Church Assailed (v.58)
Good sermons are not always measured by smiles and handshakes. Stephens’s first sermon may have been his last. It was also his best. The name Stephen means crown. If his mother named him thinking he would be a king she was sadly mistaken. However there is no kingly crown as beautiful as a martyr’s crown. Stephen had something precious to throw at his Savior’s feet.
Good preaching should be more clear than cleaver. Stephen could not have been more clear. There were no minced words for this minister. Stephen began with Abraham and led his hearers to one greater than Abraham. He took them to Moses and then led them to one greater than Moses. He took Israel back to their “golden calf” and made them drink the bitter waters all over again. He took them to their temple and pointed out that God was greater than any temple. By this time any self-righteous person would be indignant, and they were. Then Stephen spoke to the “stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart” (51). It was too much.
A good preacher fills his barrel with facts but always aims for the heart. Stephen hit their heart, but instead of being broken hearted, they gnashed their teeth. Next the “stopped their ears” and stopped listening. There is not much a preacher can do when people “stop listening.”
Stephen’s congregation cast him out of the city and stoned him to death. He was not the last preacher do be driven out, because he spoke too plainly. There is a time for parables and there is a time for plain talk. This was a time to be direct. As he died he knelt down and prayed for those who were killing him. Then the Bible says, “he fell asleep.”
Could it be that the best sermons and the best speakers are not the ones who always make us feel good? No sinner should leave our meetings feeling good. No believer should sit under the sound of the Word and not, on occasion, feel growing pains.
If the truth be told, there was one in the service that day, that was not left unchanged. His name was Saul. This sermon and the sight of a dying saint was the first blow of God’s mighty hammer that would eventually break his heart into many pieces. We should preach the truth in love and leave the results with God.