Acts 7:59,60 – They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then he fell on his knees and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.

I was able to play golf at St. Andrews in Scotland a number of years ago when returning from a mission trip to Tanzania. One of the things that I remember the most from my time at St. Andrews was a monument for George Wishart who was martyred for preaching Christ; his monument is near the eighteenth green. The thing about martyrs is that their death often effects the world more than their life. The work of Wishart, John Knox, and others birthed the Puritan movement that effected Scotland and played a major role in the birthing of our country. Today’s passage is about the first Christian martyr, Steven. Here is what the Scottish pastor William Barclay said about this passage.

“As Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of his executioners, so did Stephen. When George Wishart, the sixteenth-century Scottish reformer, was to be executed, the executioner hesitated. Wishart came to him and kissed him. ‘Lo,’ he said, ‘here is a token that I forgive thee.’ Those who follow Christ the whole way will find strength to do things which it seems humanly impossible to do.…The first half of the first verse of Acts 8 goes with this section. Paul has entered on the scene under his original name – Saul. The man who was to become the apostle to the Gentiles thoroughly agreed with the execution of Stephen. But, as St Augustine said, ‘The Church owes Paul to the prayer of Stephen.’ However hard he tried, Saul could never forget the way in which Stephen had died. Even at this early point, the blood of the martyrs had begun to be the seed of the Church.”

I love what Augustine said, “the church owes Paul to the prayer of Steven”. Steven had a profound revelation of Christ, the purpose of the church, and the worldwide nature of redemption. To me it seems that the Lord put Steven’s mantle on the Pharisee from Tarsus. The Lord’s ways are not our ways; He chooses to use who He pleases no matter how unlikely they appear. Never underestimate the power of forgiveness or the influence of the martyrs. I have a feeling our world will see these things again.

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