The book of Acts describes Stephen as a man “full of peace, joy, wisdom, grace and the power of the Holy Spirit” (see Acts 6:5, 8). One day, as Stephen was sharing his faith in Christ to a group of people in a public square, tragedy struck. Religious fanatics, in a cowardly movement, picked up stones to literally stone Stephen to death.
Stephen was stoned for having “built an altar” before God, for having
served suffering widows, and for publicly sharing his faith in Christ.
The Bible allows us to catch in this moment a brief and ever so intense
glimpse into eternity. As this crowd of religious fanatics rushed madly
toward him, stones in hand, Stephen pronounced these words of peace and
forgiveness as he knelt before his murderers, but even more, before his
God: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit and do not charge this crime upon
them. Forgive them, oh God” (see Acts 7:59-60).
Where does this peace, this magnificent grace came from? It was as if
the stones that were tearing Stephen apart were, in fact, only striking
the envelope of his body as his spirit was already transported to
another Kingdom. Stephen saw something glorious.
The veil opened for an instant, allowing us to see in. “Stephen,
filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his eyes toward heaven and said:
‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man [Jesus], standing at
the right hand of God!’” (Acts 7:56).
This is the only place where Christ is found standing in heaven but
there are many references to the resurrected Christ sitting at the right
hand of God the Father (Ephesians 1:20).
Some might say, “So what?” It is, however, extremely significant. The
seated position represents the fullness of authority and the finality
of Christ’s victory over sin, death and all of His enemies. The victory
is eternal, the sacrifice perfect, and the resurrection absolute, total
and complete. It announces the finished triumph of Christ against all of
humanity’s foes. He is seated because all of our enemies are under His
Claude Houde, lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie
(New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada, is a frequent speaker at the
Expect Church Leadership Conferences conducted by World Challenge
throughout the world. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown
from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few
successful Protestant churches.