Daily Thought for: 9th November

STEPHEN (1)

Acts 6. 8, 11 – 7. 53

Stephen has a heroic place as the first martyr of the church. Originally ‘martyr’ meant witness. Stephen was a witness before he was a martyr. He became a martyr because of the faithfulness of his witness. His execution was the culmination, in death, of a powerful witness in life. 

Stephen had courage. In the Jerusalem synagogues he boldly confessed Jesus as Messiah. His testimony could not be refuted by argument; thus his enemies hauled him before the Sanhedrin on charges which were, at best, half-truths. Stephen defended himself bravely. He did not compromise or apologise. Instead, the accused became the accuser, laying the guilt of resisting the Spirit, rejecting the Messiah and repudiating the law on the leaders of Israel. Encouraged by a vision of his glorified Lord, he owned Him as the exalted One, thus sealing his fate. Courageous to the last, he faced the stones of the angry mob unflinchingly, with the name of the Lord Jesus on his dying lips. How often do we need to challenge ourselves as to the degree of our own courage. 

‘Am I a soldier of the cross, a follower of the Lamb? And shall I fear to own His cause, or blush to speak His name?’ 

Stephen had insight. Indeed, his courage lay in the fearless way he expressed his God-given insight into the meaning of the new era which had come in Christ. He saw that the period of ritual religion had ended. Special sacred sites no longer had any importance. The Lord Jesus had fulfilled the law and replaced the temple. In his defence, Stephen shows that the temple was not indispensable. It was not God’s immediate dwelling place, nor was God tied down to any earthly location. He shows all this by ranging over Israel’s whole history. 

Stephen thus demonstrated his deep grasp of Scripture. He had the Old Testament at his fingertips, its text and its inner meaning. He understood the progress of God’s revelation. The words of Scripture were ‘living oracles’ to Stephen, instant with God’s power. Do we love Scripture? Are we devoted to studying it? We shall only have Stephen’s grasp of Scripture if, like him, we are grasped by it first. 

 

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