Acts 7:54-60 We see here that the inevitable has happened. They tried to intimidate
Stephen into shutting up and he kept preaching. They threatened his life without any power backing their words and he called them out for being stiff necked, Then they brought in a heavy hitter name Saul. Skip ahead to Acts 9:1 and you see the heart of Saul. Vs. 1 – “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.”
Saul wasn’t playing. When you brought in Saul with his letters of approval, you were showing how serious you were to stop the messenger. These people were going to kill the message of Christ by killing the messengers and Saul brought them the legal right to do that very thing. Stephen was a “marked” man and Saul had his sights on getting Stephen stoned. Stoning was a very serious sentence, that is an early form of capital punishment. The first five books of the Hebrew Bible showed stoning as a method of execution, where the offender would be stoned until dead, with no one person being thought of as the killer, since there were many stones being thrown. Doesn’t this sound familiar? No one wants to be the one to throw the stone that kills, but they do want the person to be killed. In this case, no one but Saul was the final say so in the matter. He brought letters of execution from the Sanhedrin to give a final verdict on Stephen and any other disciples who were sharing the message of Christ. Saul didn’t throw any stones, but he did serve as a Coat Rack for those who wanted to free their arms up so they could inflict the most punishment when throwing. In other words, Saul was totally willing to hold their coats so they could do the deed most easily. Saul was a BAD MAN!! But the Lord was going to have the final word that day.
In verse 55 it says, “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. Look, he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” When they heard him say this scripture records that they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. (vs. 58) Get this, while they were stoning him Stephen prayed “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out. “Lord, do not hold this in against them.” Then he fell asleep.(vs. 59-60) Ok, so he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. They covered their ears because they couldn’t stand to hear this man speak anymore. Then they drag him out and stone him and he falls asleep. In my imaginative mind I can see Jesus looking down and comforting him for what was to happen in the next few minutes and then God taking him without the final stone’s death blow. God takes him home and that was ok with Stephen who loved being in the presence of God on earth, so heaven is a step up for him, no matter how it was done. Stephen never bowed to the criticism and to the taunting and to the threats. He kept on preaching the truth!!
Do you ever find yourself holding coats for people who don’t really want to live the life Christ has called all of us to live? They water down the truth so it is more palatable for them to handle and hate it when a person steps up and “tells it like it is.” Then you get a glimpse of how Saul must have felt at the time. Do you ever get so convicted about sharing the message of Christ that you want to do it at all costs, even to the point of rejection by those who hear it? Then you get a glimpse of how Stephen must have felt. What are the differences? Saul was being used by the devil and Stephen was being used by God. So we have to ask ourselves. Am I a coat rack for others to kill the messengers of Christ, or am I the one getting persecuted for sharing the message. For me, I want to share the message no matter what and I don’t want to hold the coats for those who want to throw stones at the messengers of Christ. The very last part of vs. 60 says, “And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.” By being The Coat Rack we are showing we approve of those who try to keep the church from exploding with the message of Christ. We are the weak, yes people who don’t make a difference by defending the message. In other words, we just “go along.”
That kind of Coat Rack living will not cut it anymore. If you are in a church that is playing games with the blood of Jesus, it is time to quit holding their coats and walk away. Get into a fellowship that really cares about sharing the message of Christ and get on with it. Don’t waste God’s time by holding coats when you could be joining hands with others who are committed to following the Great Commission at all costs and be a vessel that glorifies God. Who do you think impacted Saul the most, the stone throwers, or Stephen. I think it was Stephen. In Acts 9 we will see the impact of what Saul saw when he meets Jesus on the Damascus road on the way to killing other disciples. Even Saul sees the Coat Rack is the not the way to go. Why don’t you? Time to change. Time to fly!!
The Pilgrimage continues…