| Click Now to Order
Warriors and Martyrs
"'You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are
always resisting the Holy Spirit; as your forefathers did, so do you. (52)
Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They even killed
those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers
and murderers you have now become. (53) You received the law under the
direction of angels and yet have not kept it.' (54) When they heard these
things, they were enraged in their hearts and gnashed their teeth at him.
(55) But Stephen, filled by the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven. He saw
God's glory, with Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said,
(56) 'Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the
right hand of God!' (57) Then they screamed at the top of their voices,
stopped their ears, and rushed together against him. (58) They threw him
out of the city and began to stone him. And the witnesses laid their robes
at the feet of a young man named Saul. (59) They were stoning Stephen as
he called out: 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!' (60) Then he knelt down
and cried out with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not charge them with this sin!'
And saying this, he fell asleep." (HCSB)
In the first 50 verses of chapter 7, Stephen summarized the plight
of the Jewish nation from their inception with the Abrahamic covenant through
their wilderness wanderings to the establishment of the monarchy. He wasn't
saying anything that his audience didn't already know and understand to
be true. His tone was gentle and matter of fact. But with verse
51 he turned a corner, as is evidenced by his words "You stiff-necked people."
Throughout most of the sermon, Stephen reaches out to his audience
by being inclusive. He shows that throughout their history it was
"us" against "them." But with verse 51 he excludes his listeners
from the "us" and puts them in the "them" category, right alongside the
Egyptians and other enemies of Israel. As you can imagine, these
men of Israel didn't like his accusation.
In Stephen's estimate, it was their forefathers that resisted
the Holy Spirit. It was their fathers that persecuted the prophets.
It was them who had betrayed and murdered the righteous one. They
were the recipients of the law, according to Stephen and they had not kept
Their blood boiled.
The temperature began to rise when Peter and John disobeyed their
order to stop preaching and teaching in the name of Jesus, and it continued
to escalate when they filled all Jerusalem with His teaching, as is evidenced
by the flogging they gave the disciples in the last chapter. But
now, they'd had enough. Not even the calming words of Gamaliel could stop
them now. Stephen had cut through the quick and accused them of not
keeping the law keeping the law was something they prided themselves on.
So they rushed him and stoned him to death. It was customary
when stoning people to throw them from a high peak, then if the fall didn't
kill them, to throw rocks at them and roll boulders onto them until they
Why would Stephen provoke these men like this? Acts 6:5
says that Stephen was "a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit." (NASB)
Would a man who is controlled by the Holy Spirit be provocative?
Galatians 5:22-23 says "But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he
will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. Here there is
no conflict with the law." (NLT)
Did Stephen's words show love? Did they show joy?
What about peace, were they peaceful words? Did they demonstrate
patience? In your opinion, were they kind, did they show kindness?
What about goodness and faithfulness? How about gentleness?
Where his words gentle. Did they demonstrate self-control?
When I was a boy growing up in church I had an inner conflict,
that in many ways, I'm still resolving. I began to fell that to be
a good Christian I couldn't be a real man. I felt the church telling
me to dress up, behave myself, sit still and be well mannered and refined.
In other words, they were telling me to be more like the girls, and if
I would, I'd be a better Christian. Maybe that's why women attend
church at a 2 to 1 ratio to men. We've turned the religious experience
into a tea party and missed the masculine side of the Christian walk.
Do you think Peter's shoes matched his hemline or he gave a rip
whether his tie picked up the colors of his shirt and jacket? Come
on, he was a smelly fisherman who was lucky to remember to wash the crud
off his feet. And what about John the Baptist now here was a guy
that could light up a room when he entered. Really, you'd know he
was coming a mile away, because you'd smell him first. These men
were on an adventure of their lives. They were radical men following
a revolutionary teacher.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying being rude and crude are Spiritual
gifts. I'm just saying being refined and well groomed aren't either.
Those are surface issues and have more to do with a person's culture than
they do their faith. To put it another way, our goal is not to tame
our men and get them to act more like women, but it is to call them to
a radical lifestyle of surrendering themselves totally to Jesus Christ.
The men's movement of the 1990's did a lot to call men out to
be involved in their families and their churches. It called men to
live holy lives and to be accountable to one another. Which I applaud.
I just don't think it is enough. In his book, Wild at Heart, John
Eldredge encourages men to seek more than accountability partners, he encourages
them to find co-laborers. He writes, "Thanks to the men's movement
the church understands now that a man needs other men, but what we've offered
is another two-dimensional solution: 'Accountability' groups or partners.
Ugh. That sounds so old covenant: 'You're really a fool and you're
just waiting to rush into sin, so we'd better post a guard by you to keep
you in line.' We don't need accountability groups; we need fellow
warriors, someone to fight alongside, someone to watch our back."
We need to call men to be warriors to join the revolution
that Jesus Christ established when He died on our cross and rose from a
borrowed tomb. A revolution that calls them to minister out of the
depth of their souls and give everything they have. For most it means
to live for the faith, for some it means they will die for their faith.
Like Stephen did.
Look at Stephen's response to the stoning in Acts 7:55-60, "But
Stephen, filled by the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven. He saw God's glory,
with Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, (56) 'Look!
I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand
of God!' (57) Then they screamed at the top of their voices, stopped their
ears, and rushed together against him. (58) They threw him out of the city
and began to stone him. And the witnesses laid their robes at the feet
of a young man named Saul. (59) They were stoning Stephen as he called
out: 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!' (60) Then he knelt down and cried
out with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not charge them with this sin!' And saying
this, he fell asleep."
Yes Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit. Verse 55 says
so. Also, if you look closely, you will see the evidence of the fruit
of the Spirit in his sermon and his response to the stoning. For
one, he loved enough to confront. You know, a hug isn't the only
way to communicate love. Kids, your parents are showing you that
they love you when they discipline you too.
Look at his final words, "Lord, do not charge them with
this sin!" Those are words dripping with love. Only a Spirit-filled
man could respond to this obvious injustice with such love. His love
is obvious. Do you also see joy? I'm sure Stephen wasn't happy
about what was happening to him, yet his words "Look! I see the heavens
opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" contain a
measure of joy. He certainly was at peace in the situation, and his
ultimate act of forgiveness shows kindness and goodness. What about
faithfulness? Would you say Stephen was faithful? Of course
he was. He was faithful to the death. Does he demonstrate gentleness?
I think so, don't you? And what about self-control? Again,
I believe he did.
Stephen was a faithful, spirit-filled man who died like he lived
on mission for God. He held nothing back; he went all the way.
In all probability God won't ask you to die for your faith, but God does
ask you to die to self and live for Christ. Will you take that challenge,
wherever it leads?