Acts 6-7;The First Christian Martyr


I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 10

This chapter is based on Acts 6:5-15; 7.

As the priests and rulers saw the power that attended the preaching of Stephen, they were filled with bitter hatred.

Wait a minute! Why would a humble little deacon filled with the Holy Spirit make pious religious leaders so hateful and bitter? Is someone jealous here? You know you have to give it to Eli. Even with all his faults, when Samuel kept getting up in the night thinking Eli was calling him Eli finally told little Samuel that God must be calling him. That was great humility on Eli’s part. Most of the religious leaders of his day and ours would have thought there was no way God would be calling little Samuel. If it was the voice of God he would be calling me not him.  

 Instead of yielding to the evidence that he presented, they determined to silence his voice by putting him to death. On several occasions they had bribed the Roman authorities to pass over without comment instances where the Jews had taken the law into their own hands and had tried, condemned, and executed prisoners in accordance with their national custom. The enemies of Stephen did not doubt that they could again pursue such a course without danger to themselves. They determined to risk the consequences and therefore seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin council for trial.  {AA 98.1} 

Aren’t you glad we never see any religious leaders like that anymore? Or do we? We haven’t seen anyone murdered by a religious leader in a long time here in the U.S. Is that because we are not like that anymore or because we just can’t get away with it here. Let’s face it. Human nature is human nature regardless of time and place. Human nature always does what it can get away with. If we can gossip and cut down our foe, even though we know it is wrong, human nature will still do it as long as it can get away with it. Likewise human nature will commit murder if human nature thinks it could get away with. Even in a religious guise, human nature will stoop to any level that its culture will let it get away with to accomplish its own lustful purposes. In John 7 Jesus tells the people He knows they want to kill Him. They pretend to be shocked and offended, asking who would want to kill you? They wanted to, but could not get away with it then so they acted all shocked and offended by the suggestion. Once they could get away with it though…well you know the story.

This, my friends is why human nature must be crucified! Romans 8:3-4, Galatians 2:20, Galatians 6:14.

   As Stephen stood face to face with his judges to answer to the charge of blasphemy, a holy radiance shone upon his countenance, and “all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.” Many who beheld this light trembled and veiled their faces, but the stubborn unbelief and prejudice of the rulers did not waver.  {AA 99.1} 

 

When Stephen reached this point, there was a tumult among the people. When he connected Christ with the prophecies and spoke as he did of the temple, the priest, pretending to be horror-stricken, rent his robe. To Stephen this act was a signal that his voice would soon be silenced forever. He saw the resistance that met his words and knew that he was giving his last testimony. Although in the midst of his sermon, he abruptly concluded it.  {AA 100.1} 

     Suddenly breaking away from the train of history that he was following, and turning upon his infuriated judges, he cried: “Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.”  {AA 100.2} 

     At this, priests and rulers were beside themselves with anger. Acting more like beasts of prey than human beings, they rushed upon Stephen, gnashing their teeth. In the cruel faces about him the prisoner read his fate; but he did not waver. For him the fear of death was gone. For him the enraged priests and the excited mob had no terror. The scene before him faded from his vision. To him the gates of heaven were ajar, and, looking in, he saw the glory of the courts of God, and Christ, as if just risen from His throne, standing ready to sustain His servant. In words of triumph Stephen exclaimed, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”  {AA 100.3} 

There are many references in the Bible to Jesus sitting on the throne or by God. However, when Stephen is being stoned for his faith this is something Jesus will not take sitting down. We see Jesus standing up for Stephen because Stephen was standing up for Jesus! Friend even if no one else stands with you when you stand for the right, Jesus will stand with you!

     As he described the glorious scene upon which his eyes were gazing, it was more than his persecutors could endure. Stopping their ears, that they might not hear his words, and uttering loud cries, they ran furiously upon him with one accord “and cast him out of the city.” “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”  {AA 101.1} 

The dead know not anything and so the next thing Stephen will know is the resurrection. Stephen was not afraid when he was being killed. Stephen knew at that point, heaven was just a stones throw away!

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.

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