(60 verses, 09:10 to read)
What I am about to READ
Stephen stands before the Sanhedrin and responds to charges brought forward by false witnesses.
MARK & LEARN
1: The high priest (Caiaphas) asks Stephen, “It these things so?” This gave Stephen the opportunity to give a defense of the hope that is in him (1 Peter 3:15). And Stephen seizes the opportunity! Stephen’s “speech,” a wonderful synopsis of the Old Testament, can be divided into three sections and a conclusion. In the first section he addresses the accusation that he spoke blasphemous words against God (6:11). The second section addresses the accusation that he is blaspheming Moses and the law. And the third section deals with “this place,” the temple.
2-16: The First Section. Stephen shows that he is a true Israelite who trusts in God’s word and promises, just as the patriarchs did. He begins with promise God gave to “our father” Abraham. He points out that Abraham was given a great faith to believe God’s word and follow where God led. Stephen also mentions the covenant God made with Abraham. This was not a bilateral arrangement, but unilateral. It was God’s covenant given to Abraham; completely one-sided. The covenant was marked and sealed by circumcision. Stephen then demonstrates how God continued to be faithful to His covenant through Joseph and his brothers. The focus is on what God has done to fulfil His promises.
17-43: The Second Section. As time went by, The Israelites lost favor in Egypt and were enslaved. Yet, God provided a deliver – Moses. Stephen stresses that God was with Moses from birth. He then points out that Moses was rejected. The Israelites turned away from God’s word spoken through Moses and whored after false idols. At this point, Stephen’s defense takes a turn toward offense. Stephen is using Israel’s history of rejection and idolatry to prepare for the climax of his speech: by rejecting Jesus Christ, the Sanhedrin is guilty of the same sin committed by their forefathers in the wilderness.
44-50: The Third Section. Here Stephen refutes the charge of blasphemy against the Temple. He cites 1 Kings 8:27 and Isaiah 66:1-2 to show that the Jews have made the temple into an idol. They no longer worship the true God, but a god of their own design.
51-53: The conclusion. Not much needs to be said about Stephen’s (God’s) words in this section. Rather than rejecting God’s law, he turns it upon the Sanhedrin and fires both barrels.
54-60: Stephen doesn’t finish his speech; God finishes it for him (v. 56). There is actually no official verdict from the Sanhedrin. Instead a murderous mob mentality took over. Note Saul’s involvement in the stoning (v. 58). Also note the blessed end of Stephen, as he speaks the same words as Christ on the cross (v. 60).
Stephen was martyred for his faith in Jesus Christ. Today we see Christians being martyred all over the world. Praise God that He has given men and women such great faith to stand upon His word and promises, even in the midst of persecution and death. Like Stephen, we must continue to confess the Truth in the face of stiff-necked people, who are uncircumcised in heart and ears and always resist the Holy Spirit.
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Pastor Kevin Zellers, Jr.