I. AND WHEN THEY HEARD THESE THINGS, THEY WERE CUT TO THE HEART.
A. Stephen's message was anointed by the Holy Spirit and was cutting.
1. I am certain that he preached it with great conviction.
2. They were forced to certain conclusions that they did not like.
a. Their illustrious fathers for the most part were a bunch of jerks always missing the will of God.
b. They failed to comprehend the plan of God.
c. They often turned away from God to idolatry.
d. They seemed to always reject at first appearance God's anointed deliverer.
e. They persecuted every true prophet of God.
f. They were worse than their fathers, for they killed the Messiah who had been prophesied.
3. "They were cut to the heart."
a. True Spirit filled preaching always seems to bring strong conviction.
b. People react in different ways to conviction.
c. In chapter two when Peter had finished his message that people were cut to the heart and they repented.
d. Here they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.
e. Some people's hearts are softened when faced by the truth of God, while others are hardened.
B. In this story we see a classic example of what Jesus had told His disciples would happen.
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;
And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.
II. "BUT HE."
A. What a contrast we see here.
B. The word but, is a disassociative conjunction. It is a word that joins two contrasting conditions.
C. On the one side you see the council agitated, gnashing their teeth, frothing at the mouth, so to speak and on the other side, Stephen, filled with peace his countenance shining with the glory of God.
1. This is often the way the contrast goes between those who are good and those who are evil, the right and the wrong.
a. The wrong seem to get upset and start demeaning their opponents when the truth becomes manifest.
b. They turn a debate into an attack on the character of their opponent.
D. The secret of the peace that Stephen manifests, "Filled with the Holy Spirit."
1. Oh how we need the fullness of the Spirit in our lives.
2. What a difference it makes as to how we react when we are under pressure.
Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
III. HE LOOKED STEDFASTLY INTO HEAVEN AND SAW THE GLORY OF GOD.
A. Stephen suddenly received a vision of heaven. This was given to him just before he was to enter into heaven.
B. Many people when they read the heroic actions of the martyrs feel that would never be able to match their courage and strength.
1. God does not give you a martyr's courage until you are facing martyrdom.
2. Stephen is facing death, so the Lord gives to him a vision of heaven.
C. Stephen saw the glory of God.
1. Isaiah in a moment of discouragement saw the glory of God. "In the year king Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and lifted up and the glory of the Lord filled the temple."
2. John saw the glory of God and describes it to us in Revelation.
D. He also saw Jesus standing at the right had of God.
1. Luke tells us of the word of Jesus to this very council.
And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led him into their council, saying,
Art you the Messiah? tell us. And he said unto them, If I tell you, you will not believe:
And if I also ask [you], you will not answer me, nor let [me] go.
Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God.
2. Matthew gave us his account of this event.
But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure you by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Messiah, the Son of God.
Jesus saith unto him, You have said it: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.
3. Now Stephen declares that He sees Jesus standing on the right hand of God. This is more than they can bear.
4. Jesus is presently at the right hand of God in glory.
Who [is] he that condemneth? [It is] Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
Who being the brightness of [his] glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
Him hath God exalted with his right hand [to be] a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
5. If Stephen saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God what are all of these scriptures that speak of Jesus sitting on the throne. Some have speculated that He stood to welcome each martyr into the Father's kingdom.
III. THE RESPONSE OF THE COUNCIL, "THEY CRIED OUT WITH A LOUD VOICE AND STOPPED THEIR EARS."
A. Note how irrational they became.
1. This is often true of a person who is fighting against the witness of the Holy Spirit to their hearts.
2. They become totally irrational.
3. They close their ears to the truth.
4. There is an old proverb, "None so blind as those who will not see." It could also be said, "None so deaf as those who will not hear."
B. Many people refuse to hear the truth. They do not want to hear it.
1. I think that this is what Jesus was referring to when He said, "Give not that which is holy to the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine."
C. They all rushed upon him, they are out of control, they have gone berserk.
IV. THEY DRUG HIM OUT OF THE CITY AND STONED HIM.
A. There is a gate in the wall of Jerusalem opposite to the Mount of Olives that is known as the Lion's gate, it is also called St. Stephen's gate. Tradition has it that this is the gate through which Stephen was dragged.
B. It is here that we are introduced to a young man who was a zealous Pharisee, and who had voted for the death of Stephen named Saul.
1. This whole experience will have a profound effect upon his life.
2. He at first will react against the conviction with hatred against the believers in Jesus Christ.
3. He will take a lead roll in the persecution of the church, and imprison many of the believers, and cause others to blaspheme the name of Jesus.
4. Inwardly he will be fighting against what the Spirit is telling him is truth.
C. In our introduction he is holding the coats to facilitate those who are casting the stones at Stephen.
1. He will be changed from Saul of Tarsus, to Paul the apostle.
2. The most of the book of the Acts of the Apostles will be centered upon his apostleship.
D. As Stephen was being stoned, he cried out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
E. As the stones continued to pelt him he knelt down and prayed, And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge."
F. Having thus prayed, he fell asleep.
1. That is another way of saying, he died.
2. When a Christian died, they used the term sleep.
3. This term they no doubt got from Jesus.
a. He said this concerning the daughter of Jarius.
b. He said this of Lazarus.
4. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians concerning those who slept in Christ.
5. This is not a reference to soul sleep.
6. Death is a term for sinners, when a sinner dies it is far different than when a child of God ceases his earthly existence, thus the different term to express the different experience.
7. Jesus had said that if you lived and believed in Him you would never die. Thus, it is wrong to say of a believer that he died.