Prior to the stoning of Stephen, the tension between the church and the Jewish Leaders was apparent and palpable. They crucified Christ, hauled Peter and John to jail a couple times, and now arrested Stephen for teaching about Christ and the resurrection. Meanwhile, the church was growing and maturing into a real movement of God. Gamaliel had already told the leadership to back off and allow God to do with this bunch what God saw fit. Now, standing before them was one of the number–not one of the 12, but clearly an articulate proponent of the resurrection.
As Stephen addressed the group, He hit them in the heart. He called them out for acting as leadership always had. Whenever God sent intervention, God’s biggest opposition came from the leadership of His people. They were the ones that should be welcoming the Messiah, but instead, they had repeatedly tried to wipe His existence off the books.
The leaders had heard enough, and they attacked and killed Stephen. He was now the lightning rod to spark the all-out war between Jewish leadership and the church. With the stoning of Stephen, Jewish leadership became emboldened and set out to wipe the City of David clean of the group. Interestingly, there stood Saul to watch the cloaks. What is more, Saul would become the face of the Jewish leadership’s persecution of the church.
God was neither surprised nor defeated that day. Stephen’s death, while ridiculous, set in motion the spread of the Gospel worldwide. No one in the crowd that day would have pointed to Stephen’s death as a game changer, but it certainly was. The church was under attack and its leaders dispersed to do amazing things elsewhere. Saul was unleashed and with that he was being prepared to change the world.
In our journey, we can never know just how God will move forward with His plan, but, as He said in Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future!” Stephen’s death sparked the beginning of the movement of the Church across the globe. It truly was the young movement’s gamechanger.
God Bless You
38 This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us. 39 Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. 42 But God turned away and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:
“‘Did you bring to me slain beasts and sacrifices,
during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?
43 You took up the tent of Moloch
and the star of your god Rephan,
the images that you made to worship;
and I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.’
44 “Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen. 45 Our fathers in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our fathers. So it was until the days of David, 46 who found favor in the sight of God and asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.[a] 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him. 48 Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says,
49 “‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord,
or what is the place of my rest?
50 Did not my hand make all these things?’
51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”
The Stoning of Stephen
54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together[b] at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.