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Stephen, The First Christian Martyr Acts Seven
In Acts chapter seven Stephen is asked to defend himself against the charges that he had "spoken blasphemous words against Moses, and against God." This good man was charged as one that was a blasphemer of God. That would have made him an apostate from the truth. In his defense Stephen proved that the promises made to Abraham had spiritual meaning. He wanted the people to know that the land that God intended for His people was a heavenly land.
Stephen described how that God used Joseph's faithfulness and the wicked of the other patriarchs in leading to the glorious nation through which Jesus would be born into the world. He showed how God used Moses to deliver Israel out of Egyptian bondage. God also gave the Law through Moses. He led them through the wilderness yet they rebelled against Moses and against God. God was working in many events of history to make atonement possible. The faith of the patriarchs caused them to look toward that heavenly country.
Stephen showed the role of the tabernacle and of the temple of Solomon. However he proved that God does not dwell in temples made with hands. He charged the council with resisting the Holy Ghost like their ancestors had done. Their forefathers had persecuted and killed the prophets who foretold the coming of the Just One. They had now become the betrayers and murderers of the Christ. The council heard these charges and gnashed on Stephen with their teeth. They cast Stephen out of the city and stoned him. They laid their garments at the feet of Saul that became Paul the Apostle. Stephen became the first martyr for Christ.
The call of Abraham Act_7:1-8 : The High Priest wanted to know if the things said about Stephen were true. Stephen's faith in Hebrew history was strong because he knew it was God at work. Stephen began his defense by showing that God called Abraham to leave Mesopotamia. He said, "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee." Abraham came out of the land of the Chaldeans to sojourn in Canaan.
God did not give the land to Abraham but He promised it to his descendants. His descendants included Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve patriarchs. God made a covenant of circumcision with Abraham’s descendants.
Stephen was a powerful preacher. He was a man well versed in what was taught in Old Testament Scripture. In Stephen's speech there are quotations of scripture following quotation. He was a man who was forced into action because of strong convictions. He was separated from the evil world of his day. A distinguishing mark of Christianity is separation from the world.
The Jewish nation and the land of Egypt Act_7:9-43 : The patriarchs sold Joseph into Egypt. Envy caused Joseph's brothers to sell him into Egypt as a slave. God was with Joseph and gave him favor with the Pharaoh of Egypt. He became governor over that land. A dearth or famine over all the land caused Jacob and his sons move to Egypt. Jacob's family went into Egypt, seventy-five in number, and came out a great nation.
The patriarchs died in Egypt but were buried in Canaan. God had promised to build of Abraham a great nation and to give them the land of Canaan and He did. The God of the Bible is always faithful to fulfill every promise that He has made.
While in Egypt the children Israel became slaves. God raised up Moses to deliver them from this slavery and He also used Him to give the Law through him to the children of Israel. Most of us remember from those childhood lessons how that Pharaoh’s daughter raised Moses. Moses thought his people would understand that God would deliver them trough him. They did not, and so when he had killed the Egyptian he had to flee to Midian where he lived for forty years. The Lord appeared to Moses in a burning bush at Mount Sinai. He returned to Egypt to deliver Israel out of slavery. Moses lived in the palace of Pharaoh forty years. He lived forty years in Midian. He spent the last forty years of his life with Israel in the wilderness. Moses was a great leader because he was a man of God and a man of the people.
Moses predicted that God would raise up a prophet like unto Himself. This very Moses, so highly esteemed and honored by God, announced that prophet that they have lately put to death. His name is Jesus!
The true tabernacle of God Act_7:44-50 : Israel had the tabernacle of witness. The tabernacle was built according to the pattern shown Moses. The Tabernacle was a perpetual witness between God and the people. Later the people had the temple. Yet "the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord..."
Solomon built God a house, but God's presence cannot be confined to a house. Stephen and the apostles rejected the Temple as the one exclusive place of worship. God's throne is in Heaven, the earth is His footstool and to Him all places are alike. The constant presence of God restrains us from sin and stimulates us to virtue.
Stephen, the first Christian martyr Act_7:51-60 : Stephen charged the people with: (1) being stiff necked, (2) uncircumcised in heart, (3) resisting the Holy Ghost, and (4) failing to keep the word of God. "When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth." ( Act_7:54 )
Stephen looked up into Heaven where his heart and his treasure had long been. The Jews will see Jesus sitting as judge, Stephen saw Him standing as Advocate. They cast Stephen "out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." They stoned Stephen as he was calling on God. As Stephen died he was voluntary kneeling. He had placed himself in this position of prayer. He chose to die praying.
The saved soul, redeemed by the blood of Christ, can thoroughly forgive. Stephen "kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Those that stoned Stephen "laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul."
The Jews that rejected God's messengers are now rejecting the love and Spirit of God. The Jew's repeated defiance of God has kindled His righteousness indignation.
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.
Box, Charles. "Commentary on Acts 7". "Box's Commentaries on Selected books of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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