Chris W. Dial on Acts 7
Have a classic question for you? Remember in school when you had to give a book report? Or get up and make a speech about some subject your teacher assigned you? How about the time you got called in front of the teacher, or principle, because you were accused of doing something wrong? No? You never had to stand in front of the class while the teacher got on to you for something? Or, explain yourself to the principle? I did. And some others I know did. And an early church Elder by the name of Stephen did.
In Acts 6, Stephen was falsely accused of blasphemy. In Acts 7, he literally has to stand and defend himself before the high priest and the council against lies told about him. You might think that he felt alone in there, with him by himself in there. And all of them against him. All of them against him, and the Holy Spirit.
The last sentence of Chapter 6 says that everyone looking at him saw the face of an angel. He wasn't worried. He was filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy spirit told him what to say to the high priest and council. He gave them a review of their history. The promise and covenant God made with Abraham. Moses leading their fathers out of Egypt, and the Laws of Moses that God made for the Jewish people. And how David, and then Solomon, planned and built a temple for God. He told them that God does not live in houses made by men, but in Heaven. He then told them they were stiff necked, uncircumcised, people who always resisted the Holy Spirit. He told them they were just like their fathers, who persecuted the prophets. And killed the ones who had announced the coming of the Righteous One, who they betrayed and murdered. They had received the law by angels, but they didn't keep it. The promise of Abraham had been fulfilled through Jesus Christ. But instead of listening to Jesus Christ, they killed Him. This, which is an under statement, they did not like. So they dragged Stephen outside and stoned him. Stephen told them he saw Heaven open up, and there was Jesus standing on the right hand of God. As he did he simply asked God to receive his spirit. Then he repeated the words of Jesus, "Lord do not hold this sin against them." And then he went to sleep, according to Luke. We say he died, Luke says he went to sleep.
I have been stoned a couple of times, literally. No not that kind of stoned. The kind where you literally get hit by stones thrown at you by someone. When those rocks hit, they hurt, as some of you may know from first hand experience. And the pain of being hit by a flying object seems to a more personal pain. Especially if there is anger behind the throw. If someone tries to hit you with their fist, or open hand, you can defend yourself. But a hard object, like a rock is hard to defend yourself from. And it seems like the stone thrown seems to hurt worse. But instead of cursing, Stephen was forgiving , to the point of asking God to forgive them by not holding what they were doing against them. Because he was truly filled with the Holy Spirit, he was strangely at peace with what was happening to him.
Stephen could have felt alone and abandoned at this moment, but he didn't. He could have been angry and cursing the mob stoning him, but he didn't. Instead, he forgave the crowd. And even asked God not to hold what they were doing against them. Because he had the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit, inside him. Whether you want to say call him the Holy Ghost, or the Holy Spirit, the fact remains that with Him inside us, we should be able to be at peace and comforted no matter what comes at us just like Stephen did. But when we don't feel, or have, that peace and comfort in us, that is when we need to pray for the Holy Spirit to come into us, and give us what we need. Whether it be peace and comfort, joy, or to be there for us during our loneliness. The Holy Spirit constantly will remind us that we are never alone, or abandoned. Just like he did with Stephen. Easy to say, hard to do, until we we actually do it. Then the Holy Spirit will remind us that we have a share in the promise that God gave to Abraham, because we are part of it through Jesus Christ.
Chris W. Dial
Chris W. Dial was born in Miami, Oklahoma but grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the Church of Christ. He graduated in 1981 from Oklahoma Christian University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Bible. He attends Journey Church of Christ and works for the Tulsa County Court Clerk's Office in the Records Department.