The Jews who slanderously attacked Stephen (6:11-14) believed that God’s salvation was restricted to Jewish ordinances, and that Stephen’s preaching about Jesus attacked God’s Word. Luke recorded Stephen’s response to equip and teach Christians how to witness for Christ (1:8).
Stephen first said that God’s salvation is not limited to the land (vv. 2-3). Abraham wasn’t saved while in the land (vv. 2-5), his descendants wouldn’t dwell in the land (vv. 6-8), God blessed Joseph while he was in Egypt and Jacob left the land and went to Egypt (9-16), Moses dwelt in Midian where God appeared to him (vv. 29-34).
Then Stephen showed how God’s salvation is not contrary to the Law (vv. 37-43). Israel was taught by God through the Law to worship God alone, but Israel disobeyed and rejected Moses for Egyptian idols (vv. 39-43).
Third, Stephen demonstrated that God’s salvation is not restricted to the Temple (vv. 44-50), for Israel worshiped God in the tabernacle which was given in the wilderness (vv. 44-45). Solomon built the temple, but he himself said that God is not restricted by the temple (vv. 47-50).
Stephen concluded by charging these unbelieving Jews of doing the same thing as unbelieving Jews of the past: just as Jews of the past rejected God’s Word through his messenger Moses, so unbelieving Jews of the present rejected God’s Word through his messenger Jesus (vv. 51-53).
Truths to Nail Down and Meditate On
- It is so easy to focus on the externals of true religion and at the same time disobey the God of true religion. The Lord commands the “externals” not as a means to be saved, but as the means through which the saved worship and serve him. Continually ask the Lord to help you to love him with all your being, and to show your love by faithful obedience.
- Stephen was able to give good answers and make direct application because he knew the Scriptures. Know your Bible!
- Learn from Stephen’s example how to respond to and view persecutors. Be filled with (controlled by) the Holy Spirit. Entrust yourself to the Lord (v. 59). Don’t curse persecutors, pray for them (v. 60). When living, speak of Christ; when dying, look to Christ. Faithfully serve the Lord, even to the death. The death of Christians is not the end, but is to fall asleep in Jesus (v. 60).