Acts 7

Stephen's Address

1 "Is this true?"[a] the high priest asked.
2 "Brothers and fathers," he said, "listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he settled in Haran,
3 and said to him: Get out of your country and away from your relatives, and come to the land that I will show you. [b]
4 "Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. And from there, after his father died, God had him move to this land in which you now live.
5 He didn't give him an inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground, but He promised to give it to him as a possession, and to his descendants after him, even though he was childless.
6 God spoke in this way: His descendants would be strangers in a foreign country, and they would enslave and oppress them for 400 years.
7 I will judge the nation that they will serve as slaves, God said. After this, they will come out and worship Me in this place. [c]
8 Then He gave him the covenant of circumcision. This being so, he fathered Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; Isaac did the same with Jacob, and Jacob with the 12 patriarchs.

The Patriarchs in Egypt

9 "The patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt, but God was with him
10 and rescued him out of all his troubles. He gave him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who appointed him governor over Egypt and over his whole household.
11 Then a famine came over all of Egypt and Canaan, with great suffering, and our forefathers could find no food.
12 When Jacob heard there was grain in Egypt, he sent our forefathers the first time.
13 The second time, Joseph was revealed to his brothers, and Joseph's family became known to Pharaoh.
14 Joseph then invited his father Jacob and all his relatives, 75 people in all,
15 and Jacob went down to Egypt. He and our forefathers died there,
16 were carried back to Shechem, and were placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.

Moses, a Rejected Savior

17 "As the time was drawing near to fulfill the promise that God had made to Abraham, the people flourished and multiplied in Egypt
18 until a different king ruled over Egypt[d] who did not know Joseph.
19 He dealt deceitfully with our race and oppressed our forefathers by making them leave their infants outside so they wouldn't survive.[e]
20 At this time Moses was born, and he was beautiful before God. He was nursed in his father's home three months,
21 and when he was left outside, Pharaoh's daughter adopted and raised him as her own son.
22 So Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was powerful in his speech and actions.
23 "As he was approaching the age of 40, he decided[f] to visit his brothers, the sons of Israel.
24 When he saw one of them being mistreated, he came to his rescue and avenged the oppressed man by striking down the Egyptian.
25 He assumed his brothers would understand that God would give them deliverance through him, but they did not understand.
26 The next day he showed up while they were fighting and tried to reconcile them peacefully, saying, 'Men, you are brothers. Why are you mistreating each other?'
27 "But the one who was mistreating his neighbor pushed him[g] away, saying: Who appointed you a ruler and a judge over us?
28 Do you want to kill me, the same way you killed the Egyptian yesterday? [h]
29 "At this disclosure, Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he fathered two sons.
30 After 40 years had passed, an angel[i] appeared to him in the desert of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush.
31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight. As he was approaching to look at it, the voice of the Lord came:
32 I am the God of your forefathers-the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. [j] So Moses began to tremble and did not dare to look.
33 "Then the Lord said to him: Take the sandals off your feet, because the place where you are standing is holy ground.
34 I have certainly seen the oppression of My people in Egypt; I have heard their groaning and have come down to rescue them. And now, come, I will send you to Egypt. [k]
35 "This Moses, whom they rejected when they said, Who appointed you a ruler and a judge? [l]-this one God sent as a ruler and a redeemer by means of the angel who appeared to him in the bush.
36 This man led them out and performed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the desert for 40 years.

Israel's Rebellion against God

37 "This is the Moses who said to the sons of Israel, God [m] will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your brothers. [n]
38 He is the one who was in the congregation in the desert together with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our forefathers. He received living oracles to give to us.
39 Our forefathers were unwilling to obey him, but pushed him away, and in their hearts turned back to Egypt.
40 They told Aaron: Make us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we don't know what's become of him. [o]
41 They even made a calf in those days, offered sacrifice to the idol, and were celebrating what their hands had made.
42 Then God turned away and gave them up to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: Did you bring Me offerings and sacrifices for 40 years in the desert, O house of Israel?
43 No, you took up the tent of Moloch [p] and the star of your god Rephan, [q] the images that you made to worship. So I will deport you beyond Babylon! [r]

God's Real Tabernacle

44 "Our forefathers had the tabernacle of the testimony in the desert, just as He who spoke to Moses commanded him to make it according to the pattern he had seen.
45 Our forefathers in turn received it and with Joshua brought it in when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our fathers, until the days of David.
46 He found favor in God's sight and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God[s] of Jacob.
47 But it was Solomon who built Him a house.
48 However, the Most High does not dwell in sanctuaries made with hands, as the prophet says:
49 Heaven is My throne, and earth My footstool. What sort of house will you build for Me? says the Lord, or what is My resting place?
50 Did not My hand make all these things? [t]

Resisting the Holy Spirit

51 "You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit; as your forefathers did, so do you.
52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They even killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.
53 You received the law under the direction of angels and yet have not kept it."

The First Christian Martyr

54 When they heard these things, they were enraged in their hearts[u] and gnashed their teeth at him.
55 But Stephen, filled by the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven. He saw God's glory, with[v] Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said,
56 "Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man[w] standing at the right hand of God!"
57 Then they screamed at the top of their voices, stopped their ears, and rushed together against him.
58 They threw him out of the city and began to stone him. And the witnesses laid their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 They were stoning Stephen as he called out: "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 saying this, he fell asleep.[x]

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.

Footnotes 24

Acts 7 Commentaries