In Acts Chapter 7 we see the story of Stephen. Stephen was presented before the Sanhedrin on charges that he was preaching that Jesus would tear down the laws of Moses and destroy all that the Jews held important (Chapter 6). However, even the Sanhedrin saw that he had a face like an angel. When asked if these charges were true, Stephen spends nearly the entire chapter going through the history of Israel starting with Abraham.
The reason for this was simple. Stephen was proving his knowledge of the scriptures even beyond the most religious figures in Jewish culture. Stephen provided irrefutable truth before the Sanhedrin so that there would be no doubt as to the credibility of his witness of Christ.
Finishing with these words, we see how irrefutable the evidence against the Sanhedrin and the unbelieving Jews was:
However, the Most High does not dwell in houses and temples made with hands; as the prophet says,
Heaven [is] My throne, and earth the footstool for My feet. What [kind of] house can you build for Me, says the Lord, or what is the place in which I can rest?
Was it not My hand that made all these things?
You stubborn and stiff-necked people, still heathen and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are always actively resisting the Holy Spirit. As your forefathers [were], so you [are and so you do]!
Which of the prophets did your forefathers not persecute? And they slew those who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, Whom you now have betrayed and murdered—
You who received the Law as it was ordained and set in order and delivered by angels, and [yet] you did not obey it! (Acts 7:48-53)
Unlike the crowd we read about earlier in Acts (when Peter addresses them) these Jews were cut to the heart …but did not respond with repentance.
Now upon hearing these things, they [the Jews] were cut to the heart and infuriated, and they ground their teeth against [Stephen]. (Acts 7:54)
When faced with truth that we do not understand or that convicts us, we often tend to despise or even reject it. Our sinful human nature manifests as pride and blinds us to the truth that we need to change. Many times we reluctantly admit fault and begin walking with Christ again, but more often than not, we completely reject truth because we do not want to give up control.
The message of Christ is a message of undeserved grace and unmerited salvation for those that are united with Him. This meant that salvation was no longer merely something man could work towards. This meant that the Jews had misinterpreted the law of the prophets and no longer were in control of their own futures.
The saddest part of this story is that even while anger arose amongst the Sanhedrin and the Jews, Stephen was able to see God, for He was pure of heart.
And he said, Look! I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at God’s right hand!
But they raised a great shout and put their hands over their ears and rushed together upon him.
The crowd of Jews in this story were not merely “blind” to the truth, they willfully rejected it. They shouted, covered their ears and stoned Stephen to death. Much like Christ, Stephen then prayed that God would not hold this sin against them.
In all of this, we might see a failed preacher or an inadequate follower of Christ. Peter had just done the same thing moments earlier/days earlier and was released from jail, had 3000 come to know Christ and 2000 more over the next few weeks. So why was it that the same Word and the same power did not have the same outcome for Stephen?
The most important verse in the entire passage of Acts 7 is this one:
Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him, and the witnesses placed their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. (Acts 7:58)
Stephen could not have known that his testimony of who Christ was, would reach the ears of Saul of Tarsus, later called Paul. Paul became one of the most influential apostle and teacher of all time. Not only would he take up where Stephen left off, but Paul became Christ’s instrument to be all things to all people so that some might be saved. Through all of Paul’s writings, inspired by the Holy Spirit, countless have come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Most of us on earth desire to see results and the fruits of our ministry efforts so that we might say that we were “successful” in our efforts. However, are we willing to be like Isaiah who preached until none heard and the land was laid waste? Are we bold enough to preach in front of the religious leaders of our time, where our fleshly lives are at stake? Stephen’s ministry did not fail. In fact, it bore fruit AFTER he died. Stephen saw Jesus seated at the right hand of God and THAT was enough success for him.
Our lives should be measured by whether we see (recognize), know and accept Jesus, not whether we see results of our own efforts.
Perhaps we are not the ones that will reach the tribes/peoples of a foreign country through mission work. Perhaps we are merely supposed to boldly proclaim Christ in an airport, so that someone else could be come the most influential teacher in that culture as we are sent home. God does not need us to make Himself known, but He desires to use us. We must not do things in our own will but be obedient to His ways and His plans because they are perfect.
Are we willing to sacrifice our own pride to change?
Are we willing to give up our understanding of things, for perfect truth?
Are we willing to die, so that others may live?
It’s not about us. It’s ALWAYS about Christ.