Stephen Put to Death
54Now when they heard this, they were infuriated, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. 55But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 …
54¶ When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. 55But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, …
Ever wonder what makes a Christian different from everyone else in the world? Preaching on Acts 7:54–60, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains that it is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. It is He who empowers the lives and ministries of all believers. This is what made the early church in the time of the apostles so transformative and powerful. The apostles were bold in the face of persecution and even death. They did not fear what anyone could do to them because the Spirit-wrought faith in the person of Jesus Christ. One of the clearest examples of this is Stephen, the first martyr of the church. He was brought before the Sanhedrin for preaching the message of Jesus Christ. As Stephen preached in Acts, he boldly told who Jesus is and how Jesus fulfills the whole of the Old Testament. Because of this boldness, he was stoned to death but as he was dying, he asked God to forgive the very people who were killing him. This is the life lived in the Spirit, unlike the Jewish leaders who represented the unregenerate who reject the Holy Spirit and fight its influence. This is the greatest tragedy: those who are dead in sin fight against the only power that can save them and give them eternal life.
The sermon begins by establishing that Acts 7:54-60 is the climax and conclusion of Stephen's speech before the Sanhedrin.
Stephen's speech reviews the history of Israel and how the Sanhedrin misunderstood the stories of Abraham, Joseph and Moses.
Stephen accuses the Sanhedrin of resisting the Holy Spirit, while he himself is filled with the Holy Spirit. This is the source of the difference between Christians and non-Christians.
The Holy Spirit gives Christians a different understanding of Scripture, history, God's purpose, worship, and the meaning of the law. Non-Christians misunderstand all these things.
The Holy Spirit also gives Christians a different spirit - one of humility, compassion, and love, even for enemies. Non-Christians have a spirit of violence, hatred, and injustice.
The Holy Spirit enables Christians to face death with peace, hope, and joy because they know that the spirit continues after death. Non-Christians can only view death as the end, and therefore face it with fear and despair.
Christians can face death with hope because they know Jesus has conquered death, and they will be with Him after death. Stephen saw Jesus standing in heaven, ready to receive him.
Jesus is both the Son of Man and the Lord of all. He has triumphed over all enemies, including death, and has been exalted to the highest place of honor by God. Everything is under His authority.
The difference between Christians and non-Christians comes down to whether one has resisted or received the Holy Spirit, who reveals Jesus. Receiving Jesus brings new life, understanding, spirit, and hope.
The Book of Acts
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was a Welsh evangelical minister who preached and taught in the Reformed tradition. His principal ministry was at Westminster Chapel, in central London, from 1939-1968, where he delivered multi-year expositions on books of the bible such as Romans, Ephesians and the Gospel of John. In addition to the MLJ Trust’s collection of 1,600 of these sermons in audio format, most of these great sermon series are available in book form (including a 14 volume collection of the Romans sermons), as are other series such as "Spiritual Depression", "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" and "Great Biblical Doctrines". He is considered by many evangelical leaders today to be an authority on biblical truth and the sufficiency of Scripture.