Day 42: The First Christian Martyr

Acts 7:54-60 :

Now when they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. 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, and said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

But they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and rushed at him with one accord. They threw him out of the city, and stoned him. The witnesses placed their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. They stoned Stephen as he called out, saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 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.

This was not a civil court because a civil court does not gnash their teeth at the defendant, plug their ears and rush at them, drag them out of the city and throw rocks at them. This is, however, a good definition of an un-civil court. This court let their emotions run wild, completely leaving justice behind.

It appears that when Stephen claimed to see “the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” it made them even more angry. I believe that they thought that they could oppose Stephen and cause him to succumb to their tyrannical leadership, but the Holy Spirit is not subject to anyone, and I believe that Stephen’s continual appearance as “the good guy” made them very upset.

In tyrannical governments such as the Roman one, the Holy Spirit in Christianity soon got noticed and opposed. Notice that it was for lack of freedom to speak that this first Christian was killed. It is possible for Christians to live at peace in a government in which there is freedom of speech, but, as we see here, without this freedom, Christianity becomes an oppressed religion.

Notice that Saul was helping out with the murder. We learn much more about this man as we continue on in Acts.

Notice, also, that the first Christian martyr repeats Jesus’ words. What a great victory for mankind to be able to see past our own enemy’s crimes toward us. We need to see this as God’s pattern for us. We need to ask for the strength to follow in this pattern in our daily lives as Jesus is abused in us. He can always strike a man dead, as we saw earlier, but Jesus told us that He came to save the lost, not strike them and His patience is great because His love is great toward all of mankind.