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One of the seven chosen in the church at Jerusalem to minister the alms of the saints. He was a Greek-speaking Jew, who, though appointed to an office, yet in the energy of the Holy Ghost bore witness of the power consequent on Christ being glorified, and the Holy Spirit here (1 Tim. 3:1313For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 3:13)). Stephen was able to speak with such wisdom and power that his hearers could not withstand him. They suborned evil men to falsely accuse him, and he was dragged before the Jewish council, to whom his face appeared like that of an angel. He sketched the history of the people from Abraham, with which they were all familiar; but he laid bare from the outset the opposition of the Jews and of their fathers. Joseph they had refused; Moses they had repelled; they had turned to idolatry; had slain the prophets; had always resisted the Holy Ghost; and had been the betrayers and murderers of the Just One. Such was man’s history under culture and probation.
His hearers were cut to the heart, but did not repent: they gnashed their teeth at him. He, lifting up his eyes to heaven, saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and bore testimony to this. But they rushed upon him, cast him out of the city, and stoned him. He, like Jesus, prayed that their sin might not be laid to their charge, and, commending his spirit to the Lord, fell asleep.
Stephen’s martyrdom formed an epoch in the history of the church. Being a Hellenist, he in this respect differed from the apostles. He was chosen for the first martyr. To him the heaven was opened, and he bore witness to Jesus, the second Man, being at the right hand of God. It is at this juncture that Saul, who was destined to carry on the ministry of the gospel of the glory of Christ, is brought into view. He was then a young man, at whose feet the witnesses laid their clothes (Acts 6:5-155And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: 6Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. 7And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith. 8And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. 9Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. 10And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. 11Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. 12And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, 13And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: 14For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. 15And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel. (Acts 6:5‑15); Acts 7:8:2; Acts 11:1919Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. (Acts 11:19); Acts 22:2020And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. (Acts 22:20)).
It has been asserted, by some critics, that Stephen made several mistakes in his address to the council! It is said, however, in scripture that he was “full of the Holy Ghost.” See SHECHEM.