While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”Then he fell on his kneesand cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. ~ Acts 7:59-60
Stephen was the first Christian martyr. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen preached and performed miracles. Certain Jews rose up against him and reported him to the Sanhedrin, presenting their case with trumped up charges supported by false witnesses.
The final stated charge against Stephen is “For we have heard him (Stephen) say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place (the temple) and change the customs Moses handed down to us.” (6:14). Stephen addresses the final charge directly: “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says, ‘Heaven is my home and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? Says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things?’ (7:48-50). After telling the high priests that they are just like those who came before them – they reject the Holy Spirit and killed 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.” (7:52b-53). This so infuriated the high priests that they dragged him out of the city and stoned him until he breathed his last.
It is clear that Stephen spoke under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit: As the charges were presented, “All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” (6:15) After answering the charges, Stephen said “Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (7:56) Stephen’s words, spoken between these affirmations from God, are truly those of God Himself. This was not Stephen speaking; it was God speaking through Stephen.
There are many examples in Scripture of God gifting ordinary people to equip them to do His will, all the way from Moses to Stephen and beyond. God’s purpose will be accomplished, and He will continue to use ordinary people to accomplish it. Think about that. Even in today’s world that in many ways actively rejects God’s precepts, God’s Will will ultimately prevail. And as God rolls out His perfect plan, He will continue to equip His people with the gifts we need in order to serve Him.
Was Stephen brave before the Sanhedrin? Yes; but not of his own accord. Praise God for His amazing, incredible, and powerful gift of the Holy Spirit.
Ponder This: Whose will do I seek? Whom do I serve? How will God use me in achieving His good and perfect will?
My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, you have a plan and I believe I have a role in fulfilling Your plan. Show me. Inspire me. Gift me. Guide and direct my footsteps that I might be an effective witness for you. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.