Acts 7 • God's Will for Israel Explained


The problem with each new generation of Israel is that, in spite of their claims, they become like their disobedient fathers before them. Their “heritage” was consistently to reject God’s message through the covenants made with their forefathers, to forsake God’s Law and true worship for false gods and religions, and to reject His Word provided through the leaders and prophets sent by God. Yet they clung to their bloodline heritage through the very men whose words they rejected, they clung to the Law given through Moses which they reinterpreted to their own liking rather than obey, and they prided themselves on possessing the temple yet fell short of true worship. So when Jesus Christ came to them as the embodiment of all these things – like their fathers before them – they rejected and killed Him in the name of the very heritage to which they clung, but yet were disobedient to. Acts 7 is the beginning of the fulfillment of the Parable of the Vineyard in Luke 19:11-27 wherein the “vineyard” is about to be taken from the Jews and given to the Gentiles.

To understand this passage and the point that the Holy Spirit is making through Stephen, first read Acts 7:51-53. Keep reviewing these points as we study through Stephen’s message to see how it is emphasized in this condensed history affirming this pattern from Abraham all the way to that day at Stephen’s trial.

Read 6:11-14

Q: Against whom is Stephen accused of blasphemy?

A: Moses and God. (v.11)

Q: Can a person blaspheme Moses?

A: We can speak blasphemy regarding the Law given through him, or the signs performed in God’s name through him, but not the human person of Moses who is not divine. This is the beginning hint that they neither understand nor acknowledge that in Jesus, “One greater than Moses is here.”

Q: In v.13, what are the two things against which Stephen is accused of speaking? Against what specifically are these allegations of blasphemy directed?

A: This holy place (the temple) and the Law.

Q: What do they purport Jesus will do based on Stephen’s quote/unquote “blasphemy”?

A: Destroy the temple and change the customs handed down through Moses.

Q: What do you think — were Stephen’s accusers right or wrong?

A: Mt. 7:2, “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” Ever notice how Jesus’ accusers have an uncanny knack of wording the situation precisely as it actually is yet are simultaneously blind to the truth of it? For instance, before the Sanhedrin (Luke 22:70-71) and before Pilate (Luke 23:3-4) and Caiaphas’ prophecy (John 11:49-51)

Point: The Holy Spirit’s reply through Stephen will address the issues of God, Moses, the temple, and the Law to show the current generation that they, like their fathers before them, have once again rejected God’s ways and, in particular, the Prophet in Whom was the fulfillment of all that God’s covenants, the Mosaic Law and the temple knit together.

Read 7:1-8

Q: What are the things that God promised and/or foretold to Abraham?

A: The possession/inheritance of the land, a son/descendants, his descendants’ slavery in Egypt, God’s deliverance of them, and their service to God in the land of inheritance.

Q: What was the sign of these promises, or what we call the Abrahamic Covenant? What was it’s purpose?

A: Circumcision. It was a physical reminder through all these events of what the end result would be, based on God’s Word in spite of the present circumstances. (Abraham would never live to see most of these things fulfilled, but circumcision was the sign between he and God that they would all happen according to God’s Word.)

Q: Read Exodus 3:12, God’s promise to Moses at the call at the burning bush, and compare it to Acts 7:7. What is common in God’s promises to both Abraham and Moses?

And He said, “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.”

— Exodus 3:12

“‘And whatever nation to which they will be in bondage I Myself will judge,’ said God, ‘and after that they will come out and serve Me in this place.’

— Acts 7:7

A: That Israel would serve God. Stephen has essentially begun to tie the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants together as a framework to show they’ve missed the point of their heritage in Abraham and Moses – to serve God and be obedient to ALL His Law and Promises.

Read 7:9-16

Q: How do we know that the patriarch’s actions regarding Joseph are NOT in concert with God’s will?

A: They sold him into slavery out of jealousy. To be sure, God’s will was not thwarted, but God used Joseph IN SPITE of the patriarch’s unrighteous treatment of him. This is the first intimation through Stephen that their heritage is really faithlessness and disobedience to the very things they’re claiming as a spiritual foundation.

Q: What are some of the parallels between the life and example of Joseph and the Jewish authorities’ treatment of Christ?

Q: According to v.15-16, what is the goal of a true patriarch of God? How does that contrast to this generation prosecuting Stephen?

A: The true patriarch wants to find eternal rest in God’s Promised Land. But this generation, like the generation of Moses’ time, was always “returning to Egypt”. (Read ahead 7:39-40) The account of Joseph is the beginning of a repeated pattern on the part of Israel to be disobedient and self-seeking, always missing what God was really doing.

Read 7:17-21

Q: What are the two obvious parallels to Christ in this passage?

A: At the time of Christ’s birth Israel was conquered and subjugated to Rome, and at His birth there was the same kind of persecution in an attempt to thwart God’s plans.

Read 7:22-29

Q: If Moses was in the right place at the right time, by whom was he rejected?

A: The Jews themselves (see v.35 for further confirmation). The Moses that Stephen is accused of blaspheming is the same Moses who was rejected by the Jews themselves over and over again from the very beginning. The person of Moses to which they claimed to cling was never really embraced by ANY generation of Jews.

Q: What is the obvious parallel in v.25 between the Jews of Moses’ time and the Jews of Stephen’s time?

A: This isn’t the first time that they don’t understand what God is doing or through whom He is doing it.

Read 7:30-34

Q: What did the burning bush represent?

A: The bush, unconsumed by the fire, represented Israel in Egypt undergoing the fire of affliction yet not being consumed by it; in fact, God would deliver them to something greater. This symbolism was about to transfer from Israel brought out of Egypt to the Church brought out of Israel.

Read 7:35-40

Q: According to v.36 in spite of what did Israel reject Moses?

A: In spite of performing signs and wonders.

Q: According to v.38 in spite of what did Israel reject Moses?

A: In spite of the Law given to them through Moses.

Q: According to v.39 how did their rejection become personal?

A: They rejected God from the heart, desirous to return to the old life in Egypt. They did not want the Law and ways offered by God through Moses.

Q: What is the Holy Spirit reminding the Jews of in v.37?

A: It did not begin and end with Moses. He was a type – or example – of the True Prophet to come.

Q: What are the parallels between Christ and Moses to this point?

Read 7:41-43

Q: Therefore what is Israel’s TRUE legacy? How have THEY treated God, Abraham, Moses, the Law and the temple?

A: Consistently rejected them in favor of idolatry and false worship. The case being articulated here is that this generation is doing the very same thing regarding Christ.

Read 7:44-50

Q: The Holy Spirit has addressed all the accusations raised except that of “this place”, the temple. What is the significance of the designation “tabernacle of testimony” in v.44?

A: It not only contained the Word of God (in the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies) but was a sort of witness as to whether or not their worship and sacrifices were to God or not. It was about TOTAL obedience to ALL the Word of God through the Law of Moses, the sacrifices, the feasts, etc.

Q: How does this contrast to the tabernacle mentioned in v.43?

A: Embracing a false tabernacle (Moloch’s) over the true tabernacle (God’s).

Q: If the temple couldn’t even hold God in the first place, how could blasphemy be uttered against it?

A: The point is it’s just a place and that true “blasphemy” is clinging to things like one’s heritage, the Law, or a building in name only while rejecting the Giver of all those things and the commitment to obedience they represent.

Summary So Far...

Read 7:51-53

Q: What are the chief impediments described in v.51?

Overall Application

Q: What is the key difference in Stephen’s “hope” vs. the Jewish authorities’ “hope”?

A: One looks back, clinging to the past, never finding its fulfillment because it’s more of a myth that really never existed in the first place. The other looks forward, relinquishing the past and finding its fulfillment in Christ.