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  • Writer's pictureALD

Acts 7: Arrogance or Authoritative?

Steven, filled with the promised power of the Lord, stands in the midst of a group of highly educated and highly respected teachers of the law and speaks to them as if they were just infants in the faith. Is Steven speaking the truth in love, or is he engaging in hate speech because he dares to teach what the Spirit has revealed to him authoritatively?

Somewhere along the way, the great teachers of the faith have been convinced that it is unloving to offer their knowledge of the word without the "It's just my opinion" disclaimer. Should a teacher remain teachable? Yes, of course, but like Steven, teachers should teach from a place of authority or perhaps wait until they are confident that God has provided them with authoritative knowledge of His message before teaching at all. In verses two through fifty-three, we will not hear Steven say, "Well, I think," or "As I interpret it," or "I feel"; Steven preaches truth from the scriptures he has studied his entire life.

Steven teaches as a teacher does, with knowledge and the authority entrusted to them by those above them. We would not call a teacher arrogant because they confidently told their students that 1 + 1 =2. We would not call a teacher egotistical if they taught their students that water was a form of matter. We would not call a teacher "unloving" because they unashamedly told a class that lions have teeth. If a spiritual teacher is called by God, why should they not teach with authority? Maybe it is because the truth presented as the truth, without built-in loopholes, forces us to acknowledge the places in our lives where we allow the shadows of the world to exist under the camouflage of weak theological masks.

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. - John 3:19

And the high priest said, “Are these things so?” - A confession would make life so much easier. It is ironic that the crimes he is accused of are not crimes in the first place. The Torah never establishes a law saying that it is illegal to speak the names God, Moses or any other name unless it is done so in vane and there is no law making speak of destroying the temple illegal.

And Stephen said: - Stevens sermon begins.

“Brothers and fathers, hear me. - Only men would have been in this room, so only men were addressed.

The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, - A recounting of Genesis twelve.

and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’ Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. - Abram (soon to be Abraham) showed obedience and trust in the Lord by waiting.

And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living. - See Map Below

Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot's length, but promised to give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him, though he had no child. - At this point in Genesis, Abraham had neither the land nor offspring God had promised. He was working on pure faith and trust at this point.

And God spoke to this effect—that his offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them for four hundred years. - The story of Joseph and the eventual enslavement of the Hebrew people.

‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ - The twelve plagues.

said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’ - In the wilderness.

And he gave him the covenant of circumcision. - Man's part of the covenant.

And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” - Genesis 17:9-14

And so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day, and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs. - These families were obedient to the covenant with God.

“And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, - Sometimes God's plan takes unexpected routes which cause pain and suffering be He is there for you, working for the good.

king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household. - Genesis 41:42-32 . This is a story of God's provision. Despite what his brother intended, God used Josephs's bad situation to make amazing things happen.

Now there came a famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction, and our fathers could find no food. But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers on their first visit. And on the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph's family became known to Pharaoh. And Joseph sent and summoned Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five persons in all. And Jacob went down into Egypt, and he died, he and our fathers, and they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem. -All this language is carefully spoken by Steven out of the Torah; He gave these men of scripture no excuse to challenge his authority or presentation.

“But as the time of the promise drew near, - The time when Isreal would live free in the promised land.

which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt until there arose over Egypt another king who did not know Joseph. - This is the Pharaoh we meet in Exodus 8.

He dealt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, so that they would not be kept alive. - Pharaoh directed all the midwives to kill all of the Hebrew boys.

At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God's sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father's house, and when he was exposed, Pharaoh's daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds. - Moses was found by Pharoah's daughter in the river and raised as her own.

“When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?’ But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ At this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons. - Nowhere in the Torah does it say that Moses was forty when this occurred. So where would Steven get this? The oral tradition surrounding this event said that he was forty. This was not new or surprising news to the men around Steven. Had this not been something generally accepted by the Jewish community, it would have been right there for Steven, who was actually on trial for speaking badly of Moses.

“Now when forty years had passed, - Again, forty in not biblical but oral tradition that all of these men would have agreed upon.

an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and as he drew near to look, there came the voice of the Lord: ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and did not dare to look. Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.’ -Steven uses the words " I have come down to deliver them" as a way of beginning the process of circling things back to Jesus.

“This Moses, whom they rejected, - Establishing the pattern of Isreal rejecting those sent by God.

saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’—this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. - Steven has now tied together Abraham, Joseph, Moses and Jesus as saviors.

This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.’ - Jesus.

This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us. 39 Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. 42 But God turned away and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:

“‘Did you bring to me slain beasts and sacrifices, during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? 43 You took up the tent of Moloch and the star of your god Rephan, the images that you made to worship; and I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.’

44 “Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen. 45 Our fathers in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our fathers. So it was until the days of David, 46 who found favor in the sight of God and asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.[a] 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him. 48 Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says,

49 “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? 50 Did not my hand make all these things?’

51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

The Stoning of Stephen

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he 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 together[b] at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.


Bible Study Questions - Week 7

  • In V.1, which charges were being referred to?

  • What is Stephen talking about in V 2-3?

  • Who are the patriarchs from V.9?

  • What was God's promise to Abraham? (v.17)

  • Where else in the Bible can we find the story which is retold in V.26-29

  • Who is the prophet in V.37

  • In V.44, what is the tabernacle of the covenant law?

  • What is the Sanhedrin?

    • What did it do?

  • What does Stephen see when he says "glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God?"

  • Why did they drag him out of the city? (v.58)

  • Who was Saul? (v.58)

  • Bring one question you had from this reading to the group for discussion.

  • What did you learn or rediscover about God the Father in this Chapter?

  • What did you learn or rediscover about Jesus Christ in this Chapter?

  • What did you learn or rediscover about the Holy Spirit in this Chapter?

  • What did you learn or rediscover about the church in this Chapter? Does it Differ from what you understood?

  • What did you learn or rediscover about what a pastor should do in this Chapter? Does it Differ from what you understood?

  • What is the biggest thing you learned or rediscovered in this chapter? 

  • So what? How will the answer to the question above change how you live life on a day-to-day basis?

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