In today’s passage, we read the story of Stephen, the first martyr. Our passage describes Stephen as “a man full of God’s grace and power” and that he “performed amazing miracles and signs among the people” (v.1). Stephen had wisdom from God and was full of the Holy Spirit.
This made the Jews angry, so they brought false accusations against Stephen which led to his arrest. Stephen was accused of blasphemy, and had a chance to defend himself. So what did he do? He was prepared to “to make a defense to anyone who asks…for a reason for the hope that [was] in” him (1 Peter 3:15).
Stephen used this opportunity to boldly stand for the truth of the Gospel. Stephen recounts the story of Abraham, Moses, the Tabernacle, and the Temple. When he gets to the story of David, he states the “Most High doesn’t live in temples made by human hands” (v.48).
Stephen accuses the Jews of murdering Jesus and sees the “Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand” (v.57). This was considered blasphemy to the Jewish people, so they stoned Stephen with Saul, standing in approval nearby.
A few takeaways from our story today:
First, Stephen used the opportunity that was open to him to share the message of Jesus Christ with those around him. How can you use the opportunities given to you in your life to share the Gospel with those around you? Is there an opportunity to share your faith at your workplace, school, gym, or some other place you go frequently?
Second, persecution is real. While there are certainly changes happening in our culture regarding the public sphere and the Christian faith, we are not exactly persecuted. We still have the ability to meet freely in our church. Christians in America are marginalized, yes, but not persecuted. There are Christians in other parts of the world who have to hide their faith from their government because of the risk of sever punishment like jail time, torture, or execution. Take some time today to check out organizations like the Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors to see how we can pray for and support persecuted believers around the world.
Lastly, we can be encouraged by this story. We can trust that God is at work and His Word will not return void. Stephen had a vision of the Risen Jesus, and it led to his death with Saul approving it. However, Saul would have a vision of the Risen Jesus, and it led to him and many others believing the Gospel. God is at work even in persecution for people to come to know Him and to be glorified!
By: Lucas Taylor — West Campus Pastoral Ministry Apprentice