Stephen, whose name means “crown or glory,” was described by Luke in Acts 6:8 as “a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.” Unfortunately, this powerful personality and faithfulness resulted in his death and turned him into the first Christian martyr. According to the Bible Timeline Chart, Stephen lived shortly after the time of Christ.
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The book of Acts did not offer Stephen’s origins. He came to the scene as one of the men appointed by the apostles to be in charge of the church’s food program for the poor. (Acts 6:7) His wisdom was so superior to others that he earned the anger of the members of the “Synagogue of the Freedmen” (Jews who were from parts of Libya, Egypt, and Asia Minor). They falsely accused him of blasphemy. Stephen was seized and brought in front of the Sanhedrin to face the accusations that were reinforced by false witnesses (Acts 6:8-15).
There were two accusations hurled against him by his enemies: first, that he spread the word that Jesus would destroy the temple in Jerusalem and second, that Jesus would change the customs laid down during the time of Moses. When asked by the high priest if the charges brought against him were true, Stephen delivered an enduring speech in front of the Sanhedrin (assembly). He showed his knowledge of Israel’s history from the time of Abraham in Mesopotamia to the time of Solomon and denounced the people for their persecution of the prophets.
This condemnation made Stephen’s enemies more furious and they covered their ears after he said that he saw “heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” The people dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death, but Stephen was able to ask the Lord to receive his spirit before he died. He also forgave the mob for this brutal and undeserved punishment for false accusations. Meanwhile, a man called Saul watched on with approval for Stephen’s death and planned to hound the believers of this new movement.
Picture By Paolo Uccello – Web Gallery of Art: Image Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15465652
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