Stephen, God's Martyr - Acts 7

Stephen, God's Martyr

Acts 7:1-60

Stephen was one of seven men who served tables, distributing food to Greek-speaking widows in Jerusalem.  He also had a powerful ministry among the people, doing "great wonders and signs," and defending the faith before what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen.  "And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke."  They set up false witnesses against him, accusing him of blasphemy.  Acts 6:8-15.  Acts 7 begins, "Then the high priest said, 'Are these things so?'"

When you read this chapter, you discover that Steven did not defend himself.  Instead, he gives his listeners a history lesson, beginning with the call of Abraham and ending with Solomon building God a temple.  In between he draws attention to the children of Israel's rejection of Moses.  "This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren.  Him you shall hear.'"  Acts 7:37.  See also Deuteronomy 18:15. 

In fact the nation of Israel had a terrible history of killing God's prophets.  The Jews that Stephen addressed  did not listen to this Prophet, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Now they were hearing this man of God.  "You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears!  You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.  Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?  And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become betrayers and murderers."  Acts 7:51, 52.

Stephen was the defendant on trial, but he became the fearless prosecutor.  Their fathers had killed the prophets, who had spoken of their coming Messiah.  Now they were being accused of murdering Jesus Christ.  Even today, when some Muslims speak of the Jews, they say, "They are really bad people.  They even stoned their own prophets."

Stephen's preaching was accompanied by his vision of Jesus Christ.  He gazed heavenward and said, "Look!  I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!"  This was too much for the motley crowd.  "Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him."  Kneeling down, he cried out, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin."  And the Bible says that he fell asleep.  He became the first Christian martyr mentioned in the book of Acts.

Later, the apostle Paul spoke to another angry mob of his conversion and prayer, testifying, "And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his death, and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him."  Acts 22:20.  See also Acts 7:58.  Yes, Stephen was God's martyr, God's witness to a young man named Saul, who became God's missionary to the Gentiles.

 

Lord, Peter preached and people were saved.  Stephen preached and he got stoned.  We want to be found faithful to You whatever the response of men.  Use us as Your witnesses.  In Jesus' name.  Amen!

 

Philip the Evangelist - Acts 8 

 
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