Acts 7:60

ESV And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
NIV Then he fell on his knees and cried out, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.' When he had said this, he fell asleep.
NASB Then he fell on his knees and cried out with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them!' Having said this, he fell asleep.
CSB He knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them! " And after saying this, he fell asleep.
NLT He fell to his knees, shouting, 'Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!' And with that, he died.
KJV And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

What does Acts 7:60 mean?

As Stephen is stoned, he paraphrases Jesus' words from the cross (Luke 23:46; Acts 7:59). As Jesus hanged on the cross, He prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). As Stephen dies, he echoes the sentiment. It's not exactly clear what effect this has on God's interaction with Stephen's murderers. It doesn't mean they are saved, because salvation only comes through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8–9). But Stephen, at least, dies with no feeling of ill will.

In the New Testament, to "fall asleep" is a euphemism for dying (Matthew 9:24; Acts 13:36; 2 Peter 3:4). It reflects the fact that for the believer, death is not permanent. We will rise again, receive new bodies, and live for eternity with God (1 Corinthians 15:1–58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18).

Stephen's death is a tragedy and a crime, and what happens next is more so. Saul, the young man watching the mob's coats (Acts 7:58) will do everything in his power to destroy the church (Acts 8:3; 9:1–2). He will arrest believers, try to get them to blaspheme, and vote for their executions (Acts 26:10–11). But God works good out of Saul's sadism. As the Christians flee Jerusalem, they take the gospel to Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Philip goes north to Samaria where the first group of non-Jews accept Christ (Acts 8:4–8), then south where an Ethiopian court official is saved (Acts 8:26–40). Some of the believers in Jerusalem are from Cyprus and Cyrene. These second-generation Jesus-followers take the gospel to Antioch, near modern-day Antakya, Turkey, where Barnabas will find a thriving church (Acts 11:19–24).

After Saul meets Jesus and repents from his sins against the church and Christ, he will meet Barnabas in Antioch where they will make their headquarters (Acts 11:25–26). And it is in Antioch where Jesus-followers are first called Christians (Acts 11:26).

Stephen's death is an illustration of a cryptic comment Paul will make several years later. He will write to the church in Colossae, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church" (Colossians 1:24). Obviously, there is nothing we can do or experience that will add to Jesus' sacrifice, and His sacrifice is fully sufficient for our salvation. Paul was saying that suffering is necessary to spread the gospel (Colossians 1:25–29). May we remember this as we suffer, whether with slight ridicule or by martyrdom. Jesus told the disciples that the world hates Him and will hate His followers (John 15:18–25). But God will redeem the hate we experience and use it for something good (Romans 8:28–30).
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