Stephen [Stē'phen]—wreath or crown. One of the seven primitive disciples chosen to serve tables. Stephen was the most prominent of these. Although called to supervise benevolences, he overleaped the limitations of his task and became a powerful preacher. He was also the first martyr of the Christian Church, being stoned to death by the Jews (Acts 6:5-9; 7:59; 11:19; 22:20).
The remarkable defense of Stephen in which he summarized Old Testament teachings provoked the Jewish leaders so much that they cast him out of the city and brutally stoned him to death. God, however, can make the wrath of man to praise Him, thus the prominent fruit of Stephen’s martyrdom was the conviction and conversion of Saul of Tarsus, who witnessed Stephen’s illegal murder, unsanctioned by Roman law. Stephen’s character is worthy of emulation. He was a man:
Full of Faith—no room for doubt or fear in his heart (Acts 6:5).
Full of Grace—a gift from God proving itself in graciousness (Acts 6:8 RV).
Full of Power—the ability of God to do things (Acts 6:8).
Full of Light—the Holy Spirit within gave him the face of an angel (Acts 6:15).
Full of Scripture—Stephen covered history from Abraham to Christ (Acts 7).
Full of Courage—the face and fear of man did not trouble Stephen (Acts 7:51-56).
Full of Love—the stones broke Stephen’s head but not his heart. Grace was his to forgive his murderers (Acts 7:60).