It’s an earth-shattering moment for the followers of Jesus. It’s a fair bet that some of those believers were there. A reflection on Stephen’s final words in Acts 7 would open the possibility that he was there, and he heard these words spoken. How else would he be able to say, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” (verse 60) He’s being stoned to death. He is following the example of his beloved Savior.
Now, it says in verse 58 of that same chapter that a young man named Saul kept watch over the witnesses’ clothes while Stephen was being stoned. Saul, filled with self-righteousness and venom for Christians, was in attendance. Saul is no slacker in the intelligence department. He heard every word that Stephen said to the high priest that is contained in Acts 7. But he heard it through the lens of hate. So much so, that he obtained warrants to go after as many Christians as he could and bring them back to Jerusalem.
Saul is on his way with warrants in hand. Suddenly, without warning, he’s knocked down by a bright light. This is when Pastor Josh says, “Saul is looking for Christians and God is looking for Saul.” Stephen’s oratory in chapter 7 must have had quite an impact on Saul. That is why Jesus says “…it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” (Acts 9:5) It was quite an impact Stephen had on Saul. Just not in a good way.
But God was fixing to turn that all around. “God saved him in the midst of working against the Church. Nobody is so far gone that God can’t reach them. God can save you wherever you’re at and if He can’t, then He’s not God.” summed up Pastor Josh. Then he said, “From the guttermost to the uttermost.”
Saul’s name is changed to Paul and he begins his new life as a follower of Jesus Christ. For him, persecutions are many. A list of them can be found in 2nd Corinthians 11:24-31. It’s an impressive list. One that is not for the faint of heart. But even while enduring all of this, much is accomplished. At least three long missionary journeys, planting churches, preaching the gospel, encouraging early Christians, and authoring over half of the new testament books of the Bible. Is it any wonder at the end Paul says (2nd Timothy 4:7), “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” Here he is at the end. He says in verse 16 of the same chapter, “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.” He forgave like Stephen forgave like Jesus forgave. Pastor Josh says, “Be a Christian like Christ in what you say and what you do. It may not seem like a lot. Somebody watches, hears it, and remembers it.”