The previous chapter ended with Stephen before the Sanhedrin council
facing accusations that he spoke blasphemy against the temple and the
Law (cf. 6:13-14). Chapter seven contains Stephen's defense to these
charges, and the account of his martyrdom.
Stephen responded by reviewing the call of Abraham and God's promise to
him and the nation of Israel. He then described how God used Moses to
deliver Israel from Egyptian bondage and led them for forty years
through the wilderness. Yet Israel rebelled against Moses, through whom
God gave the Law. Not only in the incident involving the golden calf,
but throughout their wilderness wanderings Israel continued to worship
false gods (cf. Am 5:25-27). Turning to the matter of God's dwelling
place, Stephen acknowledged the role of the tabernacle of Moses and the
temple of Solomon, but contended that God does not dwell in temples made
with hands (cf. Isa 66:1-2). He concluded by charging the council of
resisting the Holy Spirit just like their ancestors, for as their
fathers persecuted and killed the prophets who foretold the coming of
the Just One (Christ), so they became His betrayers and murderers.
Indeed, they were the ones who have not kept the Law (1-53).
Cut to the heart, those in the council gnashed at Stephen with their
teeth. Full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory
of God with Jesus standing at His right hand. Upon telling the council
what he saw, in rage they cast him out of city and began stoning him.
The witnesses who brought the false charges laid their clothes at the
feet of a young man named Saul (later known as Paul, the apostle). As
Stephen was stoned, he called upon Jesus to receive his spirit, and to
not charge his murderers with his death. In this way Stephen became
the first martyr for Christ.
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