“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit … Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
Acts 7:59, 60
The first sermon I preached as a pastor was on the Old Testament text of 2 Samuel 11 & 12.
I remember it well. The Bible story is about David’s sin with Bathsheba. He broke the Sixth Commandment then he broke the Fifth Commandment. Two people end up dying – Uriah, the husband of the woman that David has an affair with and impregnates and the child of David and Uriah’s wife.
That may sound like a rather odd choice for a first sermon in a new parish and as a newly ordained pastor.
But it was part of the assigned readings for that weekend and I saw in this text an important lesson on the consequences of sin, repentance, and forgiveness.
I also remember that the sermon when 45 minutes – the first and last time I ever preached that long!
Still, my congregation was patient with me and encouraged me. I got better at preaching and, more importantly, more efficient with time and content!
Stephen’s first sermon – recorded in Acts 7 – was also his last. It certainly had a lasting impression, to be sure!
Stephen laid down the Law on his hearers. He told them, and I’m paraphrasing here (you can read the entire story in Acts 7), that all the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Twelve sons of Jacob, Moses, David and Solomon were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Then Stephen told them that they killed Jesus, just as their forefathers had rejected the prophets of God in the past.
They didn’t like to hear this, so they grabbed Stephen and dragged him out of the city. They threw him down on the ground, picked up large stones, and started throwing these stones onto Stephen.
They wouldn’t stop until Stephen was dead.
That’s quite a reaction to a first sermon! But it is Stephen’s last words that are the most wonderful!
“Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
“Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
You know what this is?
It is a confession of faith.
It is loving God with all heart, soul, mind and strength.
It is loving neighbors (even enemies) as self.
The Bible doesn’t mention that Stephen met Jesus or was one of the extended number of disciples. But he was certainly well acquainted with Jesus’ teachings.
He took seriously his calling to be a Deacon that would be the hands of Jesus in distributing food to widows and others (see Acts 6).
He didn’t just distribute food, however. He also shared his faith in Jesus and was not shy about proclaiming both Law and Gospel.
His courage calls to us to have the same courage to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
I pray the Holy Spirit will encourage me to never be afraid to tell others the Truth of Jesus Christ and to never stop loving God or my neighbor (even enemies).
©2017 True Men Ministries