- Acts 6:8-8:1a
In yesterday's reading we were introduced to a righteous man named Stephen, who was described as being "full of the Holy Spirit." Today's reading begins by describing Stephen as a man full of GOD's grace and power, stating that he did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Some Jews from one of the synagogues began to argue with Stephen, but Stephen's wisdom prevailed over their arguments. Those Jews then tried to get people to lie about Stephen, accusing him of blasphemy against Moses and GOD.
They stirred up the people against Stephen and brought him before the Jewish high court. People lied about Stephen, twisting what he had said. As the members of the Jewish high court stared at Stephen, his face appeared like that of an angel. The high priest asked Stephen if the accusations against him were true, and Stephen defended himself by going through the history of the Jews, beginning with Abraham. Stephen concluded his defense with a strong accusation against the Jewish leaders:
51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
(Acts 7:51-53 NIV)
Ouch! As you could imagine, the Jews—these same men who angrily crucified Jesus—weren't very happy to hear these accusations from Stephen.
54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56“Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
(Acts 7:51-60 NIV)
And with that, Stephen became the first of countless thousands who have died because of their love of Jesus Christ, who first died for them. Stephen gives us a wonderful example of a man who seemingly lived passionately every day, trusting in the grace of GOD, and consistently growing in the power of the Holy Spirit. GOD help us to have the same level of commitment that Stephen had.