Summary: Stephen brings up eight charges against his accusers. His sermon was what ultimately led to his death.
Last time we saw that Stephen was seized and dragged before the Sanhedrin and put on trial. We closed chapter 6 seeing a heavenly glow showing from Stephen’s face, indicating that God’s presence was there. Tonight we begin a very long chapter 7 and we look a little closer at Stephen’s God-inspired message. This is scene II of our study. We are going to look at the first 53 verses tonight.
READ v.1. Stephen was on trial for his life. The charges had been made: he was accused of preaching that the sacred institutions of the nation were to be destroyed, that is, the land, the temple, the law, and the customs. Stephen defended himself by reviewing Israel’s history. In essence, Stephen was preaching the gospel to the court.
READ 2-8. Stephen began his defense (his sermon) from the very beginning of the nation’s history. Note his emphasis on God. God appeared to Abraham and called Abraham. He said, “God called our father Abraham. He was the father of Israel, the first Jew called, the man chosen by God to be the great founder of the nation Israel.
God promised a land of eternal inheritance. The promised land of Palestine was promised to Abraham and his seed after him. This gift of the promised land was conditional. Abraham had to leave the security of where he lived and take a leap of faith, depending on and trusting in God and His promise. Abraham made the right choice.
We can learn a lesson from this. For a person to inherit eternal life and the gift of heaven, that person has to make a choice. They have to leave their current situation in life with its material comforts and corruptions and cling to the promise of God.
I’m not sure if you realize this but God promised the land to Abraham and his seed, but it was to be a future inheritance, not a present possession. God never gave Abraham any land, not during his lifetime on earth. Abraham never possessed the land. God never gave Abraham a son until he was incapable of bearing seed, well past years—not until he was 100 years old.
Abraham had to trust God for the Promised Land and for seed or descendants. He had to believe God all his life. He never possessed a single foot of the Promised Land. What a picture that is of the believer and the promised land of heaven. It’s a picture of absolute faith and believing the glorious promise of God. The gift was a gift of God’s grace. All Abraham did to earn it was believe and obey God.
God told Abraham that his descendants would be enslaved for 400 years. He told him that his faith would be rewarded. God would deliver his seed and bring them to the Promised Land to serve God. He assured Abraham with a covenant, the covenant of circumcision. Circumcision was the seal of Abraham’s faith, just as baptism is the seal of the believer’s faith. It was the sign of truly trusting God and His promise.
In using this example of Abraham, Stephen was trying to show these leaders that had him on trial that faith will be rewarded. Abraham’s seed, that is us, that was all of them, will be rewarded with the promise of heaven if only they will heed Jesus’ teachings.
READ 9-16. Stephen preaches about the first rejection and deliverance, that of Joseph. We know the story of Joseph about how he was sold into slavery and eventually earned the trust of the Pharaoh and became ruler of Egypt. He tells this familiar story because the leaders of the Sanhedrin could relate. But in relating this story, Stephen was showing them that he was one of the descendants as well. He was saying that the forefathers had their eye on resting eternally in the Promised Land. He was leading them to his point that the Promised Land was not only the physical land but the heavenly land, the eternal land to which Jesus leads.
Stephen was trying to show them the Joseph, the choice son of Jacob, is a picture or a type of Christ. He was rejected by men and he forgave all those who did evil to him.
READ 17-29. Now Stephen preaches the second rejection and deliverance. The people misunderstood and rejected God’s chosen servant. Stephen goes into some detail about the story of Moses. By the way, each of these passages would make a sermon in itself. But for our study tonight, we are going to just highlight the story.
Stephen was preaching that once again a servant of God was misunderstood and rejected. Moses thought the Jews would understand and know that God was going to use him to deliver them, but they didn’t. HMMMM. I wonder where Stephen was going with all this?