Stephen: Who Laid Down His Life

KEY VERSE: “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” —Acts 7:60

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Acts 6:1-6, 8-10; 7:58-60

STEPHEN’S name first appears in the Bible record in connection with the appointment of men to perform duties in regard to the temporal needs of the church. The brethren selected were full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom and were apparently chosen by the congregation, Stephen being among them. The scripture says of Stephen, “And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 6:5) The apostles then laid their hands upon these especially chosen brethren. The account continues, “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.”—vs. 8

In addition to his temporal duties he was actively engaged in preaching the Gospel, especially in the synagogue of the Libertines. Stephen was so logical and effective in presenting the message, “they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spoke.” (vs. 10) Apparently rather than concede to Stephen’s logic, they secretly secured false witnesses to accuse him of blasphemy before the Sanhedrin. It is well for us to note the vigor and devotion with which Stephen entered the ministry and how the Lord blessed him in the service.

Stephen boldly recounted before the Sanhedrin God’s dealings with the Jews from the time of their forefather Abraham, and concluded with powerful accusations against his audience of religious leaders to the effect that they had crucified their Messiah sent from God. They were cut to the heart by the truth of the accusations and began to gnash their teeth at him. “But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55) When he spoke of this to the Sanhedrin they stopped their ears and ran upon him with one accord. They then cast him out of the city and stoned him and the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man whose name was Saul.

The thing that was so unpalatable to the Sanhedrin was Stephen’s claim that Jesus, the Son of God, was their long-promised Messiah. In recounting God’s dealings with them, Stephen brought to their attention a prophecy from God, stated by Moses: “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.” (Deut. 18:18,19) The Jews did not accept Jesus as that great leader because they did not understand the nature or purpose of his first advent. They expected a strong and aggressive leader who would liberate them from the oppressor, the Roman Empire. They related the Messiah to such prophecies as Isaiah 11:1-9, and overlooked the prophecies such as Isaiah 53:1-12, that spoke of the necessity for Christ to first suffer and then come into his glory.—Luke 24:25,26

This blindness was prophesied (Isa. 6:9,10) concerning the Jews because of their hardness of heart and disobedience. Jesus quoted this prophecy when he was asked why he spoke to them in parables: “And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, by hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: for this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”—Matt. 13:14,15

But this blindness, we are told in the Scriptures, will not be a permanent blindness but it will continue until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. The Apostle Paul in Romans 11:25,26 in addressing the Gentile converts states: “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so [then, Diaglott] all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” Then they will look upon him whom they have pierced and will realize the enormity of their crime against Jesus, and the many other servants of the Lord, including Stephen.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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