Good morning to all. Our text for today’s study is found in Acts 7:54-60. Stephen presented some unpopular truths to these Jews. In mob fury, they were stoning him to death. In Christian love and service he was forgiving them and showed his feeling by asking the Lord to not hold them accountable for his murder. This is an amazing event. If you can picture being stoned in your mind, it has to be an extremely painful way to die. Can you imagine that during this event, while you are the receiver of stones, your concentration is not upon the stones brutally beating your body, nor upon hatred of your attackers, nor upon escape, nor upon the pain, nor even upon your innocence? Rather, you are thinking of the Lord and you are thinking that you don’t want the spiritual loss of your attackers because of this sin against you. So you utter the words, while the sin is taking place, “Lay not this sin to their charge.” How could you? They deserve punishment. They deserve hell. They deserve the harshest of judgments.
For a moment, will consider some of the things that may have led to Stephen forgiving his attackers.
- He was following the command of God that, in the midst of prayer, he should forgive sinners who have sinned against him (Mk. 11:25).
- He loved these souls. Love does not keep account of sins against itself. It “thinketh no evil” (1 Cor. 13:5). The means that it does not keep chalking up unforgiven sins in its ledger. Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8). Love does not seek its own interest, “seeketh not her own” (1 Cor. 13:5).
- He considered himself a servant to these men. As an imitator of Christ, his task is to get his brothers and sisters of the human race to become his brothers and sisters of his spiritual family. Like Christ, his service oriented spirit did not consider indignities done to himself, hatred against himself or even unjustified death to great a price to pay in order to serve the best interest of those whom he “esteemed better than himself (Phil. 2:3-8).
- He understood that he too was a sinner greatly in need of the continued grace of God in his life. He was not different in his need than those who were stoning him (Rom. 3:10; Rom. 5:6-8).
- He was imitating the example of forgiveness of master, Christ, as he hung on the cross and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
What will it be for you and me – forgiveness or keeping track of sin?