Stephen’s Gospel and altar response!
Scripture reading for June 11th: Acts 7:51-8:13
After leading these religious rulers through the history of the nation, showing them that Israelites had been idolaters and rebellious, he then spoke directly to them about their own rebellion. This was for the purpose of repentance.
“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 you 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) Stephen went right to the bottom line. These men were exhibiting the same behavior as their rebellious forefathers. They had murdered the promised Messiah, breaking the law they claimed to love and follow! You can imagine the emotions that were churning in these hardened hearts when God fingered the truth through Stephen!
The altar response was not repentance however! “When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 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. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”” (Acts 7:54-56) As Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit, he saw Jesus standing at God’s right hand. The people he had been preaching the Gospel to were angry and stirred up. They then picked up stones and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he has said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:59-60)
As Jesus prayed for those who crucified Him, so Stephen prayed for his own murderers. Stephen’s courageous preaching had offered those who crucified Jesus one more opportunity to be saved. It is interesting that Saul, a young Pharisee was standing there holding the coats of those stoning Stephen. Stephen’s prayer and witness certainly had an effect on him that would change his life! Notice that Stephen fell asleep–death was not final, only temporary! He was received by his Lord!