Text: Acts 7:54-8:3
The passage portrayed the climax of Stephen’s speech. Stephen had examined the historical facts of Israel’s deliverance and married it with the present situation of Christ’ atoning sacrifice. He pointed out the hard heart of the Israelites and their rejection of the messiah sent by God. It was an outrage that greeted his assertions. These people were cut to heart but instead of repenting, they mobbed Stephen and stoned him to death.
Stephen became the first man to die for his belief in Jesus Christ. He proved to the rest of the apostles and to those of us who would come later that our faith is worth dying for. Having witnessed the hatred on the faces of his accusers, he could have changed His testimony just to save himself, but no! He kept the faith. He has seen that JESUS is the way forward in this salvation mystery. He is the one to whom all prior bible narratives pointed. To him, nothing else would be more meaningful than to give up his life rather than reconciling with any contrary opinion.
His attitude becomes a great challenge to every believer. Suffering in the course of serving God is a blessing and not a curse. It should not be seen otherwise. When we accept suffering for doing right as one way of honouring God we become encouraged to relate with it in God’s own perspective. It wouldn’t make us bitter nor vengeful, rather it makes us compassionate especially towards our oppressors. God will by our faithfulness in the suffering touch the hearts of men for his own glory. Stephen prayed for the forgiveness of his killers and asked that they be forgiven. The scattering and further persecutions that followed his killing took the gospel to other parts of the world. Saul, who approved of his murder became a veritable tool in God’s hand for the furtherance of the gospel. God is still today allowing persecutions of the saints to be a tool for further dissemination of the kingdom message.