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1. The Address of Stephen (Acts 7:1-44.7.53 ).
2. The Martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 7:54-44.7.60 ).
This is the largest chapter in this book and concludes the first section. Stephen is the chosen instrument to deliver the final testimony to the nation. He was not permitted to finish it.
We notice at once a marked difference between the previous preaching by the Apostle Peter and the address of Stephen. The testimony of Peter was marked on the day of Pentecost and at the other occasions by great brevity. Stephen’s address is the longest discourse reported in the New Testament. The name of Jesus is prominent in all the addresses of Peter. The fact that He was rejected by the people, crucified and that He rose from the dead, and the call to repentance, were the leading features of Peter’s preaching. Stephen does not mention the Name of Jesus at all, though he has the person of Christ and His rejection as the theme of his testimony. (The name “Jesus” appears in the A.V. in Acts 7:45 ; but it should be “Joshua” instead.) At the close of his address he speaks of the Just One of whom they had become betrayers and murderers.
Stephen had been accused of speaking against Moses and against God, also against the temple and the law. These accusations he is asked to answer. What he declared before the council shows plainly that the accusations are utterly false. His speech is, therefore, partly apologetic; but it is also teaching, in that it shows certain truths from the historic events he cites. And before he finishes his testimony the accused becomes the accuser of the nation; the one to be judged becomes the judge. Indeed his whole testimony as he rapidly speaks of past history in his great and divinely arranged retrospect, is a most powerful testimony to the nation as well as against the nation.
The great address falls into the following sections: 1. Abraham’s History (Acts 7:2-44.7.8 ). 2. Joseph and his brethren (Acts 7:9-44.7.16 ). 3. The Rejection of Moses. The rejected one became their Deliverer and Ruler (Acts 7:17-44.7.38 ). 4. The Story of the nation’s apostasy and shame (Acts 7:39-44.7.50 . Then Stephen ceased his historical retrospect, he addressed them directly. The accused witness becomes the mouthpiece of the Judge, who pronounces the sentence upon the nation. This is found in Acts 7:51-44.7.53 . His martyrdom followed.
Three things are mentioned of this first martyr. He was full of the Holy Spirit; he looked steadfastly into heaven, seeing the glory of God; he saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God.
This is the first manifestation of the glorified Christ, which we have on record. There are three of them only. He appeared here to Stephen. Then He appeared unto Saul, who consented unto Stephen’s death. Saul beheld Him in that Glory, brighter than the noon-day sun, and heard His voice. The last time the glorified Christ manifested Himself was to John in the island of Patmos. These three appearings of the glorified Christ present to our view the three aspects of His Second Coming. First He comes to welcome His own into His presence. He will arise and come into the air to meet His beloved co-heirs there. This is represented by the first appearing to Stephen, standing to receive him. Then Israel will behold Him, they who pierced Him will see Him, as Saul of Tarsus beheld the Lord. Then He will appear as John saw Him, the One who judges the earth in righteousness.
And now after this great and glorious vision, Stephen bears testimony to it. “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God.” He speaks of the Lord as “Son of Man.” This is the only time outside of the Gospel records that we find this title of the Lord (aside from the old Testament reference in Hebrews 2:1-58.2.18 ).
They stoned him and Stephen, the mighty witness and mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit, fell asleep.
God’s gracious offer and Christ had now been fully rejected by the nation. Stephen, who bore this last witness, is a striking evidence of the transforming power of Christ. How much like the Lord he was!
He was filled with the Spirit, full of faith and power, and like the Lord he did great wonders and miracles among the people. Like Christ, he was falsely accused of speaking against Moses, the law and the temple, and of being a blasphemer. They brought him before the same council and did what they did with the Lord, bringing false witnesses against him. He gave witness to the truth of the confession the Lord had given before the council, that He was to sit at the right hand of God. He beheld Him there. The Lord Jesus committed His spirit in the Father’s hands, and Stephen prayed that the Lord Jesus receive his spirit; and like the Lord he prayed for the forgiveness of his enemies. May the same power transform us all into the same image.
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Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Acts 7". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent