Stephen was a significant figure in the early Christian church, mentioned in the New Testament. He is best known for being the first Christian martyr, and his story is recorded in the book of Acts. Here is a biography of Stephen with relevant scriptural citations:
1. Introduction of Stephen:
Stephen was one of the early followers of Jesus Christ and was known for his strong faith and wisdom. He was chosen as one of the seven deacons in the early Christian community to assist with practical matters, allowing the apostles to focus on preaching and prayer (Acts 6:1-6).
2. Preaching and Miracles:
Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit and performed great wonders and signs among the people. He also engaged in powerful debates and discussions with members of the local Jewish synagogues (Acts 6:8).
3. Opposition and Accusation:
As Stephen’s preaching and influence grew, he faced resistance from certain members of the synagogues who opposed the Christian message. They accused him of speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God (Acts 6:9-11).
4. Stephen’s Defense:
In response to the accusations, Stephen delivered a passionate defense of his faith before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish council. He recounted the history of Israel, highlighting how God had been at work through various figures and events (Acts 7:1-53).
5. Accusation of Blasphemy:
Stephen’s defense ended with a strong rebuke of the religious leaders, accusing them of resisting the Holy Spirit, just as their ancestors had done. He proclaimed that they had betrayed and murdered the Righteous One (Jesus Christ) (Acts 7:51-53).
The Sanhedrin, infuriated by Stephen’s words, dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death. During his execution, Stephen saw a vision of heaven opened, and he declared, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” and “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:54-60).
7. Impact on the Early Church:
Stephen’s martyrdom had a profound impact on the early Christian community. His death marked the beginning of a period of intense persecution against the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1-3). However, his faith and courage also served as an inspiration to many, strengthening the resolve of believers in the face of adversity.
Stephen’s story in the New Testament, particularly in the book of Acts, showcases his unwavering commitment to his faith in Jesus Christ, even in the face of persecution and death. His example of courage and forgiveness continues to be an encouragement to Christians throughout the ages.