Stephen Stoned to Death for his Faith

In ancient Rome, crowds by the tens of thousands would gather in the Colosseum to watch as Christians were torn apart by wild animals. Paul Rader, commenting on his visit to this famous landmark, said, “I stood and asked myself, ‘Would I, could I, die for Him tonight … More

Martyr

As Stephen laid the blame for the slaying of Christ squarely on them, the members of the council began to murmur. Finally under heavy conviction, they interrupted his sermon and rushed on him in preparation to stone him. They were so angry at him that they literally gnashed their teeth like ravenous beasts (v. 54). There was no recognition of the fact that the Sanhedrin did not have the power of sentencing to death. There was no judicial trial; it was martyrdom. However, Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit and as he looked toward heaven he saw God and Jesus (vv. 55-56). Then Stephen said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God! They simply plugged up their ears so as not to hear him, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him (vv. 57-58).

As the stoning proceeded, Stephen knelt and asked the Lord to receive his spirit and not to lay this sin to the charge of the Jews (vv. 59-60). Then he fell asleep and was ushered into the presence of the Lord. However, the story does not end there. Stephen was dead, but God’s work was to be carried on through the life of Saul, who was standing by holding the witnesses’ clothes (v. 58).

From this account we can see certain notable things about Stephen:

1. We see the secret of his courage. Beyond all that men could do to him, he saw awaiting him the welcome of his Lord.

2. We see Stephen following his Lord’s example. As Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of his executioners (Luke 23:34), so did Stephen.

3. We see how dreadful turmoil finished in a strange peace. To Stephen came the peace which comes to the man who has done the right thing, even if it kills him.


Application

God does not call all of us to be martyrs, but He does call us to be “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1-2). What has been the bigest test I have faced in the past year? How did I handle it?

Acts 7:54-60 (English Standard Version)

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

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