”The First Martyr” Acts 7:57-60
“57) But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. 58) When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59) They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60) Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.” Acts‬ ‭7‬:‭57‬-‭60‬ ‭
The mob mentality came upon the Sanhedrin. They rushed upon Stephen with one impulse and drove him out of the city and began stoning him. This time they did not have the Roman soldiers do their dirty work, the text implies that the Sanhedrin itself murdered Stephen. John 10:10 says; “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.”
It was with this text that we meet Saul for the first time. The witnesses who accused Stephen of Blasphemy laid aside their robes at the feet of Saul. He was overseeing the stoning. He launched a deadly persecution against the fledgling church.
As he was being stoned, Stephen cried out to the Lord and begged him not to hold this charge against his murderers. Jesus uttered similar words from the cross.
I believe Stephen released the forgiving grace that eventually led to the salvation of Saul. Jesus personally recruited Saul. He poured his grace out upon him so richly that he ultimately became the Apostle Paul.
We need to grant people the same forgiveness and grace that leads to salvation. According to 2 Corinthians 2:6-11, Satan’s schemes are rooted in bitterness.
There are many things to learn from the stoning of Stephen. He became the first Christian martyr. His sacrifice fueled the spread of the gospel in the early church. His death was not wasted. He set the pattern for for martyrdom captured in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. If you haves never read this history of the early church, add it to your reading plan.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global