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Consider the following verse related to Stephen's stoning:

Acts 7:60

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.

Clearly a Christian can forgive another person and, in fact, we are commanded to do so. But to wipe that sin off The Lord's books, my understanding is that's something only the individual sinner can do through true repentance via God's grace. The justification occurs between two parties: God and the sinner. The third-party victim of the sin can't act as a mediator.

Jesus proactively canceled others' sins on a number of occasions, most notably at the cross where He said, regarding his executioners, "Forgive them, Father. They know not what they do." But I had assumed that was something that only He could do; He's God, after all. But why was Stephen able to request that God forgive the sin of others? What authority did Stephen have to make that request of God and further, do we as Christians have that same authority?

Example: Let's say a non-believer is caught stealing $50 from you. You grant him forgiveness but he's still guilty of the sin before God. Do you then also have the authority to ask The Lord to forgive him for the theft, despite that he's a non-believer who doesn't fear God, nor feels any need of repentance whatsoever?

This question is being asked from a Protestant evangelical perspective.

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  • 5
    It is not clear to me that Jesus forgives the executioners' sins. He simply petitions the Father to do so. Similarly with St. Stephen - it is a petition. Mar 3 at 19:10
  • 15
    I'd say I can ask God for anything I want; then it's up to God to decide whether (and how) to grant my request. If I ask Him to forgive someone, He might grant my request by giving that person the grace of repentance. I don't see that I need any authority to make requests to God. Mar 3 at 19:59
  • 3
    Stephen didn’t and couldn’t forgive sins
    – Kris
    Mar 3 at 23:28
  • To die with a grudge may be detrimental to one’s eternal spiritual health. Thus, Stephen’s declaration could just have been a way to die with the insurance of an expedient passage to Heaven. Mar 6 at 0:13
  • Do you need any authority to, for example, ask someone to lend something to you or do you a favour? The request may be more or less reasonable depending on the circumstances, but nothing's stopping you from asking.
    – NotThatGuy
    Mar 6 at 15:39
22

If someone trespasses against me, personally, I can dismiss that trespass and require no remuneration, no restitution, no resolution. I can simply dismiss the event and give it no consideration whatsoever.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. [Matthew 6:12 KJV]

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: [Matthew 6:14 KJV]

I require nothing. I dismiss the debt. I am owed nothing at all.

Thus Stephen prays, that what had been done to him, in his humanity, by other humans, should not be given any consideration by God. He asks that God should take no notice of what had been done to him.

What had transpired between those persons and God, himself, of course, is another matter. That is between themselves and their Maker. But as to Stephen, Stephen has requested that, on his behalf, and for his sake, God should not lay it to their account.

No 'authority' is required for this. It is a request, a prayer.

It is not an authoritative demand.

It is a humble request from Stephen to the Lord his God.


I have responded to this question as a lifelong Protestant Evangelical, baptised at the age of sixteen, over fifty years ago, into a professing congregation.

5

Who says Stephen has to have authority to ask God to forgive the sins of his nonbelieving executioners?

I think Stephen expressed what the Lord Jesus said at Luke 23:34, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what the are doing,"

Now, I have no idea if Stephen was told by one of the disciples or somebody else that Jesus said those words on the cross. I do know from Acts 7:2 Stephen said, "The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran."

I also know that Stephen in his dying breath called on the Lord Jesus to receive his spirit. (Acts 7:59). In fact, what I find interesting is that Jesus "commended" His spirit to the Father, but Stephen, to the Lord Jesus.

I would also say that this is one of the earliest and clearest testimonies to Jesus' deity by His followers. Stephen went to be with Jesus and became the first martyr of the Early Church, the fist of a long line of believers who gave their lives for Jesus and the gospel.

For me, the lesson I learned is that some believers have a high capacity of love to forgive those that are killing him.

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It's very possible if you believe,

Jesus said it;

Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth - Mark 9:23

Then He also said ask anything in my name and The Father will do it for you

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. - John 16:23

Later John even makes it more clear when He says

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. - 1 John 5:14

If you look at the will of God it's so great and has many areas like this part

Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. - 1 Tim 2:4

So you see, Stephen understood the will of God and was confident that if he asks the Father to hold it against them. It will be done because the Father wants everyone to come to the knowledge of His dear Son Jesus the Christ.

Finally, Stephen committed his spirit to the head of the Church, in whom all things were created, it is Jesus who promised us that He is going to prepare a place for us in the Father's House. Don't forget our righteousness is in Christ on our own we are not righteous but by being in Christ we are righteous before God.

Hallelujah!

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  • Welcome and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the Tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others.
    – agarza
    Mar 4 at 14:15
  • It's true that it's God's will for all to be saved, and it's true that if we ask for anything in accordance with God's will, he hears us and we receive it. The challenge is that "will" has different connotations in those two verses. This needs to be considered when combining them. Otherwise we could simply pray for all to be saved and they would be, while Scripture declares that most will not be saved (see Matthew 7:14). God does not desire any to be lost, but allows it (see election doctrine). If we ask anything in accordance with his will (i.e. his desire and plan), we'll receive it.
    – bob
    Mar 4 at 17:49

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