When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
The reaction to Stephen’s sharing tells it all. Those who do not believe, often cannot stand to be exposed to the Word or the presence of the Holy Spirit. They react violently, often at the top of their voices. “...they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him …” What a contrast between the spirit in mankind in general and the spirit in the believer filled with the Holy Spirit. It says in the Word that you shall know them by their fruit and lists the fruit to expect. In this passage, one can see the black and white contrast between the one full of God’s Spirit and those not. The violence in contrast to the forgiving peacefulness. Stephen used strong words to showcase the sin history of mankind and their continual rejection of the Creator. When seen in this light, humanity looks so foolish and out of control, like a two year-old with a temper tantrum. Seeing this clearly should only serve to further strengthen our resolve to serve the Lord our God and Him only. Stephen died a violent death, but he died peacefully in forgiveness. “…“Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” The others walked away with their sin and violence, unchanged and in turmoil. In this we see Jesus, we see one full of His spirit asking forgiveness for those who react so violently. From this picture we can be sure we will face the same reactions from those who find themselves exposed to or convicted by the Word of God we share. However, we can be sure that in that place that we too can find the presence of God greater and be found full of His peace and forgiveness.