Before you read this post I would encourage you to read through Acts chapter 7, then answer the following questions:
How much scripture do you know? Do you have any verses memorized? Do you know the basic synopsis of different books? How much of the Bible have you read through on your own?
Have you seen persecution for your faith in your life?
Chapter 7 is a turning point in the book of Acts. Stephen is before the religious leaders and they are accusing him of blaspheming against God and Moses. They are upset because he is saying that Jesus is the Messiah and that they rejected Him. So Stephen takes them to school! From verses Holy Spirit’s power 2-53 Stephen walks them through how the nation of Israel was founded but then rejects what God was doing and the leaders that God gave them. Stephen’s history lesson is the longest sermon in the book of Acts. It is very interesting how he uses his language and how He alludes to Jesus the whole time. Stephen takes the leaders back to Genesis 11 when God called Abraham to leave his land and go to where God would send him. Abraham was sent out but he would not see the promised land or inheritance that was promised to his family. Abraham’s son Issacs was the father to Jacob and Jacob had 12 sons that became the patriarchs of the nation of Israel. Stephen brings attention to the fact that the patriarchs rejected Joseph and sold him into slavery in Egypt (Acts 7:9 ESV). No matter where Joseph was God was with him. Stephen is pointing out the rejection because God was going to use Joseph to save the nation of Israel during the famine but his own family rejected him, similar to the religious leaders and His people rejecting Jesus as the Messiah. Even though Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, Joseph forgives his brothers and ends up saving them through the famine.
Stephen then goes to Moses. The leaders were saying that Stephen was blaspheming Moses but Stephen goes into detail about how he was a type of Christ. After Joseph brought his family to Egypt, they eventually became slaves and were in slavery for 400 years. Moses was born then was adopted by the Pharaoh's daughter. Moses was Jewish like his brothers and sisters in slavery but he was raised Egyptian. Stephen is showing how Moses, the God-appointed leader, was not what the nation was expecting. Jesus also was not what the nation was expecting. He was from Nazareth and people said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth? (John 1:46 ESV)”. Moses was not perfect but he was a type of Jesus. He knew that “God was giving [the nation of Israel] salvation by his hand, but they did not understand (Acts 7:25 ESV)”. In a bad effort to save the Jewish people, Moses killed an Egyptian and ran away to Midian where he was for forty years.
Stephen explained that God came to Moses in Midian in the burning bush. God told Moses, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt and have heard their groaning, and I have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt (Acts 7: 34 ESV)”. The people had already rejected Moses but God was sending him to be the salvation of His people. Through God, Moses had the power to do signs and wonders and lead the people of Israel through the wilderness for forty years. Though Moses delivered them, they turned away from Moses and God and wanted to worship idols and had Aaron make a golden calf to worship.
Stephen gets cut off when he starts talking about how Jesus was the one that the leaders rejected. He said to the leaders, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you (Acts 7:51 ESV)”. The leaders freak out and get so mad that Stephen is accusing them of rejecting God especially since they do not believe that Jesus was the Son of God. They took him outside the city to stone him. Stephen is given a vision when he can see Jesus sitting on the right hand of God. As crazy as this whole chapter is, we read that Stephen had two prayers when he was being killed. He prays, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit (Acts 7:59 ESV), and “Lord, do not hold this sin against them (Acts 7:60 ESV)”. Stephen prays similar prayers to Jesus when he was on the cross.
Wow! This chapter challenges me. Stephen was the first martyr for Jesus. Would I have the same faith that Stephen had if faced with a similar situation? Do I have the boldness to proclaim the name of Jesus if my life is threatened? Do I have the boldness to proclaim the name of Jesus if it is at all awkward? I want to challenge you this week to pray for an emboldening of your faith! Pray that God will allow you to bring glory to Him outside of your comfort zone!