Summary: Stephen's actions and attitudes in the time leading up to his martyrdom give us lessons to learn about the Christian life. This sermon examine 4 things we can learn from Stephen
What We Can Learn from Stephen
April 26, 2015
NOTE: A PowerPoint presentation of this sermon is available upon request by emailing me at email@example.com.
TEXT: Turn to Acts 6:9-15 – “Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit [I believe this is a reference to the Holy Spirit here] by which he spake. 11 Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. 12 And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, 13 And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: 14 For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. 15 And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.”
Hebrews 11:38 speaks of the great saints of God who were persecuted by evil men as “those whom the world was not worthy.” These great saints shine as bright lights in this dark world.
Today we’re going to examine the story of Christianity’s first martyr, Stephen. Now this story spans a significant portion of the book of Acts, from chapter 6, verse 8 through chapter 9, verse 3. The text we just read sets the scene for Stephen’s trial and execution. Most of chapter 7 is devoted to Stephen’s sermon, which we’ll examine next Sunday. Today, we’ll pick selected portions from chapters 7-8 to glean some lessons we can learn from Stephen’s arrest, defense and martyrdom.
Paul says in Romans 15:4 – “For whatsoever things were written afore time [speaking of the Scriptures] were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” So let’s see what we can learn from Stephen today as we examine his trial and martyrdom.
I. FIRST, STEPHEN’S MARTYRDOM TEACHES US THAT DEATH IS GLORIOUS TO THE CHRISTIAN. – Go with me over to chapter 7 and let’s look at verses 54-60, which followed Stephen’s sermon: “When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, [now watch this:] looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. 57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, 58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
In this passage I’m struck by the utter lack of fear Stephen exhibited in the face of death. As the mob rushes to stone him, Stephen doesn’t run or try to defend himself. Like Jesus on the cross, Stephen lays down his life and echoing Jesus’s request to the Father, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” Stephen cries out as he is being stoned to death, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.”
There’s an instinctive, inborn fear of death in the human heart. But the Bible tells us that when Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, He conquered death once and for all for all who believe in him. That’s why Paul triumphantly proclaims, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? …57 But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55, 57)
When Christian face death, they may understandably fear the pain and suffering that precedes death, but death itself and what’s on the other side of death isn’t a fearful thing to the believer. We who trust in Christ as Savior know that at the moment of our death we’ll be ushered into the presence of our wonderful Savior!
Illus. – In 1979 I went underwent surgery, knowing that our doctor was not always honest with his patients. I wanted the unvarnished truth—If I had cancer, I wanted to know; if it was serious, I wanted full information; if I was going to die, I wanted to prepare for it. So Susan had agreed to tell me the truth when I came out from surgery.