Daily Devotional

"Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul… And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.'”
Acts 7:58-60 (ESV)

In 197 AD, Tertullian coined the phrase: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”  That quotation comes from his defense of the Christian faith called The Apology, in which Tertullian wrote to the Roman governor of Carthage and said: “Kill us, torture us, condemn us, grind us to dust; your injustice is the proof that we are innocent… The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.”

I think what Tertullian meant by that quote is that when Christians face persecution it forces them to decide who they really are.  Persecution has a tendency to purify the Church.  It drives false converts away from Christ, and inspires courage and confidence in true Christians to take a stand for their faith.  It also functions as a powerful witness to the lost.  In fact, that’s what the word “martyr” means.  A martyr is a witness.
In Acts 7:54 – 8:1, we witness the death of the church’s first Christian martyr – Stephen, a man who loved Christ so much that he was willing to pay the ultimate price. 
Have you ever thought about what impact Stephen’s testimony may have had on Saul of Tarsus?

Acts 7:58 says that the Jews laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul while they stoned Stephen.  And Acts 8:1 says that “Saul approved of his execution.”

But contrast that with Stephen’s final words in 7:60.  As the stones were pelting him, Stephen called out: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”  I believe God answered Stephen’s prayer!  And one of the direct results was the conversion of this vicious and violent man by the name of Saul.
This is a huge turning point in the book of Acts.  From this point on, the focus of the book turns away from Jerusalem to the nations… from the Jews to the Gentiles.  And Saul is going to become living proof of Tertullian’s observation that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

Today, would you join me in praying for persecuted believers around the world?  According to the Pew Research Center, 74% of the world’s population live in a country where social hostilities involving religion are high, and 64% live where government restrictions on religion are high.  Pray that our brothers and sisters in Christ will experience God’s grace, strength, patience, endurance, courage, and love for their enemies.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Posted in
Tagged with