35 This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush.
Stephen's answer fastens on Moses of whom these rulers made their boast. He reminds them of the circumstances connected with the appearance of Moses as the deliverer of Israel. Israel would have none of him, "who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?" was the question with which they first greeted his interpositions on their behalf; and Moses had to fly. Yet this Moses whom they refused was afterward established and accepted as their leader and deliverer. Their rejection of Jesus was therefore no new thing. Nay, they had rejected all Yahweh's servants age after age. *
52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:
The reason for the opposition to Stephen is more obvious than opposition sometimes is. The authorities in Jerusalem had condemned and (by the Romans) killed Jesus a deceiver. The apostles in a variety of ways proved that he was the Christ. In this demonstration, Stephen took a leading part. He was an active controversialist. He enters the lists with the Alexandrian Jews who were in repute for superior acumen. They "could not withstand the wisdom and spirit with which he spake," so, as it is usual in such cases they resorted to calumny and false accusation. *
53 Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.
They made it an objection that Jesus was from among themselves instead of being, as they contended the Messiah would be, of an unknown origin. Stephen reminds them that Moses himself had told them that the Lord would raise them up a prophet like unto him from among themselves. And now that He had fulfilled His word they had despised and rejected him . . . The argument was powerful . . . its consequence to Stephen was fatal. *
59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
Deadly opposition has been the uniform fortune of the Truth in every age of the world. Therefore it must be a natural result of the forces at work. We find upon investigation it is so, and this may help us to accept our own share of this experience without undue dismay. *
*Bro Roberts. Exhort 217
Receive My Spirit
No one contends that Stephen had no spirit. The question is, what was it? Human philosophy in the philosophic theology of the day, says it was Stephen himself in an invisible, immortal form.
The Bible says it was God's spirit:
"Thou sendest forth thy spirit; they are created" (Psa. 104:30). "If God should gather to himself his spirit, all flesh should perish" (Job 34:14). "The spirit of God is in my nostrils" (Job 27:3).
It is by a portion of the Spirit of God that we live. While it is in us it is ours, but not "we," though contributing a part while we have it. The identity expressed by the pronoun "we" is the joint result of "body, soul, and spirit." When death dissolves this union, "we" vanish and the spirit returns to God who gave it. If God give it not back, we shall never live again. Hence it is natural that a righteous man in the act of dying should commit his spirit to God "against that day"-the day of resurrection.