Waves of persecution hit the church one after another. Stephen, one of the seven men chosen to serve in the church, did great wonders and signs among the people. But some from the Synagogue of the Freedmen opposed his message. Unable to withstand Stephen’s powerful words, they stirred up the people and the elders and scribes to arrest Stephen. Then they brought forth false witnesses to accuse Stephen of blasphemy.
In one of the longest recorded speeches in the Bible, Stephen delivered a powerful message before the council and his accusers. He drew from God’s redemptive history to defend the message of Jesus Christ and to demonstrate that God’s promise and His divine acts went beyond the land, the law, and the temple. He also reminded them of Israel’s persistent rejection of God’s servants and charged them with the sins of rebellion and murdering Jesus Christ.
Did You Know...?
1. The Synagogue of Freedman (6:9) was a group that probably consisted of Jews who had come from other parts of the Roman Empire after being released from some form of slavery and had formed their own synagogue in Jerusalem. They came from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia and Asia.
Record what this passage says about Stephen and his ministry.Hide Answer
1. He was full of faith and power, and did wonders and signs among the people (6:8).
2. He spoke with wisdom and by the Spirit; his adversaries were not able to resist his words (6:10).
3. He had the face of an angel when he was brought to trial before the council (6:15).
What did those from the Synagogue of the Freedmen do?Hide Answer
1. They disputed with Stephen, but were unable to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke (6:9-10).
2. Then they secretly induced men to bring false accusations against Stephen (6:11).
3. They stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes to seize Stephen and bring him to the council (6:12).
4. They also set up false witnesses against Stephen (6:13). This was a transgression against the ninth commandment.
What were the false charges made against Stephen?Hide Answer
Speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God, and against the holy place and the law (6:11, 13). The false witnesses claimed to have heard Stephen say that Jesus of Nazareth will destroy the holy place and change the customs handed down from Moses.
Where did God appear to Abraham?Hide Answer
When Abraham arrived in Canaan, what did he not have?Hide Answer
Abraham had no inheritance in the land, not even enough to set his foot on (7:5). He lived as a stranger and sojourner in Canaan.
What was the only thing that he received at that point?Hide Answer
He had the promise of God, who told Abraham that He would give him the land as a possession and to his descendants after him (7:5).
Where did God tell Abraham his descendants would dwell for four hundred years?Hide Answer
Abraham’s descendants would dwell in a foreign land for four hundred years (7:6).
The Jews took pride in the holy land and the holy place. How did Stephen use the history of Abraham to correct the misconceptions of the people about the holy land?Hide Answer
While God gave the promised land to Abraham and his descendants as a possession, God’s relationship with His chosen people was by no means limited to the possession of Canaan. Even before Abraham arrived in Canaan, God had appeared to him in Mesopotamia. Even though Abraham himself did not have inheritance in the land, he received God’s promise and covenant. Even though Abraham’s descendants would suffer in a foreign land, God would judge that nation and deliver His people. Therefore, it would be a mistake to only take pride in the holy land while failing to believe and obey God Himself.
How was Joseph, the deliverer of Israel, treated by his own?Hide Answer
He was envied and sold by his brothers (7:9)
How did history repeat itself?Hide Answer
The religious leaders at the time of Jesus were jealous of Jesus and killed him (Mt 27:18). Jesus Christ was rejected by His own people. (Jn 1:10-11).
Where was Joseph sold into? Where was God?Hide Answer
Joseph was sold into Egypt. But God was there with him (7:9).
How does this point correct the mistaken view about the holy land and the holy place?Hide Answer
God is with the faithful regardless of where they are. Even though Joseph was away from the promised land, God did not forsake him. God’s presence transcends physical boundaries.
Moses was one of the most venerated figures among the Jews (cf. 6:11). But how was Moses, the deliverer of Israel, received by his own people?Hide Answer
He was rejected by his own people (7:25 28,35).
Where did the Angel of the Lord appear to Moses?Hide Answer
The Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a flame of fire in a bush, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai (7:30). Mount Sinai was outside the promised land.
What did the Lord call the place where He appeared to Moses?Hide Answer
Holy ground (7:33).
Is there any significance to this?Hide Answer
The fact that God appeared to Moses at a place away from the holy land and called that place holy ground once again demonstrates that God’s presence and His works are not confined to the land of Canaan. Wherever God is, that place is a holy ground. So we should always seek to please God and not become complacent because we have received some favor (such as good health, riches, success in career, gift in sacred work, etc).
What did the one rejected by his own people turn out to be (35)?Hide Answer
He was sent to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the Angel who appeared to him in the bush (7:35).
What point do you think Stephen was making?Hide Answer
Just as the people of Israel had rejected Moses, who was sent by God to be their ruler and deliverer, the Jews who opposed Jesus had also rejected the Messiah, the Ruler and Deliverer anointed by God.