In Acts, chapter 7, we learn about some pretty sad news in the church, at this time. For Stephen, a great disciple for Christ, was stoned to death for his faith and teachings of Jesus. He was a great man of God and truly loved the Lord enough to do anything for Him. Even the people could see the love he shared with all of them, in everything he did. And among these people, they were able to witness the mighty miracles he did in Jesus’s Name. However, much like Jews wanted to stop Jesus , the Jewish leaders did not want anything of what Stephen was teaching either. Therefore, they wanted to silence him through his death. Now, among those Jewish leaders was a man called Saul. He was even present during the stoning of Stephen. Now in Acts, chapter 8, we learn why he was there and his intentions for Stephen. It was surely because the Holy Spirit of God had convicted the people of their sins, that they resisted the Spirit and instead retaliated against Stephen. Truly the Spirit of God cut them to the heart, but their bitterness was too strong for them to resist their anger and hatred towards this man. What is so sad is that they did not even want to hear him anymore and covered their ears from his speech. This is when they cast him out of the city and stoned him. Now, in Stephen’s final minutes, he said something remarkable, “lay not this sin to their charge”. Even at the very end, he wanted these wicked people to not be held accountable for their murderous acts. What love and compassion he had towards them, even until the very end. You can read this account in the verses below….
Acts 7:51-60 (KJV)
51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:
53 Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.
54 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, 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 Acts, chapter 8, we learn about a person that consented to Stephen’s stoning and ultimate death, whose name was Saul. He did not care one bit, as the people of faith took his body away and buried it. There sorrows were great, as tears streamed down their faces, and he still looked at them with distaste. He was happy with the outcome of Stephen’s death and did not understand them at all. Remember that Saul witnessed his death and did not stop it and by his hand, there was “a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem”. Just think of Isis and what they are doing to Christians right now and that wouldn’t be far from what Saul did to them as well. For he orchestrated a great revolt against Jesus and His followers. It got to the point where every house was barged into and anyone that believed in Jesus was sent to prison. At this time, people started scattering and going into different cities for shelter. However, what they did was remarkable in every way. It is recorded that “they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.” Their faith did not dwindle but only got stronger. It was their desire that everyone could come unto Christ and be saved, no matter the outcome of their own lives. Philip was one of these people that “went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.” This is when people began to hear the teachings of Jesus and witness the miracles that he did in the name of God Almighty. Even demons were cast out and the sick were healed in the name of Jesus. Truly, the joy of the Lord filled this place. You can read this account in the verses below….
Acts 8:1-8 (KJV)
1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.
2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.
5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
6 And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
7 For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.
8 And there was great joy in that city.
As we’ve read, through the hand of Saul, a great many Christians were captured, ridiculed and even sent to prison. If they died that terrible place, is another question. However, his desire to stop the men and women of faith from sharing their love and teachings of Christ was very evident in all of this. It truly makes you wonder why he felt this way. Could it be that much like the Jewish leaders, that he was also upset with their new teachings and since it went against the laws of Moses? This seems to be right on, but what it comes down to is his conviction of the Torah and having none of its teachings changed by anyone. For he was a devoted Jew and even Pharisee and new its teachings very well. However, there was one thing that he could never truly grasp and those were the verses that pointed to a Messiah. All through the Old Testament there ae many verses that reference a Savior to come. Even a baby, that is God with us, born of a virgin in Bethlehem. If Saul was really studious of the words of God, then this would have stood out. However, his pride got in the way of knowing the truth of the gospel. Therefore, to get rid of what Jesus taught, was his reaction to the new teachings of Christ. Now, we know that his desires did not come true. If anything the people of God came together and their faith grew because of all the persecutions at hand. Even their joy in the community of the Saints and God was great upon the land. Nothing Saul could do would ever stop this. The same can be said for any of us that love the Lord. No persecution will come between a person of real faith and death . The Lord Jesus will always come first. This I pray that your faith is strong enough to also endure to the end, like the early church members did.
Let us pray:
Oh Lord, I pray for every person in the faith. May their faith sustain them when trials and even persecutions come their way. I know that times can be hard and so many people have already given up hope in You and their faith because of it. Because of this, I hope and pray that there will be those that have the heart to endure this, even when persecution comes their way. I know that some people have to endure more trials than others. The same can be said for those that have to endure more persecutions than most. In these times, it is surely a blessing to hear that people that have not left their one true love, which is You, Jesus. That they were willing to go all the way and do whatever was possible, even unto death for Your cause. What a blessing to hear people growing as a community of believers even when great sorrow has hit their lands and the people they love. This truly demonstrates their great love for You and what they are willing to do for Your sake. I know Lord that witnessing Your truths comes as a cost. Not everyone has been willing to listen and many have ridiculed me. In all this, Your faith has never failed me. Through these experiences, my faith has grown even stronger. My love for You and other people is elevated. Even my passion and boldness is greater than ever. And in these difficult moments, everything makes sense when You are with me. I know that all these things are for my growth and learning in the faith. For this reason, I am privileged to be Your witness at any cost to myself. I will go and find the lost sheep, no matter if my life is at stake. It is all for You Jesus. I love you more than this life. In Your holy Name, Jesus. Amen.