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Acts Chapter Seven


Acts 7

Stephen, [1] as far as we are told, had not known the Lord during His life on earth. Certainly he was not appointed, like the apostles, to be a witness of that life. He was simply the instrument of the Holy Ghost, distributing to whom He would.

He begins therefore their history from the beginning of God's way, that is, from Abraham, called out by the revelation of the God of glory, slow indeed to obey, but at length led by the patient grace of God into Canaan. Nevertheless, he was a stranger in the promised land; and bondage was to be the portion of his descendants, until God interposed in grace. The lot, therefore, of the blessed patriarch was not that of possessing the promises, but of being a stranger; and that of his descendants was to be captives until God delivered them with a strong arm. Nothing can be more striking than the calm superiority to circumstances displayed by Stephen. He recites to the Jews a history they could not deny, a history they boasted in, yet it condemned them utterly. They were doing as their fathers had done. But two persons are specially prominent in Stephen's account, in connection with the goodness of God towards Israel at this period-Joseph and Moses. Israel had rejected them both, given up Joseph to the Gentiles, rejected Moses as judge and leader. It was, in cases which the Jews could not deny or object to, the history of Christ also, who, too, at the time appointed of God, will indeed be the Redeemer of Israel. This is the substance of Stephen's argument. The Jews had always rejected those whom God had sent and in whom the Holy Ghost had acted, and the testimony of the same Holy Ghost in the prophets who had spoken of the Christ whom they had now betrayed and slain. Besides this, according to Moses, they had worshipped false gods, even from the time of their deliverance out of Egypt [2] -a sin which, however great the long-suffering of God, would cause them to be carried away, now that they had filled up the measure of their iniquity, beyond the Babylon which had already been their punishment.

It is a most striking summing up of their whole history-the history of man with all the means of restoration supplied. The full measure of guilt is stated. They had received the law and had not kept it, rejected the prophets who had testified of Christ, and betrayed and murdered Christ Himself-always resisted the Holy Ghost. What they did trust in, the temple, God rejected. God Himself has been, as it were, a stranger in the land of Canaan; and if Solomon built Him a house, it was in order that the Holy Ghost might declare that He who had heaven for His throne, and earth for His footstool, whose dominion was universal, would not dwell in houses of stone, which were the creation of His own hand. Thus we have the complete summing up of their history, connected with the last days of their judgment. They always resisted the Holy Ghost, as they had always disobeyed the law. Judaism was judged, after the long patience of God and all His ways of grace with man as means were exhausted. For Israel was man under the special dealings and care of God. Man's guilt now is not only sin, but sin in spite of all that God has done. It was the turning-point of man's history. Law, prophets, Christ, the Holy Ghost, all tried, and man at enmity against God. The cross had really proved it, but this had added the rejection of the testimony of the Holy Ghost to a glorified Christ. All was over with man, and began anew with the second Man ever in connection with heaven.

Their conscience convicted, and their heart hardened, their will unchanged, the members of the council were filled with rage, and gnashed upon him with their teeth. But if Stephen was to bear this definitive testimony against Israel, he was not merely to render the testimony, but much more to place it in its true relative position, by a living expression of that which a believer was in virtue of the presence of the Holy Ghost here below dwelling in him. In their history we have man always resisting the Holy Ghost; in Stephen, a man full of Him consequent on redemption.

Such are the elements of this touching and striking scene, which forms an epoch in the history of the assembly. The heads of Israel gnash their teeth with rage, against the mighty and convincing testimony of the Holy Ghost, with which Stephen was filled. They had rejected a glorified Christ, as they had slain a humbled one. Let us follow out the effect as to Stephen himself. He looks stedfastly up to heaven; now fully opened to faith. It is thither that the Spirit directs the mind, making it capable of fixing itself there. He reveals to one who is thus filled with Himself the glory of God on high, and Jesus in that glory at the right hand of God, in the place of power-Son of man in the far higher place than that of Psalm 2, that of Psalm 8, though all things were not yet put under Him (compare John 1:50, 51). Afterwards He gives the effect of the testimony borne in the presence of the power of Satan, the murderer.

"I see," said Stephen, "the heavens opened." Such then is the position of the true believer-heavenly upon the earth-in presence of the world that rejected Christ, the murderous world; the believer, alive in death, sees by the power of the Holy Ghost into heaven, and the Son of man at the right hand of God. Stephen does not say "Jesus." The Spirit characterises Him as the Son of man! Precious testimony to man! Nor is it to the glory of God that he testifies (this was natural to heaven) but to the Son of man in the glory, heaven being open to him, and then looks to Him as the Lord Jesus, to receive his spirit, the first example and full testimony of the state of the believer's soul after death with Christ glorified.

With regard to the progress of the testimony, it is not now that Jesus is the Messiah, and He will return if you repent (which, however, does not cease to be true), but it is the Son of man in heaven, which is open to the man that is filled with the Holy Ghost-that heaven to which God is about to transport the soul, as it is the hope and the testimony of those that are His. The patience of God was doubtless still acting in Israel; but the Holy Ghost opened new scenes and new hopes to the believer. [3]

But remark that Stephen, in consequence of seeing Jesus in heaven, perfectly resembles Jesus upon earth-a fact precious in grace to us: only that the glory of His Person is in all cases carefully guarded. Jesus, though heaven was opened to Him, was Himself the object to which heaven looked down, and who was publicly owned and sealed of the Father. He did not need a vision to present an object to His faith, nor did it produce any transformation into the same image by revelation of the glory. But "Father, into Thy hands I commit my spirit" is found in "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And the affection for Israel which expresses itself in intercession, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," is found again in "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge"; save that here the Holy Ghost does not now affirm that they are ignorant.

But it is well to dwell a moment on that which brings out more clearly the especial position of Stephen, the vessel of the Spirit's testimony, so definitively rejected by the Jews; and the divine character and Person of Jesus, even where His disciple is most like Him. Heaven is open to Jesus, the Holy Ghost descends upon Him and He is acknowledged the Son of God. Heaven opens on Jesus, and the angels descend upon the Son of man: but He has no object presented to Him; He is Himself the object on which heaven is gazing. Heaven will open at the end of the age, and Jesus Himself come forth on the white horse (that is, in judgment and triumph). Here, too, heaven opens, and the disciple, the Christian, full of the Holy Ghost, sees into it, and there beholds Jesus at the right hand of God. Jesus is still the object, before of heaven, now of the believing man who is filled with the Holy Ghost; so that, as to the object of faith and the position of the believer, this scene is definitively characteristic. Jesus has no object, but is the object of heaven when it opens; the saint has, and it is Jesus Himself in heaven when it is open. Rejected, and rejected by the Jews, like Jesus, partaking in His sufferings, and filled with His Spirit of grace, Stephen's eyes are fixed on high, on the heaven which the Holy Ghost opens to him; and he sees the Son of man there ready to receive his spirit. The rest will come later; but it is not only Jesus, whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution, but also the souls of His believing people until the moment of resurrection, and the whole church, in spirit, detached from the world that rejected Him, and from Judaism that opposed the testimony of the Holy Ghost. The latter, Judaism, is no longer at all recognised; there is no longer any room for the long-suffering of God towards it. Its place is taken by heaven, and by the assembly, which, so far as it is consistent, follows her Master there in spirit, while waiting for His return.


[1] He is the expression of the power of the Holy Ghost witnessing to Christ glorified, who had been now thus presented to Israel, who had already rejected Him in humiliation. From the fall to the flood, man, though not left without witness, was otherwise left to himself. There were no special ways and institutions of God. The result was the flood, to cleanse, so to speak, the earth from its horrible pollution and violence. In the new world God began to deal with man. Government was set up in Noah. But in Abraham one was, by electing grace, called out, and God's promises given to him when the world had turned to demons. This began the history of God's people, but the question of righteousness was not raised. This the law did, claiming it from man. Then prophets came in patient grace. Then, the last appeal of God for fruits, and testimony of grace, the Son was sent. He was now rejected, and on His intercession the Holy Ghost had witnessed to His glory by Peter (Acts 3) for their repentance, and now dealt with them as to it by Stephen.

[2] Observe, too, here, that however long the patience of God had lasted, repentance not being its result, the first sin, the first departure from God, bears its penalty at the end.

[3] The Holy Ghost opens heaven to our view, and enables us to contemplate that which is found there; and forms us on earth according to the character of Jesus. As to the change that took place in the progress of God's dealings, it appears to me that it was the realisation by the Spirit of the effect of the veil being rent. Jesus is seen still standing; because, until the rejection by Israel of the testimony of the Holy Ghost, He did not definitely sit down, waiting for the judgment of His enemies. Rather He remained, in the position of High Priest, standing; the believer with Him on high by the Spirit, and the soul having thus far joined Him there in heaven; for now, by the blood of Christ, by that new and living way, it could enter within the veil. On the other hand, the Jews having done the same thing with regard to the testimony of the Holy Ghost that they did with regard to Jesus, having (so to speak) in Stephen sent a messenger after Him to say, "We will not have this man to reign over us," Christ definitively takes His place, seated in heaven, until He shall judge the enemies who would not that He should reign over them. It is in this last position that He is viewed in the Epistle to the Hebrews; in which consequently they are exhorted to come out of the camp of Israel, following after the victim whose blood had been carried into the sanctuary; thus anticipating the judgment, which fell upon Jerusalem intermediately by means of the Romans, in order to set the nation aside, as it will be finally executed by Jesus Himself. The position of Stephen therefore resembles that of Jesus, the testimony being that of the Spirit to Jesus glorified. This makes the great principle of the Epistle to the Hebrews very plain. The doctrine of the church, announced by Paul after the revelation made to him on his way to Damascus, goes further than this; that is, it declares the union of Christians with Jesus in heaven, and not merely their entrance into the holy place through the rent veil, where the priest might only go in previously, behind the veil which hid God from the people.

── John DarbySynopsis of Acts


Acts 7

Chapter Contents

Stephen's defence. (1-50) Stephen reproves the Jews for the death of Christ. (51-53) The martyrdom of Stephen. (54-60)

Commentary on Acts 7:1-16

(Read Acts 7:1-16)

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.

Commentary on Acts 7:17-29

(Read Acts 7:17-29)

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.

Commentary on Acts 7:30-41

(Read Acts 7:30-41)

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, Matthew 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.

Commentary on Acts 7:42-50

(Read Acts 7:42-50)

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.

Commentary on Acts 7:51-53

(Read Acts 7:51-53)

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.

Commentary on Acts 7:54-60

(Read Acts 7:54-60)

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.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Acts


Acts 7

Verse 3

[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.

Which I will show thee — Abraham knew not where he went.

Verse 4

[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.

After his father was dead — While Terah lived, Abraham lived partly with him, partly in Canaan: but after he died, altogether in Canaan.

Verse 5

[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.

No, not to set his foot on — For the field mentioned, Acts 7:16, he did not receive by a Divine donation, but bought it; even thereby showing that he was a stranger in the land.

Verse 6

[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.

Genesis 15:13.

Verse 7

[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.

They shall serve me — Not the Egyptians.

Verse 8

[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.

And so he begat Isaac — After the covenant was given, of which circumcision was the seal. Genesis 17:10.

Verse 9

[9] And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him,

But God was with him — Though he was not in this land. Genesis 37:28.

Verse 12

[12] But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first.

Sent our fathers first — Without Benjamin.

Verse 14

[14] Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.

Seventy-five souls — So the seventy interpreters, (whom St. Stephen follows,) one son and a grandson of Manasseh, and three children of Ephraim, being added to the seventy persons mentioned Genesis 46:27.

Verse 16

[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.

And were carried over to Shechem — It seems that St. Stephen, rapidly running over so many circumstances of history, has not leisure (nor was it needful where they were so well known) to recite them all distinctly. Therefore he here contracts into one, two different sepulchres, places, and purchases, so as in the former history, to name the buyer, omitting the seller, in the latter, to name the seller, omitting the buyer. Abraham bought a burying place of the children of Heth, Gen. xxiii. Genesis 23:1-20 There Jacob was buried. Jacob bought a field of the children of Hamor. There Joseph was buried. You see here, how St. Stephen contracts these two purchases into one. This concise manner of speaking, strange as it seems to us, was common among the Hebrews; particularly, when in a case notoriously known, the speaker mentioned but part of the story, and left the rest, which would have interrupted the current of his discourse, to be supplied in the mind of the hearer.

And laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought — The first land which these strangers bought was for a sepulchre. They sought for a country in heaven. Perhaps the whole sentence might be rendered thus: So Jacob went down into Egypt and died, he and our fathers, and were carried over to Shechem, and laid by the sons (that is, decendants) of Hamor, the father of Shechem, in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money.

Verse 17

[17] But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt,

Exodus 1:7.

Verse 18

[18] Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph.

Another king — Probably of another family.

Verse 19

[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.

Exposed — Cast out to perish by hunger or wild beasts.

Verse 20

[20] In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father's house three months:

In which time — A sad but a seasonable time. Exodus 2:2.

Verse 21

[21] And when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son.

Pharaoh's daughter took him up — By which means, being designed for a kingdom, he had all those advantages of education, which he could not have had, if he had not been exposed.

Verse 22

[22] And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.

In all the wisdom of the Egyptians — Which was then celebrated in all the world, and for many ages after.

And mighty in words — Deep, solid, weighty, though not of a ready utterance.

Verse 23

[23] And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.

It came into his heart — Probably by an impulse from God.

Verse 24

[24] And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian:

Seeing one wronged — Probably by one of the task masters.

Verse 25

[25] For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.

They understood it not — Such was their stupidity and sloth; which made him afterward unwilling to go to them.

Verse 26

[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?

He showed himself — Of his own accord, unexpectedly.

Verse 27

[27] But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?

Who appointed thee — "Under the presence of the want of a call by man, the instruments of God are often rejected."

Verse 30

[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.

The angel — The Son of God; as appears from his styling himself Jehovah.

In a flame of fire — Signifying the majesty of God then present. Exodus 3:2.

Verse 33

[33] Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground.

Then said the Lord, Loose thy shoes — An ancient token of reverence; for the place is holy ground - The holiness of places depends on the peculiar presence of God there.

Verse 35

[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.

This Moses whom they refused — Namely, forty years before. Probably, not they, but their fathers did it, and God imputes it to them. So God frequently imputes the sins of the fathers to those of their children who are of the same spirit.

Him did God send to be a deliverer — Which is much more than a judge; by the hand of - That is, by means of the angel - This angel who spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai expressly called himself Jehovah, a name which cannot, without the highest presumption, be assumed by any created angel, since he whose name alone is Jehovah, is the Most High over all the earth, Psalm lxxxiii, 18. Psalms 83:18. It was therefore the Son of God who delivered the law to Moses, under the character of Jehovah, and who is here spoken of as the angel of the covenant, in respect of his mediatorial office.

Verse 37

[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.

The Lord will raise you up a prophet — St. Stephen here shows that there is no opposition between Moses and Christ. Deuteronomy 18:15

Verse 38

[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:

This is he — Moses.

With the angel, and with our fathers — As a mediator between them.

Who received the living oracles — Every period beginning with, And the Lord said unto Moses, is properly an oracle. But the oracles here intended are chiefly the ten commandments. These are termed living, because all the word of God, applied by his Spirit, is living and powerful, Hebrews 4:12, enlightening the eyes, rejoicing the heart, converting the soul, raising the dead. Exodus 19:3.

Verse 40

[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.

Make us gods to go before us — Back into Egypt. Exodus 32:1.

Verse 41

[41] And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.

And they made a calf — In imitation of Apis, the Egyptian god: and rejoiced in the works of their hands - In the god they had made. 42.

God turned — From them in anger; and gave them up - Frequently from the time of the golden calf, to the time of Amos, and afterward.

The host of heaven — The stars are called an army or host, because of their number, order, and powerful influence.

In the book of the prophets — Of the twelve prophets, which the Jews always wrote together in one book.

Have ye offered — The passage of Amos referred to, chap. v, 25, etc., Amos 5:25 consists of two parts; of which the former confirms verse 41, Acts 7:41,42 of the sin of the people; the latter the beginning of verse 42, concerning their punishment.

Have ye offered to me — They had offered many sacrifices; but God did not accept them as offered to him, because they sacrificed to idols also; and did not sacrifice to him with an upright heart. Amos 5:25.

Verse 43

[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.

Ye took up — Probably not long after the golden calf: but secretly; else Moses would have mentioned it.

The shrine — A small, portable chapel, in which was the image of their god. Moloch was the planet Mars, which they worshipped under a human shape. Remphan, that is, Saturn, they represented by a star.

And I will carry you beyond Babylon — That is, beyond Damascus (which is the word in Amos) and Babylon. This was fulfilled by the king of Assyria, 2 Kings 17:6.

Verse 44

[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.

Our fathers had the tabernacle of the testimony — The testimony was properly the two tables of stone, on which the ten commandments were written. Hence the ark which contained them is frequently called the ark of the testimony; and the whole tabernacle in this place.

The tabernacle of the testimony — according to the model which he had seen - When he was caught up in the visions of God on the mount.

Verse 45

[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;

Which our fathers having received — From their ancestors; brought into the possession of the Gentiles - Into the land which the Gentiles possessed before. So that God's favour is not a necessary consequence of inhabiting this land. All along St. Stephen intimates two things: 1. That God always loved good men in every land: 2. That he never loved bad men even in this. Joshua 3:14.

Verse 46

[46] Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.

Who petitioned to find a habitation for the God of Jacob — But he did not obtain his petition: for God remained without any temple till Solomon built him a house. Observe how wisely the word is chosen with respect to what follows.

Verse 48

[48] Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,

Yet the Most High inhabiteth not temples made with hands — As Solomon declared at the very dedication of the temple, 1 Kings 8:27.

The Most High — Whom as such no building can contain. Isaiah 66:1.

Verse 49

[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?

What is the place of my rest? — Have I need to rest? 51.

Ye stiff necked — Not bowing the neck to God's yoke; and uncircumcised in heart - So they showed themselves, verse 54; Acts 7:54 and ears - As they showed, verse 57. Acts 7:57 So far were they from receiving the word of God into their hearts, that they would not hear it even with their ears.

Ye — And your fathers, always - As often as ever ye are called, resist the Holy Ghost - Testifying by the prophets of Jesus, and the whole truth. This is the sum of what he had shown at large.

Verse 53

[53] Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.

Who have received the law by the administration of angels — God, when he gave the law on Mount Sinai, was attended with thousands of his angels, Galatians 3:19; Psalms 68:17.

Verse 55

[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,

But he looking steadfastly up to heaven, saw the glory of God — Doubtless he saw such a glorious representation, God miraculously operating on his imagination, as on Ezekiel's, when he sat in his house at Babylon, and saw Jerusalem, and seemed to himself transported thither, Ezekiel 8:1-4. And probably other martyrs, when called to suffer the last extremity, have had extraordinary assistance of some similar kind.

Verse 56

[56] And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

I see the Son of man standing — As if it were just ready to receive him. Otherwise he is said to sit at the right hand of God.

Verse 57

[57] Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,

They rushed upon him — Before any sentence passed.

Verse 58

[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.

The witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man, whose name was Saul — O Saul, couldst thou have believed, if one had told thee, that thou thyself shouldst be stoned in the same cause? and shouldst triumph in committing thy soul likewise to that Jesus whom thou art now blaspheming? His dying prayer reached thee, as well as many others. And the martyr Stephen, and Saul the persecutor, (afterward his brother both in faith and martyrdom,) are now joined in everlasting friendship, and dwell together in the happy company of those who have made their robes white in the blood of the Lamb.

Verse 59

[59] And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

And they stoned Stephen, invoking and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit — This is the literal translation of the words, the name of God not being in the original. Nevertheless such a solemn prayer to Christ, in which a departing soul is thus committed into his hands, is such an act of worship, as no good man could have paid to a mere creature; Stephen here worshipping Christ in the very same manner in which Christ worshipped the Father on the cross.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Acts


Chapter 7. Bloody Witness

Powerful in Speech
Powerful in Action

I. Recital of the Old Testament History

  1. Abraham
  2. Moses the Man of God
  3. The Israelites

II. Rebuke the Israelites

  1. The Shrine of Molech
  2. Resist the Holy Spirit
  3. Kill the Righteous

II. Stephen the First Martyr

  1. Look Up to Heaven
  2. Stoned to Death
  3. Sleep in the Lord
── Chih-Hsin ChangAn Outline of The New Testament
Chapter Seven General Review
1) To review Stephen's defense to the charge of blasphemy against the
   temple and the Law
2) To note the remarkable manner in which the first martyr for Christ
The previous chapter ended with Stephen before the Sanhedrin council
facing accusations that he spoke blasphemy against the temple and the
Law (cf. 6:13-14).  Chapter seven contains Stephen's defense to these
charges, and the account of his martyrdom.
Stephen responded by reviewing the call of Abraham and God's promise to
him and the nation of Israel.  He then described how God used Moses to
deliver Israel from Egyptian bondage and led them for forty years
through the wilderness.  Yet Israel rebelled against Moses, through whom
God gave the Law.  Not only in the incident involving the golden calf,
but throughout their wilderness wanderings Israel continued to worship
false gods (cf. Amo 5:25-27).  Turning to the matter of God's dwelling
place, Stephen acknowledged the role of the tabernacle of Moses and the
temple of Solomon, but contended that God does not dwell in temples made
with hands (cf. Isa 66:1-2).  He concluded by charging the council of
resisting the Holy Spirit just like their ancestors, for as their
fathers persecuted and killed the prophets who foretold the coming of
the Just One (Christ), so they became His betrayers and murderers.
Indeed, they were the ones who have not kept the Law (1-53).
Cut to the heart, those in the council gnashed at Stephen with their
teeth.  Full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory
of God with Jesus standing at His right hand.  Upon telling the council
what he saw, in rage they cast him out of city and began stoning him.
The witnesses who brought the false charges laid their clothes at the
feet of a young man named Saul (later known as Paul, the apostle).  As
Stephen was stoned, he called upon Jesus to receive his spirit, and to
not charge his murderers with his death.   In this way Stephen became
the first martyr for Christ (54-60).
      1. The call to leave Mesopotamia
      2. The sojourn in Canaan
      3. The promise of possession to his descendants
      4. The covenant of circumcision
      5. His descendants:  Isaac, Jacob, the twelve patriarchs
      1. Joseph sold into Egypt, becomes governor
      2. Jacob and his sons move to Egypt during the famine
      3. The patriarchs buried in Canaan
      1. The children Israel in Egypt become slaves
      2. The work of Moses, deliverer of Israel
         a. Raised by Pharaoh's daughter
         b. Kills an Egyptian, but despised by his brethren
         c. Flees to Midian where he lives for forty years
         d. The Lord appears to Moses in a burning bush at Mount Sinai
         e. Returns to Egypt, delivers Israel and brings them into the
      1. Moses is the person:
         a. Who said God would raise up another prophet like him
         b. Who spoke to the Angel on Mount Sinai
         c. Who received living oracles to give to Israel
         d. Whom the fathers would not obey but rejected
      2. Israel is the nation:
         a. Who turned back into Egypt in their hearts
         b. Who pressured Aaron to make a golden calf
         c. Whom God gave up to worship the host of heaven for forty
            years in the wilderness
            1) They may have offered sacrifices to the Lord
            2) They also worshiped Moloch and Remphan - cf. Amo 5:25-27
      1. The fathers of Israel had the tabernacle of witness
         a. In the wilderness, built according to the pattern shown
         b. Brought into the promised land by Joshua
      2. They also had the temple
         a. Asked for by David, who found favor before God
         b. Built by his son Solomon
      3. Yet the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands
         a. For heaven is His throne and earth is His footstool
         b. His hand has made all these things - cf. Isa 66:1-2
      1. Stephen charges the council of resisting the Holy Spirit, just
         as their fathers did
      2. Their fathers persecuted and killed the prophets, so they have
         killed the Just One
      3. They received the law, but did not keep it
      1. Cut to the heart, they gnashed at Stephen with their teeth
      2. Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven
         a. He saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right
            hand of God
         b. He tells the council what he saw
      3. In response, the council:
         a. Cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears
         c. Ran at him with one accord, and cast him out of the city
      1. The witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of Saul
      2. They stoned Stephen as he was calling on God
         a. "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit"
         b. "Lord, do not charge them with this sin"
      3. Having said this, he fell asleep (i.e., died)
1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - Stephen's defense (1-53)
   - Stephen's death (54-60)
2) When did God first appear to Abraham? (2)
   - In Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran
3) What did God tell Abraham to do? (3)
   - Leave his country and relatives, and go to a land that He would
     show him
4) Where did Abraham finally settle? (4)
   - Canaan (New Testament Palestine)
5) Who did God promise to give the land to?  When?  (5-7)
   - The descendants of Abraham
   - After they lived in a foreign land 400 years, following which God
     would judge that nation
6) What covenant did God give Abraham? (8)
   - The covenant of circumcision
7) What was the lineage of Abraham leading to the formation of the
   nation of Israel? (8)
   - Abraham begot Isaac
   - Isaac begot Jacob
   - Jacob begot twelve sons, who became the twelve patriarchs of Israel
8) What bad and good thing happened to Joseph? (9-10)
   - He was sold into Egypt by his brothers
   - Pharaoh made him governor over Egypt
9) What resulted in the rest of Jacob's family moving to Egypt?   How
   many? (11-15)
   - A famine; 75 people
10) Where was Jacob and his sons eventually buried? (16)
   - Back in Canaan
11) Who eventually led Israel out of Egyptian bondage? (17-36)
   - Moses
12) Who did Moses tell the children of Israel would eventually come?
   - A prophet like himself (cf. Deu 18:15)
13) What two examples does Stephen provide of Israel's disobedience?
   - Their worship of the golden calf at Mount Sinai
   - Their worship of Moloch and Remphan throughout their forty years in
     the wilderness
14) What two dwelling places did Israel have for God? (44-47)
   - The tabernacle built by Moses; the temple built by Solomon
15) Yet what did God say through the prophet Isaiah? (48-50)
   - The Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands
16) How did Stephen describe the religious leaders of the council? (51)
   - Stiff-necked and uncircumcised in hearts and ears
17) What did he accuse them of doing?  In what way?  (51-52)
   - Always resisting the Holy Spirit, just as their fathers did
   - By murdering the Just One (Jesus), as their fathers killed the
     prophets who foretold His coming
18) What final charge did Stephen accuse them of?  (53)
   - Receiving the law by the direction of angels, but not keeping it
19) How did those who heard this react? (54)
   - Cut to the heart, they gnashed at Stephen with their teeth
20) Filled with the Holy Spirit, what did Stephen see? (55-56)
   - The glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God
21) How did the council then act? (57-58)
   - Cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and cast Stephen
     out of the city
22) What did they then do?  At whose feet did the witnesses lay their
    garments? (58)
   -  They stoned Stephen; a young man named Saul
23) As Stephen was stoned to death, what two things did he pray? (59-60)
   - "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."; "Lord, do not charge them with
     this sin."


--《Executable Outlines