We are told relatively little about Stephen, but what we know is powerful and instructive.  We first read of him in Acts, chapter 6.  In that chapter, we have the appointment of seven deacons by the Apostles.  Acts 6:3-6 says, “Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.”  The qualifications for serving as a deacon were pretty strict.  The Apostles said they must be honest, full of the Holy Ghost and of wisdom.  In finding seven men who qualified for this work, Stephen was one of them.  He is called “a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost.”

Obviously, his life reflected the fact that he was full of faith.  Considering our prayer life, we read in   James 1:6, “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.”  We can easily imagine that Stephen did not waver in his love for, and his dependence upon, the Lord Jesus.  Along with that, he was full of the Holy Spirit who would energize and guide Stephen.  We read of how Stephen was empowered in Acts 6:8, “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.”  The Lord used this man greatly as he submitted himself to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  However, not all men appreciated Stephen.  We read in verses 9-10, “Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.”  Although these men argued with Stephen, it was obvious that they could not deny his wisdom and how the Spirit spoke through him.  Because of this, they lied about Stephen, they got men to testify falsely against him and brought him before the Sanhedrin council.  (Acts 6:11-13)

In Acts 7:1-53, we have Stephen’s defense before the counsel.  In his dissertation, Stephen taught a history lesson on the continuous failures of the nation of Israel.  He goes back to Abraham, to Joseph, and to Moses, tracing how that time after time, Israel failed and provoked the Lord.  His excellent speech was interrupted, however.  Verse 54 says, “When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.”  People without the Lord HATE to hear the truth and Stephen was giving them plenty of truth here.  IT COST HIM HIS LIFE.

They drug Stephen out of the city.  We read in verse 59-60, “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”  Notice that as they were stoning Stephen, his mind was not on himself, he was thinking of those who were killing him!  Just before death, he cried, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.”  He must have still been full of the Holy Spirit because these words are do similar to the Lord’s own words from the cross, where He cried “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)  Thus Stephen has the privilege of becoming the first Christian martyr…the first one to lay down his life in defense of the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the history of this godly man.  I encourage you to read over Acts 6-7 thoroughly and learn more details about this man.  We read in Acts 8:1-2, “And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.”  It was Saul, who consented to Stephen’s death.  Who was this young man who participated in this tragic event by holding the coats of those who stoned him?  (Acts 7:58)  Who was this young man, named Saul that consented to Stephen’s death?  We read in Acts 13:9, “Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,)…”  Yes, this same Saul would go on to be Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, who was used so greatly of the Lord for the rest of his life!  How this great event must have marred his conscience.  (221.10)