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Stephen's Defence (Acts 7)

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Acts 7

Stephen’s defence
And the high priest said: Are these things so? 2 And he said: Brothers and fathers, listen. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, 3 and said to him: Leave your land and your kindred, and go into the land which I shall show you. 4 Then he left the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran, and from there, when his father was dead, God sent him into this land, wherein you now dwell. 5 And He gave him no inheritance in it, no, not enough to set his foot on it, and He promised that He would give it to him in possession and to his seed after him, when he had no child. 6 And God spoke in this way, that his seed should live in a strange land, and that they would bring them into bondage and treat them badly for four hundred years. 7 And the nation to which they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God, and after that shall they come out and serve Me in this place. 8 And He gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham begat Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day, and Isaac begat Jacob, and Jacob the twelve patriarchs.
   9 And the patriarchs, moved with jealousy against Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him, 10 and delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom before Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt, and all his house.
   11 Now there came a famine over all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction; and our fathers found no sustenance. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers the first time. 13 And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brothers, and Joseph's race became manifest to Pharaoh. 14 And Joseph sent and called to himself Jacob his father and all his extended family, seventy five people. 15 And Jacob went down into Egypt; and he died, he and our fathers. 16 And they were carried back to Shechem, and laid in the tomb that Abraham bought for a price in silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.
   17 But as the time of the fulfilment of the promise which God made to Abraham drew near, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, 18 until there arose another king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 19 The same dealt craftily with our race and ill-treated our fathers, casting out their babies so that they might not live. 20 At this time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair; and he was nourished three months in his father's house. 21 And when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up and nourished him as her own son. 22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and works.
   23 But when he was nearly forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, striking the Egyptian. 25 And he supposed that his brothers understood that God by his hand was giving them deliverance; but they did not understand. 26 And the following day he appeared to two of them as they were fighting and tried to reconcile them, saying: Gentlemen, you are brothers! Why do you injure each other? 27 But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying: Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Would you kill me, as you killed the Egyptian yesterday? 29 And Moses fled at this saying and went to live in the land of Midian, where he begat two sons.
   30 And when forty years were fulfilled, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. 31 And when Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight; and as he drew near to observe, there came the voice of the Lord: 32 I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob. And Moses trembled and dared not look. 33 And the Lord said to him: Take off the shoes from your feet; for the place upon which you stand is holy ground. 34 I have surely seen the affliction of My people that is in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them; and now, come, I will send you into Egypt.
   35 This Moses whom they refused, saying: Who made you a ruler and a judge? Him God sent to be both a ruler and a deliverer, by the hand of the angel that appeared to him in the bush. 36 This man led them out, having done wonders and signs in Egypt and in the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. 37 This is that Moses, who said to the children of Israel: A prophet like me shall God raise up to you from among your brothers. 38 This is he that was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel that spoke to him in Mount Sinai and with our fathers, who received living words to give to us.
   39 Our fathers would not be obedient to him, but thrust him from them and turned back in their hearts to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron: Make us gods that shall go before us. As for this Moses, who led us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him. 41 And they made a calf in those days and brought a sacrifice to the idol and rejoiced in the works of their hands. 42 But God turned and gave them up to serve the host of heaven. As it is written in the book of the prophets: Did you offer to me slain beasts and sacrifices for forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? 43 You took up the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of the god Remphan, figures which you made to worship; and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.
   44 Our fathers had the tabernacle of the testimony in the wilderness, even as He who spoke to Moses appointed, that he should make it according to the figure that he had seen. 45 Which also our fathers, in their turn, brought into the land with Joshua when they received possession of the nations that God thrust out before the presence of our fathers, to the days of David; 46 who found favour in the sight of God and asked to find a habitation for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built Him a house. 48 However the Most High dwells not in houses made with hands. As said the prophet: 49 The Heaven is My throne and the earth a footstool for My feet; what manner of house will you build Me? says the Lord; or what is the place of My rest? 50 Did not My hand make all these things?
   51 You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you do always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers. 53 You who received the law as it was ordained by angels, and did not kept it!
   54 Now when they heard these things, they were cut to the heart and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up earnestly into Heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God; and he said: 56 Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God. 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears, and rushed upon him with one accord. 58 And they threw him out of the city, and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen as he called upon the Lord, saying: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60 And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice: Lord! Do not charge them with this sin. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.


7:1 Brothers- Stephen was willing to use this term about unbelievers. Neither he nor the early church were obsessed with ‘separation’ in an external sense from the unbelieving world.

7:2 Stephen’s point is that God had a relationship with Abraham when Abraham didn’t even live in the land of Israel; and without any temple building. That relationship was based around the promises God gave him, of eternal inheritance of the land in the Kingdom of God, due to the work of his “seed”, or descendant, who was to be Jesus.

7:9 The Jewish elders rejected the Saviour- Stephen was hoping that his audience would see the similarity with what they had done to Jesus.

7:20,21 The repetition of the word “nourished” shows how Moses was under two distinctly different influences as he grew up- those of God, and of the world; of Israel and of Egypt. We, and our children, have the same tension; it took Moses a long time to shake off the influence of Egypt and decide openly for God.

7:25 Again Stephen hopes that his audience will perceive that Moses as Israel’s Saviour wasn’t initially understood by them and was rejected- and this was how they had treated Jesus.

7:29 Moses fled partly from fear, but partly in faith, because he didn’t fear the wrath of Pharaoh (Heb. 11:27). Our motives are so often mixed, as it seems Moses’ were at this time.

7:43 Israel carried two tabernacles through the wilderness- that of God, and that of their idols. If the exodus through the Red Sea is symbolic of our baptism (1 Cor. 10:1,2), then the wilderness journey speaks of our journey after baptism towards the Kingdom of God. We must carry only one tabernacle with us, one worship system- that of God.

7:48 We don’t need to go into a church or religious building in order to worship God. God wishes to live in our hearts [i.e. our minds], and where two or three are gathered together in His worship (Mt. 18:20).

7:56 The New Testament often describes Jesus as sitting at God’s right hand (Heb. 1:3; 10:12). But He still feels passionately for us, and as He saw Stephen dying, He stood- in mediation before God’s throne for Stephen.

7:59,60 The last words of Stephen are very similar to those of Jesus just before He died. The crucifixion is therefore not something to merely look at and admire from a distance, as an icon or picture; it’s something which speaks to us personally and directly. We should be transformed by it; He there becomes a pattern for me here and now, today.

7:60 Fell asleep- For the believer, death is but an unconscious sleep. The next we will know will be the resurrection when Jesus returns.