Disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and many of the priests were obedient to the faith. Stephen, full of faith, was doing great wonders and miracles among the people. The Jewish leaders were stirred to greater anger as they saw priests turning from their traditions, and from the sacrifices and offerings, and accepting Jesus as the great sacrifice. With power from on high, Stephen reproved the unbelieving priests and elders, and exalted Jesus before them. They could not withstand the wisdom and power with which he spoke, and as they found that they could prevail nothing against him, they hired men to swear falsely that they had heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God. They stirred up the people and took Stephen, and, through false witnesses, accused him of speaking against the temple and the
law. They testified that they had heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth would destroy the customs which Moses gave them.
As Stephen stood before his judges, the light of the glory of God rested upon his countenance. "And all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel." When called upon to answer to the charges brought against him, he began at Moses and the prophets and reviewed the history of the children of Israel and the dealings of God with them and showed how Christ had been foretold in prophecy. He referred to the history of the temple and declared that God dwelleth not in temples made with hands. The Jews worshiped the temple and were filled with greater indignation at anything spoken against that building than if it had been spoken against God. As Stephen spoke of Christ and referred to the temple, he saw that the people were rejecting his words; and he fearlessly rebuked them: "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost." While they observed the outward ordinances of their religion, their hearts were corrupt and full of deadly evil. He referred to the cruelty of their fathers in persecuting the prophets, and declared that those whom he addressed had committed a greater sin in rejecting and crucifying Christ. "Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers."
As these plain, cutting truths were spoken, the priests and rulers were enraged, and they rushed upon Stephen, gnashing their teeth. "But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God," and said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right
hand of God." The people would not hear him. "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 he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge."
I saw that Stephen was a mighty man of God, especially raised up to fill an important place in the church. Satan exulted in his death; for he knew that the disciples would greatly feel his loss. But Satan's triumph was short; for in that company, witnessing the death of Stephen, there was one to whom Jesus was to reveal Himself. Saul took no part in casting the stones at Stephen, yet he consented to his death. He was zealous in persecuting the church of God, hunting them, seizing them in their houses, and delivering them to those who would slay them. Saul was a man of ability and education; his zeal and learning caused him to be highly esteemed by the Jews, while he was feared by many of the disciples of Christ. His talents were effectively employed by Satan in carrying forward his rebellion against the Son of God, and those who believed in Him. But God can break the power of the great adversary and set free those who are led captive by him. Christ had selected Saul as a "chosen vessel" to preach His name, to strengthen His disciples in their work, and to more than fill the place of Stephen.