Acts 7

Acts 7:1: Then said the high priest, Are these things so?
Acts 7:2: 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 Charran,
Acts 7:3: And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.
Acts 7:4: Then came he out of the land of the Chaldæans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell.
Acts 7:5: And he gave him none 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.
Acts 7:6: And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years.
Acts 7:7: And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place.

Stephen, in chapter 6 has just been accused by a group of prepared and payed liars of, mostly, false charges and rather than to attempt fighting the odds, he launches into preaching a sermon while, clearly trusting Jesus for his safety. What we see here is a prime example of the order we need to view our lives in. As the follower of Jesus we must learn to be obedient to the death. Jesus demonstrated the pattern and Stephen followed it, trusting in the Eternal and not in the temporal.

Acts 7:8: 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.
Acts 7:9: And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him,
Acts 7:10: And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.
Acts 7:11: Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance.
Acts 7:12: But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first.
Acts 7:13: And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph's kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.
Acts 7:14: Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.
Acts 7:15: So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers,
Acts 7:16: And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.
Acts 7:17: But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt,
Acts 7:18: Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph.
Acts 7:19: The same dealt subtilly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live.
Acts 7:20: In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father's house three months:
Acts 7:21: And when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son.
Acts 7:22: And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.
Acts 7:23: And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.
Acts 7:24: And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian:
Acts 7:25: For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.
Acts 7:26: And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another?
Acts 7:27: But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?
Acts 7:28: Wilt thou kill me, as thou diddest the Egyptian yesterday?

If the council had their spiritual ear opened they would have seen the parallel the Holy Spirit has just led Stephen to draw between Moses as savior from worldly bondage and Jesus as Savior from the bondage to our sin.

Acts 7:29: Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons.
Acts 7:30: And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush.
Acts 7:31: When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him,
Acts 7:32: 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 durst not behold.

Stephen is not only being obedient to his Lord, he has met his audience where they live. Every Jewish believer then and now was raised with the history of Abraham to teeth on. In like manor, to be effective in our duty, fulfilling the Great Commission, we need to become familiar with the life situations and as much as is possible, the history of the folks we witness to... we need to become their friends before we witness for Christ.

Acts 7:33: Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground.
Acts 7:34: 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.
Acts 7:35: This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush.

Steven was making points that any Jewish ruler and any Jewish teacher with any level of serious study could not have missed. These men had been witness to the ministry of the Christ and to His death, they all had a part in it, knowing, full well, His true identity. (John 11:40-53) Because they knew they had sent the Emanuel of prophecy to the cross, Stephen, reminding them, was also pointing out that he, like Moses, was chosen by the God they pretended, also, to worship.

Acts 7:36: He brought them out, after that he had shewed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years.
Acts 7:37:This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.
Acts 7:38: This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:
Acts 7:39: To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt,

Here, I see, Stephen drawing the attention of those that had rationalized their guilt riddled actions away back to the business at hand as well as to the fact that Jesus was the man spoken of by Moses.

Acts 7:40: Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
Acts 7:41: And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.

Now, Jesus, through Stephen, is reminding these men what their fathers had done by the lack of faith in Father God, as they knew Him and, with no stretch of the imagination, what they were busy doing in the pursuit of holding on to their prized positions by nailing Christ to the tree.

Acts 7:42: Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of 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?
Acts 7:43: Yea, 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.
Acts 7:44: Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.
Acts 7:45: Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David;
Acts 7:46: Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.
Acts 7:47: But Solomon built him an house.
Acts 7:48: Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,
Acts 7:49: 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?
Acts 7:50: Hath not my hand made all these things?

After the unfaithfulness of those saved from Egypt, Jesus, commissioned Moses to have the Tabernacle built in the fashion He had shown him and this was the House of God for the forty years remaining in their wanderings and that was all that God allowed until King David wanted to build a real house for his God, the God of Israel. But David was not allowed to build the Temple but rather had to pass it off into the hands of his son, Solomon.

Stephen goes on to remind them once more that the Jesus they had slain should lead them into a more intensive study of the words recorded by the prophets. He goes further in verse 45 to illustrate what they, as the Bible Experts, should have easily seen and in this observer's opinion, they did see when we look at the words of Caiaphas at the mock trial, the world and all in it are the possession of the Father through the Son. This is where some confusion comes in because man, his or her body, has become the Temple of God and thus some of the scripture contained in the Revelation of Jesus to John is tough to interpret accurately.

But you see, there it is again, faith! i.e. I cannot accurately explain the Temple in Heaven any better than I can explain the Trinity of God but, oh, yes, but, God has had it recorded for our instruction to be held onto with our faith and that, beloved, is our task, we believe!

Acts 7:51:Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
Acts 7:52: Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:
Acts 7:53: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.
Acts 7:54: When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.

These pretenders of the faith, here, react in much the same fashion I have encountered whenever I encounter a person that, obviously, is not indwelt with the Holy Spirit and try to move them into the position that they might see their need. Webster defines this as an angry grinding of the teeth. And the net conclusion here is that for all our technology, we have not advanced much.

Acts 7:55:But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
Acts 7:56: And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
Acts 7:57: Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,
Acts 7:58: And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.
Acts 7:59: And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
Acts 7:60: And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

And here is a lesson we must never forget, it is not only the people indwelt with the Holt Ghost that can be and often are of one accord! These men, likely, believing they were led by Saul were actually in one accord because of their unacknowledged servitude to Satan. Even Saul, soon to be called out by Jesus, believed he was serving the Father, right up to his calling.

And then there is the obvious call, in this text, to do a Spiritual Inventory. Stephen knelt down and before he began praying, saw the presence of the Father, with His Son standing, in honor of Stephen, and bidding him welcome home. Do we, any of us, have this measure of faith?
Thanks Bill, this is such a touching chapter to share on.

As the follower of Jesus we must learn to be obedient to the death.

These days its not death, rather like Kent Hovind 10 years in prison.

Also just thinking on how many religious people can say this 'Lord, lay not this sin to their charge' when they are about to die. We all like to think we will be able to die for Jesus, but will we? when we cant even make a stand for our beliefs where we are...
This reminds me of the book I read where it recalls the stories of the early Christians who died for their faith. Faith which gives the courage to face death, often terrible deaths. These stories should embolden our faith and take our eyes of the minor problems in life.

When I was a "young" Christian I used to say that I would die for my saviour - but would I have really? Now as a slightly older Christian I hesitate because I now know that empty words will be found wanting. I few years back I went through a near death experience and I realised that God actually values our lives to a measure we cannot express. If it is part of God's plan for us to die for Him then He will grant us the grace to endure the actual death experience. Until then we should be bold in our faith and speak out when needed. Not all of us are called to die for our faith but we are all called to reach out and preach the gospel in power and boldness.

We should also remember that our faith has come at a terrible cost - Jesus was murdered, Stephen was murdered all the apostles except John, were murdered. Countless other Chrisitans have died so that we can worship and glorify God in freedom (except for a few countries in the 10/40 window). Imagine if we still had to worship in fear of our lives - although this is starting to change as the secular world gets more and more agressive against Christianity. Maybe the time has come for Christians to take the value of their faith and stand up for it. We leave one or two evanglists to fight against moral corruption and wonder why and even critisise when they fail in the onslaught of the secular world. Imagine if 1 billion Christians stood up tomorrow and said they no longer accept this moral decay - trust me the world would listen.

Where are the Stephens of this world?
Nice commentary on the passages, Bill; and good question as well re if any of us have the sort of faith Stephen has. Jesus asked a similar question in the Gospels, i.e. "When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth?" With so many professing Christians walking the earth, you would assume such a question must be rhetorical at best; but yet real faith - the kind that would die for what it believes - is definitely lacking on this planet at the moment. And yet that is the kind of faith we are admonished to have, in keeping with Jesus', Stephen's, and many other witness' example.

Jesus said there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for a friend. And He also tells us to deny ourselves, and take up our cross to follow Him. Maybe us modern Christians are simply not serious enough about our faith, hence the lack of an effective witness to the rest of the world. Just a thought - not meant to be judgmental as such, as I would apply the same question to myself.

Peace in Christ.