“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.” Acts 7:59-60 KJVIn reading above I came across this line by Augustine in a commentary, quoted by Barclay:
“The Church owes Paul to the prayer of Stephen.”
Suddenly, just like that, I was overwhelmed. And I cried. And then Lord, I marvelled.
I cried because Paul witnessed and consented to the death of a righteous man, in violence and hatred. “And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.” Acts 22:20 KJV
I cried because in this hatred Jesus showed His great mercy, so precious to a sinner like me, in revealing Himself to Paul, convicting him.
“Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all re he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon thy name.” 1 Timothy 1:16 KJV
I cried because this same Paul became the Church’s greatest missionary bringing the gospel of our salvation through Jesus to the Gentiles, to what would be all nations, peoples and tongues—-to you and me. “But the Lord said to him (Ananias), “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” Acts 9:15-16
I cried because our Saviour Jesus is indeed the one Foundation, the chief cornerstone—“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:11—and all of us, from the apostles, to Stephen, to Paul and all those that followed and yes, to you and me–are all bricks in Gods impenetrable church.
And then I marvelled because I had a sudden glimpse of the wonder and sovereignty of our Great Father God. I marvelled at His Providence, of how “…we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28. Even the death of Stephen, the first martyr of His church. I praise the God who stands and views the whole perspective of time at once and speaks a masterpiece, His word accomplishing His purposes— you, and me, being “one of those purposes.”
In tears and wonder, I echo Paul through the Holy Spirit, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:36 KJV