For the text of Acts 7, click here.
Acts 7 is one of the longest speeches recorded in Acts and it is directed to religious people. Stephen goes to great lengths to recount how God made good on his promise of the land. The men Stephen addressed lived in the land but were far from God. I wonder how often we do that ourselves – be so near to God but yet still so far away. How often do we participate in the blessings God has promised but yet resist His will for our lives. The Pharisees lived in the land of promise but did not live up to their own covenant obligations toward God.
Stephen concludes his speech by appealing to God’s greatness and their underestimation of God. He is not confined to one place and time. In all their study they misunderstood him. They not only misunderstood where He dwells but also in the fact that Jesus was the Christ. Stephen points out their track record of prophet hospitality. They scored an F, unless you think persecution is a plus. Acts 7:53 – “you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.” Not the words Pharisees enjoy hearing. The result? Anger and rage! Stephen’s response sure didn’t help his situation – “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” They don’t stop to ask, “really?” Instead, infuriated, they drag him out and stone him. In a Christlike fashion Stephen offers up his spirit and forgiveness of his murderers.
Finally, the opposition has been more than jail and lashes. It has resulted in murder. Things have gotten serious. The call of Christ has come true – “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life[c] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (Mark 8:34-38).
What price are we willing to pay to follow Christ? How faithful are we when the ante is upped? We may not be asked to lay down our lives at one moment in time and pay the ultimate price in an instant. How much harder is it to give all our decisions over to him on a day-to-day basis? Is it more difficult to give over our lives to Him day after day over an entire lifetime than it is to die for him in a matter of moments?