Soon after the exciting beginning on the day of Pentecost, as the church was multiplying, the same Jewish leaders who killed Jesus turned against the church.
In Acts 6, a powerful teacher named Stephen was arrested and tried before the Sanhedrin. You can read his defense in Acts 7. He tells the wonderful history of Abraham’s family but near the end changes his tone into a condemnation of the Jewish leaders who had rejected God’s prophets throughout history and had now killed Jesus (51-52). This is why they stoned him to death (57-60).
Stephen was the first Christian to die for the faith. One lesson we see here is that being a good Christian doesn’t necessarily mean our present life is going to go smoothly. Sometimes it is just the opposite. That is an important truth we all have to accept. In fact, later the Apostle Paul writes “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).
Reading: Acts 8:1-8.
What happened to the church after the death of Stephen?
As the disciples dispersed from Jerusalem what were they doing?
Where does Philip go?
Two perspectives on the death of Stephen. In his death he was like Jesus, in fact his words are almost identical to what Jesus said when he was crucified. “And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep (Acts 7:59, 60). What a great example!
Secondly, God used this for good. It became a turning point for the church as they leave Jerusalem and begin to spread the gospel throughout the world.
Remember, it was God’s plan all along that the gospel be shared with everyone. God had said to Abraham, “In your seed ALL NATIONS of the earth shall be blessed”.