Christians revere Stephen as the first martyr for the gospel in the Bible, but the man did a lot more than just get killed for standing up for Jesus. In front of the high authorities of the time, he spoke about numerous truths regarding the abuses God’s people have taken versus God’s everlasting promises. And the religious leaders knew the whole time, they had nothing on him.
Stephen mainly discusses Israel’s plight through the centuries, but this also has personal application to today’s Christian. We can inflate things and say we’re currently facing the worst persecution ever, but it’s not necessarily true. Throughout history, Christians have always been derided to some extent, especially abroad — although, to be fair, you can make a case that Christians have done their share of oppression through history as well, intentionally or otherwise.
But it’s clear, through Stephen’s discourse, that God’s promises are not empty. Despite numerous cases of mistreatment, Israel was granted blessings and preservation, ultimately manifested in Jesus Christ Himself. This is true for us as well.
They can’t resist the Spirit (6:10)
If your persistence is based on the work of God, no man can stand against it. Not much is known about Stephen’s occupation according to the Bible, but he is clearly offensive to the Jewish leaders, indicating that they felt contested and responded with hostility. We can conjecture that he was not “learned” like the leaders, at least in their ways, confirming that only the Spirit could have imparted wisdom upon Stephen for this event. We have the same Spirit, who gives us wisdom in times of need.
They will produce liars (6:13)
Some don’t even recognize they’re being deceived, holding on dearly to this world and their eighty-or-so years they’re given, overlooking the promise of eternal life through Jesus. Others, of course, are vicious, but their arguments are only vanity.
God has been with His people through history (7:5, 9, 17, 35)
Israel has an unbelievably rocky history (anyone remember World War II?), but somehow they’ve stayed afloat the whole time despite numerous attempts at genocide and ethnic cleansing. Many of us cannot expect such horrible acts, but we know that, if God can preserve a people, even in their disobedience as a nation at times, how much more so will he preserve those that have entered into fellowship with His Son?
Hold on! (6:7)
The apostles’ desire to continue preaching the gospel despite treachery resulted in the number of disciples being “multiplied greatly.” If you truly believe that your God is strong and that men can be saved, and you persist, indeed, people will be saved. Don’t forget that continuing can only produce fruit, and that your efforts are never in vain.
Do you feel pummeled, trodden over, and abused today? Know this simple truth: God’s promises do not fail. And no one can take that away from you.