54 When they 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 clothes 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.
1 And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.
A Glimpse of Glory (7:54–58)
Stephen’s speech does not produce what we would consider the desired outcome. The members of the Sanhedrin are infuriated with Stephen for pointing out that they have not obeyed God’s law but have betrayed and murdered the Messiah. The passage tells us that Stephen is full of the Holy Spirit, revealing that Spirit-filled preaching does not always result in the hearers responding with repentance. But even as Stephen is about to die as a martyr for Christ, he does not fear man; his confidence is in the Lord, and when he looks up, he sees Jesus in all His glory. When our hearts are secure in the truth that God loves us and sent His Son to die for us, we too will be able to be witnesses of the Gospel who are sold out for Jesus.
- Have you ever been tempted to please others rather than God? How can you be a truthful and fearless witness for Christ?
Forgiving Enemies (7:59–8:1)
Although Stephen is being stoned, the physical pain cannot distract him from the joy he feels as he sees Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Moments before his death, he prays something very similar to what Jesus prayed on the cross, asking that the Lord not to hold this sin against these men. The beauty of the Gospel is that the One who commanded us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors did the same before His final breath on the cross. Jesus demonstrated His love for us by dying for us while we were still enemies of God. Now, we are called to love and forgive our enemies just as Christ loved and forgave us.
- Who do you struggle to forgive? How does the Gospel compel you to pray for the forgiveness of those who sin against you?
A letter to God
Father, thank you for the saints who have gone before me. Thank you for keeping them faithful to the end. Help me to live for Christ by dying to myself every day so that others may come to see and know Him. In His name I pray. Amen.
* All Copyrights of the text in Living Life belong to Duranno Books.