The Children's Bible
Stephen The First Christian Martyr
uring these days, while the number of the disciples was rapidly increasing, the Jews who came from lands where Greek was spoken began to complain against those who were born and lived in Palestine, because their widows were neglected when the food was given out each day. Therefore the twelve apostles called together all the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up our preaching so as to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven of your own number, men of good reputation, wise and spiritually-minded, whom we will put in charge of this work. But we will continue to give ourselves to prayer and to preaching the good news." This plan pleased all the disciples; so they chose Stephen, a man of strong faith and spiritual power, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, who came from Antioch but had become a Jew. These men they brought before the apostles, who after praying laid their hands upon them.
And the message of the Lord continued to spread, and the number of disciples in Jerusalem was greatly increased. A large number of the priests also accepted the faith.
Stephen, who had personal charm and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. Some belonging to the Synagogue of the Libyans, and Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia began to argue with Stephen; but they were unable to get the better of him because of the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke.
Then secretly they bribed certain men to say, "We have heard him speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God." In this way they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, so that they seized Stephen and took him before the council. They also brought in false witnesses who said, "This man is always talking against this holy place and the law. We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses handed down to us!"
Then all who were sitting in the council fixed their eyes on Stephen and saw that his face shone like the face of an angel. But the high priest said, "Are these charges true?" Stephen answered, "Brothers and fathers, listen. The Most High God does not live in houses made by men.
"You stubborn and evil-minded people! you always resist the Holy Spirit, as did your fathers before you. Which of the prophets did they not persecute? They also killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, whose betrayers and murderers you have become--you who received the law given through angels, and have not kept it!"
When they heard these words, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. "Look, I see heaven open," he said, "and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." But they stopped their ears and with a howl rushed at him all together. Then they threw him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses who threw the first stones, laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they stoned Stephen, he prayed, "Lord, Jesus, receive my spirit!" Then he knelt down and cried aloud, "Lord, do not lay this sin to their charge!" When he had said this, he fell asleep. Certain devout men buried Stephen, mourning deeply for him.
But Saul consented to his murder. He also tried to destroy the church, entering into every house, and dragging out men and women, put them in prison.