Acts 7

1 Then the prince of the priests said, Are these things so?
2 And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken. The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran,
3 and said unto him, Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred and come into the land which I shall show thee.
4 Then he came out of the land of the Chaldaeans and dwelt in Haran; and from there, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, in which ye now dwell.
5 And he gave him no inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on; yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.
6 And God spoke thus, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into slavery and mistreat them four hundred years.
7 And the Gentiles unto whom they shall be in slavery I will judge, said God; and after that they shall come forth and serve me in this place.
8 And he gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham begat Isaac and circumcised him the eighth day, and Isaac begat Jacob, and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs.
9 And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt, but God was with him
10 and delivered him out of all his afflictions and gave him grace and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.
11 Now there came a famine over all the land of Egypt and Canaan, and great tribulation, and our fathers found no sustenance.
12 But when Jacob heard that there was wheat in Egypt, he sent our fathers the first time.
13 And in the second Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph’s lineage was made known unto Pharaoh.
14 Then Joseph sent and called his father Jacob unto him and all his kindred, seventy-five souls.
15 So Jacob went down into Egypt and died, he and our fathers,
16 who were carried over into Shechem and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor of Shechem.
17 But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt,
18 until another king arose, who did not know Joseph.
19 The same dealt subtly with our kindred and mistreated our fathers so that they exposed their babies to death, to the end that the generation would cease.
20 In which time Moses was born and was beautiful to God and was nourished in his father’s house three months;
21 and when he was put in danger, Pharaoh’s daughter took him in and nourished him as her own son.
22 And Moses was taught in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was mighty in his words and deeds.
23 And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the sons of Israel.
24 And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him and smote the Egyptian, avenging the oppressed;
25 for he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God was to give them saving health by his hand, but they had not understood.
26 And the next day he showed himself unto them as they strove and urged them to peace, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another?
27 But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us?
28 Wilt thou kill me as thou didst the Egyptian yesterday?
29 Then Moses fled at this word and became a sojourner in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons.
30 And when forty years were expired, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush.
31 When Moses saw it, he wondered at the vision; and as he drew near to consider it, the voice of the Lord came unto him,
32 saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled and dared not to behold.
33 Then the Lord said to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet; for the place where thou dost stand is holy ground.
34 I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt.
35 This Moses, whom they had refused, saying, Who made thee a prince and a judge? the same did God send as prince and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush.
36 He brought them out, showing wonders and signs in the land of Egypt and in the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years.
37 This is that Moses, who said unto the sons of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren like unto me; him shall ye hear.
38 This is he, who was in the congregation {Gr. ekklesia – called out ones} in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him in the Mount Sinai and with our fathers, who received the oracles of life to give unto us;
39 to whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt,
40 saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us; for as for this Moses, who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him.
41 And then they made a calf and offered sacrifice unto the idol and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.
42 Then God withdrew and gave them up to worship the host of the heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness?
43 On the contrary, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them; and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.
44 Our fathers had the tabernacle of the testimony in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen,
45 which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus {Joshua in Heb.} into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers unto the days of David,
46 who found grace before God and asked to provide a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.
47 But Solomon built him a house.
48 Howbeit the most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as saith the prophet,
49 Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool; what house will ye build me? saith the Lord, or what is the place of my rest?
50 Has not my hand made all these things?
51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do ye.
52 Who of the prophets have your fathers not persecuted? and they have slain those who announced before the coming of the Just One, of whom ye have now been the betrayers and murderers,
53 who have received the law by the disposition of angels and have not kept it.
54 When they heard these things, they were divided in their hearts and gnashed on him with their teeth.
55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing on the right hand of God
56 and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
57 And crying out with a loud voice, they stopped their ears and ran upon him with one accord;
58 and casting him out of the city, they stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.
59 And they stoned Stephen calling upon God and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
60 And he kneeled down and cried with a loud voice, Lord, impute not this sin to their charge. And having said this, he fell asleep in the Lord.

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.

Acts 7 Commentaries