Stephen's Speech

Acts chapter seven is a summary of Israel’s history. The focus in Stephen’s sermon is Jesus.  This is true throughout the entire book; add to that, apostolic preaching and the  resurrection of Jesus Christ, and you have a complete summary of the New Testament. Beginning on Pentecost and onward, the historical fact that Jesus was raised from the dead provided the foundation for gospel preaching, the call for faith and repentance, and was then embodied in these early NT Christians. Acts 4:12: "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

God made a promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). In time, the working out of that promise included Moses, who called Israel out of Egyptian bondage.  "But when the time of the promise drew near which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt” (Acts 7:17). Moses visited the children of Israel in order to rescue them from Pharaoh. At first God’s people rejected Moses; he retreated into exile (Acts 7:23-29). When Moses returned, he came with power and wonders that God provided. Sadly, even after great displays of God’s power, Israel rejected God and Moses’ leadership and were soon worshipping the golden calf.

Moses came to Israel in power and in weakness. He offered salvation twice. The first refusal led to another opportunity to be saved. Israel struggled with their desire to accept Moses’ offer; the fleshpots of Egypt beckoned.  "This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, 'The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear” (Acts 7:37).  Ultimately, God would raise up a prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18-20). Here, the story of Jesus beckons.  “Then He said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?  And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Lk. 24:25-27).

The gospel story as preached by Stephen and as presented throughout the book of Acts says that Jesus came to save. He visited the whole world to provide salvation. Those who refused Stephen’s message stoned him. We might not engage in such a drastic measure today. But when we reject Christ, the result is the same.