And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people.”
And Stephen, full of grace and power emphasizes the character of Stephen’s person, rather than his personality. It isn’t personality that counts; it is orientation to the plan of God. Stephen had a complete understanding of God’s plan, and he had no illusions about himself. When it says he was full of grace it means he understood the plan of God, that God does all of the work, that God provides all of the assets, and man enters into this pattern through the work of the Holy Spirit. Grace means you can’t earn, deserve or work for anything from God, and that you can’t take any of the credit. Grace also means that you have no illusions about yourself or anyone else, and that you understand clearly that God is the One who makes the difference. The Bible emphasizes grace because grace describes in one word the plan of God. Everything depends on Who God is.
Grace is all that God is free to do for mankind on the basis of the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Grace is undeserved mercy and unmerited favor. Grace is the title of God’s plan and His policy for mankind. Orientation is defined as familiarization with a particular person, thing or field of knowledge. To orient means to set right by adjusting to facts or principles; to put oneself into correct position or relation or to acquaint oneself with the existing situation. Grace orientation, therefore, means to become familiar with God’s grace plan and grace policies by adjusting to the facts and principles found in the Word of God, which puts you in correct relation to God and others. You will never be grace-oriented until you understand that your personal sins don’t condemn you. Adam’s original sin, which was imputed to you at birth, is what condemns you (spiritual death). This means that God’s grace was operational when He imputed Adam’s original sin to you, because condemnation must precede salvation. This is just another part of God’s ingenious grace plan of salvation.
The maximum expression of God’s grace is the Cross. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for all sin. Therefore, sin is not an issue in salvation. (I Peter 2:24) We are free to accept or reject God’s free gift of eternal life. The plan of God is for all of mankind to come to know His Son, Jesus Christ. (II Peter 3:9) Because Jesus Christ completely satisfied the righteousness and justice of God, God is now free to give eternal life and the other 40+ spiritual assets at salvation. (John 2:1-2) Our salvation brings glory to God. (Hebrews 2:9) When we trust Christ as our personal Savior we are adjusting to God’s grace. (Romans 3:24)
God’s grace has always been operational in relation to mankind. Even under the Law, God’s grace was at work in the lives of believers and unbelievers alike. God, in His grace, has revealed Himself to the entire human race beginning with Adam. Salvation for mankind has always been on the basis of God’s grace by faith and faith alone in Jesus Christ. Even the Mosaic Law was a grace gift from God, to show the unbeliever his need for a Savior and to guide him to the Cross. The Levitical offerings pointed to the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:20, 4:3; Genesis 15:6; Galatians 3:24)
God’s plan for mankind is revealed only through God’s Word, the Bible. God no longer speaks to man through voices, dreams or visions as He did in Old Testament times. The Scripture is our only source of information about God’s plan. The Bible is our “map” that guides us through life and reveals the method by which we can please God. Since God created us, it makes good sense to want to know His plan and purpose for our lives.
The Bible reveals the fact that God exists and that He has a plan for mankind. If a person says they do not believe that God exists, he must reach this conclusion based on one or more of three systems of perception:
Each of us uses all three of these methods for understanding the world around us. Since not everyone considers the existence of God reasonable and since we cannot see or touch God, we must rely upon faith as our system of perception regarding God. If we say that we believe that God exists, it is logical to have something upon which to base our conclusion. Faith is the system of perception that we use to reach this conclusion, which is based on the authority and truthfulness of God and His revealed Word.
Many people have asked, “Who is God? What is God?” These questions can be answered by the Word of God because God has revealed Himself to man. God has made Himself known in a number of ways: in the conscience of man, in creation and in the Bible. When we place our faith in the fact that God exists, we are relying upon both historical facts and Biblical facts in order to reach this conclusion. Therefore, since God exists then it stands to reason that He not only created mankind, but that He also wants to have a relationship with His creation. In order for God to have a relationship with mankind He must reveal Himself in a manner in which man can understand. God does this through His Word.
Since God is totally organized in His thinking and actions, He makes perfect organized sense in all that He does. In presenting His plan to mankind, God’s plan makes organized sense and can be understood by every person, if they desire to know it. God is loving and kind and desires for everyone to come to the knowledge of the truth that He has revealed. God not only created us, He also predesigned a plan specifically for each one of us in eternity past. This plan is a perfect plan because it was designed by a perfect Person (God). God’s plan for you is revealed in a logical and sensible way and He also provides the means for His plan to be carried out in your life.
God has a personalized plan for you. God was actually thinking of you in eternity past when He designed your plan. This is one of the reasons you are here on earth: to learn and fulfill God’s plan for your life. Failure to discover His plan and obey its commands will lead to a life of misery and guilt. On the other hand, if you discover God’s plan and fulfill it (regardless of how long it takes to do either), you will experience an amazing life of peace, joy and happiness beyond compare.
Since there is a God, since He has revealed Himself, since He makes sense, since He has a perfect plan, and since He has a personal plan for you, then you at least owe God a hearing. After you have examined the facts as revealed in God’s Word about Who and what He is, then you can come to your own conclusion about Him and His plan. Unlike religion, God’s plan is based on God’s grace (undeserved mercy and unmerited favor) not human works. Religion is man’s attempt to bind himself back to God by his own efforts. Since this is an impossible task, religion actually makes a person antagonistic toward God and His plan. The Word of God teaches that it is Jesus Christ Who binds us back to God by means of our faith in His death, burial and resurrection. It is therefore God’s plan to provide for mankind something that he cannot provide for himself. God provides this plan in three stages.
It is God’s will for every person to enter into His plan by faith in Jesus Christ as personal Savior. The issue is not your sinfulness or your past failures, because Jesus Christ paid the penalty for all sin on the Cross. Therefore, the issue is whether or not you will accept the free gift of eternal life by faith. Faith, belief and trust are synonymous terms, which mean that you are relying on Christ for your salvation and not on yourself or your good deeds. According to the Bible faith is the only requirement for eternal life.
Contrary to popular belief, your personal sins do not condemn you. When a baby is born, he is born with Adam’s original sin and a sin nature, which condemn him to spiritual death (separation from God). (Romans 5:12, 6:6, 7:5, 18) A person does not become a sinner because he sins; a person sins because he is a sinner. All categories of sin were dealt with at the Cross, when Jesus was judged by God for the sins of the entire human race (past, present and future).
After salvation, the sin nature continues to reside in the body and seeks to control the believer’s thoughts and actions. Everyone has an area of weakness and an area of strength with regard to sin. The area of weakness produces mental attitude sins (jealousy, hatred, etc.), sins of the tongue (gossip, maligning, etc.) and overt sins (murder, stealing, etc.). The area of strength produces human good (good deeds, acts of kindness, etc.). When human good is substituted for divine production it fails to meet God’s standard for the believer. (Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:5) It is often the sins (bad behavior) of the believer that makes him think he has somehow lost His salvation and no longer has a relationship with God. Personal sin after salvation does “cut off” our fellowship with God, but no amount of this bad behavior can cause a believer to lose his salvation. The reason that this is true is that keeping your salvation does not depend on you, it depends on God. (John 10:29)
At salvation God creates a human spirit within you so that you can understand spiritual truth. The result is that a battle within your soul begins. The battle is to determine who will control your thinking and your actions. God, of course wants to be the One Who is in control, but the believer makes the ultimate choice. God in His grace gives each of us the Holy Spirit to indwell us so that we have the power to “say no” to the sin nature and “say yes” to God. When the believer does fail and commits a sin he loses his fellowship with God and the control of God the Holy Spirit. However, by admitting our sin to God we are forgiven and restored to fellowship with Him and filled with the Holy Spirit. This is God’s system for recovery when we fail, but He has also provided a system that helps us resist the temptation to sin. This system is learning, believing and applying the teachings of God’s Word, the Bible. Spiritual growth is the key to understanding God’s plan for us. As we grow, we learn about God’s character: (II Peter 3:18; I John 1:8-10)
Every believer is guaranteed eternal life. This means that you will live forever with God in a state of perfect happiness and contentment without the imperfections and influence of the sin nature, which will be gone. As a believer, you will receive a resurrection body like that of Christ. (I Corinthians 15:35-45; II Corinthians 5:8; I Peter 1:4-5; Revelation 21:4)
Christ is preparing a place for each believer. The Bible describes these places as mansions and Heaven as a place with streets of gold, walls of precious stones and gates of pearl. The believer will also be given great rewards by Jesus Christ, called “crowns.” These “crowns” are based on the believer’s execution of God’s plan and whether your deeds qualify as divine good (deeds motivated and performed under the control of the Holy Spirit). However, all believers will be in a state of perfect happiness for all eternity. (I Corinthians 3:11-13)
What does God want for you? First, He wants you to believe in Him and to trust Jesus Christ as your Savior. Second, He wants you to fulfill His plan for your life by learning, believing and applying His Word. Third, He wants to bless you with rewards that are beyond your imagination. The Christian’s purpose should be to glorify God by allowing Him to bless you with peace, happiness and contentment as you increase your capacity to receive these blessings from knowledge of His Word. (John 3:16; Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 1:3-6)
Stephen performed great wonders and signs as a result of being full of grace and full of power. Wonders and signs mean astounding things, supernatural things. We see them on occasions throughout the book of Acts; yet the emphasis of the book of Acts is not on its miracles but on learning the Word of God. The emphasis is on Bible doctrine, on the Spirit-controlled life, the grace of God, and not on miracles. Notice that Stephen did this among the people, which means among the unbelievers. In other words, he had an impact for Christ. He did these things in order to present the Gospel. Stephen consistently had a life of production.
Notice the pattern for the Christian life. First of all you must know doctrine. Knowing doctrine you become oriented to the grace of God. Having become oriented to the grace of God you are able to learn how to tap into divine power, and utilize divine power rather than human power. In other words, you learn how to apply the doctrine you learn by means of the supernatural power of God the Holy Spirit. This is how you and I have an impact for Christ!