Click this link to hear an audio version of the below text narrated by SOTH member Jerry Rhinehart: https://sothrichfield.podbean.com
Acts 6:8-7:3, 51-60 (NIV)
8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke. 11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.” 12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.” 15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Stephen’s Speech to the Sanhedrin
7 Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these charges true?” 2 To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran. 3 ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’ 51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
The Stoning of Stephen
54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Trust what God will do: What did the Stephen trust God would do? What resulted for him?
Lord Jesus, Stephen was a great man with strong faith and he was courageous. He was being persecuted and martyred, yet he didn’t stop praising you. He stayed focused on You and Your Love for Him and for Your great forgiveness of all and he followed Your example to forgive those who were killing him. His confidence was in You for eternity. My faith is just not there. I have been so sheltered by my freedoms that I can’t imagine the great faith it takes to stand up to persecution. There are millions of people who are put in jail and even killed because they worship You but yet they trust in You and their faith is growing stronger. They know that You are waiting for them and will reward them for their courage and great faith. The day is coming when we will need to stand up for our faith. I pray that You help us to be ready for that time. Help us be confident and have a strong faith. Help us keep praising You even when it is uncomfortable or even dangerous to continue as Your follower. Lord, I lift up all those in this world who are currently being held captive or otherwise being persecuted right now or those living in fear because of their faith as they worship You. Protect them and fill them even deeper with Your Holy Spirit. Help Christians around the world stand up together in Your Holy Name. Amen.