At this time, the early believers did not understand the power of the Holy Spirit. In Acts, we see this ragtag uneducated small group of new Christians. There were 18 nationalities represented and all understood Peter preach in his own language. Some 3,000 people were saved.
Jesus had already established the framework for the local church. Things were happening so fast the disciples were caught off guard. They chose seven men to serve as elders, including Stephen. The church was growing so quickly the disciples needed help so they could dedicate themselves to teaching, praying and fasting. The local church, even today, must train their own members for the work of the ministry.
Religious people hate change. And so the religious people of the day attacked the burgeoning new church, brought about false witnesses, and falsely accused Stephen. So Stephen addressed the high priest with the truth of the gospel. Stephen’s face was like that of an angel. Stephen told them they were spiritually lost. He also became the first martyr for his faith in Jesus Christ mentioned in the New Testament.
There was nothing meek and mild about Jesus’ ministry. He was a bold preacher of the word. They killed Him for His preaching, mind you. Likewise, Stephen held nothing back. When the truth is preached, conviction follows. There isn’t as much conviction today because not enough preachers preach Biblical truth. At any rate, we are told that at this point Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit. He looked up and saw the glory of God, which is something we ought to do more when we’re under attack.
The religious leaders were so offended by Stephen’s preaching that they stopped their ears and ran upon Stephen. They considered it blasphemy. We might not do this today, but instead we stop up our hearts to the gospel. A preacher of the word is responsible only for delivering the message — not what we do with it afterwards. That’s our responsibility.
Stephen saw Jesus applauding him and men hating him, so the choice was easy. He knelt and asked forgiveness for his attackers right before he gave up his spirit. You see, there is grace for every occasion. God will bestow whatever grace we need right when we need it. We can either stand with Christ or we will crumble with the culture. If we do not stand for Christ now He will not stand with us.
One of the witnesses to Stephen’s stoning was a young man named Saul.