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Bible Commentaries

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Acts 7

Verses 1-60

Stephen before the Sanhedrin (7:1-60)

The defence that Stephen made before the Sanhedrin was not designed to win its approval. He outlined Israel’s history to demonstrate two main points. First, God had never shown himself to be limited to one dwelling place, or even one locality (therefore the Jews were mistaken in attaching such importance to the temple in Jerusalem). Second, the people of Israel had always rejected the messengers of God (therefore their rejection of the Messiah Jesus was not surprising).
Although Canaan was the land that God gave to Abraham and his descendants, God was present with Abraham even in the distant land of Mesopotamia (7:1-8). The people of Israel showed their rejection of God’s servants from the beginning, when their ancestors, out of jealousy, rejected Joseph and sold him as a slave into Egypt. Yet God was with Joseph in Egypt (9-16).
Some years later, the people of Israel rejected Moses, not understanding that God had sent him to be their deliverer (17-29). For forty years Moses lived as an exile in the wilderness, but even there God appeared to him (30-34). The man whom the people rejected became the people’s saviour, with the promise that a greater messenger of God was yet to come (35-37). But the people rebelled against Moses and disobeyed God (38-43).
Originally, God’s symbolic dwelling place was a movable tent, something that could be set up anywhere at all, demonstrating that God was not limited to one place. When Solomon later built a permanent temple in Jerusalem, people developed the mistaken idea that this temple was the only place where God dwelt (44-50). The Jews of Stephen’s time, like their ancestors, misunderstood God, resisted his Spirit, disobeyed his law and rejected his messengers. Finally, they killed the Messiah himself (51-53).

On hearing these words, the members of the Sanhedrin could keep silent no longer. But Stephen, remaining calm, supported Jesus’ claim that he, the Messiah, shared equality with God. To the Jews, Stephen was repeating the blasphemy for which they had killed Jesus. In a burst of uncontrolled anger they rushed upon him, dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death. But before he died, Stephen, again following the example of Jesus, committed his life to God and asked forgiveness for his murderers (54-60; cf. Mark 14:62-41.14.64; Luke 23:34,Luke 23:46).

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Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Acts 7". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". 2005.