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Acts 7-8 Listen
1 Then said the high priest, Are these things so?
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,
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
9 And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him,
10 And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.
11 Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance.
12 But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first.
13 And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph’s kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.
14 Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.
15 So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers,
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.
17 But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt,
18 Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph.
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.
20 In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father’s house three months:
21 And when he was cast out, Pharaoh’s daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son.
22 And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.
23 And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.
24 And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian:
25 For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.
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?
27 But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?
28 Wilt thou kill me, as thou diddest the Egyptian yesterday?
29 Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons.
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.
31 When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him,
32 Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold.
33 Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground.
34 I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt.
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.
36 He brought them out, after that he had shewed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years.
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.
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:
39 To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt,
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.
41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.
42 Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness?
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.
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.
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;
46 Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.
47 But Solomon built him an house.
48 Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,
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?
50 Hath not my hand made all these things?
We first hear Stephen's name in Acts 6:5 (see notes) when he is listed as one of the new men appointed by the Apostles to serve in a new office within the local assembly at Jerusalem, presumably as what would later be called "deacon." He fully embraced his new position; he preached Jesus as the Messiah to the point that he had become an irritant to the Jewish leadership wanting to quash the Messianic message of Jesus. Stephen, beginning in Acts 6:9, is preaching his farewell message to "the council" aka the Sanhedrin. (Click here to see details on the Sanhedrin.) Among his audience is the High Priest.
In these verses, Stephen seeks to show the Jewishness of Christianity as the next step in a progression that began with Abraham. His message is rich with name dropping - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his sons...along with Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David and Solomon. Incidentally, in verse 45, "Jesus" (KJV) is a Greek transliteration for the Hebrew name Joshua. The reference in this verse speaks of Joshua, the successor of Moses. Stephen gives a Jewish history lesson with an indirect reference to Christ in verse 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." While this may not seem so obvious to us, it would have been to the Jewish audience of Stephen. This is clearly a Messianic reference found in Deuteronomy 18:15-22 (see notes) that was recognized by Jews in that day to be such. See the article on this prophecy found in the box to the right of this page, or click here to see it in full screen.
Stephen's Jewish history lesson here has a point. He weaves into this lesson a pattern of Jewish rejection toward those over the centuries who had been sent for their deliverance, beginning in verse 9.
Note the following instances of Jewish rejection in Stephen's message:
As Stephen draws this message to a close, he quotes Isaiah 66:1-2 (see notes) in verses 48-49 to make his point that God does not need the temple made with human hands; God's own hands made everything, as he declares in verse 50. Here's where Stephen makes his transition from a history lesson to application with his recount of the sordid history of rejection after rejection after rejection. Stephen now feels it's time to tie it all together in Jesus Christ. So...do we go for tact here...or do we just go ahead and proclaim that this Jewish audience killed the Messiah? Well...Stephen isn't in a tactful mood this day.
Stephen gets to the heart of his message (Acts 7:51-53)
51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
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:
53 Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.
Forget tact! Stephen pulls no punches at the invitation of his message. He tells them in verse 51, "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye." He goes on to say in verse 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 [Jesus]; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:" That's all it took. Stephen has just accused these prestigious Jewish leaders serving on the Sanhedrin of betraying and murdering the God-sent Messiah. The pattern of rejection continues.
They stoned Stephen to death (Acts 7:54-60)
54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.
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,
56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,
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.
59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
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.
When you don't want the truth, you don't want the truth. No question - these Jewish leaders did not want the truth. We see in verse 54 the intense emotion of anger as his audience "gnashed" (i.e. to grind) their teeth at him. They stopped up their ears (verse 57) to keep from hearing anymore of Stephen's message...then they stoned him to death. So...when an innocent man is being stoned to death by an angry mob, what should be his last words? Notice those of Stephen in Acts 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." Those words had to have given those executioners nightmares for years following this cruel act of mob violence.
1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.
2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
We get our first look at Saul of Tarsus in these verses. He approved the execution of Stephen, and he ravaged the church. He even went into the homes of Believers and arrested them, presumably while they were having house-church services. Paul (aka Saul) would later testify to the Philippians about this in Philippians 3:6 (see notes), "Concerning zeal, persecuting the church;" No question - Saul was an enemy of the early church.
4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.
5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
6 And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
7 For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.
8 And there was great joy in that city.
Verse 4 is quite significant here, "Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word." Why did those early Jerusalem Believers leave their homes and go preach the Gospel according to Christ's command in Acts 1:8 (see notes)? Persecution! Think about that; a horrendous experience for these early Believers provided the motivation they needed to take the Gospel outside Jerusalem. Philip, another of the first seven men appointed in Acts 6:5 (see notes), heads to Samaria to preach. By the way, Christ did mention Samaria as the next mission field in Acts 1:8. They loved him there! People there received Christ as Savior. But wait! The church at Jerusalem had never ministered to anyone except Jews up to this point. Salvation had been regarded as a Jewish thing, you see.
Who are these Samaritans anyway? The Jews separated themselves from Samaritans; remember Jesus and the Samaritan woman in John 4 (see notes)? Why the disdain for Samaritans by the Jews? Here's their history: After the death of Solomon, Israel split into what became known as the Northern Kingdom and Southern Kingdom. The Southern Kingdom was committed to always having a descendant of David on their throne. The Northern Kingdom adopted a two-golden-calf worship right from the beginning and never served God...all the way down to their fall in 721 B.C. The name “Samaritans” in II Kings 17:29 (see notes) refers to the Israelite inhabitants of the Northern Kingdom. In subsequent history, it denotes a people of mixed origin. This mixture consisted of the people brought by the conqueror from Babylon and elsewhere to take the places of the expatriated Israelites and those who were left in the land in 721 B.C. when the Northern Kingdom fell to the Assyrians. A product of Gentile intermarriage, these Samaritans were considered half-breed Jews and were avoided by observant Jews.
9 But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one:
10 To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God.
11 And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.
12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.
14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.
21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.
22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.
24 Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.
25 And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.
What's this about some Samaritans getting saved? This must be investigated by a representative from the home office in Jerusalem - Peter himself. When Peter shows up to validate Philip's ministry to the Samaritans and do a little preaching himself, he meets Simon; he's a magician. Oh, and he's simply amazed that when Peter lays hands on the people, they receive the Holy Spirit. Simon gets saved also, and wants to learn this magic trick. Incidentally, there must have been an accompanying miracle like the three-fold miracle of Acts 2 (see notes) i.e. wind, cloven tongues of fire along with speaking in tongues. Even though we aren't told what the visible signs on this occasion were, I'm convinced it was this three-fold miracle of Acts 2. Otherwise, what did Simon (the magician) see that amused him? He even offers to buy the magic trick. He wants to become the first Gospel magician. "Hey! Simon! This isn't magic; it's God!"
Let's put this event into perspective: Earlier, the Day of Pentecost experience in Acts 2 had included an all-Jewish audience, but now are we going to include these much-despised Samaritans in our newly-formed church? The Holy Spirit affirms, "Yes!" And Peter is the moderator, just as he was on the Day of Pentecost. Could this have something to do with Matthew 16:13-20 (see notes)? To get a full perspective, you must understand this in the context of Peter's role on the Day of Pentecost. He was the messenger on that occasion as well when the Holy Spirit was introduced to the Jews there in Jerusalem in Acts 2 (see notes). By inducting first the Jews and now the Samaritans into the newly-formed church, could it be that Peter is exercising some sort of authority given him by Christ that day? It certainly appears that the church leadership in Jerusalem was looking to Peter for validation of this Samaritan event. I believe we see Peter using his Matthew 16 keys here to open door #2 (the Samaritan door) just as he had used them to open door #1 (the Jewish door) in Acts 2. Is there a door #3. If you use Acts 1:8 (see notes) as a template (Jews, Samaritans, uttermost part of the earth), there must be another door to open. We'll see that last door in Acts 10 (see notes) as the Gentiles are invited in.
26 And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.
27 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,
28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.
29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?
31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:
33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.
34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
40 But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.
Philip, while out looking for more evangelism opportunities, comes across this Ethiopian Eunuch, a man who occupied a leading position as treasurer at the court of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. The man is reading from Isaiah 52-53 (see notes) and is troubled with his lack of understanding. These are Messianic prophecies and the Ethiopian eunuch just does not get it. He realizes there's more there than meets the eye, but could use a little spiritual insight. Specifically, he wants to know if the one suffering in Isaiah's prophecy is Isaiah or someone else. Enter: Philip. After an explanation of the passage demonstrating that it refers to Jesus, the suffering Messiah, the Ethiopian wants to be baptized. Philip explains that baptism follows a profession of faith in Christ (verse 37). The Ethiopian is all over it; the baptism takes place right there and then. For more information regarding Christian baptism, click here to see the notes on Romans 6:1-14.