Acts Chapter Seven (NIV)
Acts Chapter Seven (NASB)
Verses 1-16: Stephen begins his address to the Sanhedrin with the history of God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendents, briefly telling how the people came to Egypt.
Verses 17-50: Stephen tells of the life of Moses and how although he led the Israelites out of Egypt by miraculous wonders and signs, they turned away from God to idols.
Verses 51-60: Stephen’s rebuke of his Jewish listeners enraged them so much that they stoned him, making Stephen the first follower of Christ to be martyred.
II. KEY PASSAGES
(A) Acts 7:9-10, 35-36--Stephen is drawing attention to how throughout their history, the Israelites have rejected the prophets sent by God to save them. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, but what was intended for evil God used for good in preserving a remnant. Moses was rejected by the Israelites when he attempted to help them, however God made Moses both “ruler and redeemer” who led the people out of Egypt performing great “wonders and signs.”
(B) Acts 7:51-53--Stephen lambasts his listeners as “stiff-necked”, “uncircumcised in heart and ears”, and always resisting the Holy Spirit because they followed the pattern of their forefathers by rejecting the “Righteous One” whom God sent to save them. Notice how the rejection of those sent by God is seen as a rejection of God, a rejection also identified as resistance against the Holy Spirit, indicating that the Holy Spirit is God.
(C) Acts 7:58-60--The angry mob stones Stephen, while Saul--later Paul-- looks on. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen cries out in prayer for the Lord Jesus to receive his spirit and before his final breath he speaks a prayer of mercy for those who are murdering him, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Stephen’s prayers are very like those of the Lord Jesus Christ who prayed before His own death, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,”(Luke 23:34) and “Into Your hands, I commit my spirit,” (Luke 23:46). So great a longing for the repentance and salvation of the lost should mark the follower of Christ that even if he is killed by the very unbelievers he seeks to convert, the Christian would not ask God to punish them but rather plead for the Lord to have mercy.