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Introduction to Stephen’s Speech
The High Priest has listened to the accusations and gives Stephen the opportunity to give an account of himself. Stephen’s speech is not a defense, but an accusation. He tells the Jews their own history, which they know well. However, knowing history and applying the lessons from it are two different things. Stephen makes it clear that they are completely condemned by their own history. They do exactly like their fathers.
Stephen does not try to defend himself here. Here he is the judge who pronounces the verdict. He is the memory of the people through which they are placed in God’s presence. In connection with the goodness of God towards Israel, Joseph and Moses are placed in the foreground. Israel has rejected them both. They handed over Joseph to the nations and rejected Moses as judge and leader. This is exactly what they have done with the Lord Jesus, what he then presents to them in the clearest terms.
Stephen gives an overview of two thousand years of history of God’s people, from Abraham till now. From his survey it becomes clear that the history of salvation is a continual changing of events and places. History is not static. Everything has not remained as it was. That is how it will be with the temple, which they believe will always exist.
Through his survey of their history, he wants to make it clear to them that with the coming and rejection of Christ, a new change in their history has taken place. But they have no ears for that change. The end is that they cover their ears and stone Stephen.
God’s Way With Abraham
With the expression “brethren and fathers”, Stephen speaks to them as one who still belongs to the same people. He begins his speech with “the God of glory” and ends it with seeing “the glory of God” (Acts 7:55). The whole time he gives his speech, his face shines with that same glory (Acts 6:15).
He begins with Abraham, the ancestor on whom they boast so much that they are his offspring. Their pride is completely misplaced, for they must remember that Abraham was originally an idolater in Mesopotamia (Joshua 24:2). It was in that country, and not in the country they now live in, that the God of glory appeared to him.
There God also spoke to him and commanded him to leave his country and his family and invited him to come to the land that He would point out to him (Genesis 12:1). He had to go out of his country, to a new land that God had chosen for him. He had to leave his family to form a new family. He even had to leave his father’s house, of which he was still a part, to become a father to many nations. God’s calling is always personal. God’s way is always with the individual. God has called Abraham when he was but one (Isaiah 51:2).
At first Abraham obeyed, but his obedience was not perfect. The reason was that not he, but his father Terah took the initiative to leave (Genesis 11:31). Because of this, at first he did not get any further than Haran, where he settled. Only after his father died, he moved on to “this country”.
Here it already becomes clear what Stephen is about in his speech. This piece of history shows that every change has always evoked resistance. This already started with Abraham. He didn’t go all the way that God had told him to go. He went as far as Haran and stayed there until his father died who shouldn’t have been with him at all. The resistance with Abraham was in his family connections. With him they counted heavier than God’s command. Only when God has put an end to that connection by the death of his father, he is free to move on.
But that too seems to be more a matter of God than of Abraham. Stephen says that God had Abraham move to this country in which they now live. So it is pure grace that they live there and everything is God’s work. God had Abraham move into that country, but He didn’t give him an inheritance in it, not even the smallest piece of which he could say was his property. Instead, he was promised that one day, in the future, he would own it as well as his offspring after him. God gave him that promise even when he did not even have a child.
However, that did not change anything about his faith. It did change his stay in the country. It made the land of promise for him a foreign land and it made him a stranger in that land (Hebrews 11:9). So he did not claim for himself what God had determined for the future. His descendants possessed it now, but he himself is still waiting for the fulfillment of the promise. Stephen wants to make it clear that they have nothing to claim.
And it was not only Abraham who did not immediately get hold of the promise. Also his offspring would have to wait and even experience the necessary things before they could enter the promised land. God announced to Abraham that his offspring would be enslaved instead of being blessed. They would live in a foreign land and be enslaved and abused. This would continue for four hundred years (Genesis 15:13-2 Chronicles :). At the same time God also speaks words of hope. He promises that He will judge the people who hold them in bondage. Then they will be able to go out to serve God “in this place” (Acts 7:7; Exodus 3:12), by which Stephen means the land of Canaan.
Everything Stephen has said about Abraham is meant to highlight the small and even humiliating origins of the people because his hearing boasts about their origins (cf. Deuteronomy 7:7). In passing, he mentions the circumcision of Abraham as a sign of the covenant God made with him and with his offspring (Genesis 17:10-2 Chronicles :). This too is a matter on which the Israelites are very proud. They, and they alone, are the people of the covenant (Romans 9:4). They boast of that status.
He also mentions that Abraham was circumcised when he became the father of Isaac who he also circumcised on the eighth day. From Isaac Jacob was born and from Jacob the twelve patriarchs, from whom the covenant people would be further built. But how did the covenant people behave at the beginning of their origin?
Rejection and Reign of Joseph
The patriarchs soon showed their true nature. Driven by jealousy, they rejected Joseph. Their jealousy came from the revelation that Joseph had received in dreams and that he had told them. Those dreams were about his future glorification, in which they would bow down before him (Genesis 37:5-1 Kings :). But they would never do that! Therefore, they made sure that nothing of his dreams could come to pass and sold him to Egypt. The parallels between Joseph and the Lord Jesus are obvious.
Everything Stephen brings up about Joseph in his history had to remind his hearers of what they did to Christ. Did they perhaps remember their thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15-Nehemiah :)? However much the brothers despised Joseph and rejected him, God was with him. After he was rejected, God delivered him from all his afflictions and made sure he came into favor with the Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Joseph revealed God’s wisdom by making proposals to Pharaoh that would save the country. As a result, Joseph was made the most powerful man in Egypt by Pharaoh and was even assigned the rule of the house of Pharaoh (Genesis 41:40-Acts :; Psalms 105:21).
The brothers had no knowledge of God’s dealings with Joseph. But God made sure that they came face to face with Joseph as the mighty ruler of Egypt. For this He used a famine that He caused over all Egypt and Canaan (Genesis 41:54; Genesis 42:5). Stephen calls it a “great affliction”, which is reminiscent of the period of time of which the Lord Jesus speaks and for which He uses the name “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21; cf. Jeremiah 30:7). The Lord thus points forward to the time when the people will be heavily chastened and from which a remnant will be saved after this remnant has acknowledged Him as Messiah. God’s goal with the famine was the same. He wanted to bring the brothers to Joseph and to the acknowledgment that he is their savior. For this a long way had to be gone.
Stephen speaks about “our fathers” who could not find food. He still connects with his hearers. He takes them further into the history of the brothers and tells them how they are led to Joseph. When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent “our fathers [there] the first time” (Genesis 42:1-Exodus :). Stephen ignores what happened that first time, but proceeds immediately with the second time they go. At this second time, Joseph makes himself known to his brothers (Genesis 45:3-Numbers :).
Here in Stephen’s speech we find a ray of hope for Israel. The Lord Jesus will also come a second time to His people and then make Himself known to them. Then they will see Him whom they have pierced (Zechariah 12:10) and He will bless the repentant remnant. Joseph did the same with his brothers after he revealed himself to them. Then, as it were, He will also reveal His descent as a true Man to God through which He has been able to connect people with Himself and say: “Behold, I and the children whom God has given Me” (Hebrews 2:13).
After his announcement, Joseph sends his brothers away to pick up his father Jacob and all his relatives. They are allowed to live with him in Egypt. In this way God has turned for good everything the brothers had thought of evil (Genesis 50:20).
But that situation came to an end. Jacob and “our fathers” died. Their bodies were brought back to the land of Canaan and buried in the tomb that Abraham had bought. They had not yet received the promised land, but they were buried in the tomb where Abraham was also buried in view of the fulfillment of the promise (Genesis 49:29-Amos :; Genesis 50:13; Joshua 24:32).
Moses’ Birth and Upbringing
Stephen comes to the third and longest part of his speech. Moses as picture of the Lord Jesus is central in this. Stephen was accused of speaking slanderous words against Moses (Acts 6:11). From what he says of Moses it is clear how false this accusation is.
In mentioning the history of God’s people, Stephen is now going to speak about the fulfillment of God’s promises. Based on that history, he presents to his hearers that a new change had arisen. The situation in which the people found themselves in Egypt did not remain the same. The time of the promise was approaching, that is, the time to fulfill the promise that God would bring them to Canaan. For this He had to lead His people out of Egypt. The circumstances he used for this are again humbling for his hearers.
In the early days of their stay in Egypt it seemed that the people were greatly blessed. The people grew and multiplied in Egypt (Exodus 1:7). None of this posed a problem, as long as the country was ruled by kings who had known Joseph. They remembered that they owed the existence of their country to him. As a token of appreciation, the people were allowed to stay in Egypt. Then there was a king who had not known Joseph (Exodus 1:8). This king had no connection whatsoever with Joseph and there was no gratitude whatsoever towards him.
This king saw in the ever-growing people a threat to his own position. To prevent expansion of “our race”, he resorted to cunning (Exodus 1:16) and began to treat “our fathers” badly and suppress them (Exodus 1:10-1 Kings :). When this did not help to inhibit the growth of the people, he ordered that the young children should not stay with their parents, but be thrown into the Nile (Exodus 1:22).
While the people sighed under the cruel domination, God went to work to fulfill His promise by letting Moses be born. Stephen says of him that he was “lovely “, that is, lovely to God (Exodus 2:2; Hebrews 11:23). His parents did not take him directly to the Nile, as Pharaoh had commanded, but raised him “in his father’s home” for three months. After that he had to share the fate of every little boy. He was taken to the Nile and put there as a foundling. There he was found by the daughter of Pharaoh who nurtured him as her own son. Later, Moses refused to be called a son of Pharaoh’s daughter (Hebrews 11:24).
The nurturing by his God-fearing parents did not miss its goal. God used the criminal order of Pharaoh to bring Moses to his court. By doing so through the daughter of Pharaoh, God mocked with all the power of Pharaoh. That is God’s wisdom. God’s plan with His people was not only fulfilled despite Pharaoh, but even with the cooperation of Pharaoh, of course without him wanting or even realizing it.
At court Moses was taught in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. Moses became wise, but he was powerful in his words and works. Wisdom he acquired through education, power he received from God as a special gift. Both qualities he revealed in Egypt. To God he spoke about the opposite (Exodus 4:10) and felt his incompetence.
Moses Visits His Brethren and Flees
The first period of Moses’ life at the court of the Pharaoh lasted for forty years. But all the splendor of the court of Pharaoh could not prevent that his heart was with his brothers in oppression. One day he visited them. His love for his people burned in all ferocity. He did not come to tell them what they had done wrong, but to see their “hard labors” (Exodus 2:11). The Lord Jesus did not come to judge either, but to save (John 3:17).
When Moses saw one of his brethren suffer injustice, he defended him. He took him in protection, also taking vengeance for him who was punished, by striking down the Egyptian. He was then still at the court of Pharaoh. By standing up so clearly for the people, he thought that his brethren would see in him their deliverer through whose hand God would give them salvation. But that thought did not occur to them. On the contrary. The next day, when he showed himself to his brothers again, it appeared that they were not at all interested in his intervention.
Again Moses observed that injustice was being done. However, this time it was not an Egyptian who wronged an Israelite, but two Israelites who wronged each other. When he tried to reconcile them for peace with the question why they wronged each other, he who wronged his neighbor turned against him. Moses was blamed for the fact that he should not claim to be “ruler and judge”.
Here we see that from his first action in favor of his people, his authority was rejected, as was the case with Joseph. Moses was dealt with in the same way as Joseph was dealt with before, when he investigated the welfare of his brothers: he was rejected by his own (Genesis 37:14; Genesis 37:18). Like Joseph, Moses is in this respect a type of Christ Who was not accepted by His own either (John 1:11). Christ was hated, rejected, denied, and even killed by His people. So it was prophetically the reproach of Christ that Moses took upon himself when he looked after his brethren and wanted to share their fate (Hebrews 11:26).
The rejection of Moses was clearly expressed in the words of the Israelite who wronged his neighbor: “Who made you ruler and judge over us? (Exodus 2:14). The man added that he saw in him not a deliverer, but a threat to his life. This shows how much the people would rather remain in slavery than acknowledge a liberator. The people did not want to accept a ruler and judge. The accusation that Moses put himself up to this is quoted twice by Stephen (Acts 7:27; Acts 7:35), through which he accentuates its seriousness. When it had become so clear that his people did not want him, Moses fled.
What Stephen, following the history in Exodus, presents as a flee is presented in Hebrews 11 as an act of faith (Hebrews 11:27). Thus, on the one hand, the Lord Jesus was rejected by His people, while on the other He went away, back to heaven, waiting for the time when His people will accept Him as their Savior.
During the time that Moses was in Midian, he had a pagan wife as his bride and got two sons (Exodus 2:21-Song of Solomon :; Exodus 18:3-Numbers :). This can be compared to the Lord Jesus Who receives the church as a bride in this time. In the names that Moses gave his sons, it appears that he had not forgotten his people in the foreign land either, just as the Lord Jesus, now that He is in heaven, does not forget His earthly people.
God Appears to Moses
Moses was forty when he fled. In the wilderness forty years “had passed”. Forty is the number of trial. In the power of his life God formed him in the wilderness. Who would choose such an education, in the loneliness of the wilderness, when all the challenges of life lie before you? But God taught him lessons there that he could not have learned in any other way.
Moses is called by the Lord when he is eighty years old. That is at the end of his natural life, as he himself says in Psalm 90 (Psalms 90:10). Before the Lord can use someone, a person has to learn to renounce his natural capacities. Moses learned that. Yet it is not enough not to rely on one’s own abilities. Now he must learn to trust in God’s power.
Moses is now ready for God to appear to him. He does that as an Angel in a flame of a burning thorn bush. Moses’ attention is drawn to the fact that the thorn bush burns but does not burn up (Exodus 3:3). The thorn bush represents man by nature, sinful man. We also see the whole people of Israel in it, which is in Egypt in the furnace of fire. We also see that God is in the fire. That is why the thorn bush is not consumed.
God uses the fire of trial to purify His people, and us. What is not in agreement with Him is discarded by the fire. As a result, we are becoming more and more in agreement with His purpose with us and that is that we are becoming like the Lord Jesus. He is with us in the trial (Daniel 3:23-Lamentations :; Isaiah 63:9).
God sees that Moses is approaching the bush to see the wondrous phenomenon. He makes Himself known to Moses as the God of the covenant with the patriarchs, with Abraham (Genesis 15:13-2 Chronicles :), Isaac (Genesis 26:3) and Jacob (Genesis 46:1-Leviticus :). That is the ground on which He is going to act. He appreciates that Moses shows interest in His revelation, but at the same time He maintains His holiness.
Moses is deeply impressed by God’s appearance and His words. He begins to shake with fear and does not dare to investigate further. He knows himself in the presence of the holy God. Where God is, there is holiness. God makes it clear to him that he stands on holy ground. That is why he has to take off his shoes (cf. Joshua 5:15). The awareness of standing on holy ground was completely lacking in the Council who Stephen stood before, while they claimed to live in the holy land.
After Moses has taken the right place before God, God tells him what He has seen and what He intends to do. God tells him that He has seen what is being done to His people and that He has heard how they wail about it. He is familiar with their sorrows. That brings Him to act. He has descended to redeem them and bring them to a land that He has chosen for them. And Moses is the man He wants to use to carry out that intention.
The Lord Jesus has descended to earth to redeem people who sigh under the yoke of sin. As with Israel, He did not speak from heaven, but came from heaven to earth. It is wonderful to read that God calls this wretched slave people in Egypt “My people”! It is like the father falling around the neck of his prodigal son while this son is still wearing his dirty clothes (Luke 15:20).
When Stephen has impressively presented the revelation of God to Moses and His command to him to go to Egypt to deliver His people, he repeats the rejection of Moses as ruler and judge (Acts 7:35; Acts 7:27). By speaking in plural, “they”, he thereby turns the sin of one man into a collective sin, that is, the sin of the whole people.
To further underline its seriousness, Stephen speaks of a denial of Moses. And that while God had appeared to Moses and had been sent by Him to them as ruler and deliverer. This is an impressive illustration of the rejection of Christ, the Leader to Life, by the Jewish people (cf. Acts 3:14-Ezra :; Acts 4:10-2 Kings :).
Moses Rejected; Idols; Judgment
After Stephen has emphatically presented the special upbringing, formation and vocation of Moses to his audience, he continues just as emphatically with the liberating service of Moses. Again and again he points out what Moses has done or said. This, and no one else, led them out of Egypt. And how: performing wonders and signs. Did not the Lord Jesus reveal Himself in the midst of His people in the same way? Aren’t the apostles also busy in this way among the people and hasn’t Stephen been busy in this way?
And Moses not only delivered them out of Egypt, but also led them through the Red Sea into the wilderness, where he also showed them the way for forty years. It is this Moses who was among the sons of Israel – those who sat on the Council boasted of being so, didn’t they? – said that God would raise up a Prophet to them, just as He raised him up. For the Council it is clear that by this the Messiah is meant, who, just like Moses, would act as Savior and Judge.
Stephen gives even more homage to Moses. He points at Moses and says that he is the one, and no other, who has received the law in the wilderness through the mediation of angels. The law contains the words of God and are therefore living words. They were given by God to Moses on the mountain of God. Moses was the mediator, because he was with the angel in the wilderness and on the mountain and he was with “our fathers”.
He gave the living words to “you”, that is Israel then and now. But what did “our fathers” do with all that God gave to them through Moses and said to them? They deliberately disobeyed him. They refused to obey him. They repelled him. They did not want him to talk about obedience to God.
They returned to Egypt in their hearts. There they could at least do what they wanted. That they lived in slavery and oppression, they didn’t think about that anymore. After all, everything was better than that oppressive obedience to God. And where was Moses anyway? He had been gone for so long that he would never come back.
That’s why they told Aaron to make gods they could see and follow. So in those days, the days of Moses’ absence, they made a calf. To that idol they offered sacrifice, rejoicing in the works of their hands. No more thought was given to God’s honor and work. That is why God turned away. He withdrew from them and gave them as judgment to idolatry (cf. Romans 1:23-Ezekiel :; Romans 1:28).
Stephen tells the Council how throughout history the people have done nothing but serve the idols. Abraham served them before God called him (Joshua 24:2), the people served them in Egypt (Joshua 24:14) and served them in the wilderness (Amos 5:25-Daniel :).
In his quote from the prophet Amos, Stephen also quotes the judgment over the people that the Babylonians would bring by leading the people into exile. So there is a double judgment: the judgment of God by surrendering them to idolatry and the judgment of God by taking them into exile, away from the land.
Again and again in Stephen’s speech it sounds that God approaches His people differently every time, because His people always turn away from Him and become unfaithful to Him. Everything He gives, they have always rejected and chosen the idols instead.
The Dwelling Place of God
Here Stephen comes to a new part in his speech. After his extensive tribute to Moses in the face of their accusation that he would slander Moses, he speaks about the dwelling place of God. After all, they had also accused him of speaking words against the temple by pointing to its destruction (Acts 6:14). Stephen will show that God’s former dwellings were temporary dwellings and not even real ones.
He first mentions the tabernacle which he describes with the elaborate name “tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness”. It is the tent from which God testifies, from which He speaks to His people. What kind of tent was that? It was a tent made by Moses at God’s command and after the example God had shown him on the mountain (Exodus 25:40). Stephen makes it clear that the tabernacle was a temporary dwelling place of God and that it referred to a higher reality, heaven. The tabernacle would not always remain the dwelling place of God.
When “our fathers” entered the land with Joshua, they brought the tabernacle with them (Joshua 3:14-Esther :). Stephen mentions the name Joshua. This is the Hebrew name for the Greek ‘Jesus’. He actually says that the people with ‘Jesus’ took possession of the land. The land was set free by God from the original inhabitants (Joshua 23:9; Joshua 24:18) who were all servants of idols. There the tabernacle was given its place until the days of David.
With David the next change is coming. That change has to do with the way God is served, not with the principle that God is served. God always wants people to serve Him, but He sometimes changes the way He wants that to happen. First it was in the tabernacle, under David it became the temple.
God is also free in His choice of the builder of His house. Although David found grace for God and longed to build a dwelling place for God (Psalms 132:5), he was not allowed to do so (2 Samuel 7:2-Esther :). God had reserved the building of the temple for Solomon (1 Kings 6:1; 1 Kings 6:141 Kings 8:19-Proverbs :). But no matter how beautiful the temple was, it was not the real dwelling place of God.
The audience of Stephen claimed God by pointing to the temple as His dwelling place. For them, the temple was solid proof of the presence of God. Whoever touched the temple touched God. Stephen brings that idea down by pointing out that God does not live in handmade temples. He reinforces his words by quoting what God Himself said through the mouth of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 66:1-Exodus :; cf. 1 Kings 8:27).
At this point in his discourse, it seems that Stephen notices that the Council understands that he is talking about them. In his argument he has reversed the arrows that were pointed at him and directed them at them. He has changed every ground for his conviction into a conviction of them. They have become the accused.
Instead of moderating and binding his tone under their threatening gaze, Stephen raises his voice and calls out to them how they are doing. He calls them “stiff-necked” because they don’t want to bow their necks before God. In the same way God spoke about His people to Moses (Exodus 33:5).
He further calls them “uncircumcised in heart and ears”. They may belong to the people of God through external circumcision, but internally they are like the uncircumcised Gentiles whose hearts are not turned toward God and who do not listen to God (Jeremiah 9:26; Romans 2:25). In their aversion to God, they resist the work of the Holy Spirit. They do not do this just once, but always (Isaiah 63:10; Psalms 106:33).
Until now Stephen has always spoken about our fathers, but at this stage of his argument he distances himself from them and speaks about “your fathers”. Their fathers and they did and do the same in their resistance against the Holy Spirit. They do this even more clearly than their fathers, for the Spirit has come and is clearly active in a man like Stephen (Acts 6:5; Acts 6:10).
He presents to them a rhetorical question: “Which of the prophets their fathers did not persecute?” They cannot mention an exception, because every prophet sent by God to remind His people of their sins and to call them to repentance was rejected by them (2 Chronicles 36:16; Jeremiah 2:30; Matthew 23:31). All those prophets also pointed out the coming of the Righteous, that is the Lord Jesus. And what have they, the Council, done with Him? They have betrayed and killed Him.
This accusation was also made by Peter (Acts 3:14-Ezra :). While Peter took “ignorance” into account as an extenuating circumstance, Stephen holds this company of religious leaders fully responsible for this greatest crime of all time. Whatever new revelation from God came, they rejected it, right up to and including the Son of God.
The last words Stephen can speak relate to the way they received the law and the fact that they did not keep the law. They had accused him of speaking against the law (Acts 6:11; Acts 6:13), but here he gives the law the highest honor and correct application. He recognizes the exalted origin of the law (Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2) and also its full authority in its application to the members of the Council.
Stephen Is Stoned
With his words that they are lawbreakers, the measure is full for them. All the accumulated anger comes out. They are in no way able to argue against Stephen. His proof of their guilt is irrefutable. Instead of his words touching them in the heart and asking them what to do (cf. Acts 2:37), his speech to them has become more and more an agony, a torture for their minds. They gnash their teeth against him as an expression of torment characteristic of the hell with which they are connected (Luke 13:28; Psalms 35:16).
While during Stephen’s speech the anger increases, which can be seen on their faces, an increasing glory of heaven can be seen in Stephen. They are full of anger; he is full of the Holy Spirit. They see through their anger a man they want to kill. He does not see the angry crowd, but he is completely absorbed by the Holy Spirit in what he sees in heaven: the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
The glory of God had left the temple (Ezekiel 10:18; Ezekiel 11:23) and returned to heaven. The glory of God had reappeared in Christ, but had been rejected and returned to heaven. Now Stephen sees that glory, which means that the glory is visible to Christians who possess God’s Spirit.
After his razor-sharp condemnation he now speaks about the heaven he sees opened and in which he sees the Lord Jesus as the Son of man standing at the right hand of God. Like seeing the glory of God, seeing the opened heavens is also characteristic of Christendom. In Judaism the entrance to God is closed, God is hidden behind the veil.
When the Council hears all this, the fuses break with them. They begin to cry out, so that they will hardly have heard what Stephen may have said. And even if another word from this – in their eyes – terrible criminal breaks through their cries and reaches their ears, they make it impossible to hear it by covering their ears (Psalms 58:4-Deuteronomy :).
It is completely unacceptable to them, no matter what Stephen says. He testifies not of the glory of God – which would be normal for heaven – but of the Son of Man in glory. It is perfectly clear to them what he is saying with this. He says nothing more and nothing less than that he sees the Messiah Whom they have rejected and that He is the Son of God (Daniel 7:13).
Stephen says another thing. He also says that He sees the Son of Man “standing”. This indicates that the rejection of the Lord Jesus is not yet total and that He is, as it were, ready to return in case His people still come to repentance. However, this is not the case. On the contrary. By stoning Stephen, they send the Lord Jesus as it were a delegation after Him, saying, ‘We do not want this Man to reign over us’ (cf. Luke 19:11-2 Chronicles :).
In Stephen’s death the testimony of the Holy Spirit was also rejected by them. The Lord underwent a sham trial. Stephen was executed and stoned to death without any form of trial. With this he undergoes the fate of a blasphemer (Leviticus 24:16). The stoning is carried out by the false witnesses (Acts 6:13).
In order not to be hindered by their robes when throwing the stones, they put them at the feet of a young man, Saul. Later on, Saul, then Paul, will cite his involvement and his care for the robes of the stone-throwers as a regrettable affair (Acts 22:20). Here we hear about him for the first time. He wholeheartedly agrees with the stoning of that ‘blasphemer’.
While he is being stoned, Stephen calls on the Lord to receive his spirit. Heaven had to receive not only the Lord Jesus until the time of recovery (Acts 3:20-Ecclesiastes :), but also the souls of His own, of those who believe in Him. By seeing Christ glorified in heaven, Stephen, as well as every believer, is changed and becomes like Him. This is apparent from his last words.
His last words are no longer addressed to the people – he has nothing more to say to them – but to his Lord. While the stones strike him, he kneels down quietly and then by a loud voice, so that they all hear it, he prays for forgiveness to his murderers (cf. Luke 23:34).
Seeing the Lord Jesus gives him that rest in these circumstances. We also see that rest in the way Stephen’s death is described: he falls asleep. Falling asleep refers to the body, not the soul or the spirit. Stephen is taken away from this life in the power of his life that was a testimony.
Jim Elliot, who was killed at the age of twenty-eight by the spears of Auca Indians to whom he wanted to preach the gospel, wrote: ‘I am not looking for a long life, but a full life. And: ‘God seeks to populate eternity and I must not limit Him in doing this just to old people’.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Acts 7". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany