54 When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth.
55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
56 and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord;
58 and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
cut to the heart (v.54) — as if with a saw
gnashed at him with their teeth (v.54) — an expression of rage and hatred
being full of the Holy Spirit (v.55) — the tense indicates “having been and continuing to be full”
Jesus standing at the right hand of God (v.55) — the first appearance of the Lord in glory.
Son of Man standing at the right hand of God (v.56) — Jesus Christ said this of Himself before this same Council (Luke 22:69).
Son of Man (v.56) — the name Jesus frequently used of Himself. Here, it drove the point home that the One the Council was refusing to accept was God.
out of the city (v.58) — The law required that execution be done outside the gates of Jerusalem (Leviticus 24:14; Numbers 15:35). — Although Roman law forbade the Jews to execute (John 18:31).
witnesses (v.58) — The witnesses were required to throw the first stones (Deuteronomy 17:7). They first took off their cloaks and laid them by Saul for him to watch (Acts 22:20). He was perhaps the leader of the stoning.
he fell asleep (v.60) — A word aptly expressing the peaceful passing of his soul to be with Christ. Contrast the verb used of the death of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:5, 10).
For the use of this verb to denote the “passing” of true believers, see Matthew 27:52; John 11:11; Acts 13:36; 1 Corinthians 15:18, 20, 51; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15; 2 Peter 3:4. From this Greek verb our word “cemetery” is taken. The Jews, doubtless, exceeded their legal powers in the execution of Stephen. We know from John 18:31 that the Sanhedrin had no authority, at this period, to put anyone to death. — The Acts of the Apostles, by Thomas Walker, pages 180-181.
Several of my commentaries note how Christ is said to be seated at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19; Hebrews 1:3). To explain why Stephen saw Him standing, they suggest that He stood to welcome Stephen. Stam has a different, and I think better, take:
It is in connection with the judgment of Christ’s enemies and the deliverance of the faithful remnant that we find the Father and the Son rising again in such prophetic passages as the following: “Arise, O Lord, in Thine anger; lift up Thyself because of the rage of mine enemies …” (Psalm 7:6).
And since Israel’s rebellion was but the climax of the world’s rebellion against God and His Christ (Acts 4:23-28) we read further: “Arise, O Lord; let not man prevail: let the heathen [lit. nations] be judged in Thy sight” (Psalm 9:19).
Had Israel, by her persistent rejection of Messiah, brought the wrath of God upon herself and the other nations? Had the rejected Father and His rejected Son risen to smite the world in judgment? Was Christ about to avenge His persecuted disciples? Surely conditions were ripening for the outpouring of God’s wrath, as far as prophecy was concerned.
Thank God, “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20). In match less love and mercy God still postponed the judgment and ushered in the present dispensation of grace. — Acts Dispensationally Considered, by C.R. Stam, pages 233-234
It was John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets, who was sent as the forerunner of Christ to call Israel to repentance. He was beheaded by Herod, the wicked and licentious “king of the Jews.” After John, Christ Himself took up the cry: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Him they crucified. Then, at Pentecost, Israel was given a third opportunity to repent, until they shed blood again, stoning Stephen to death.
It should be noticed, too, that their guilt, as well as their bitter enmity, increased with the second and third murders. As to the beheading of John the Baptist, they permitted. it. As to the crucifixion of Christ, they demanded it (Luke 23:23-24). As to the stoning of Stephen, they committed it, casting him out of the city with their own hands and stoning him there.
And so that generation in Israel committed the unpardonable sin which our Lord warned would not be forgiven, either in that age, or in the age to come. (Remember, this present age of grace was still a mystery when this was spoken, so that “the age to come” refers to the coming Kingdom age.) — Acts Dispensationally Considered, by C.R. Stam, page 240.
Some facts from a lesson I researched a few years ago — There was an official stoning place outside the the city. it consisted of a drop-off twice the height of a man — so, from 10-12 feet. When the accused was 15 feet from the drop-off, he would be asked to confess his sins. If he did, he would still be put to death but wouldn’t be “condemned for eternity.” When he was six feet from the drop-off, he would be stripped naked. Then he would be pushed off the drop-off face first.
If the accused survived the drop, he would be turned over onto his back. Then a large stone would be dropped on his heart. If he still lived, he would be pelted with stones until he died.
The witnesses who were responsible for having the prisoner found guilty would throw the stones. If they lied about his guilt, they couldn’t get off easy. They had to be actually responsible for killing him. The first witness pushed him off, the second witness dropped the stone on his heart. If the prisoner still lived, the others in attendance would join in by throwing stones.