Stephen — one of the seven deacons, who became a preacher of the gospel. He was the first Christian martyr. His personal character and history are recorded in Acts 6. “He fell asleep” with a prayer for his persecutors on his lips (7:60). Devout men carried him to his grave (8:2).
It was at the feet of the young Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus, that those who stoned him laid their clothes (comp. Deut. 17:5–7) before they began their cruel work. The scene which Saul then witnessed and the words he heard appear to have made a deep and lasting impression on his mind (Acts 22:19, 20).
The speech of Stephen before the Jewish ruler is the first apology for the universalism of the gospel as a message to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. It is the longest speech contained in the Acts, a place of prominence being given to it as a defence.