April 17th – A Good Death



Stephen was the first deacon in all church history, but that privileged office was not big enough to contain his gifts.He is described in the Bible as “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit”,and again “he was full of God’s grace and power and did great wonders and miraculous signs amongst the people”. He was a powerful preacher.So powerful, in fact, that as a result of a sermon he became the first Christian martyr in history. In short, the quality of his life in Christ was matched by the quality of his death in Christ.He died because he couldn’t keep his head down! He spoke out for Christ, and spoke against the enemies of Christ in a blistering survey of Israel’s history.He never finished the address (you can read it, so far as he goes,in Acts of the Apostles, starting in Chapter 6 and all through Chapter 7). He died as he lived, uncompromisingly testifying to Jesus Christ.

Alexander Whyte once said “What a tragic loss to the church was Stephen’s death”. I don’t think it was.Stephen died ‘a good death’.Not with a whimper at the pain, but with a bang of glory, surrounded by a lynch mob snarling hatred at him. ‘A good death’ was a phrase used through earlier Christian history for God’s saints who were so sure of the risen, living Christ, that they saw death as a doorway to Him whom they already loved and followed.This is how Stephen died:
“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”.
At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.
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 sin against them”. When he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7: 55-58a and 59-60.
His death had enormous repercussions on the infant church, and significantly on one of those who was fully involved in the lynch mob, as we will remember tomorrow.

A Prayer:
We thank you lord for those whose faith in you defeats the very terror of death, and glorifies you not only in their living but also in their dying.

Now read John 21: 15-23.

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Thought 4 The Day

Faith rests on the naked Word of God; that Word believed gives full assurance. (H. A. Ironside)

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