Martyrdom of Stephen
Acts 7:51- 8:3
Acts 7:51- 8:3
St. Andrews MTC, NY
60.Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.
Sometimes it takes a miracle of God to change a person with a hardened heart and deaf ears. I am so thankful that grace is not contingent on my ability to discern the truth of the Word. For this reason, I do not take the grace given to me lightly, for I would remain the stone-cold, stiff-necked, lost woman I was before I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. Today we will look at the death of a passionate young man, Stephen, who dared to challenge the Jewish leaders of his time. He was bold and willing to die in the name of Christ, an honour for those who were a part of the early church.
Stephen had quite the sharp tongue. Towards the end of his speech to the members of the Sanhedrin, he rebuked the Jews before him for being like their forefathers. The Israelites had been rebellious since God rescued them from the Egyptians. Every prophet sent to warn them of their disobedience was persecuted by the Jews. Stephen admonished them for being like their ancestors who were so set in their ways, they could not see the truth about Jesus, but instead allowed him to be killed. He tells them that they have the law, but they do not obey it with their hearts.
Search our heart; are we the same as those Stephen rebuked? Do we go to church because our parents do, or do we seek fellowship with those who recognize their brokenness and need for Jesus? Are we following God with our hearts, or are we set in our ways and following Him through tradition? Can we say that we are Christians if we do not live out the true meaning of being a Christian every single day? Do we actively pursue a relationship with God and delight in Him?
To the members of the Sanhedrin, Stephen’s proclamation was so blasphemous it angered them to the point where they were grinding their teeth at him. Stephen says in verses 55-56,“Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” ’ What a privilege it is to see the glory of the Father! What stood out to me the most was that everywhere else in the Bible it says that Jesus sits at the right hand of God, but here Jesus was standing. Jesus was standing with Stephen as he faced persecution. What a beautiful sight; how comforting and reassuring that must have been. The members of the Sanhedrin, however, did not see it that way. They were so enraged by Stephen’s words that they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.
God never guaranteed us an easy life. It was incredibly difficult to be a member of the early church; they faced daily persecution and were ostracized from their communities. We often forget how blessed we are to live in countries that grant us religious freedom. Even today, many of our brothers and sisters in Christ on the other side of the world struggle to meet for worship; people are losing their lives for being a Christian. As he was being stoned, Stephen prayed something similar to what Jesus said on the cross before he died. He cried out for the Lord to receive his spirit, and for the forgiveness of those who are about to kill him.
We also must not forget the young man who allowed Stephen to be killed. Saul of Tarsus, who later became one of the most influential followers of Christ in all of history, was there to witness and approve of Stephen’s death: we know him later as the Apostle Paul.
Jesus lived in the hearts and actions of those who believed in Him, like Stephen, and continues to live in us. If there is anything in this passage that will remain with us, I hope it is this: once we have come to Christ, if we speak the Word truly and faithfully, just as Stephen did, we will encounter furious teeth-gnashers. This is the truth, however God does not allow us to be unequipped for the worldly and spiritual battles we will face. We just need to put our trust in Him. Although Christians will be persecuted by the world, our strength and peace come from God.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your infinite grace and mercies! Commission our spirits with Your will and with a purpose. Grant us eyes to perceive, ears to hear, and a heart ready to accept our calling for our lives. Amen.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:
"Nothing but encouragement can come to us as we dwell upon the faithful dealing of our Heavenly Father in centuries gone by. Faith in God has not saved people from hardships and trials, but it has enabled them to bear tribulations courageously and to emerge victoriously." - Lee Roberson