And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Acts 6:8 (NKJV)
The original disciples (minus Judas) quickly realized that they had to delegate some responsibility, so they chose seven men to help with the growing needs. Among them was Stephen, who was filled with faith and power and did many wonders and signs.
Despite these deeds, Stephen is most remembered for the sermon that’s recorded in Acts Chapter 7. It’s a very powerful and pointed challenge to the Jewish leaders, who had a long history of opposing God’s work. Their desire to have Jesus crucified and their persecution of the Church were just the latest example of this.
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen connected these dots for them. And it was such a powerfully convicting message that it left them “cut to the heart” and enraged against him (Acts 7:54). So much so that they dragged him out of the city and proceeded to stone him. It’s then, as his persecutors are in the process of killing him that he offers up the following prayer:
Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” (Acts 7:60 NKJV)
As the stones are hurled at him, Stephen doesn’t hurl insults or accusations back. He intercedes on their behalf. “God don’t hold this against them,” he pleads.
If that sounds familiar it’s because Jesus prayed the very same prayer as He hung on the cross (Luke 23:34). Notice what’s taking place here: Stephen is following Christ’s example, right up to the very end of his life. And by so doing, Stephen becomes an example for us to follow.
The example that Jesus left for us is one we can and ought to follow right up to the very end. Imitating Christ has no expiration date. Even when we’re on the threshold of death, Jesus shows us the way we’re to be and behave.
Think About It…
What does this passage reveal to me about God?
What does this passage reveal to me about myself?
Based on this, what changes do I need to make?
What is my prayer for today?