Event(s): Stephen is martyred
Today’s Text: Acts 7:54-8:3
Tomorrow’s Text: Acts 8:4-25
Stephen finishes his address and stands before his accusers. The ball was in their court now. How would they respond?
Acts 7:54 “they were cut to the heart” The NKJV Bible uses these same words to describe the response to Peter’s message on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:37). Being cut to the heart, the people at Pentecost repented and asked, “What shall we do?” However here, the term doesn’t mean they were “cut to the heart” in the same way, resulting in conviction that led to repentance. Here, it meant they were furious, to put it mildly.
Acts 7:56 “I see the heavens opened…” Even in the midst of his trial, Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit. He was fully controlled by God’s presence and as he turns his attention upward, he receives a heavenly vision.
“Gazing at death may be terrifying, but gazing past death to the presence of Jesus waiting for the believer is the hope that dissolves fear.” -NKJV Study Bible
Acts 7:60 “Lord, do not charge them” Stephen died as his Lord had, with prayers for his executioners. This is proof that the more we are filled with the Holy Spirit, the closer we walk with God, the more we take on His nature. The more we reflect His forgiving love.
Acts 8:1 “Now Saul was consenting to his death” Saul of Tarsus, who would later become the Apostle Paul. We are so reminded of the verse in 1 Corinthians 4:5, “judge nothing before the proper time. Wait until the Lord comes.” We can never think anyone is too far-gone. God can take someone with even the hardest of terrorist hearts and transform them into a warrior in the kingdom.
How was Saul consenting? Verse 58 in Chapter 7 tells us that he was cooperating with the authorities by holding their cloaks while they carried out the dirty work of stoning Stephen. In doing this, he was actively adding his approval to Stephen’s death. At this time, Saul was a young man, though we don’t know his exact age. Most likely, he was in his early or mid-thirties.
We cannot always gauge the success of our message by the response of the hearer. God desires our obedience. And if we share the message He’s prompted us to share (and we do so from a posture of love and grace) but people don’t respond in the way we’d hoped, we must not let this silence us. We must also not see this as a personal rejection. Jesus had forewarned the disciples in Luke 10:16 saying, “Anyone who accepts your message is also accepting me. And anyone who rejects you is rejecting me. And anyone who rejects me is rejecting God, who sent me.”
Has there been a time where you’ve shared the message of Christ with someone, and it hasn’t been received quite as well as you’d hoped? Or has there been a time where you’ve maybe even just mentioned something that pertained to your faith, but maybe a remark was said that silenced you or caused you to shrink back from ever talking about it again? A lot of times we can point the finger back at ourselves and think we just don’t “know how” to talk about our faith. But the truth is, many times it’s not us – it’s the unrepentant heart of the hearer. The other thing we must realize is that many times, it’s an issue of timing. God is working in the heart of the hearer, and the word we share may be a seed that will not bear fruit until later (See Isaiah 55:8-11).
However, ultimately, none of this is up not up to us to determine. We are called to be obedient, to speak up, to be a voice in this world and do the acts of the kingdom. And the more we exercise these, the easier it becomes. The more we have our focus on Jesus, the less we get caught up in thinking it was us that “messed up”. It’s time to shake off any old memories or hesitations and start experiencing the joy that comes from talking to people about This New Life.