The Death of Stephen and the Persecution of the Church

Text: Acts 7:51-8:4

I.         Stephen, the defendant, charges his judges of resisting the will of God

            A.        They acted no differently than their ancestors – proof would be their killing of Jesus

            B.        Few prophets of God ever escaped being killed by them

            C.        They killed the prophets that announced the coming Messiah, including John who was beheaded

                        1.         They killed the Messiah when he came.

            D.        They received a law from angels which they did not keep.

II.        Stephen’s words hurt.

            A.        His judges were cut to the heart.

                        1.         They knew he was right, which made the charges that much more unbearable.

                        2.         They were so angry, they were grinding their teeth.

            B.        Meanwhile, Stephen is given a vision of the glory of God with Jesus standing at His right-hand.

                        1.         Stephen announces what he sees

                        2.         But it was too much for these judges.

            C.        They rush in unison and pull Stephen out of the city

                        1.         They give their cloaks to a young man named Saul to watch while they took stones up to hurl at Stephen

                        2.         As Stephen dies he calls on Jesus to receive him and he asks that Jesus not hold his death against these men.

            D.        While Saul did not throw stones, he was in hearty agreement with the action

III.       Starting with this death, the Jews began an active campaign to eliminate the disciples of Jesus

            A.        The church was forced to scatter throughout Judea and Samaria.

            B.        Only the apostles were able to stay in Jerusalem.

            C.        Stephen was buried by devote brethren and he was greatly mourned

            D.        But Saul began a campaign to ravish the church

                        1.         He went into people’s homes to drag them off to prison.

                        2.         Saul, who later changes his name to Paul, describes his actions - Acts 26:9-11

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