Those who are filled with the Holy Ghost and the Word of God cannot but speak boldly against sin, and they will be made fit for anything, either to act for Christ or to suffer for Him. As their afflictions for Christ abound, their consolation in Him may yet more abound. Let us as we witness look constantly to Christ that we may be ever set above the fear of man.
1 Then said the high priest, Are these things so?
2 And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran,
3 And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.
4 Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell.
5 And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.
6 And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years.
7 And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place.
8 And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs.
9 And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him,
10 And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.
11 Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance.
12 But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first.
13 And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph’s kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.
14 Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.
15 So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers,
16 And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.
17 But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt,
18 Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph.
19 The same dealt subtilly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live.
20 In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father’s house three months:
21 And when he was cast out, Pharaoh’s daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son.
22 And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.
23 And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.
24 And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian:
25 For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.
26 And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another?
27 But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?
28 Wilt thou kill me, as thou diddest the Egyptian yesterday?
29 Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons.
30 And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush.
31 When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him,
32 Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold.
33 Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground.
34 I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt.
35 This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush.
36 He brought them out, after that he had shewed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years.
37 ¶ This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.
38 This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:
39 To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt,
40 Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.
42 Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness?
43 Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.
44 Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.
45 Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David;
46 Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.
47 But Solomon built him an house.
48 Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,
49 Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?
50 Hath not my hand made all these things?
51 ¶ Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:
53 Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.
54 ¶ When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.
55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,
58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.
59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Acts 7:1-2 – J. Vernon McGee
Acts 7:3-16 – J. Vernon McGee
Acts 7:17-22 – J. Vernon McGee
Acts 7:23-36 – J. Vernon McGee
Acts 7:37-50 – J. Vernon McGee
Acts 7:51-60 – J. Vernon McGee
Acts 7:1-13 – Stephen’s Defense: God’s First Called Ones
There are several touches in this eloquent apology which deserve notice. Acts 7:2: “The God of glory.” This chapter begins and ends with glory. See Acts 7:55. Note that God appeared to Abraham in Ur, before he had come to Haran at the divine bidding. It is interesting to have this discrimination between the different appearances of God to the patriarch. Acts 7:3: We often have to leave our land before God shows us another. Acts 7:6: God’s promises lighted up the weary bondage of Egypt. Acts 7:10: It is God that delivers us out of our afflictions and gives us favor with people.
The drift of the whole speech, which must be borne in mind as we read it, is that again and again the Chosen People had rejected their God-sent deliverers and prophets, and had taken their own evil courses. The rejection of the Savior was only a parallel to that of Joseph by his brethren, and that of Moses by the nation. Israel had always been stiffnecked and froward, and ought not history to warn Stephen’s hearers against taking a similar attitude towards Jesus of Nazareth? Might not Jesus prove to be as great a blessing in that generation as Joseph or Moses had been in his? The parallel will be complete when Jesus returns in power and glory. —Through the Bible Day by Day
Acts 7:14-29 – Stephen’s Defense: the Deliverer from Bondage
Moses, we are here told, was “mighty in words”; that is, in eloquence as well as in deeds. This confirms the statement of the Jewish historian, Josephus, that in the earlier part of his career, now lost in the oblivion of history, Moses led a very successful Egyptian expedition against Ethiopia. He complains to the Lord, in Exodus 4:10, of being slow of speech, but that probably refers to the habit of long disuse amid the silence and loneliness of the desert.
It is clear that, stung by the sense of wrong, Moses at first interfered with his own right arm to deliver his people. He smote the Egyptian, and essayed to judge between his brethren. God had to bring him into the dust by repeated failure and rejection that he might become an emptied and a broken vessel. God will not give glory to man. The treasure must be held in an earthen vessel, II Corinthians 4:7. It is when we come to the end of ourselves that we arrive at the beginning of God. The world has ever to learn what God can do by those who are wholly emptied of self-confidence but yielded to His hand. —Through the Bible Day by Day
Acts 7:30-46 – Stephen’s Defense: Disobedience in the Wilderness
The angel who appeared in the bush that burned with fire was the angel of God’s presence, who saved the Israelites and bare them and carried them all the days of old. See Isaiah 63:9. Who could this be save our Lord Himself? Only He could speak of Himself as I am. Remember the use our Lord made of that present tense, as carrying with it evidence that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were all of them living, though centuries had passed since their bodies had been deposited in Machpelah’s cave. See Luke 20:38. It is very helpful to note that reference to the hand of the angel in Acts 7:35, 38. It reminds us of Acts 11:21. Would that, in our service for God, we were always conscious of the co-operating hand of the Savior!
The prophet referred to in Acts 7:37 is, of course, our Lord, and the parallel between Him and Moses is very apparent during our Lord’s human ministry—for meekness, for reference in all things to the sending of God, for the work they did, as negotiating the Law from Sinai and the Mount of Beatitudes. But the difference in their posthumous ministry is emphasized in Hebrews 3:1-6. —Through the Bible Day by Day
Acts 7:47-60 – A Martyr’s Glorious Death
Words like these could not be forgiven. The growing irritation of the audience seems to have extorted those burning remonstrances, and to have hastened the final scene. But the storm that burst around Christ’s faithful confessor and first martyr could not disturb his serenity. His heart was fixed, trusting in God, Psalm 108:1. The peace of God garrisoned his heart and mind. At the moment when his foes were fiercest, the presence of Jesus, who had risen from sitting to standing, in order to encourage and welcome him, was most vital. It will always be even so. You will never know the completeness of Christ’s comradeship till you have weathered a storm in His company.
They were particular not to violate the sanctity of the Temple, but not so in respect to the pure temple of the young martyr’s body. The dying Stephen did not forget the Lord’s prayer for those who crucified Him, and he followed his Master’s steps in this also. Amid the murderous flight of stones, he slept as a tired child on his mother’s breast; and from that hour his patience, gentleness, and strength became as pricking goads in the heart of Saul of Tarsus. —Through the Bible Day by Day
Acts 7:55—Being full of the Holy Ghost.
The blessed characteristic of Stephen lay in has being perpetually full of the Holy Ghost. It is said of others, even Peter, that they were filled, as though they needed some special and over-mastering inducement for special service. But Stephen is more than once described as full (Acts 6:5), as though he were always kept brimming, like a lake from the hills.
Those who are full of the Holy Spirit are always Looking steadfastly upwards.—They look not at the things which are seen, but at those which are not seen. Across the valleys, they catch sight of the Delectable Mountains, rising like the Himalaya above the plains of India. Whilst others look around for help, they lift up their eyes to the hills whence cometh their help; and to them heaven stands always open.
Those who are full of the Holy Spirit see and are transfigured by the glory of God.—What wonder that those who sat in the Council beheld Stephen’s face, as it had been the face of an angel. The light that shone there was not as when Jesus was transfiguredin that case, the light of the Shechinah broke out from within—but here the glory of God shone from the open door of Heaven. So the sunrise smites the highest peaks.
Those who are full of the Holy Ghost see the Lord Jesus, in his glory, as their Priest.—It is the special work of the Holy Spirit to direct the gaze to Jesus. Those who are full of the Spirit may hardly be aware of his gracious presence, but they are keenly alive to their Lord’s. The Spirit takes of the things of Jesus, and reveals them to the loving and obedient; specially those that concern his priestly work on the cross and in heaven. —Our Daily Homily