Acts 7

Stephen’s Speech to the Sanhedrin

1 Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these charges true?”
2 To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran.
3 ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’[a]
4 “So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Harran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living.
5 He gave him no inheritance here, not even enough ground to set his foot on. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child.
6 God spoke to him in this way: ‘For four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated.
7 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,’ God said, ‘and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.’[b]
8 Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. And Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him eight days after his birth. Later Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs.
9 “Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him
10 and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt. So Pharaoh made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.
11 “Then a famine struck all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great suffering, and our ancestors could not find food.
12 When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our forefathers on their first visit.
13 On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family.
14 After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all.
15 Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our ancestors died.
16 Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money.
17 “As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt had greatly increased.
18 Then ‘a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt.’[c]
19 He dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our ancestors by forcing them to throw out their newborn babies so that they would die.
20 “At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child.[d] For three months he was cared for by his family.
21 When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son.
22 Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.
23 “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites.
24 He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian.
25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not.
26 The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?’
27 “But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us?
28 Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’[e]
29 When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons.
30 “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai.
31 When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to get a closer look, he heard the Lord say:
32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’[f] Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look.
33 “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.
34 I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’[g]
35 “This is the same Moses they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush.
36 He led them out of Egypt and performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the wilderness.
37 “This is the Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own people.’[h]
38 He was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living words to pass on to us.
39 “But our ancestors refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt.
40 They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’[i]
41 That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and reveled in what their own hands had made.
42 But God turned away from them and gave them over to the worship of the sun, moon and stars. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets: “ ‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel?
43 You have taken up the tabernacle of Molek and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship. Therefore I will send you into exile’[j] beyond Babylon.
44 “Our ancestors had the tabernacle of the covenant law with them in the wilderness. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen.
45 After receiving the tabernacle, our ancestors under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David,
46 who enjoyed God’s favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.[k]
47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him.
48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:
49 “ ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be?
50 Has not my hand made all these things?’[l]
51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!
52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him—
53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”

The Stoning of Stephen

54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.
55 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.
56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him,
58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
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.

Acts 7 Commentary

Chapter 7

Stephen's defence. (1-50) Stephen reproves the Jews for the death of Christ. (51-53) The martyrdom of Stephen. (54-60)

Verses 1-16 Stephen was charged as a blasphemer of God, and an apostate from the church; therefore he shows that he is a son of Abraham, and values himself on it. The slow steps by which the promise made to Abraham advanced toward performance, plainly show that it had a spiritual meaning, and that the land intended was the heavenly. God owned Joseph in his troubles, and was with him by the power of his Spirit, both on his own mind by giving him comfort, and on those he was concerned with, by giving him favour in their eyes. Stephen reminds the Jews of their mean beginning as a check to priding themselves in the glories of that nation. Likewise of the wickedness of the patriarchs of their tribes, in envying their brother Joseph; and the same spirit was still working in them toward Christ and his ministers. The faith of the patriarchs, in desiring to be buried in the land of Canaan, plainly showed they had regard to the heavenly country. It is well to recur to the first rise of usages, or sentiments, which have been perverted. Would we know the nature and effects of justifying faith, we should study the character of the father of the faithful. His calling shows the power and freeness of Divine grace, and the nature of conversion. Here also we see that outward forms and distinctions are as nothing, compared with separation from the world, and devotedness to God.

Verses 17-29 Let us not be discouraged at the slowness of the fulfilling of God's promises. Suffering times often are growing times with the church. God is preparing for his people's deliverance, when their day is darkest, and their distress deepest. Moses was exceeding fair, "fair toward God;" it is the beauty of holiness which is in God's sight of great price. He was wonderfully preserved in his infancy; for God will take special care of those of whom he designs to make special use. And did he thus protect the child Moses? Much more will he secure the interests of his holy child Jesus, from the enemies who are gathered together against him. They persecuted Stephen for disputing in defence of Christ and his gospel: in opposition to these they set up Moses and his law. They may understand, if they do not wilfully shut their eyes against the light, that God will, by this Jesus, deliver them out of a worse slavery than that of Egypt. Although men prolong their own miseries, yet the Lord will take care of his servants, and effect his own designs of mercy.

Verses 30-41 Men deceive themselves, if they think God cannot do what he sees to be good any where; he can bring his people into a wilderness, and there speak comfortably to them. He appeared to Moses in a flame of fire, yet the bush was not consumed; which represented the state of Israel in Egypt, where, though they were in the fire of affliction, yet they were not consumed. It may also be looked upon as a type of Christ's taking upon him the nature of man, and the union between the Divine and human nature. The death of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, cannot break the covenant relation between God and them. Our Saviour by this proves the future state, ( Matthew 22:31 ) . Abraham is dead, yet God is still his God, therefore Abraham is still alive. Now, this is that life and immortality which are brought to light by the gospel. Stephen here shows that Moses was an eminent type of Christ, as he was Israel's deliverer. God has compassion for the troubles of his church, and the groans of his persecuted people; and their deliverance takes rise from his pity. And that deliverance was typical of what Christ did, when, for us men, and for our salvation, he came down from heaven. This Jesus, whom they now refused, as their fathers did Moses, even this same has God advanced to be a Prince and Saviour. It does not at all take from the just honour of Moses to say, that he was but an instrument, and that he is infinitely outshone by Jesus. In asserting that Jesus should change the customs of the ceremonial law. Stephen was so far from blaspheming Moses, that really he honoured him, by showing how the prophecy of Moses was come to pass, which was so clear. God who gave them those customs by his servant Moses, might, no doubt, change the custom by his Son Jesus. But Israel thrust Moses from them, and would have returned to their bondage; so men in general will not obey Jesus, because they love this present evil world, and rejoice in their own works and devices.

Verses 42-50 Stephen upbraids the Jews with the idolatry of their fathers, to which God gave them up as a punishment for their early forsaking him. It was no dishonour, but an honour to God, that the tabernacle gave way to the temple; so it is now, that the earthly temple gives way to the spiritual one; and so it will be when, at last, the spiritual shall give way to the eternal one. The whole world is God's temple, in which he is every where present, and fills it with his glory; what occasion has he then for a temple to manifest himself in? And these things show his eternal power and Godhead. But as heaven is his throne, and the earth his footstool, so none of our services can profit Him who made all things. Next to the human nature of Christ, the broken and spiritual heart is his most valued temple.

Verses 51-53 Stephen was going on, it seems, to show that the temple and the temple service must come to an end, and it would be the glory of both to give way to the worship of the Father in spirit and in truth; but he perceived they would not bear it. Therefore he broke off, and by the Spirit of wisdom, courage, and power, sharply rebuked his persecutors. When plain arguments and truths provoke the opposers of the gospel, they should be shown their guilt and danger. They, like their fathers, were stubborn and wilful. There is that in our sinful hearts, which always resists the Holy Ghost, a flesh that lusts against the Spirit, and wars against his motions; but in the hearts of God's elect, when the fulness of time comes, this resistance is overcome. The gospel was offered now, not by angels, but from the Holy Ghost; yet they did not embrace it, for they were resolved not to comply with God, either in his law or in his gospel. Their guilt stung them to the heart, and they sought relief in murdering their reprover, instead of sorrow and supplication for mercy.

Verses 54-60 Nothing is so comfortable to dying saints, or so encouraging to suffering saints, as to see Jesus at the right hand of God: blessed be God, by faith we may see him there. Stephen offered up two short prayers in his dying moments. Our Lord Jesus is God, to whom we are to seek, and in whom we are to trust and comfort ourselves, living and dying. And if this has been our care while we live, it will be our comfort when we die. Here is a prayer for his persecutors. Though the sin was very great, yet if they would lay it to their hearts, God would not lay it to their charge. Stephen died as much in a hurry as ever any man did, yet, when he died, the words used are, he fell asleep; he applied himself to his dying work with as much composure as if he had been going to sleep. He shall awake again in the morning of the resurrection, to be received into the presence of the Lord, where is fulness of joy, and to share the pleasures that are at his right hand, for evermore.

Cross References 83

  • 1. Acts 22:1
  • 2. Psalms 29:3
  • 3. Genesis 11:31; Genesis 15:7
  • 4. Genesis 12:1
  • 5. Genesis 12:5
  • 6. Hebrews 11:13
  • 7. Genesis 12:7; Genesis 17:8; Genesis 26:3
  • 8. Exodus 1:8-11; Exodus 12:40
  • 9. Genesis 15:13,14; Exodus 3:12
  • 10. Genesis 17:9-14
  • 11. Genesis 21:2-4
  • 12. Genesis 25:26
  • 13. Genesis 29:31-35; Genesis 30:5-13,17-24; Genesis 35:16-18,22-26
  • 14. Genesis 37:4,11
  • 15. Genesis 37:28; Psalms 105:17
  • 16. Ge 39:2,21,23; Haggai 2:4
  • 17. Genesis 41:37-43; Psalms 105:20-22
  • 18. Genesis 41:54
  • 19. Genesis 42:1,2
  • 20. Genesis 45:1-4
  • 21. Genesis 45:16
  • 22. Genesis 45:9,10
  • 23. Genesis 46:26,27; Exodus 1:5; Deuteronomy 10:22
  • 24. Genesis 46:5-7; Genesis 49:33; Exodus 1:6
  • 25. Genesis 23:16-20; Genesis 33:18,19; Genesis 50:13; Joshua 24:32
  • 26. Exodus 1:7; Psalms 105:24
  • 27. Exodus 1:8
  • 28. Exodus 1:10-22
  • 29. Exodus 2:2; Hebrews 11:23
  • 30. Exodus 2:3-10
  • 31. 1 Kings 4:30; Isaiah 19:11
  • 32. Genesis 19:9; Numbers 16:13
  • 33. Exodus 2:11-15
  • 34. Exodus 3:1-4
  • 35. S Acts 3:13
  • 36. Exodus 3:6
  • 37. Exodus 3:5; Joshua 5:15
  • 38. Exodus 3:7-10
  • 39. ver 27
  • 40. Exodus 12:41; Exodus 33:1
  • 41. Exodus 11:10; S John 4:48
  • 42. Exodus 14:21
  • 43. Exodus 15:25; Exodus 17:5,6
  • 44. Deuteronomy 18:15,18; Acts 3:22
  • 45. ver 53
  • 46. Exodus 19:17; Leviticus 27:34
  • 47. Deuteronomy 32:45-47; Hebrews 4:12
  • 48. Romans 3:2
  • 49. Numbers 14:3,4
  • 50. Exodus 32:1,23
  • 51. Exodus 32:4-6; Psalms 106:19,20; Revelation 9:20
  • 52. Joshua 24:20; Isaiah 63:10
  • 53. Jeremiah 19:13
  • 54. Amos 5:25-27
  • 55. Exodus 38:21; Numbers 1:50; Numbers 17:7
  • 56. Ex 25:8,9,40
  • 57. Joshua 3:14-17; Joshua 18:1; Joshua 23:9; Joshua 24:18; Psalms 44:2
  • 58. 2 Samuel 7:2,6
  • 59. 2 Samuel 7:8-16; 1 Kings 8:17; Psalms 132:1-5
  • 60. 1 Kings 6:1-38
  • 61. S Mark 5:7
  • 62. 1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 2:6
  • 63. Matthew 5:34,35
  • 64. Isaiah 66:1,2
  • 65. Exodus 32:9; Exodus 33:3,5
  • 66. Leviticus 26:41; Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4; Jeremiah 9:26
  • 67. 2 Chronicles 36:16; S Matthew 5:12
  • 68. Acts 3:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:15
  • 69. ver 38; Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2
  • 70. Acts 5:33
  • 71. S Luke 1:15
  • 72. S Mark 16:19
  • 73. S Matthew 3:16
  • 74. S Matthew 8:20
  • 75. Luke 4:29
  • 76. Leviticus 24:14,16; Deuteronomy 13:9
  • 77. Deuteronomy 17:7
  • 78. Acts 22:20
  • 79. Acts 8:1
  • 80. Psalms 31:5; Luke 23:46
  • 81. Luke 22:41; Acts 9:40
  • 82. S Matthew 5:44
  • 83. S Matthew 9:24

Footnotes 12

Acts 7 Commentaries