Acts 7

Stephen's Defense

1 The high priest said, "Are these things so?"
2 And he said, "Hear me, 1brethren * and fathers! 2The God of glory 3appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran,
3 and said to him, '4LEAVE YOUR COUNTRY AND YOUR RELATIVES, AND COME INTO THE LAND THAT I WILL SHOW YOU.'
4 "5Then he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. 6From there, after his father died, God had him move to this country in which you are now living.
5 "But He gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground, and yet, even when he had no child, 7He promised that HE WOULD GIVE IT TO HIM AS A POSSESSION, AND TO HIS DESCENDANTS AFTER HIM.
6 "But 8God spoke to this effect, that his DESCENDANTS WOULD BE ALIENS IN A FOREIGN LAND, AND THAT THEY WOULD BE ENSLAVED AND MISTREATED FOR FOUR HUNDRED YEARS.
7 " 'AND WHATEVER * NATION TO WHICH THEY WILL BE IN BONDAGE I MYSELF WILL JUDGE,' said God, 'AND 9AFTER THAT THEY WILL COME OUT AND SERVE ME IN THIS PLACE.'
8 "And He 10gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so 11Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day; and 12Isaac became the father of Jacob, and 13Jacob of the twelve 14patriarchs.
9 "The patriarchs 15became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt. Yet God was with him,
10 and rescued him from all his afflictions, and 16granted him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he made him governor over Egypt and all his household.
11 "Now 17a famine came over all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction with it, and our fathers could find no food.
12 "But 18when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers there the first time.
13 "On the second visit 19Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and 20Joseph's family was disclosed to Pharaoh.
14 "Then 21Joseph sent word and invited Jacob his father and all his relatives to come to him, 22seventy-five * 23persons in all.
15 "And 24Jacob went down to Egypt and there he and our fathers died.
16 "From there they were removed to 25Shechem and laid in the tomb which Abraham had purchased for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.
17 "But as the 26time of the promise was approaching which God had assured to Abraham, 27the people increased and multiplied in Egypt,
18 until 28THERE AROSE ANOTHER KING OVER EGYPT WHO KNEW NOTHING ABOUT JOSEPH.
19 "It was he who took 29shrewd advantage of our race and mistreated our fathers so that they would 30expose * their infants and they would not survive.
20 "It was at this time that 31Moses was born; and he was lovely in the sight of God, and he was nurtured three months in his father's home.
21 "And after he had been set outside, 32Pharaoh's daughter took him away and nurtured him as her own son.
22 "Moses was educated in all 33the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds.
23 "But when he was approaching the age of forty, 34it entered his mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel.
24 "And when he saw one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian.
25 "And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but they did not understand.
26 "35On the following day he appeared to them as they were fighting together, and he tried to reconcile them in peace, saying, 'Men, you are brethren, why * do you injure one another?'
27 "But the one who was injuring his neighbor pushed him away, saying, '36WHO MADE YOU A RULER AND JUDGE OVER US?
28 '37YOU DO NOT MEAN TO KILL ME AS YOU KILLED THE EGYPTIAN YESTERDAY, DO YOU?'
29 "At this remark, 38MOSES FLED AND BECAME AN ALIEN IN THE LAND OF MIDIAN, where he 39became the father of two sons.
30 "After forty years had passed, 40AN ANGEL APPEARED TO HIM IN THE WILDERNESS OF MOUNT Sinai, IN THE FLAME OF A BURNING THORN BUSH.
31 "When Moses saw it, he marveled at the sight; and as he approached to look more closely, there came the voice of the Lord:
32 '41I AM THE GOD OF YOUR FATHERS, THE GOD OF ABRAHAM AND ISAAC AND JACOB.' Moses shook with fear and would not venture to look.
33 "42BUT THE LORD SAID TO HIM, '43TAKE OFF THE SANDALS FROM YOUR FEET, FOR THE PLACE ON WHICH YOU ARE STANDING IS HOLY GROUND.
34 '44I HAVE CERTAINLY SEEN THE OPPRESSION OF MY PEOPLE IN EGYPT AND HAVE HEARD THEIR GROANS, AND I HAVE COME DOWN TO RESCUE THEM; 45COME NOW, AND I WILL SEND YOU TO EGYPT.'
35 "This Moses whom they 46disowned, saying, 'WHO MADE YOU A RULER AND A JUDGE?' is the one whom God sent to be both a ruler and a deliverer with the help of the angel who appeared to him in the thorn bush.
36 "47This man led them out, performing 48wonders and signs in the land of Egypt and in the Red Sea and in the 49wilderness for forty years.
37 "This is the Moses who said to the sons of Israel, '50GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN.'
38 "This is the one who was in 51the congregation in the wilderness together with 52the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received 53living 54oracles to pass on to you.
39 "Our fathers were unwilling * to be obedient to him, but 55repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt,
40 56SAYING TO AARON, 'MAKE FOR US GODS WHO WILL GO BEFORE US; FOR THIS MOSES WHO LED US OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT -WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM'.
41 "At that time 57they made a calf and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and were rejoicing in 58the works of their hands.
42 "But God 59turned away and delivered them up to serve the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, '60IT WAS NOT TO ME THAT YOU OFFERED VICTIMS AND SACRIFICES 61FORTY YEARS IN THE WILDERNESS, WAS IT, O HOUSE OF ISRAEL?
43 '62YOU ALSO TOOK ALONG THE TABERNACLE OF MOLOCH AND THE STAR OF THE GOD ROMPHA, THE IMAGES WHICH YOU MADE TO WORSHIP. I ALSO WILL REMOVE YOU BEYOND BABYLON.'
44 "Our fathers had 63the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness, just as He who spoke to Moses directed him to make it 64according to the pattern which he had seen.
45 "And having received it in their turn, our fathers 65brought it in with Joshua upon dispossessing the nations whom God drove out before * our fathers, until the time of David.
46 "66David found favor in God's sight, and 67asked that he might find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.
47 "But it was 68Solomon who built a house for Him.
48 "However, 69the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says:
49 '70HEAVEN IS MY THRONE, AND EARTH IS THE FOOTSTOOL OF MY FEET; WHAT KIND OF HOUSE WILL YOU BUILD FOR ME?' says the Lord, 'OR WHAT PLACE IS THERE FOR MY REPOSE?
50 '71WAS IT NOT MY HAND WHICH MADE ALL THESE THINGS?'
51 "You men who are 72stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.
52 "73Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of 74the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers 75you have now become;
53 you who received the law as 76ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it."

Stephen Put to Death

54 Now when they heard this, they were 77cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him.
55 But being 78full of the Holy Spirit, he 79gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing 80at the right hand of God;
56 and he said, "Behold, I see the 81heavens opened up and 82the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."
57 But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse.
58 When they had 83driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and 84the witnesses 85laid aside their robes at the feet of 86a young man named Saul.
59 They went on stoning Stephen as he 87called on the Lord and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!"
60 Then 88falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, 89do not hold this sin against them!" Having said this, he 90fell 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 90

  • 1. Acts 22:1
  • 2. Psalms 29:3; 1 Corinthians 2:8
  • 3. Genesis 11:31; Genesis 15:7
  • 4. Genesis 12:1
  • 5. Genesis 11:31; Genesis 15:7
  • 6. Genesis 12:4, 5
  • 7. Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:15; Genesis 15:18; Genesis 17:8
  • 8. Genesis 15:13
  • 9. Exodus 3:12
  • 10. Genesis 17:10f
  • 11. Genesis 21:2-4
  • 12. Genesis 25:26
  • 13. Genesis 29:31f; Genesis 30:5f; Genesis 35:23f
  • 14. Acts 2:29
  • 15. Genesis 37:11, 28; Genesis 39:2, 21; Genesis 45:4
  • 16. Genesis 39:21; Genesis 41:40-46; Psalms 105:21
  • 17. Genesis 41:54; Genesis 42:5
  • 18. Genesis 42:2
  • 19. Genesis 45:1-4
  • 20. Genesis 45:16
  • 21. Gen 45:9, 10, 17, 18
  • 22. Genesis 46:26; Exodus 1:5; Deuteronomy 10:22
  • 23. Acts 2:41
  • 24. Genesis 46:1-7; Genesis 49:33; Exodus 1:6
  • 25. Genesis 23:16; Genesis 33:19; Genesis 50:13; Joshua 24:32
  • 26. Genesis 15:13
  • 27. Exodus 1:7
  • 28. Exodus 1:8
  • 29. Exodus 1:10f, 16f
  • 30. Exodus 1:22
  • 31. Exodus 2:2; Hebrews 11:23
  • 32. Ex 2:5f, 10
  • 33. 1 Kings 4:30; Isaiah 19:11
  • 34. Exodus 2:11; Hebrews 11:24-26
  • 35. Exodus 2:13
  • 36. Exodus 2:14; Acts 7:35
  • 37. Exodus 2:14
  • 38. Exodus 2:15, 22
  • 39. Exodus 18:3, 4
  • 40. Exodus 3:1; Isaiah 63:9
  • 41. Exodus 3:6; Matthew 22:32
  • 42. Exodus 3:5
  • 43. Joshua 5:15
  • 44. Exodus 3:7
  • 45. Exodus 3:10
  • 46. Exodus 2:14; Acts 7:27
  • 47. Exodus 12:41; Exodus 33:1; Hebrews 8:9
  • 48. Exodus 7:3; Exodus 14:21; John 4:48
  • 49. Exodus 16:35; Numbers 14:33; Psalms 95:8-10; Acts 7:42; Acts 13:18; Hebrews 3:8
  • 50. Deuteronomy 18:15, 18; Acts 3:22
  • 51. Exodus 19:17
  • 52. Acts 7:53
  • 53. Deuteronomy 32:47; Hebrews 4:12
  • 54. Romans 3:2; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 4:11
  • 55. Numbers 14:3
  • 56. Exodus 32:1, 23
  • 57. Exodus 32:4, 6
  • 58. Revelation 9:20
  • 59. Joshua 24:20; Isaiah 63:10; Jeremiah 19:13; Ezekiel 20:39
  • 60. Amos 5:25
  • 61. Acts 7:36
  • 62. Amos 5:26, 27
  • 63. Exodus 25:8, 9; Exodus 38:21
  • 64. Exodus 25:40
  • 65. Deuteronomy 32:49; Joshua 3:14f; Joshua 18:1; Joshua 23:9; Joshua 24:18; Psalms 44:2
  • 66. 2 Samuel 7:8f; Psalms 132:1-5; Acts 13:22
  • 67. 2 Samuel 7:1-16; 1 Chronicles 17:1-14
  • 68. 1 Kings 6:1-38; 1 Kings 8:20; 2 Chronicles 3:1-17
  • 69. Luke 1:32
  • 70. Isaiah 66:1; Matthew 5:34
  • 71. Isaiah 66:2
  • 72. Exodus 32:9; Exodus 33:3, 5; Leviticus 26:41; Numbers 27:14; Isaiah 63:10; Jeremiah 6:10; Jeremiah 9:26
  • 73. 2 Chronicles 36:15; Matthew 5:12; Matthew 23:31, 37
  • 74. Acts 3:14; Acts 22:14; 1 John 2:1
  • 75. Acts 3:14; Acts 5:28
  • 76. Deuteronomy 33:2; Acts 7:38; Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2
  • 77. Acts 5:33
  • 78. Acts 2:4
  • 79. John 11:41
  • 80. Mark 16:19
  • 81. John 1:51
  • 82. Matthew 8:20
  • 83. Leviticus 24:14, 16; Luke 4:29
  • 84. Deuteronomy 13:9; Deuteronomy 17:7; Acts 6:13
  • 85. Acts 22:20
  • 86. Acts 8:1; Acts 22:20; Acts 26:10
  • 87. Acts 9:14, 21; Acts 22:16; Romans 10:12-14; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Timothy 2:22
  • 88. Luke 22:41
  • 89. Matthew 5:44; Luke 23:34
  • 90. Daniel 12:2; Matthew 27:52; John 11:11; Acts 13:36; 1 Corinthians 15:6, 18, 20; 1 Thessalonians 4:13f; 2 Peter 3:4

Footnotes 33

Acts 7 Commentaries