Summary: In the story of Stephen, we get three essential views of a believer’s death: 1. The view from those in the grip of grief. 2. The view from the Lord of life. 3. The view from those gone home to Heaven.
Biblical Views of a Believer’s Death
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Originally preached at McClendon Baptist Church - May 29, 2002
*Updated May 14, 2011 for a grieving family.
*The death of a loved one: It’s one of the hardest things we ever have to go through in life. Most of us have already been there. And if we live long enough, all of us will go through this pain.
*It is vital for us to get a Biblical view of death, and we can find it in the story of a Christian named Stephen. This New Testament believer was one of the heroes of the early church. We find his story in Acts 6-8. Stephen was chosen to be one of the first deacons. Acts 6:3 tells us that these men were “full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.” They had a tremendous impact for the Kingdom of God.
*Acts 6 gives this report:
7. Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
8. And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.
*For these reasons, Stephen was arrested by the religious rulers in Jerusalem, and put on trial for his life. Stephen was falsely accused of blasphemy. In Acts 7, he made a remarkable defense for the cause of Jesus Christ. But in great fury, the Christ-rejecting Jewish rulers had Stephen stoned to death.
*The climax of the story is found in Acts 7:54-8:2.
54. When they (the rulers) heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him (Stephen) with their teeth.
55. But he, being 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 said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
57. Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord;
58. and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
60. Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
1. Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
2. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
*A great injustice was done, but Stephen triumphantly went to Heaven, and in his story we get three essential views of a believer’s death.
1. The first point of view is from those in the grip of grief, -- Christian loved ones who are left behind.
*We see them in Acts 8:2, where God’s Word tells us that “devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.”
*These men were suffering. We can understand that. It hurts to lose someone you love. And this pain is the natural result of losing someone we love. We usually don’t grieve over people we don’t know or love. Where there is no love, there is no grief. And since grief is a natural by-product of love, then we don’t have to feel guilty about grieving, as if our grief indicates weak faith or some flaw in our character.
*The men in Acts 8 were not disobeying God when they grieved. Verse 2 tells us that they were “devout” men. They were good, reverent men, devoted to the Lord. But they made great lamentation. The word picture is beating your chest in grief.
*Their weeping was loud and passionate. Sure, they knew that Stephen was in heaven with Jesus, but he was gone from them. They loved Stephen, and they were going to miss him. God didn’t condemn these men for their grief, and He won’t condemn you. So, don’t condemn yourself for grief.
*And don’t suffer alone. Get the help you need. The men in Acts 8:2 carried their burden together. That was true physically, but it was even more so emotionally and spiritually. When we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we get devoted friends like the men in this verse. And they will help us when we suffer.
*Evangelist Leighton Ford lost his son Sandy when he was only 21. Part of Leighton’s comfort came from another Christian who had supervised Sandy, when he was a summer missionary France. The man wrote the Fords a letter describing his thoughts when he found out that that Sandy was dead. He said, “I was stunned, -- 21, -- so many gifts to use. I thought, ‘What a waste.’”