The Stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:54-8:4)

Acts 7:54-7:60

Acts 8:1-3

When we left off, Stephen was talking to the Jewish leaders, retelling Jesus’ story in light of the history of their own story. This ends with Stephen’s truthful accusation that they have rejected, and ultimately killed, the very Messiah that their whole history pointed towards. Given their track record, and given Stephen’s accusations, we can guess what will happen to Stephen. Up until now, those who threaten the Jewish leaders in power have been threatened, beaten and thrown in jail. At Stephen’s speaking the truth, the leaders essentially turn into a mob, drag him out of the city and stone him to death. Stephen becomes the first Christian martyr. (On an interesting side note: Luke specifically tells us that Saul witnessed this whole episode with Stephen. Keep this in mind as we work through Acts…)

This whole situation of Stephen’s martyrdom and the resulting situation of wider persecution of the church is set up as a conflict between those who are filled with the Holy Spirit and those who resist the Holy Spirit. Stephen says as much in verse 51, and Luke says as much in 55. The Jewish leaders resist the Holy Spirit and Stephen is full of the Holy Spirit. Interestingly enough, while the persecutors (including Saul) intended the persecution to stamp out this “false” new teaching Continue reading