And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people (Acts 6:8).
Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is the most famous of the Seven deacons of the church in Jerusalem. The deacons were chosen to “serve tables” (Acts 6:2), but that expression can mean more than just filling the food bowls of the widows. It can also describe what we would call bookkeeping. With all of the gifts and needs of the church, they held positions of great responsibility. In addition, the deacons were also evangelists. Philip, for example, went on to preach in Samaria and converted the Ethiopian official. Likewise, Stephen preached in the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Acts 6:9).
A few years before the First World War, a French archaeologist named Raymond Weill discovered the Theodotos Inscription and fragments from a first-century synagogue in the old part of Jerusalem near the Gihon Spring. Biblical Archaeology Review reported:
Hundreds of synagogues stood in ancient Jerusalem before their destruction by Titus’s Roman forces in 70 A.D.; in one of them hung the following Greek inscription, carved prominently into the 25-by-17-inch limestone slab shown above: ‘Theodotus son of Vettenus, priest and synagogue leader, son of a synagogue leader, grandson of a synagogue leader, rebuilt this synagogue for the reading of the Law and the teaching of the commandments, and the hostelry, rooms and baths, for the lodging of those who have need from abroad. It was established by his forefathers, the elders and Simonides.’ The fact that the language of the inscription is Greek, not Hebrew, and its allusion to ‘those who have need from abroad,’ suggests that this synagogue was used by Jews from the Diaspora and that it housed large numbers of visiting pilgrims. Some scholars have identified it with the Synagogue of the Freedmen (former slaves in the Roman Empire), mentioned in Acts 6:9.
The book of Acts tells us Jews from the Diaspora, including Cilicia, the home of Saul of Tarsus (the Apostle Paul), debated with Stephen there. These Jews who came from far away firmly held their traditions and interpretations, but they were no match for Stephen and the power of the Holy Spirit. He was “full of grace and power” (Acts 6:3).
What does it mean to be “full of grace”? The United Bible Society’s Translator’s Handbook explains: “In the biblical sense to be ‘full of grace’ means that God’s grace and blessing are uniquely present and perceptible in the life of a person; whereas in contemporary English ‘full of grace’ might suggest that a person is full of charm and persuasiveness.” They translate this phrase: “A man richly blessed by God.” Notice the blessing is described as “full of power.”
When we realize how much God loves us, and blesses us, our lives are full of His power!
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 Newman, B. M., & Nida, E. A. (1972). A handbook on the Acts of the Apostles (p. 138). New York: United Bible Societies.