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The Arrest, Speech, and Martyrdom of Stephen (part II)

January 25, 2015 Speaker: John Bell Series: Acts

Passage: Acts 6:8–8:1

The Arrest, Speech, and Martyrdom of Stephen (part II)

Acts 6:8-8:1

The history Stephen relates in his Acts 7 speech has two aspects.

1. It is a positive account of God’s covenantal promises to his people, Israel, and his faithful fulfillment of them.

2. It is a negative account of Israel’s continual opposition to God’s message and messengers, and the nation’s inappropriate, idolatrous response to God’s presence as represented by the tabernacle and the temple.

The “Big Picture” of Stephen’s Speech

1. Stephen states the foundational covenantal promises made by God to Abraham and his descendants. He notes that the glory of God’s presence is located outside of the Jerusalem temple. Thus, Stephen relativizes the temple, and points beyond the temple, to Jesus, who supersedes the temple. This theme carries throughout his speech (7:2-8).

2. Although his brothers initially reject him, Joseph is blessed with favour and wisdom and position in Egypt. God is “with” Joseph – another reference to the relativization of the temple. God saves Abraham’s descendants from starvation through Joseph. Thus, God’s purposes and promises for Israel continue to be fulfilled (7:9–16).

3. God again presences himself, this time in the burning bush, before the time of the tabernacle or temple. Moses is blessed with wisdom and power, in words and in actions, for the salvation of God’s people – though he is rejected by Israel. Even so, God’s purposes and promises are being fulfilled (7:17–38).

4. Though God is presenced in the tabernacle, yet Israel worships false gods. They are an idolatrous people. Jesus is rejected as part of a continuing pattern of disobedience to God (7:39–53).