With the stoning of Stephen we have the first martyr of the Christian church. The word martyr is defined as a person who dies rather than renounce a religion; a person who makes a great sacrifice for the sake of principle. Stephen was that and much more.
Stephen was brought in front of the Sanhedrin on false charges by the high priest. The high priest were persecuting the apostles because they were spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. When the high priest asked Stephen about the charges him began to preach to them.
They became extremely upset and decided to stone him.
The men who were persecuting Stephen were said to be gnashing upon him with their teeth. Matthew Henry says that this denotes
great vexation within themselves; they fretted to see in him such manifest tokens of a divine power and presence, and it vexed them to the heart. The wicked shall see it and be grieved, he shall gnash with his teeth and melt away, (Ps.
112:10). Gnashing with the teeth is often use to express the horror and torments of the damned. Those that have the malice of hell cannot but have with it some of the pains of hell.
This shows that the men who were getting ready to stone Stephen knew that what Stephen was preaching was right. They felt conviction and in turn decided to stone him.
Stephen was a man of God so he knew that God would do as he wished in this situation.
Stephen was at piece while all this was going on. While his hearers gave vent to their annoyance, Stephen remained calm, full controlled as before by the Spirit of God. He was not afraid because his God was in control. Henry says As his persecutor were full of Satan, so was he full of the Holy Ghost, fuller than ordinary, anointed with fresh oil for the combat, that, as the day, so might the strength be. The Holy Spirit came upon Stephen in his time of need.
Because Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit he looked heavenward. He was not interested in the men getting ready to stone him but he was interested in his Father. They had their eyes fixed upon him, full of malice and cruelty; but he looked up to heaven, and never minded them, was so taken up with the eternal life now in prospect that he seemed to have no manner of concern for the natural life now at state. Stephen was looking forward to being home with his Father.
Through all of this Stephen still kept the second greatest commandment. That is love you neighbor as yourself. In the midst of being stoned he still had the love of God in him for the people stoning him. He said to God in verse 60, Lord, do not hold this sin against them. In these words we see how Stephen shows the character of Jesus. There was yet another of our Lords words from the cross echoed by Stephen. For, on his knees among the flying stones, he made his last appeal to the heavenly courtnot this time for his own vindication but for mercy toward his executioners.
In this story we as Christians have a perfect of example of what it means to be totally sold out to Christ. Stephen was doing the work of the Lord by spreading the gospel. When he was persecuted for it he did not back down or run into a corner and hide. Instead he stood boldly for Christ. He knew that he would face death but that did not matter to him because he could not deny Christ. In his time of need the Holy Spirit came upon him and anointed him with peace. We also see Gods love for all in Stephen when he asked in verse sixty that the Lord not hold it against them. Stephen was truly a man of God.