Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Acts 7:53-60
Pastor Steve Schell
Sunday: Acts 7:53
v53 (continued): Stephen’s reference to “angels” in this verse can be confusing. Anyone who’s read the Exodus account knows it was God, not angels, who gave the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. So why did Stephen insert the word “angels” here? The answer is he may be practicing a form of Jewish piety in which a direct reference to God is avoided by replacing it with the word “angel” or “angels.” This same type of respect is shown when the word “Lord” is substituted for the name of God (YHWH). Such substitutions are done out of respect based on the conviction that we humans aren’t worthy to use God’s name directly. Examples of this can even be found in Moses’ own writings (Ex 14:19; 23:20), as well as the prophets (Isa 63:9). Earlier in his sermon, when Stephen was relating his history of Israel, he said concerning Moses, “The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush…” but during that encounter that “angel” revealed His name to Moses, calling Himself “I Am Whom I Am” (Ex 3:14). There is simply no doubt the person in the flame was God Himself, yet Stephen reverently used the term “angel.” We see this same form of respectful substitution used elsewhere in the New Testament by Paul (Ga 3:19) and the author of Hebrews (Heb 2:2, 9).

Monday: Acts 7:54
v54: Luke says, “And hearing these things they were cut to their hearts…” Stephen’s words slipped past their mental defenses bringing a momentary realization that these charges were true, and that they may indeed be in trouble with God. But no one was willing to repent and this time there was no Gamaliel present to counsel restraint (Ac 5:33-41), so contemplation was quickly replaced by outrage. The entire Sanhedrin began to function as one man. They were seized with anger and many ground their teeth so violently an audible sound could be heard (Ps 35:16).

Tuesday: Acts 7:55
v55: In the midst of this storm, Stephen did not recoil in fear. In fact, it appears he was not fully aware of what was taking place around him because he had already been caught up in a vision of heaven. God was sustaining his faithful witness in that terrible moment. The Holy Spirit filled him with a fresh baptism of power, and the Father, in His mercy, drew back the spiritual veil to allow him to see the heavenly throne room with Jesus, His resurrected Son, at His side. Luke’s reference here to the glory of God may mean there was a lot of bright light in the scene, but I think those words actually refer to the Father Himself. If so, in the vision there may have been a special concentration of light indicating the Father’s presence, with Jesus standing to the left of that beautiful brilliance, at His “right hand.”

Wednesday: Acts 7:56
v56: Stephen announces what he is seeing, “Behold I see the heavens having been opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (literal), and his choice of words would have incited the Council to even greater anger. The term “Son of Man,” when used in this context, refers to a well-known vision of heaven given to the prophet Daniel. In that vision, Daniel saw “One like a Son of Man” stand before “the Ancient of Days” and be given authority to rule the human race forever (Da 7:13, 14). And Stephen’s reference to Jesus standing at God’s right hand points to another very important Messianic promise in Psalm 110:1, “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at My right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” By locating Him at the Father’s right hand, Stephen declares Jesus to be the exalted Lord, seated in the place of divine power and authority, and no one in that Sanhedrin missed his meaning. During His ministry, Jesus had applied this same scripture to Himself. He used Psalm 110 to reveal His divinity in a debate with the Pharisees (Mt 22:41-46), and outraged the high priest by claiming to be the heavenly Son of Man during His trial (Mt 26:64, 65).

Thursday: Acts 7:57, 58
v57: The Council all began yelling at once, creating a loud uproar, and then covered their ears with their hands to protect themselves from hearing these blasphemies any longer. Then they rushed forward as a mob to drag him out of the room to the place of execution outside the gates (Lev 24:14; Nu 15:35). v58: Normally, a set of orderly procedures guided the process of stoning, but few of these appear to have been followed in this case. Luke says Stephen was “thrown” out of the city and stoned. His words picture the fury of a lynch-mob, and it’s probable that the execution is being done as quickly as possible because no permission for an execution had been sought or received from the Roman government, which alone held the final authority over the death penalty (Jn 18:31).

Friday: Acts 7:58
v58 (continued): One procedure they appeared to follow was the requirement that those who testify against a victim must cast the first stone (Dt 17:7). Those two or three men who swore they heard him blaspheme (Ac 6:11, 13, 14) started the execution by ceremoniously laying their outer garments at the feet of a Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus. This indicates that Saul held some sort of special role. As we noted earlier (Ac 6:9, 10), Saul almost certainly attended the synagogue made up of people from Cilicia, his home region, and young men from that synagogue had been among those who stepped forward to debate Stephen. So it may have been because Saul was a leading personality in that synagogue that the coats were laid at his feet. If that is the case, the act of placing the coats at his feet may tell us that these “key” witnesses were from his synagogue.

Saturday: Acts 7:59, 60
v59: After the witnesses began the execution, the crowd was permitted to participate. Stephen didn’t die immediately, and while still conscious he called out, “Lord Jesus receive my spirit.” Jesus prayed a similar prayer when he died (Lk 23:46), only His prayer was addressed to the Father. It’s very significant that Stephen asked Jesus to receive his spirit. This is clear evidence he considered Him to be divine. Having just seen a vision of Jesus standing beside the Father, ready to receive him, Stephen, in effect, says, “Lord, here I come!” v60: In stoning someone, when proper procedures were followed (E. F. Bruce, Acts, The New Int’l Commentary on the N.T., Eerdmans, 1974, pp 170-171), the victim was tied and pushed down from a height. So it’s very unlikely Stephen would have been able to stand if things had been done in a normal manner, but Luke specifically tells us he “placed his knees” meaning he knelt to pray (Mk 15:19; Lk 22:41; Ac 9:40; 20:36; 21:5). He either dropped down from a standing position or pulled himself up to a kneeling position before crying out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” This small detail may again point to the hastiness of the execution. Please also note: his prayer to grant mercy to his murderers is addressed to Jesus. Then, Luke says, “he fell asleep.” His body collapsed, but his spirit stepped across into the arms of Jesus.

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