The First Martyr

I can not imagine a stone hitting me and breaking a bone.  I can not imagine being concussed from boulders.  I can not imagine the pain of dying from stoning.  However, Stephen believed in the risen Jesus so passionately and completely that he died a glorious death.  It was from the dispersion following blood that Stephen shed that the early church message was spread.  Like seed it fell in far off lands because of persecution.  Can we enter into darkness and suffering with purpose?  Can we see that God even allows his own to suffer injustice for his glory?  Is this repulsive?  Did we ‘get saved’ to be hedonistic and comfortable or did we join a cause which is true and for which we are prepared to suffer and die?

Acts 7:54-8:8

54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

 1 And Saul approved of their killing him.

    On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.

 4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.


  1. What does Stephen see at his death?
  2. Which key figure witnesses Stephen’s death?
  3. Why would God allow such suffering?
  4. How does the church suffer today?
  5. What is the purpose of your suffering?

Going Deeper

If you haven’t read it, get yourself a free copy of Tortured for Christ from Voice of the Martyrs.

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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1 Response to The First Martyr

  1. Plymothian says:

    The final three questions assume that suffering is part of a normal Christian experience. Many think that God leads us to places where we are surrounded by cotton-wool. Indeed, there are times when God enfolds us and protects us. But God grows us through suffering. If we rebel against the suffering we will not grow in the ways that God desires. Such growth is often undervalued by us. we would rather be comfortable than grow. However, the value of the growth is revealed when we see to what lengths God will grow to bring it about.

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