Acts 7

1 The high priest said, “Are these things so?” 2 He said, “Brothers and fathers, listen. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Get out of your land, and from your relatives, and come into a land which I will show you.’ 4 Then he came out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and lived in Haran. From there, when his father was dead, God moved him into this land, where you are now living. 5 He gave him no inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on. He promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his offspring after him, when he still had no child. 6 God spoke in this way: that his offspring would live as aliens in a strange land, and that they would be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years. 7 ‘I will judge the nation to which they will be in bondage,’ said God, ‘and after that will they come out, and serve me in this place.’ 8 He gave him the covenant of circumcision. So Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day. Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs. 9 “The patriarchs, moved with jealousy against Joseph, sold him into Egypt. God was with him, 10 and delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt. He made him governor over Egypt and all his house. 11 Now a famine came over all the land of Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction. Our fathers found no food. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers the first time. 13 On the second time Joseph was made known to his brothers, and Joseph’s race was revealed to Pharaoh. 14 Joseph sent, and summoned Jacob, his father, and all his relatives, seventy-five souls. 15 Jacob went down into Egypt, and he died, himself and our fathers, 16 and they were brought back to Shechem, and laid in the tomb that Abraham bought for a price in silver from the children of Hamor of Shechem. 17 “But as the time of the promise came close which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, 18 until there arose a different king, who didn’t know Joseph. 19 The same took advantage of our race, and mistreated our fathers, and forced them to throw out their babies, so that they wouldn’t stay alive. 20 At that time Moses was born, and was exceedingly handsome. He was nourished three months in his father’s house. 21 When he was thrown out, Pharaoh’s daughter took him up, and reared him as her own son. 22 Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. He was mighty in his words and works. 23 But when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. 24 Seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him who was oppressed, striking the Egyptian. 25 He supposed that his brothers understood that God, by his hand, was giving them deliverance; but they didn’t understand. 26 “The day following, he appeared to them as they fought, and urged them to be at peace again, saying, ‘Sirs, you are brothers. Why do you wrong one another?’ 27 But he who did his neighbor wrong pushed him away, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me, as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 Moses fled at this saying, and became a stranger in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons. 30 “When forty years were fulfilled, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight. As he came close to see, a voice of the Lord came to him, 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ Moses trembled, and dared not look. 33 The Lord said to him, ‘Take your sandals off of your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. 34 I have surely seen the affliction of my people that is in Egypt, and have heard their groaning. I have come down to deliver them. Now come, I will send you into Egypt.’ 35 “This Moses, whom they refused, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’—God has sent him as both a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 This man led them out, having worked wonders and signs in Egypt, in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years. 37 This is that Moses, who said to the children of Israel, ‘The Lord our God will raise up a prophet for you from amongst your brothers, like me.’ 38 This is he who was in the assembly in the wilderness with the angel that spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, who received living revelations to give to us, 39 to whom our fathers wouldn’t be obedient, but rejected him, and turned back in their hearts to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make us gods that will go before us, for as for this Moses, who led us out of the land of Egypt, we don’t know what has become of him.’ 41 They made a calf in those days, and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their hands. 42 But God turned, and gave them up to serve the army of the sky, as it is written in the book of the prophets, ‘Did you offer to me slain animals and sacrifices forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? 43 You took up the tabernacle of Moloch, the star of your god Rephan, the figures which you made to worship. I will carry you away beyond Babylon.’ 44 “Our fathers had the tabernacle of the testimony in the wilderness, even as he who spoke to Moses commanded him to make it according to the pattern that he had seen; 45 which also our fathers, in their turn, brought in with Joshua when they entered into the possession of the nations, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers, to the days of David, 46 who found favor in the sight of God, and asked to find a habitation for the God of Jacob. 47 But Solomon built him a house. 48 However, the Most High doesn’t dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says, 49 ‘heaven is my throne, and the earth a footstool for my feet. What kind of house will you build me?’ says the Lord; ‘or what is the place of my rest? 50 Didn’t my hand make all these things?’ 51 “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit! As your fathers did, so you do. 52 Which of the prophets didn’t your fathers persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, of whom you have now become betrayers and murderers. 53 You received the law as it was ordained by angels, and didn’t keep it!” 54 Now when they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly 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 at the right hand of God!” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and rushed at him with one accord. 58 They threw him out of the city, and stoned him. The witnesses placed their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 They stoned Stephen as he called out, saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 He knelt down, and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, don’t hold this sin against them!” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

Verses 1–16

Stephen was charged as a blasphemer of God, and an apostate from the church; therefore he shows that he is a son of Abraham, and values himself on it. The slow steps by which the promise made to Abraham advanced toward performance, plainly show that it had a spiritual meaning, and that the land intended was the heavenly. God owned Joseph in his troubles, and was with him by the power of his Spirit, both on his own mind by giving him comfort, and on those he was concerned with, by giving him favour in their eyes. Stephen reminds the Jews of their mean beginning as a check to priding themselves in the glories of that nation. Likewise of the wickedness of the patriarchs of their tribes, in envying their brother Joseph; and the same spirit was still working in them toward Christ and his ministers. The faith of the patriarchs, in desiring to be buried in the land of Canaan, plainly showed they had regard to the heavenly country. It is well to recur to the first rise of usages, or sentiments, which have been perverted. Would we know the nature and effects of justifying faith, we should study the character of the father of the faithful. His calling shows the power and freeness of Divine grace, and the nature of conversion. Here also we see that outward forms and distinctions are as nothing, compared with separation from the world, and devotedness to God.

Verses 17–29

Let us not be discouraged at the slowness of the fulfilling of God’s promises. Suffering times often are growing times with the church. God is preparing for his people’s deliverance, when their day is darkest, and their distress deepest. Moses was exceeding fair, “fair toward God;” it is the beauty of holiness which is in God’s sight of great price. He was wonderfully preserved in his infancy; for God will take special care of those of whom he designs to make special use. And did he thus protect the child Moses? Much more will he secure the interests of his holy child Jesus, from the enemies who are gathered together against him. They persecuted Stephen for disputing in defence of Christ and his gospel: in opposition to these they set up Moses and his law. They may understand, if they do not wilfully shut their eyes against the light, that God will, by this Jesus, deliver them out of a worse slavery than that of Egypt. Although men prolong their own miseries, yet the Lord will take care of his servants, and effect his own designs of mercy.

Verses 30–41

Men deceive themselves, if they think God cannot do what he sees to be good any where; he can bring his people into a wilderness, and there speak comfortably to them. He appeared to Moses in a flame of fire, yet the bush was not consumed; which represented the state of Israel in Egypt, where, though they were in the fire of affliction, yet they were not consumed. It may also be looked upon as a type of Christ’s taking upon him the nature of man, and the union between the Divine and human nature. The death of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, cannot break the covenant relation between God and them. Our Saviour by this proves the future state, Mt 22:31. Abraham is dead, yet God is still his God, therefore Abraham is still alive. Now, this is that life and immortality which are brought to light by the gospel. Stephen here shows that Moses was an eminent type of Christ, as he was Israel’s deliverer. God has compassion for the troubles of his church, and the groans of his persecuted people; and their deliverance takes rise from his pity. And that deliverance was typical of what Christ did, when, for us men, and for our salvation, he came down from heaven. This Jesus, whom they now refused, as their fathers did Moses, even this same has God advanced to be a Prince and Saviour. It does not at all take from the just honour of Moses to say, that he was but an instrument, and that he is infinitely outshone by Jesus. In asserting that Jesus should change the customs of the ceremonial law. Stephen was so far from blaspheming Moses, that really he honoured him, by showing how the prophecy of Moses was come to pass, which was so clear. God who gave them those customs by his servant Moses, might, no doubt, change the custom by his Son Jesus. But Israel thrust Moses from them, and would have returned to their bondage; so men in general will not obey Jesus, because they love this present evil world, and rejoice in their own works and devices.

Verses 42–50

Stephen upbraids the Jews with the idolatry of their fathers, to which God gave them up as a punishment for their early forsaking him. It was no dishonour, but an honour to God, that the tabernacle gave way to the temple; so it is now, that the earthly temple gives way to the spiritual one; and so it will be when, at last, the spiritual shall give way to the eternal one. The whole world is God’s temple, in which he is every where present, and fills it with his glory; what occasion has he then for a temple to manifest himself in? And these things show his eternal power and Godhead. But as heaven is his throne, and the earth his footstool, so none of our services can profit Him who made all things. Next to the human nature of Christ, the broken and spiritual heart is his most valued temple.

Verses 51–53

Stephen was going on, it seems, to show that the temple and the temple service must come to an end, and it would be the glory of both to give way to the worship of the Father in spirit and in truth; but he perceived they would not bear it. Therefore he broke off, and by the Spirit of wisdom, courage, and power, sharply rebuked his persecutors. When plain arguments and truths provoke the opposers of the gospel, they should be shown their guilt and danger. They, like their fathers, were stubborn and wilful. There is that in our sinful hearts, which always resists the Holy Ghost, a flesh that lusts against the Spirit, and wars against his motions; but in the hearts of God’s elect, when the fulness of time comes, this resistance is overcome. The gospel was offered now, not by angels, but from the Holy Ghost; yet they did not embrace it, for they were resolved not to comply with God, either in his law or in his gospel. Their guilt stung them to the heart, and they sought relief in murdering their reprover, instead of sorrow and supplication for mercy.

Verses 54–60

Nothing is so comfortable to dying saints, or so encouraging to suffering saints, as to see Jesus at the right hand of God: blessed be God, by faith we may see him there. Stephen offered up two short prayers in his dying moments. Our Lord Jesus is God, to whom we are to seek, and in whom we are to trust and comfort ourselves, living and dying. And if this has been our care while we live, it will be our comfort when we die. Here is a prayer for his persecutors. Though the sin was very great, yet if they would lay it to their hearts, God would not lay it to their charge. Stephen died as much in a hurry as ever any man did, yet, when he died, the words used are, he fell asleep; he applied himself to his dying work with as much composure as if he had been going to sleep. He shall awake again in the morning of the resurrection, to be received into the presence of the Lord, where is fulness of joy, and to share the pleasures that are at his right hand, for evermore.

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