Acts 7: Living and Dying for Christ

When the high priest gave Stephen an opportunity to defend himself, why do you think Stephen instead began with a telling of Jewish history in which everyone present was already familiar?

Author’s Thoughts
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Acts 7:1 The high priest said to Stephen, “Are these charges true?”
7:2 “Fellow Jews and respected elders, listen to me,” Stephen said. “Our glorious God appeared to our ancestor Abraham while he was in Mesopotamia, before he settled in Haran.
7:3 God said to him, ‘Leave your native country and relatives and go to a place that I will show you.’
7:4 So he left the Chaldean country and lived in Haran until his father died. Then he came to this land where you now live.
7:5 The land he walked upon was not his inheritance. God promised to give it to him and his seed at a time when he had no children.
7:6 God said Abraham’s descendants would be oppressed slaves in a foreign land for four hundred years.
7:7 ‘I will judge that nation,’ he said, ‘and deliver the people so they can serve me here.’
7:8 Circumcision sealed the agreement, so Abraham circumcised Isaac eight days after birth. Isaac’s son Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs of Israel.
King James
Acts 7:1 Then said the high priest, Are these things so?
7:2 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,
7:3 And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.
7:4 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.
7:5 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.
7:6 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.
7:7 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.
7:8 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.

Moses grew up in the elite Egyptian community and must have received private tutoring in language, science, the arts, and the gods who ruled their land. With that background, why would he have been offended at the mistreatment of a Jew?

Author’s Thoughts
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Acts 7:22 Moses was schooled in all Egyptian expertise, both in logic and action.
7:23 When forty years old, he visited the area where his kinsmen lived.
7:24 After seeing one of them mistreated, he killed the offender, an Egyptian.
King James
Acts 7:22 And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.
7:23 And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.
7:24 And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian.

In Stephen’s historical discourse, what theme might best reveal people’s need to hear and follow God?

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Acts 7:39 Our ancestors refused to listen, but rejected Moses, wanting to go back to Egypt.
King James
Acts 7:39 To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt.

Why do you think people turn away from God and credit other causes for their success?

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Acts 7:40 They said to Aaron, ‘Make gods for us to follow, because we don’t know what has happened to this Moses who brought us out of Egypt.
King James
Acts 7:40 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.

What kind of temple should be built to house God’s presence?

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Acts 7:45 They had the Tabernacle with them from the days when Joshua led the battles to possess the land, when God drove out the pagans, until the reign of David,
7:46 who enjoyed divine favor and wanted to build a house for the God of Jacob.
7:47 And Solomon built the Temple.
7:48 However, temples made by men can’t house the Most High, as the prophet Isaiah spoke God’s word:
7:49 The universe is my throne and Earth is my footstool. What kind of house could you possibly build for me? Where is the place where you could give me rest?
7:50 Was it not my hand that made all things?
1 Corinthians 3:16 Don’t you know that the people are God’s temple, the Holy Spirit living among you?
3:17 His temple is holy, and God will destroy anyone who defiles it.
King James
Acts 7:45 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;
7:46 Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.
7:47 But Solomon built him an house.
7:48 Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,)
7:49 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?
7:50 Hath not my hand made all these things?
1 Corinthians 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
3:17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

Do you think Stephen was wise in not defending himself but accusing the Jews for not keeping the Law? Why?

Author’s Thoughts
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Acts 7:51 You stubborn, hardhearted, deaf people . . . you persist in resisting the Holy Spirit, just like your ancestors did.
7:52 Can you name one true prophet whom your ancestors failed to persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Messiah—the one you arrested and crucified.
7:53 God’s messengers gave you his Law, but you have not kept it.”
King James
Acts 7:51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
7:52 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:)
7:53 Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.

Jewish kings had a history of killing the prophets who didn’t speak what they wanted to hear. How did that motivation compare with the attitude of the Sanhedrin?

Author’s Thoughts
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Acts 7:54 Stephen’s accusation angered the Jewish leaders, and they ground their teeth in anger against him.
King James
Acts 7:54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.

In your own words, how would you describe what Stephen saw when he looked toward God and not his accusers?

Author’s Thoughts
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Acts 7:55 Full of the Holy Spirit, Stephen wasn’t looking at them but looked up to see the glory of God, with Jesus standing at his right hand.
7:56 “Oh, wow!” Stephen said. “I see the skies opened up, and the Son of Man is standing on the right side of God.”
King James
Acts 7:55 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,
7:56 and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

In what ways were members of the Sanhedrin impressed when they heard Stephen’s description of what he saw?

Author’s Thoughts
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Acts 7:57 Wanting to hear no more, the Sanhedrin became a unified mob, swarming to grab hold of him.
King James
Acts 7:57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord.

Why do you think the Jewish leaders could stone Stephen, but they could not put Jesus to death?

Author’s Thoughts
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Luke 22:2 The chief priests and teachers of the Law sought a means to covertly capture Jesus and put him to death, because they feared how the people might react.
John 18:31 “You take him and judge him according to your own law.” “But it is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,” the Jews replied.
Acts 7:58 After dragging him out of the city, they stoned him. Stephen’s accusers left their coats under the watchful eye of a young man named Saul.
King James
Luke 22:2 And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him; for they feared the people.)
John 18:31 Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.
Acts 7:58 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.

To what degree do you think Saul was involved in Stephen’s stoning, physically and emotionally?

Author’s Thoughts
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Acts 7:58 After dragging him out of the city, they stoned him. Stephen’s accusers left their coats under the watchful eye of a young man named Saul.
9:5 “Sir, who are you?” Saul said, and the voice said, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. How hard it is for you to resist my prodding.”
22:20 When your witness Stephen was stoned, I believed he should die. I was holding the coats of those who killed him.’
King James
Acts 7:58 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.
9:5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
22:20 And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.

What prompted Stephen to pray that Jewish leaders not be punished for their actions against him?

Author’s Thoughts
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Acts 7:59 While the stones were striking, Stephen cried out to God, saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
7:60 As he fell to his knees, he shouted, “Lord, do not hold this deed against them,” and then died.
King James
Acts 7:59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
7:60 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.