Acts chapter 7        Next chapter           Back to Bible Studies    

As this chapter starts with the high priest asking Stephen whether the charges against him were true, we need to just refresh our memories as to what those charges were. We find them in chapter 6:13-14: "...This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us" So, Stephen is accused of blasphemy against God, the Temple and the Law.

Stephen starts his speech in an interesting way and from the outset we see that he is not wanting to defend himself as one who has been charged with serious offences would perhaps want to do. He delivers what would seem at first glance a summary of the history of Israel, but upon closer examination we will see just what a brilliant discourse this is. First of all we find that Stepehen speaks of Abraham (v 2-7), Joseph (v 9-19), and Moses (v 20 and on) and that God spoke to them, appeared to them and was with them. This must be seen against the backdrop of the fact that his audience saw the Temple and God as synonymous. Stephen is trying to show them that God communicted with Abraham, Joseph and Moses quite outside of any temple!

Stephen's second point focuses on the reality that despite his religious Jewish audience declaring great reverence for Moses and the Law, their history is full of NOT obeying Moses and the Law but rejecting Moses and the Law numerous times, even to the point of commanding Aaron to make a golden calf because '..as for this fellow Moses, we do not know what has become of him...' Stephen is so obviously under the guidance of the Holy Spirit here because this discourse is so brilliantly logical and sets forth the complete truth plainly - and that from the Scriptures themselves so that nobody can deny the facts! So, even though his audience prided themselves on upholding and revering Moses, the Law and the Prophets, Stephen shows them that exactly the opposite is true. This reminds strongly of Jesus' own words to the Pharisees in John 8 "...Abraham is our father," they answered. "If you were Abraham's children," said Jesus, "then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things..."

Stephen continues in v 48-50 to illustrate that God does not live in houses made by human hands. This reminds strongly of what Jesus, talking about Himself, said to the pharisees in Matthew 12:6 "...but now one greater than the temple is here...' Eventually in v 51 we see that Stephen can contain himself no longer and utters these words: "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.”   

This made them furious and right here we need to take a look at an event that took place in Acts chapter 2:37: "...when the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other Apostles: "Brothers, what shall we do?"
This reference stands in stark contrast to our current context where the hearers were enraged. The question for us to ask is "were these men to whom Stephen was speaking, convicted by the Holy Spirit?" The answer is a resounding "Yes!" It was their response that was the problem...How do we respond when we are convicted? Do we also lash out in rage by saying something like "How dare you..!!". May God work so in our hearts that we will receive His holy conviction with soft hearts.  

We then read how they rush at Stepehen, drag him outside and stone him. It is useful at this point to take a look at the practice of stoning and the specific guidelines that governed it. This extract fro the Jewish Mishnah (Oral tradition):

"THE PLACE OF STONING WAS TWICE A MAN'S HEIGHT. ONE OF THE WITNESSES PUSHED HIM BY THE HIPS, [SO THAT] HE WAS OVERTURNED ON HIS HEART. HE WAS THEN TURNED ON HIS BACK. IF THAT CAUSED HIS DEATH, HE HAD FULFILLED [HIS DUTY]; BUT IF NOT, THE SECOND WITNESS TOOK THE LARGE STONE AND THREW IT ON HIS CHEST. IF HE DIED THEREBY, HE HAD DONE [HIS DUTY]; BUT IF NOT, HE [THE CRIMINAL] WAS STONED BY ALL ISRAEL …"

However, in v 57 and on we read that '...they dragged him out of the city and started to stone him..." So, even here they seem to have no regard for the Law and its stipulations, just as Stephen had said. One other picture is noteworthy: In Matthew 26:64 we read: "You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven" and in Colossians 3:1: "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God" Now compare these Scriptures with Acts 7: 56 "Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God". This is truly beautiful - we see Jesus standing up to receive Stephen, His good and faithful servant!

May it be so with us too my friends - may we serve him that wholeheartedly.

© 2011 Werner Schreiber

You are free to download these study notes provided they remain intact without alteration. You are also free to use and transmit these notes with proper citation of authorship.