“When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.” (Acts 7:54–58) (NIV84)
Let’s start this devotion backward. Please note the name mentioned in the last verse (Saul). That’s right! Saul, who later would become the Apostle Paul, had the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen to death thrown at his feet. Saul not only witnessed the stoning of Stephen, who did nothing but proclaim the word of God, Saul condoned it. He blessed it! Who better to say the words later in life (after he became a Christian), “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12, NIV84).
Our enemy is not other human beings. Our enemy is the demonic force behind them. Looking back, Paul couldn’t help but see the satanic way in which Stephen was treated by those who opposed him. Read the verses again, and grab onto the extreme way in which the religious leaders responded to Stephen’s message. It’s very similar to the way in which Jesus was dealt with on Good Friday, which He called the “hour of darkness.” As Christians we have to ready our armor for battle, but we’d better keep clearly in our mind that we are in a spiritual battle. Our fight is not with those who look or think differently from us. Our fight is with the forces of evil that lead people into dark untruths. Our goal is to rescue and save the humans while we slay the forces that control them.
So, the next time we draw our sword to fight, may we swing it toward our true enemy.