural and political trends of our day is something from which we all benefit. No doubt, those are men of deep personal and political conviction.
But, let us be clear, there is a difference between political conviction and Christian conviction. Stephen was a man of “Christian” conviction, which is something that all Christians should pursue and possess.
I want you to notice three things about Stephen from Acts 6,7, & 8. Stephen had an informed mind, a righteous motive, and therefore, Stephen was prepared in his final moment.
1. An Informed Mind
First, consider Stephen’s informed mind as revealed through his sermon. It is clear that he had a very legitimate understanding of Israel’s history. If you read Acts 7, Stephen’s sermon to the Sanhedrin, you see that he was well-informed. He was extremely knowledgeable. He knew Israel’s history, he knew Jewish customs, he knew the Old Testament’s prophecies concerning the Messiah, and he knew how the Jewish leaders of his day had rejected Jesus.
Truly, Stephen’s sermon to the Sanhedrin was masterful, detailed and didactic.
Also, Stephen’s well-informed mind was realized through his reputation.
Don’t forget that in Acts 6, the early church was seeking men “full of wisdom,” among other traits, and Stephen was one of the men they selected. He was so wise that “certain of the synagogue…were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.” (Acts 6:9-10) He had a wise, well-informed mind.
There is a danger in hearing a sermon about being a person of conviction if there’s not an emphasis on information. Some people may resolve to speak out more or to try to make a difference, but if they don’t have a well-informed mind on the topic of which they are speaking, it ends up being more of a hurt than a help.
Passion and dogmatism without wisdom and understanding is just noise and ignorance. Expressing conviction, about whatever topic, without a thorough knowledge of that topic often does more harm than it does good.
Being a person of conviction is not about spouting off. It is not about volume and emotion or merely an abundance of words.
People of Christian conviction must be thoroughly informed about the issue of which they speak. They should endeavor to be precise with their words. They are not precise in order to win the adoration of their hearer, but they are precise so that they say what must be said.
When words are expressed with both passion and precision, they can have a huge impact!
When truth is communicated with conviction, clarity, and accuracy the communicator of that truth is being very Christlike! (Matthew 7:28-29)
Ladies and gentlemen, you should know why you believe what you believe, and then shout it with conviction from the rooftop! Once a person of Christian conviction knows the details of a situation, or the content of a subject, he then can speak definitively and boldly.
Stephen was a man of conviction, but his conviction was emboldened by his informed mind.
2. Righteous Motive
Not only did Stephen have an informed mind, but secondly, he had a righteous motive.
Motive matters. This was why the Pharisees were rebuked in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It wasn’t that praying, fasting, or almsgiving was wrong, but it was that their motive for doing it was wicked. Why you do what you do matters more than what you do!
Again, motive matters. Motive is what a Christian’s works will be judged on at the Judgement Seat of Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:13)
While it is true that, “he that judges me is the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:4), there still exists a natural human tendency for us to curiously judge the motives of others.
If you speak with conviction, if you are definitive and bold in your declarations, that will cause people to analyze your motive.
“Why is he so bold? Why is he speaking out about this topic? Who does he think he is? Is he craving attention by acting out in this way? How does he stand to benefit from this?” Further, some will suggest that you are a know-it-all.
While a few like-minded people will be inspired by your boldness and conviction, many people will view you as arrogant.
Stephen’s motive for his Christian service is clearly stated in Acts 6:7. He wanted “the Word of God increased.” He wanted to see people, “obedient to the faith,” and specifically faith in Jesus of Nazareth’s Messiahship. That is a righteous motive.
In spite of what others may speculate regarding your motive, I say to you, if your mind is biblically informed, and your motive is God-honoring, speak on, and speak up, and speak out, no matter what they think!
3. The Final Moment
Thirdly, consider Stephen’s final moment. Even though he had an informed mind, and a righteous motive, the crowd still hated him.
They hated him because of how strong he spoke to them. After declaring truth throughout his sermon, he called them out for their stubbornness. “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears.” He boldly told them that they “do always resist the Holy Ghost: as (their) fathers did.” (Acts 7:51)
What a conclusion to a sermon!
Not only did they hate him for speaking strongly to them, but they hated him for speaking about their sin.
His sermon throughout was a rehearsal of their history, which was marked with their rebellion against God.
Everything he said was true and instead of submitting to the truth, they responded to the truth by being indignant! They were guilty of what he said, and they knew it. (Read Acts 7:54)
They became instantly engulfed in implacable rage while he remained engulfed by the Holy Ghost. (Acts 7:55)
Stephen’s message was in accordance with Paul’s instructions about what preaching should be in 2 Timothy 4:2. Stephen’s message included “reproof, rebuke, and exhortation.”
Like in Stephen’s day, people today want “nice” and neutral speech. They crave fluffy and soft speech that is of no real consequence. The truth is, softening our words has weakened our nation and it has muted the voices behind many of our pulpits.
As much as ever, Christians of conviction need to speak strongly about the sins of our society.
Abortion is wrong. It is sin. Murdering a life inside the womb of the mother is Satanic and selfish.
Same-sex marriage is wrong. Even though it is legal, it is sin.
Transgenderism is wrong. It is sin. Deuteronomy 22:5 calls it an abomination.
Heterosexual adultery and fornication are wrong, and it is sin.
Escapism into drugs and alcohol and the vices of this world are wrong, and it is sin.
Any family structure other than the one God has prescribed in the Bible is wrong and it is sin. I am old-fashioned enough to believe that a husband should be the leader of his home as the Bible explains. He should love his wife. And, wives should submit to their husbands while together the parents are teaching their children to obey, and that may require spankings.
Stephen spoke strongly to them about their sin, but that was not why they killed him. They killed him because of what he said about the Savior.
As they are gnashing on Stephen with their teeth, through the pain he must have been suffering, he “looked up steadfastly into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing on the right hand of God and said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” Had he not said that they may have left him bloodied but alive. However, to refer to Jesus as the Son of Man was to suggest to them that Jesus is the fulfillment of Daniel 7:13.
That is why they killed him. That is why they stoned him.
To say that Jesus of Nazareth was “the Son of man” was blasphemous as far as they were concerned. To say that Stephen “saw the glory of God” and part of that glory was “Jesus standing at the right hand of God” was unfathomable for them. They “stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city and stoned him.” (Acts 7:57-58a)
Stephen was a man of conviction who ultimately died for what he believed. What was it that he was so convicted about? The messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth. This is a truth worth dying for because it has an eternal impact.
If you are a person of conviction, you will have enemies. They may not kill you, but they might hate you.
In most cases, when we have enemies, our response is usually, “forget them!” Yet, people of Christian conviction are told not to forget em, but to “forgive them!” More specifically, Jesus tells us to “love them!” and “pray for them!” (Matthew 5:43-44).
Notice that in Stephen’s final moments, he prays for his attackers. (Acts 7:59-60)
If you take a stand for Christ, you will have enemies. If you are a person of God-honoring conviction, you may be hated like Stephen.
Yet, in his last moment on this earth, he shows his love for his enemies by humbly praying for them.
As his pummeled body wanes towards lifelessness, “he kneeled down and cried with a loud voice, ‘Lord, lay not this sin to their charge’ and when he had said this,” he died. (Acts 7:60)
His last words were a prayer for his enemies.
The final moments of this man of conviction were extremely Christlike.
Even in his death, Stephen reflected the gospel.
By the way, did Stephen’s prayer get answered in the affirmative by God? I say “yes, at least on one account.”
Stephen prayed that his attackers would be forgiven and ultimately at least one received forgiveness. There was one who was there consenting to Stephen’s death.
Saul, who is later known as Paul, eventually received the forgiveness that only Jesus of Nazareth can provide when he was converted to Christ as recorded in Acts 9.
Remember when Paul says that before he met Christ Jesus, he was “a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious, but I obtain mercy.” No doubt when he writes that to Timothy, Paul is mindful of Stephen’s death.
The conviction that Stephen had about Jesus of Nazareth being the Messiah eventually became Paul’s conviction as well.
That’s why Paul can say that “the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.“ (1 Timothy 1:14)
Paul never stopped marveling at God’s saving grace.
People of conviction are sometimes polarizing. They are sometimes hated and viewed as arrogant. In spite of people’s subjective opinions about Christians of conviction, I suggest that we should be the boldest people on the planet.
Political backbone and fortitude are certainly refreshing and can be extremely beneficial, however, so much the more, Christians should be people of conviction.
After all, we have God’s Word. Through it, we know our origin. He is our Creator. Through this precious book we know our purpose; to give Him glory. Because of God’s Word, we have a clear message to communicate to the world around us.
Because we have this book, we should be emboldened to speak authoritatively to a culture full of people who are vacillating. Because we have the word of truth, we need to be vocal Christians of conviction in a world full of lies.
After all, we are the stewards of God’s Word, as “the pillar and ground of the truth.”
(1 Timothy 3:15) Christians should be the boldest people on the planet.
May God help us all to be Christians of conviction.
The above article was written by James C. Johnson and he is the Pastor of NorthStone Baptist Church in Pensacola. To offer him your feedback, comment below or email him at email@example.com.
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