When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.
We have foregleams of the next life. Witnesses have had glimpses to which they have given testimony.
I. STEPHEN WAS A MAN OF AFFAIRS. He was no dreaming enthusiast, however intense his spiritual life. He was equal to the demands of new enterprises where originality in planning and fertility of resource were requisite.
II. HE, ONLY A DEACON, A LAYMAN, WAS FULL OF FAITH AND POWER.
III. THIS TESTIMONY HE GIVES WHEN HE MUST SEAL HIS SINCERITY WITH HIS LIFE. He knew what extremes Jewish hate could reach.
IV. HE HAD GIVEN ABUNDANT PROOF OF MENTAL SOUNDNESS AND GRASP IN HIS RESUME OF JEWISH HISTORY AND GOD'S DEALINGS.
V. HIS SPIRITUAL ELEVATION AND FELLOWSHIP APPEAR, BEAUTIFULLY AND GLORIOUSLY, IN HIS AGREEMENT IN WORDS AND DISPOSITION WITH HIS DYING MASTER. Such a witness we can trust, however momentous the questions upon which he speaks. Points of Stephen's testimony —
1. Heaven's glory gladly and easily appreciable by redeemed souls. Infinite the necessary remove of heaven's life from earth's, but God's redeemed ones can enter it with delight. However stupendous the transition, it is easy and quick; no narrowed and doubtful reception; the finite easily joins the infinite; the imperfect is neither shamed nor crippled by the perfect; the lowliest estate does not shrink or tremble as the highest glory suddenly bursts upon it. Stephen looked steadfastly.
2. Heaven is heaven because fined with God's personal presence. God's glory apart from His presence is inconceivable. The soul is made for God, and reposes only in Him. There its satisfactions are supreme and complete. Is God's conscious presence welcome here now? If not, how can we meet Him face to face when this life shall open upon the next and His flooding glory appear on every side?
3. Jesus, in His glorified humanity, has the highest place in heaven's honour, and welcomes His disciples as they follow Him. We are strongly impressed with Jesus' manifold offices for His disciple band when with them in visible leadership. The story is dramatic in vividness and suggestive in teaching. But His personal relations now, His invisible leadership, mean much more every way. The glorified Jesus is the firstfruits of our redeemed humanity — in the fulness of time He will gather to Himself, to a full sharing of His glory, all who are washed in His blood and trained by His grace.
4. Dying saints are strengthened by foregleams, sometimes brilliant sight of heaven's inhabitants' bliss.
5. The spirit survives the body, its powers expanded and quickened. We reason about continued life, the body laid aside; but hear the proof in the experience of one qualified to speak. Stephen saw Jesus, and to Him committed his soul. We shudder at the thought of going into utter oblivion, life annihilated. From this fear the dying Stephen brings sure release.
6. The saved soul, redeemed by the blood of Christ and quickened by Divine grace, can thoroughly forgive. No test of Christian character is more trustworthy than this. No personal resentments embittered His dying hour. Will our pillow be free from such thorns? They are sharp and fatal to dying peace or eternal safety.
7. Divine Providence utilises all events to the forwarding of its world-embracing plans. A great apostle was needed for the Gentile world. Here that coming apostle had his first special training. As has said, "But for Stephen's prayers the Church would not have had its apostle Paul."
8. A significant fact that this detailed account of Stephen's martyrdom stands alone. We needed it, that we might have this one vivid illustration of dying grace in a crisis so remarkable.
9. A typical instance of an apparent triumph of hostility to Jesus in His followers turning into overwhelming defeat. We tremble before assaults upon the Word of God, the organised Church and all related institutions; but such assaults, however successful in appearance, are but for the moment. Converts to Christ are, in most cases, born through the travail of some one.
10. Lighter trials may avail themselves of the same supports as came to the dying martyr.
(S. Lewis B. Speare.)
Parallel VersesKJV: When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.