ACTS 7


2 And he [Stephen] said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran,


Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? v52


Acts 7 shews us a brother accused, and replying to his accusers with a "mouth and wisdom," which they were "not able to gainsay or resist" as Jesus promised. At first sight, it seems strange that the inculcation of the way of truth should lead to enmity. It only seems so to inexperience, and, therefore, to ignorance.

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.

The reason or the opposition to Stephen is more obvious than opposition sometimes is. The authorities in Jerusalem had condemned and (by the Romans) killed Jesus as 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 entered the lists with the Alexandrian Jews who were in repute for superior acumen. They

"could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spake,"

so, as is usual in such cases, they resorted to calumny and false accusation. Under cover of this accusation, they were able to do what is now out of the power of the most malignant foe. They handed him over to "the power and authority" of the magistrates, who in Jerusalem were the priests and scribes. Arraigned before them, we find him delivering an argument which was too strong to be answered on the merits, and which they met by stopping their ears and marching him out to execution.

The question turned upon the murdered Jesus: was he or was he not the Christ? It was one of the Jewish arguments that he could not be the Christ, because he had been crucified. Had he been the Christ the nation would have accepted him; he would have delivered himself from the hands of his persecutors.

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 afterwards 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.

"Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?"

exclaimed Stephen,

"the prophets who shewed beforehand the coming of the Just One, of whom ye have now been the betrayers and murderers?"

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. Concluding with fiery emphasis, Stephen said,

"Ye do always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so also do ye."

The argument was powerful; its effect was exasperating; its consequence to Stephen was fatal. It cost him his life, and he now sleeps in the dust. He will presently awake none the worse, but glad rather at having, even at the sacrifice of his life, born to Christ a testimony that has blazed before the eyes of men in all the dark ages since, through the inscription of his stirring speech on the page of inspiration.

May we catch his spirit and emulate his example, and be found with him and his fellow heirs when the age of conflict is passed, and when there has been established in all the earth the rest that remains for the people of God.

Editor.

The Christadelphian, June 1886



8 And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs.

Why should "Christ the Lord" be circumcised?


Because he was the seed of Abraham and of David, according to the flesh (Rom. i. 3: Matt. i. 1). But why should that be a reason for circumcision? Because it had pleased God, in carrying out His purpose towards the house of Israel (not yet fully accomplished), to proceed by covenant, and to appoint circumcision as the sign of that covenant in all their generations (Gen. xvii. 10-14; Rom. iv. 11).

Any descendant of Abraham neglecting circumcision was outside the covenant, as God told Abraham, and would be cut off from Yahweh's regard (Gen. xvii. 14). Jesus was a descendant of Abraham, and in a preeminent sense, "the seed" of Abraham (Gal. iii. 17), whose special mission it was to "confirm," or make sure the promises made unto the fathers (Rom. xv. 8).

For circumcision to have been omitted in his case, therefore, would have been for the covenant to have been broken in its most essential application. But this failure was not possible; therefore the child Jesus was circumcised.

Nazareth Revisited Ch 8




30 And when 40 years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush.

In his address to the Sanhedrin, Stephen told them that "there appeared to Moses, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, an "Angel" of the "Lord" in a flame of fire, in a bush; and that the "Voice" of the "Lord" came to him, saying: "I am the 'God' of thy fathers". This was a Spirit-manifestation.

In his address to the Sanhedrin, Stephen told them that "there appeared to Moses, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, an "Angel" of the "Lord" in a flame of fire, in a bush; and that the "Voice" of the "Lord" came to him, saying: "I am the 'God' of thy fathers" (Acts 7:30). This was a Spirit-manifestation.

The Messenger was a spirit -- a Son of power --but not the Supreme Power, "whom no man hath seen at any time"; but an organised spirit-body, through whom the Supreme Power, by His Spirit, conversed with Moses; and with whom He was veiled. The words of the messenger were the Voice of the Spirit that came to Moses; so that when we read what was spoken, we do not read the words of the angel, but the declaration of the Spirit by whom he was angelized, or sent with a message.

Moses was commanded to return to Egypt, from which he had fled forty years before, and to go to his oppressed countrymen, and tell them that "the Elohim of their fathers" had sent him to deliver them from the power of the Pharaoh. Though they served the gods of the Egyptians, they had not forgotten their own history. They would remember the three Elohim that visited Abraham and partook of his hospitality (Gen. 18:1-5), and which is termed "Yahweh appearing to him."

They would not have forgotten about their departure to Sodom, and how Lot invited two of them to sojourn with him, saying: "My lords, turn in, I pray you"; and how they said: "Yahweh hath sent us to destroy Sodom." The vision of Jacob's Ladder was not forgotten, in which he saw angels of Elohim -- messengers sent of Elohim -- of their number, and above them all, at the top of the ladder, Yahweh; and He said: "I am the Elohim of Abraham, thy father, and the Elohim of Isaac" (Gen. 28:13).

They would remember this, and, consequently, not be ignorant of a plurality of Mighty Ones. But these Mighty Ones were not the Mighty One of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; they were only the official spirits who performed service for them as heirs of salvation; for He that stood at the top of the ladder, above all the ascending and descending Elohim, said ani Yahweh Elohai Avrahhahm,

"I Yahweh Elohim of Abraham."

Phanerosis - The memorial name




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.

TC 06/1898