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Stephen (Part 1)
a commentary on Acts 7 (Context)
Thank you, Lord, for this day. May it be used for your glory!
Good morning everyone and welcome back to Biblit!
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Do you know what I hate doing? Confrontation. It’s awkward and I hate it.
But sometimes it’s necessary and I’m sure we’ve all been there in some way shape or form.
Typically, however, we are faced with confronting loved ones over something they did to hurt us or someone else we witnessed.
Have you ever had to confront someone who you knew hated your guts?
How about a whole group of people? Knowing the whole time there is a really good chance they’re going to literally kill you if you go through with it?
I’d wager most of us have not experienced that. But that is exactly what is happening in Acts chapter 7.
Let’s jump in!
If you remember our last Biblit, we were introduced to this awesome man named Stephen.
Stephen was appointed to help take care of the widows, but being filled with the Spirit, he went above and beyond and started preaching the gospel.
In fact, the Lord spoke through him so much that he was accused, arrested, and brought on trial.
Unfortunately, in chapter 6 we didn’t get to witness one of Stephen’s epic sermons.
However, good news! In chapter 7 we do!
Now, Stephen’s sermon is 53 verses long so I don’t think I can summarize the whole thing verse by verse. But I will hit the main points.
If you want the super sweet version, here it is: Stephen’s sermon is a very succinct summary of the entire Old Testament.
He doesn’t hit too many of the Kings and prophets, but he covers from Abraham through Moses, highlighting 2 things:
How it all points to Jesus. Including how many of these men prophesied about the coming messiah. This is something all the teachers he’s talking to would have known
How Israel over and over again rebelled and rejected the saviors God gave them. They rejected Moses and their hearts turned back to Egypt over and over. They did it later when God had already given them the promised land, and thus they were then given to captivity in Babylon.
Again, these religious leaders would have known these texts and the points Stephen was making like the back of their hands.
Actually, many would have had the literal texts memorized.
I’m sure they were all sitting there like…what’s the point dude, move on, you’re just stalling.
Truth be told, I think Stephen knew exactly what he was doing.
Reeling the teachers in, getting them to realize he knew what he was talking about. Remember, Stephen is of Greek origin, so these “pure” leaders would have looked down on him, and it would have been pretty shocking that he actually knew all of this stuff.
So after summarizing this pattern of the Old Testament where God sends a savior and Israel rejects that savior, he brings it home.
Right then and there he takes the conversation to the religious leaders sitting there listening to him.
He points to them and says that they are now acting just like their ancestors.
That God has brought the savior, Jesus, and once again they have rejected him and have become betrayers and murderers.
He calls them out for resisting the Holy Spirit, for persecuting Jesus, the Righteous One, and most of all for disobeying the law of God (which sadly was probably the biggest slap in the face for them).
Well…as you can imagine the rulers took that really “well.”
In fact, here’s what it says in Acts 7:54:
“When they heard these things, they were enraged and gnashed their teeth at him.” (Acts 7:54 CSB).
I have never been so angry my teeth started gnashing, that’s for sure. I don’t even know what that looks like.
And in that same moment, God lays the icing on the cake.
He opens up heavens gates for Stephen to gaze into. And Stephen sees the glory of God and Jesus standing right beside him, as if he is saying, “Good work, my son, now it’s time to come home.”
In full confidence, Stephen tells them all what he sees, and the religious leaders are sickened by this man “blaspheming God.”
They scream at the top of their lungs and cover their ears to avoid any more evil speech from entering their minds.
The ironic thing is they are once again following the pattern. God sent yet another savior, Stephen, to deliver the good news of Christ who can save and deliver them…and they once again reject him.
…And they once again become murderers.
They drag Stephen out and begin to stone him to death.
At the end of the passage, we get 2 last tidbits that are pretty powerful:
We see that the witnesses lay their garments at a brand new character’s feet we’ll get to know soon: Saul. They lay their garments down like someone might take off a jacket to throw something better. They lay their garments at Saul, showing that Saul is most likely one of the people in charge of this whole ordeal. And we know from later in Acts that Saul will carry this memory with him for a long time.
Stephen calls out to God and prays 2 things:
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” (Acts 7:59 CSB).
“Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60 CSB).
If that is not a man living just like Christ, I don’t know who is.