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The Starting Point in Stephen’s Address Acts 7:2, 3 

That the calling to the ministry is not one of weakness but that it is most emphatically one of power and of sobriety is evident in every sentence of Stephen’s address. What sober self-control is exhibited here! What a viewpoint here to address the Sanhedrin as “men, brethren and fathers.” Do they not sit upon the “Cathedra” of Moses? The fact that they “say,” but “do not” does not change their position in Israel. To them were the oracles of God entrusted. (Matthew 23:2, 3Romans 3:2) Even though they “say, but do not’, does not change their position in the nation of Israel. They are here fully recognized as those to whom much had been entrusted and of whom much would be required. Are they not the evil servants, who, when their Lord cometh, are found beating His servants? (Matthew 24:49) These are not some women grinding at the mill. They are the “fathers” in Israel; they are the “brethren” as were the jealous brethren of Joseph in the latter’s day; they are men who should quit themselves like men and be strong, and who should have done all things in the love of, Christ! 

To them is rehearsed the history of Israel from the time of Abraham till the moment of the close of Israel’s national existence. It is their history, its proper starting-point, the gradual unfolding of the promise, the purpose of the law-giving, and meaning of Israel’s history for the world. To them Stephen says “Give heed.” This will be no mere theological treatise, no mere arguing about genealogies, no Jewish, legalistic casuistry in the fine, hair-splitting matters of what is permissible and what is taboo. It will be the salvation and the judgments in Israel of the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth: the God of Glory. 

Stephen’s starting-point here is the last and only ground: the author of all things as given in Paul’s summation in Romans 11:36 “Because out of Him and through Him and unto Him are all things; to Him be the glory forever, Amen!” Truly this is the theme here in Stephen’s defense. Hence, his real starting point is “the God of glory.” He is the God who is characterized by glory, that is, the outshining of all his glorious virtues and majesty. He is the sovereign Lord; He is exalted above all the history of the world in general and of Israel in particular. None can say to him, the sovereign Lord: what doest Thou? His is the power, the kingdom and the glory forever. Of him sings the Psalmist in Psalm 29:3, 9. “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters: theGod of glory thundereth: the Lord is upon many waters.” And “the voice of the Lord maketh the hinds to calve, and discovereth the forests: and in his temple doth every one speak of his glory.” This is the glory of God as revealed in all creation: his power and majesty. But Scripture often speaks most emphatically of this glory as it is manifested in the Word made flesh, the Christ of God in his death, resurrection and in his ascension and final return with the clouds of heaven. Immediately after Christ’s birth, we read of this “glory of the Lord” which shines about the shepherds; for in the manger lies the “Lord of glory!” (I Corinthians 2:8). In him is revealed the “glory of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” He is God in the flesh! He is Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. (James 2:1)! Where ore we read in Ephesians 1:17 “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.” 

What a grand starting-point for a man who stands accused as a blasphemer and a desecrater of temples. No doubt, Saul of Tarsus must have later remembered these words of Stephen when he uttered such grand truths as “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever, Amen.” 

This God “appeared” to Abraham in Mesopotamia! 

Abraham must have seen a Theophany. Possibly it was some glorious manifestation of the invisible God in a visible form. Thus did the Lord “appear” to Moses at the burning bush at the Mount of God, in the fire and in the form of an angel. (Acts 7:30, 35) Abraham did not simply decide to leave his country; God came to him, “appeared” to him and spoke to him as to His friend, and Abraham believed and obeyed, and “went out not knowing whither he went.” 

That Stephen emphasized this “appearance” of the God of glory to Abraham is indeed significant for his argument. From here on he will show the great design in Israel’s history of a God of glory who cannot dwell in a mere tabernacle and temple, nor is He limited in His gracious dealings to one nation: the Jewish nation! 

The Argument From The Abrahamic Promise Acts 7:3-16 

Stephen stands here on trial. His is a mighty “apology” for the Gospel and for the Gospel of the Promise made to the fathers and fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

What Stephen significantly underscores here is that the promise of the land of Canaan cannot possibly have meant for Abraham and for his seed that they would merely have the earthly land of Canaan. Chiliasts can find no comfort in this apology. The evidence here adduced by Stephen to the Sanhedrin is so conclusive that {here is not a member of the Sanhedrin who can gainsay it. Stephen argues from two basic premises. The first premise is: the promiseof God. And the second is: the facts of history! If this place, this land is so important, pray why did God in all of the life time of the patriarchs, from Abraham even through the twelve patriarchs never give them so much as a piece of ground upon which to set their foot? This was during a period of some 550 years, from about 2000 BC. till 1450 B.C. It was at the latter date that Israel took possession of the land under Joshua. 

On the contrary, the Lord came to Abraham about eight years after he had come to the land of promise, and tells him in a vision that his people shall be afflicted for four hundred years in the land of Egypt. If the land of Canaan, the earthly country, were so important, why could there be such a long time by the Lord’s direction, before Israel would actually possess the land? To this question the Sanhedrists had no more a solution than do the modern-day Chiliasts.Israeli certainly is not the fulfillment of the promise! What blind zeal to make ado over the land as such whereas the clear direction and intent and design of God in all of Israel’s history was to give Abraham the heavenly land of Canaan, to wit, a new heaven and a new earth. The writer to the Hebrews makes much of this when he says, “For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city”. (Hebrews 11:14-16

For the Abrahamic promise is not carnal, national and earthly. On the contrary it is very spiritual, encompassing the church universal, and is heavenly as is evident from the covenant of circumcision. This shows that not the carnal seed is counted as inheriting the promises, but rather the spiritual seed who are justified by faith. For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, but rather he is a Jew who is one inwardly, whose circumcision is a matter of the heart. (Romans 2:28, 29) The children who are born to Abraham: Isaac, Jacob, the twelve patriarchs are in this covenant of circumcision. And with this covenant of circumcision does not belong the earthly land, except as a type and shadow of the heavenly. The element therefore of the “covenant of circumcision” is introduced by God to reveal the redemptive nature of the Promise: it meant to save His people from their sins, to justify the godless, to sanctify a people unto the Lord! 

Thus, and thus only, is it evident that Israel must go into Egypt through the providence of the Lord: to keep a great people alive. 

Stephen makes the point convincingly that there was a promise of God and the Covenant of God long before there was such a thing as “this place” at Jerusalem, the temple made with hands, and that the place of Moses will needs have to be subservient to the Covenant of circumcision. He who understands and honors the promise of Abraham concerning the land, the covenant of circumcision, and all that this implied, he and he only honors Moses and this place, and will be in a position to see that Moses and this place have a great value, but then a passing value, to make room for the things which abide forever. 

The law which came 430 years after the promise cannot disannul it! (Galatians 3:17

The Promise to Abraham is the pattern set by God! 

It is the eternal reality of the things of salvation! 

The Argument From God’s Word To and Concerning Moses Acts 7:17-38 

In every court the historicity and factualness of the evidence is of paramount importance. The evidence must be fact and not fiction. So too here in this court before the Sanhedrists. 

Stephen is accused of speaking against Moses and the temple, saying that the temple ordinances had been changed. Stephen meets the charge head-on. He first of all gives the history of Moses from birth till the time when he stands on the Mount of God receiving the lively oracles of God. He is speaking of the historical Moses spoken of in the book of Exodus. And after he has made it abundantly clear in the record that he is speaking of the very Moses concerning whom he is accused of gainsaying, he goes on to show that he is in perfect accord with the word of God to Moses. 

He most emphatically. speaks of Moses as “this is that Moses”. See verses 35-38 where no less than five times Stephen in rapid succession speaks of “this Moses,” “this one,” etc. Well, this Moses whom God raised up to deliver Israel stated clearly and explicitly that he, Moses, was not the end. The law-giving was not the final and gracious form in which God would speak to Israel. That form at Sinai was so awesome and terrifying that Moses said “I exceedingly fear and tremble”. Nay, there would be a better covenant based upon better promises. This very Moses said to Israel “a prophet shall the Lord raise up from the brethren like unto me”. That referred to the Christ to come. Then would the promise of God to Abraham be for all the heirs, also from among the Gentiles. And well may the Sanhedrists give heed. For this is the very Moses who stood before God in the holy mount. 

Moses himself spake of the change which would come by God Himself. Stephen does not speak against Moses. He honors Moses and rightly interprets the Scriptures. 

Thus the law serves only till the Seed should come. 

And then the temple will be indeed be destroyed but will be built without hands in three days.