#carmelprays – Acts 7
Opening Song: Speak, O Lord
Read Scripture: Acts 7
In this passage, one of the greatest defenders of the Christian faith is put on trial based on false charges (6:8-15). Specifically, Stephen is charged with blaspheming God, Moses, the Law and the temple. These were some of the most serious crimes that could be committed in Jewish society.
In response to these charges, Stephen denies that he had blasphemed and shows that he has a good grasp of who God is and how He acts. Stephen declares that the God of glory has been sovereign in all of Israel’s history, since the time of their father Abraham (v1-16). He traces this through Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob and to Joseph. From this, we see that God is the one true promise keeper. He covenanted with Abraham and upheld it through hundreds of years. Next, Stephen addresses Moses (v20-36). Moses’ story highlights that God is the one true deliverer. Through Moses, God liberated His people from Egypt and brought them through the Red Sea to safety. This story of deliverance points forward to a better, greater deliverance. Stephen reminds listeners that God promised to raise up an even greater deliverer than Moses (v37). That deliverer was Jesus Christ, who leads us not out of Egyptian rule, but out of the rule of sin. Christ, who saves us not from earthly slavery, but eternal death itself. Christ, the greater and better deliverer. Next, Stephen addresses the law and the temple, affirming that he believes in the law and respects the temple (v38-53).
The point of this was not just to prove Stephen’s innocence. Stephen was also driving home that the Sanhedrin were “stiff-necked people” who were “just like [their] ancestors” (v51). Just as their fathers had rejected Moses and Joseph and the temple, they too in rejecting Jesus Christ the Messiah, were deeply guilty. The tables have turned, and the accusers are now the guilty.
Stephen’s long and startling speech gives us much to ponder. First, do we know God’s word enough to defend it? Stephen shows deep knowledge of the Bible and this allows him to effectively stand up to those who seek to undermine it. We must strive to deepen our Bible knowledge so that we can emulate this. Second, do we love the Bible enough to defend it? Do we love it enough to speak up, even to those in power, to safeguard biblical truths? Even if it costs us dearly? We should pray for the courage to be like Stephen.
Unfortunately, this robust defence left the Sanhedrin “furious” to the point that they “gnashed their teeth at him” (v54). They were filled with anger and dragged Stephen out to stone him. In contrast, Stephen was “full of the Holy Spirit” (v55). First, this allowed Stephen to see the true way to life. Stephen was about to die but he did not fixate on what had become of his earthly life. Instead, he looked heavenward and saw a picture of comfort, “the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (v56). Second, this allowed Stephen to display true Christian love. The Sanhedrin was filled with hate for Stephen, but he showed love. Stephen prayed that the Lord forgive their sin (v60), displaying not just forgiveness but radical Christian love.
Stephen’s story challenges us to always look heavenward. To be resolute in our defence of the faith. Stephen challenges us to love even our enemies in a radical Christian way, to pray for them even as they stone us.
Pray in Response
Heavenly Father Lord, I thank You that You are a God of deliverance. I thank You for saving Your people throughout history. Specifically, I thank You for delivering me from the jaws of sin and death in Jesus Christ. I know that I contributed nothing to my salvation. I am only saved because You lovingly sought us out and sent us Christ the Messiah.
I pray that you teach me to remember this truth daily. I pray that I be like Stephen, completely devoted to the gospel. Teach me to live for Christ and to tell of the gospel even if it costs me dearly. I pray that I have the strength to endure adversity and to love even my enemies. Help me to display radical Christian love at home and at work.
Response Song: I Have Decided
By Darren Sim