I’m not sure if I’ve ever read the story of Stephen before. Deep in the recesses of my brain, I am aware of the moral story that even through persecution and stoning to death, Stephen still stood up for God. I just don’t think I’ve actually read this chapter about it.
His story starts in Chapter 6. I believe the apostles are appointing of what is now known as the deacons of the early church.
They (The Twelve) chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit…(and six other people who seem insignificant to the story.)– Acts 6:5
What an awesome introduction. To have an reputation like that is enviable.
Delving slightly deeper into the story, I realize that Luke is writing this. (Luke was the companion of Saul/Paul). I don’t think Luke had first hand knowledge of this. I’m thinking Paul must’ve described Stephen like this to Luke. The story gets a little more twisted later on.
So Stephen is standing in front of the Sanhedrin after being falsely accused by false witnesses of speaking against their holy place and the law.
Stephen proceeds to tell the Reader’s Digest version of the Bible from Abraham to Joseph to Moses to Solomon to the temple. Each time he shows the rejection of God the Jews repeated do over the years.
Then, Stephen, knowing he’s in front of a angry mod, says…
You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.– Acts 7:51-53
Tactful? No, probably not.
The story ends with Stephen getting stoned. Even while being stoned though, he cries out to God, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
What is the point of this story? Surely a man so holy and full of God would be better off alive than dead. Maybe it’s illustrating the tension between the early Christians and the Jews. Is it showing that a life with God is a persecuted life?
I’m not sure what to take from this.
In a bout of irony and though I’m not sure if it’s irony, Chapter 8 starts with this…
And Saul was there, giving approval to his death– Acts 8:1
let me not be afraid
let me want to have more