When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
This was not the carefully worked out plan, devised with forethought and prudence, that the Pharisees had concocted to get rid of Jesus. For that, they had sought a convenient opportunity where they could save face and leave the dirty work to Rome. They had connived and schemed and brought it about through deception, working under the cover of darkness. But this was different. This was an impulsive, emotional, rage-fed reaction to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. They could not deny anything Stephen had said, but their pride was wounded, and their reaction is this murderous fervor where they stone Stephen to death right then and there.
Honestly, that heart, that instinct to reject God and destroy what convicts us, is in all of us before we are saved. Our natural sinful state does not want to be told we are wrong, does not want to submit to God, does not want to believe His truth. But in Stephen, we see what a difference the Spirit of God makes. Stephen can speak truth and understand it. He can stand in the face of adversity. He can see Jesus as He truly is. He can live with grace and mercy for others. And he can die at peace with God no matter the brutality that comes upon him from this world.
As believers with the Spirit of God in us, we, too, can live differently in this world—differently than we used to live ourselves and differently than the sin-ruled world around us. Don’t let your heart be filled with pride, anger, vengeance, and hate, but be filled with the Spirit of God, the love of God, the grace of God, the peace of God, and seek to make a positive impact on those around you.