Verse of the Day

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pastor's Sermon Notes: Stephen's Sermon, Subtitle: The Defense of Stephen at His Trial (Acts 7)

Stephen’s Sermon
Subtitle:  The Defense of Stephen at His Trial
Acts 7

Overview of Acts and Introduction of Chapter 7:


1.  miracles → witness

2.  preaching to the Jews → Gospel rejected by the Jews → preaching to the Gentiles

3.  Jewish opposition to the Gospel and persecution of the Christians → the spread of the Christians and the Gospel

Significant events - Between the first two “Pentecosts” (Jewish in Acts 2, and Samaritan in Acts 8), and following the birth of the Church in Acts 2

Significant persons - Peter is usually at the forefront in these early chapters of Acts, later Paul’s ministry will be the focus, but in chapters 6-7 there is no mention of the 12 Apostles

Geographical movement - still in Jerusalem (Acts 1:8), soon to move to Judea and Samaria prior to the journeys to “the ends of the earth”


I.  God appeared to Abraham in Mesopotamia (7:2-8)
II.  God was with Joseph in Egypt (7:9-16)
III.  God appeared to Moses in a bush in the wilderness of Mount Sinai (7:17-41)
IV.  God appointed the tabernacle of witness, drove out the Canaanites, and carried Israel beyond Babylon (7:42-47)
V.  Stephen’s Concluding Application (7:48-50)
VI.  The Response of the Jewish Leaders to Stephen’s Sermon (7:54-60)

Transition:   “Then said the high priest, Are these things so?” (7:1)

Has this sermon appeared to you thus far to be an appartently unnecessary historical review followed by a seemingly disconnected/unconnected/unwarranted conclusion?  Perhaps if we understood what Stephen and his audience did we would understand what is going on in his presentation of these episodes from Israel’s history.  Perhaps then his conclusion and his hearers’  reactions would make sense.

Highlight the personal and place names as you study a passage like this.  Use underlining and bold font to set off significant statements that set each paragraph apart, or that demonstrate the force and flow of the sermon in order to capture its trajectory and main points.

I.  God appeared to Abraham in Mesopotamia (7:2-8)

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.

II.  God was with Joseph in Egypt (7:9-16)

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.

III.  God appeared to Moses in a bush in the wilderness of Mount Sinai (7:17-41)

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.

IV.  God appointed the tabernacle of witness, drove out the Canaanites, and carried Israel beyond Babylon (7:42-47)

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.

V.  Stephen’s Concluding Application (7:48-53)

1.  The Point of the Application (7:48-50)

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?

The God of glory was in Mesopotamia, in Egypt, in the burning bush in Midia, at Sinai, in the land of Canaan, and in Babylon.  He was with His people and working for their deliverance and fulfilling His promises to them before was any Temple, when they were where there was no Temple, and in spite of their disobedience and rejection.

2.  The Application of the Point (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.

Isaiah 66:1-6 - 1 Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?
2 For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.
3 He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.
4 I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.
5 Hear the word of the LORD, ye that tremble at his word; Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name's sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.
6 A voice of noise from the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of the LORD that rendereth recompence to his enemies.

What was done to Joseph and Moses was done to the Son of God though with infinitely greater ramifications.

The Homeless God
The Packaged God
The Tamed God
The God of Glory reduced to an Idol among idols
The Creator boxed up in a creation

The God of Glory with no where to lay His head murdered by his kinsmen over the Temple
“And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”  (Mt. 8:20; cp. Lk. 9:58)

The Temple as an idol - “templeolatry”
The Transcendant and Immanent God transcends the Temple created by human hands

Their devotion was to the shadow versus the reality.

Col. 2:14-17 - 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

Heb. 8:1-9 - 1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;
2 A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.
3 For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.
4 For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:
5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.
6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.
8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.

Heb. 10:1-14 - 1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.
3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.
4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:
6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.
7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.
8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law;
9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.
10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:
12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.
14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

Everything in the Temple cries, “Glory!” and yet they did not have eyes to look beyond the Temple to the glorious reality it typified and forshadowed, pointed to and revealed.

VI.  The Response of the Jewish Leaders to Stephen’s Sermon (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.

William Varner - “Why was Jesus "standing" to receive the dying Stephen in Acts 7:56? This is the last time the title "Son of Man" is used in the NT, and there is a definite link back to Jesus' statement in Matt 26:64 when He was also being condemned in a court and uses the term "Son of Man" of Himself. The intertextual link continues back to the "Son of Man" passage in Daniel 7, which has many verbal indications of a heavenly judgment/court scene. There are allusions to both Psalm 110 (right hand) and Daniel 7 (Son of Man). The reaction of the Sanhedrin members to both Jesus and Stephen was rage at their "blasphemy." Homiletically, it has been said that the Son of Man was standing to welcome Stephen to heaven. Intertextually, however, the Son of Man was standing up as a witness for Stephen in a court in heaven while he was being condemned in a court on earth.” (posted to Facebook 15 OCT 2013)


What about us and our own sins?
Has this sermon preached to us, or have we kept it at arm's length?
Have we profited from it by way of doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness?
Have we been guilty of the same sinful responses to God and to His deliverances?

The Homeless God
The Packaged God
The Tamed God
The God of Glory reduced to an Idol among idols
The Creator boxed up in a creation

The God of Glory with no where to lay His head murdered by his kinsmen over the Temple
“And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”  (Mt. 8:20; cp. Lk. 9:58)

The Temple as an idol - “templeolatry”
The Transcendant and Immanent God transcends the Temple created by human hands

Their devotion was to the shadow versus the reality.

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” (1 John 5:21)

[Sermon preached 20 OCT 2013 by Pastor John T. “Jack” Jeffery at Wayside Gospel Chapel, Greentown, PA.]


G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, eds., Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), pp. 513-606.

Darrell L. Bock, Acts, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, eds. Robert W. Yarbrough and Robert H. Stein (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007)
F. F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles: The Greek Text with Introduction and Commentary, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1951, 1952).

I. Howard Marshall, Acts: An Introduction And Commentary, Vol. 5 in Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, gen. ed. Leon Morris (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1980; 2008 reprint).

David G. Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles, The Pillar New Testament Commentaries, gen. ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009).

John B. Polhill, Acts, Vol. 26 in The New American Commentary, gen. ed. David S. Dockery (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, Publishers, 1992).

Eckhard J. Schnabel, Acts, Vol. 5 in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, gen. ed. Clinton E. Arnold (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012).

William H. Willimon, Acts, in Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, series ed. James Luther Mays, New Testament ed. Paul J. Achtemeier (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010).

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