Acts 7

Listen to Acts 7
1 Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these accusations true?”
2 This was Stephen’s reply: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me. Our glorious God appeared to our ancestor Abraham in Mesopotamia before he settled in Haran.
3 God told him, ‘Leave your native land and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.’
4 So Abraham left the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran until his father died. Then God brought him here to the land where you now live.
5 “But God gave him no inheritance here, not even one square foot of land. God did promise, however, that eventually the whole land would belong to Abraham and his descendants—even though he had no children yet.
6 God also told him that his descendants would live in a foreign land, where they would be oppressed as slaves for 400 years.
7 ‘But I will punish the nation that enslaves them,’ God said, ‘and in the end they will come out and worship me here in this place.’
8 “God also gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision at that time. So when Abraham became the father of Isaac, he circumcised him on the eighth day. And the practice was continued when Isaac became the father of Jacob, and when Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs of the Israelite nation.
9 “These patriarchs were jealous of their brother Joseph, and they sold him to be a slave in Egypt. But God was with him
10 and rescued him from all his troubles. And God gave him favor before Pharaoh, king of Egypt. God also gave Joseph unusual wisdom, so that Pharaoh appointed him governor over all of Egypt and put him in charge of the palace.
11 “But a famine came upon Egypt and Canaan. There was great misery, and our ancestors ran out of food.
12 Jacob heard that there was still grain in Egypt, so he sent his sons—our ancestors—to buy some.
13 The second time they went, Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, and they were introduced to Pharaoh.
14 Then Joseph sent for his father, Jacob, and all his relatives to come to Egypt, seventy-five persons in all.
15 So Jacob went to Egypt. He died there, as did our ancestors.
16 Their bodies were taken to Shechem and buried in the tomb Abraham had bought for a certain price from Hamor’s sons in Shechem.
17 “As the time drew near when God would fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt greatly increased.
18 But then a new king came to the throne of Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph.
19 This king exploited our people and oppressed them, forcing parents to abandon their newborn babies so they would die.
20 “At that time Moses was born—a beautiful child in God’s eyes. His parents cared for him at home for three months.
21 When they had to abandon him, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and raised him as her own son.
22 Moses was taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was powerful in both speech and action.
23 “One day when Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his relatives, the people of Israel.
24 He saw an Egyptian mistreating an Israelite. So Moses came to the man’s defense and avenged him, killing the Egyptian.
25 Moses assumed his fellow Israelites would realize that God had sent him to rescue them, but they didn’t.
26 “The next day he visited them again and saw two men of Israel fighting. He tried to be a peacemaker. ‘Men,’ he said, ‘you are brothers. Why are you fighting each other?’
27 “But the man in the wrong pushed Moses aside. ‘Who made you a ruler and judge over us?’ he asked.
28 ‘Are you going to kill me as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?’
29 When Moses heard that, he fled the country and lived as a foreigner in the land of Midian. There his two sons were born.
30 “Forty years later, in the desert near Mount Sinai, an angel appeared to Moses in the flame of a burning bush.
31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight. As he went to take a closer look, the voice of the LORD called out to him,
32 ‘I am the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Moses shook with terror and did not dare to look.
33 “Then the LORD said to him, ‘Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.
34 I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groans and have come down to rescue them. Now go, for I am sending you back to Egypt.’
35 “So God sent back the same man his people had previously rejected when they demanded, ‘Who made you a ruler and judge over us?’ Through the angel who appeared to him in the burning bush, God sent Moses to be their ruler and savior.
36 And by means of many wonders and miraculous signs, he led them out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and through the wilderness for forty years.
37 “Moses himself told the people of Israel, ‘God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own people.’
38 Moses was with our ancestors, the assembly of God’s people in the wilderness, when the angel spoke to him at Mount Sinai. And there Moses received life-giving words to pass on to us.
39 “But our ancestors refused to listen to Moses. They rejected him and wanted to return to Egypt.
40 They told Aaron, ‘Make us some gods who can lead us, for we don’t know what has become of this Moses, who brought us out of Egypt.’
41 So they made an idol shaped like a calf, and they sacrificed to it and celebrated over this thing they had made.
42 Then God turned away from them and abandoned them to serve the stars of heaven as their gods! In the book of the prophets it is written, ‘Was it to me you were bringing sacrifices and offerings during those forty years in the wilderness, Israel?
43 No, you carried your pagan gods— the shrine of Molech, the star of your god Rephan, and the images you made to worship them. So I will send you into exile as far away as Babylon.’
44 “Our ancestors carried the Tabernacle with them through the wilderness. It was constructed according to the plan God had shown to Moses.
45 Years later, when Joshua led our ancestors in battle against the nations that God drove out of this land, the Tabernacle was taken with them into their new territory. And it stayed there until the time of King David.
46 “David found favor with God and asked for the privilege of building a permanent Temple for the God of Jacob.
47 But it was Solomon who actually built it.
48 However, the Most High doesn’t live in temples made by human hands. As the prophet says,
49 ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Could you build me a temple as good as that?’ asks the LORD . ‘Could you build me such a resting place?
50 Didn’t my hands make both heaven and earth?’
51 “You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you!
52 Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One—the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered.
53 You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, even though you received it from the hands of angels.”
54 The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage.
55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand.
56 And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”
57 Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him
58 and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
60 He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.

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 14

  • [a]. Mesopotamia was the region now called Iraq. Haran was a city in what is now called Syria.
  • [b]. Gen 12:1 .
  • [c]. Gen 12:7 ; 15:13-14 ; Exod 3:12 .
  • [d]. Other manuscripts read Joseph was recognized by his brothers.
  • [e]. Exod 3:5-10 .
  • [f]. Deut 18:15 .
  • [g]. Some manuscripts read to you.
  • [h]. Amos 5:25-27 (Greek version).
  • [i]. Greek the tent of witness.
  • [j]. Some manuscripts read the house of Jacob.
  • [k]. Isa 66:1-2 .
  • [l]. Greek uncircumcised.
  • [m]. Greek they were grinding their teeth against him.
  • [n]. Saul is later called Paul; see 13:9 .

Acts 7 Commentaries