Hello everybody, and welcome in to episode 31 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Acts 7 today and our focus is on the first martyr and his behavior as he died. We briefly got off of our Bible reading plan, but now we are right back on schedule. We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Scotland, U.K., North-west England, Telangana, India, Austin, Texas and Dothan, Alabama. Thanks for listening! Our goal this year is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast Don’t forget about our new web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more – Click here for our reading plan! 

Another long passage today in Acts 7, but it is a good one. Confronted by the Sanhedrin and false witnesses for preaching about Jesus, Stephen the deacon and the first martyr proceeds to proclaim a message that covers the entire history of Israel, pretty much, and demonstrates the stubbornness and wickedness of God’s people, and their great need for a savior like Jesus. Since this is a long chapter, and a short podcast, I have room to only discuss one major thing here, and that topic is forgiveness.

One of my early preacher mentors used to have a saying about this passage. He observed how Stephen forgave the people killing him, including Saul/Paul, who was the official in charge of the stoning, and noted the transformation that shortly came to the life of Saul/Paul – first a terrible enemy of the church, and later its greatest spokesman.  I can’t prove it is true – exactly, from the Bible, but I believe it to be a sound principle. Here’s his principal: “Forgiveness is violence against the kingdom of darkness.” In other words – forgiveness does damage to Satan’s kingdom and to evil in general. I believe this to be true, and am convinced that Christians do not realize how powerful, nor necessary true forgiveness is. We must be a people of grace – extending forgiveness even beyond 70 times 7 times. May we emulate the blessed Stephen and his beautiful prayer of forgiveness to those murdering him for telling the truth. I imagine nobody listening today has ever had more reason to pray for justice and destruction towards their enemies then Stephen did, and yet he prayed grace and mercy and forgiveness instead – a living example of Colossians 3:

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. Colossians 3:12-13  I wonder if Paul was remembering Stephen when he wrote this? 

Let’s close with John Newton’s thoughts on the death of Stephen and the forgiveness that he offered:

His dying deportment (behavior), which showed how eminently he was filled with the spirit of Jesus, whom he saw, is recorded as a fit pattern for the imitation of all who should be called to suffer for the truth in succeeding times; he kneeled down with the sweetest composure, and having committed his departing soul into his Redeemer’s hands, his only remaining concern was for his murderers, and his last breath was a prayer, that this sin might not be laid to their charge. Such resolution in the defence of truth, such calmness under sufferings, such tenderness and compassion towards those who oppose, are the surest marks of a high attainment in Christianity.

John Newton and Richard Cecil, The Works of John Newton, vol. 3 (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 90.

End of the Show: Bible memory verse for January: Mark 1:15 15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

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