But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse.Acts 7:57(NASB)
Stephen was a man of God who was full of integrity and brimming with faith. He was one of seven men, who were chosen to oversee the daily ministrations in the early Church, because he was faithful, honourable and filled with the Holy Spirit.
In those early days of the Church, Stephen carried out great wonders and miracles among the people. The Church of God, and those that followed Christ, were hated in those early days, and on a certain day, the leaders of the synagogue started to dispute with Stephen.
As a result, he was falsely accused of speaking blasphemous words against both Moses, and the Lord God... and these proud, religious leaders, stirred up the people against him. Indeed, he was arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin's unlawful court to be tried and convicted.
However, inspired by the Holy Spirit, Stephen gave the most anointed monologue, which covered strategic points in Israel's history - accusing them of rebellion and unbelief. His extended speech culminated in a strong allegation.. that his accusers were stiff neck men, who were uncircumcised in heart - and always resisted the Holy Spirit of God.
Stephen's words cut straight to the heart of these religious-minded men. They started to gnash on him with their teeth, and they picked up rocks to stone this godly man. Despite being highly educated members of the revered Sanhedrin, these distinguished men hardened their hearts to the truth and became emotionally unhinged and their extreme hatred of the truth of the gospel caused them to fulfil Christ's own words, "the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me."
However, we read that Stephen, full of the Holy Ghost, looked steadfastly up into heaven, and rejoiced to see Jesus, standing on the right hand of the Father in heavenly places. These blinded fools "cried out together, with a loud voice - and covered the ears with their hands, to block out the truth and rushed at him with one impulse," - and murdered Stephen.
Israel's chequered history, the nation's unbelief, their own hatred of the Church of God and the slaughter of their Messiah, must have convicted these men. But when Stephen said, " Behold, I see the heavens open and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God," they could stand it no longer. These hate-filled hypocrites collectively rushed at Stephen, in order to permanently silence the truth that he spoke.
Stephen was the first Christian martyr, but his death stands as a witness to the world, of a man who lived a NORMAL Christian life. He lived the sort of life that should be lived by every man or woman of God, who has placed their trust in Christ, for the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. The life that Stephen lived should be the standard for all of God's blood-bought children.
Stephen believed the truth and kept his eyes on Jesus. He walked in spirit and truth and set his mind on things above rather than on fading earthly things. He was a true example of a man in love with his Lord and in submission to the Holy Spirit. He was a godly man who knew the power of the resurrected Christ in his life, and was ready and willing to fellowship in the footsteps of His Saviour's suffering.
Both the life and the death of Stephen is a beautiful example of a man who is faithful to the point of death, and a man who will one day receive that promised crown of life. In his life, he reflected the love of Jesus and was identified as a godly man who could be trusted. He was filled with the Holy Spirit of God, was faithful to boldly preach the gospel of truth and demonstrated a thorough knowledge and deep love for the Word of God.
Let us seek to live the normal Christian life so that like Stephen, the first Christian martyr, we too may be faithful to the point of death and win the promised crown of life - to the honour of God the Father and the praise of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the amazing testimony about Stephen, in the book of Acts, and the many lessons we can learn, both from his life and his death. I pray that like him, I may be steadfast in the work that You have given me to do. Help me to be faithful to preach the gospel truth and to stand firm on veracity of Your holy Word, without compromise. I pray that I may study to show myself approved under God, so that like Stephen, I may be faithful to the point of death. May I live my life and approach my death to Your praise and glory. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.
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