The Stoning of Stephen
7:51 "You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears,
you always resist the Holy Spirit! As your fathers did, so you do.
7:52 Which of the prophets didn't your fathers persecute?
They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One,
of whom you have now become betrayers and murderers.
7:53 You received the law as it was ordained by angels, and didn't
7:54 Now when they heard these things, they were cut to the heart,
and they gnashed at him with their teeth.
7:55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into
and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
7:56 and said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man
standing at the right hand of God!"
7:57 But they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears,
and rushed at him with one accord.
7:58 They threw him out of the city, and stoned him.
The witnesses placed their garments at the feet of a young man named
7:59 They stoned Stephen as he called out, saying, "Lord Jesus, receive
7:60 He kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, "Lord, don't hold
this sin against them!"
When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Reaction to Rebuke
Jesus and Stephen really weren't killed for teaching heresy. They were
really put to death for humiliating proud elite institutional leaders.
A man's level of humility can be seen by how they react to rebuke. The
proud become irrationally angry and bloodthirsty, seeking revenge. They
cannot be reasoned with. God filters out the proud from entering the kingdom
by laying the path to righteousness upon a road of humiliation that only
the humble will travel.
Once again we see a parallel to Jesus' trial. For at his trial Jesus proclaimed
to the high priest, "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the
right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." Mark
14:62 But he was not sitting for Stephen. Rather he was standing in
honor of him. This was an even greater insult and blaphemy from the point
of view of the religious leaders.
"Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints."Ps
Stephen would be the first Christian martyr. It is apparent that he
tried to conform his death to that of Christ, as we can see in his two
expressions of faith.
|While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my
spirit." Acts 7:59
||Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit
my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last." Lu 23:46
|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." Acts 7:60
|| Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what
they are doing." Lu 23:34
It seems significant that in the end he prayed not to the Father, but
to Jesus. And it is also clear that to him "Lord" was synonomous to "Jesus".
For those who reject the diety of Christ I ask: Who are you going to pray
to when you die? And who are you going to ask concerning the forgiveness
of sins? Furthermore those who are of a Catholic background may have been
indoctrinated with the impression that the Bible advocates praying to dead
people. Just the opposite is true. The Law says, "Let no one be found
among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices
divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or
casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead."
18:10,11 As such the Catholic practice of praying to dead people is
satanic. King Saul called up the prophet Samuel from the dead through a
medium, who then rebuked him for doing so. And today Catholic necromancers
prophecy in the name of the Virgin Mary. I know of no examples in the Bible
of the righteous praying to anyone other than God the Father or Jesus.
Praying to Jesus puts Jesus in the place of God. As such the unbelieving
Jews reckoned it the final blasphemy and so stoned him to death.
Forgiveness of Sins
Another significant aspect of this is that Stephen's prayer implies that
Christians can actually get God to forgive the sins of unbelievers to a
degree. Or are we to say that Stephen in vain or for showed prayed for
this particular sin commit against him to be forgiven them? I don't think
so. I think that on judgement day God will actually pass over this particular
sin committed by these people. But this is not to say that He will pass
over other sins committed in their lives. Yes you can affect even the eternal
judgement of unbelievers by asking God to forgive the sins committed against
you. But I think this is limited to sins committed against us personally.
If they end up among the unredeemed in the judgement, I infer their punishment
will be reduced somewhat through such forgiveness.
The Apostle Paul may largely been a fruit of Stephen's death. It may
have been in deference to Stephen's prayer that God chose His 12th Apostle
among those who murdered him. Stephen had a clear grasp of the concept
of God's grace, of which Paul would be most exemplary. And we note also
that in previous chapters when the other apostles were beaten by the council
they only rejoiced in faith. But Stephen went further in that he prayed
for them even to death in an intercessory fashion one can only liken to
Moses who prayed for the idolatrous Israelites after they made the golden
Then he fell asleep
When Jesus and the New Testament authors speak of the death of the righteous
they often refer to it as falling asleep. For eternal life is not a physical
state of the body, but a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
(John 17:3). Such a relationship continues even after death while
we await our resurrection from the dead. But in contrast to this there
are those walking around us who are dead. "He who has the Son has life;
he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." 1John 5:12