Unity in Christ Jesus
Acts 7:44—8:3: Stephen’s speech concludes with accusations against his persecutors for opposing God’s Holy Spirit, and he is put to death by stoning. Stephen becomes the first Christian martyr. The church in Jerusalem undergoes persecution, and Saul imprisons many of the believers.
44 “Our ancestors had the Tent of God’s presence with them in the desert. It had been made as God had told Moses to make it, according to the pattern that Moses had been shown. 45 Later on, our ancestors who received the tent from their fathers carried it with them when they went with Joshua and took over the land from the nations that God drove out as they advanced. And it stayed there until the time of David. 46 He won God’s favor and asked God to allow him to provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.[a] 47 But it was Solomon who built him a house.
48 “But the Most High God does not live in houses built by human hands; as the prophet says,
49 ‘Heaven is my throne, says the Lord,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house would you build for me?
Where is the place for me to live in?
50 Did not I myself make all these things?’
51 “How stubborn you are!” Stephen went on to say. “How heathen your hearts, how deaf you are to God’s message! You are just like your ancestors: you too have always resisted the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there any prophet that your ancestors did not persecute? They killed God’s messengers, who long ago announced the coming of his righteous Servant. And now you have betrayed and murdered him. 53 You are the ones who received God’s law, that was handed down by angels—yet you have not obeyed it!”
The Stoning of Stephen
54 As the members of the Council listened to Stephen, they became furious and ground their teeth at him in anger. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw God’s glory and Jesus standing at the right side of God. 56 “Look!” he said. “I see heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!”
57 With a loud cry the Council members covered their ears with their hands. Then they all rushed at him at once, 58 threw him out of the city, and stoned him. The witnesses left their cloaks in the care of a young man named Saul. 59 They kept on stoning Stephen as he called out to the Lord, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 He knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord! Do not remember this sin against them!” He said this and died.
8 And Saul approved of his murder.
Saul Persecutes the Church
That very day the church in Jerusalem began to suffer cruel persecution. All the believers, except the apostles, were scattered throughout the provinces of Judea and Samaria. 2 Some devout men buried Stephen, mourning for him with loud cries.
3 But Saul tried to destroy the church; going from house to house, he dragged out the believers, both men and women, and threw them into jail.
Today’s Key Verse: Acts 7:55
Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw God’s glory and Jesus standing at the right side of God.
Why did the members of the Council become so enraged (verse 54)? Stephen’s final words (verses 59-60) parallel those of Jesus on the cross (Luke 23:34, 46). What are your thoughts about Stephen? From the readings these past four days, what have you learned about God?
God of love and mercy, draw me close to you and fill me with your Holy Spirit. Order my steps this day and teach me to walk in your ways. I praise and glorify you, O God. In your holy name, I pray. Amen.
Leviticus 19:1-18: God’s people are told to be holy.