The story of Stephen in the book of Acts appears short and quite sad. Stephen was a man “full of God’s grace and power” and he did many wonderful things for the name of Jesus. He was, however, stoned to death by the religious leaders who opposed him. Though he literally gave his life for Jesus, the speech he gave before his death was recorded by Luke and for good reason. This speech sums up the entire pages of the Bible up to this point in history and it taught those listening a lesson. This same lesson can be applied to us today. So let’s review Stephen’s Spirit-led speech and what it means for us today.
Stephen’s speech can be found in Acts 7. Acts 7:1-8, sum up the life of Abraham. Stephen runs through Abraham’s life, how he was called, and the promise God made to Abraham. This is where the covenant of circumcision was established with Isaac, his promised son. Jacob, his son, also became the father of the 12 tribes of Israel.
Stephen then continues with 7:9-16 about the story of Joseph. Joseph was rejected by his brothers and was sold to Egypt. He was then made second in command to Pharaoh. Joseph took control of a famine that was coming and helped out his family coming from Canaan. Joseph let his father’s family live prosperously in Egypt and then they all passed away.
In verses 17-29, Stephen tells the story of Moses and how greatly the people grew in number but also their suffering in Egypt. Moses was born a leader but his treacherous actions led him to flee to Midian.
Stephen continues with the story of the burning bush and God’s call to Moses to free the people. Stephen makes two points here. First, the people had rejected Moses by saying ‘who made you rule over us’ but now he was leading them through the Red Sea and wilderness. Second, those people were there when God spoke to Moses on Mt. Sinai. He says this because of what he says next.
Verses 7:39-43 is where Stephen brings up the story of the golden calf. The story in which Israel rejects their God and makes an idol. The people had Moses and God’s divine words of instruction and they still refused to listen. And so they were going to exile in Babylon as the prophets foretold.
Then Stephen mentions the tabernacle that had been made and how Joshua took it up to the lands before them. It remained there until David’s reign. David tried to build a temple for God but it was Solomon who constructed it. Then Stephen ends his review with words of the prophet Isaiah about the reign of God in heaven.
Then comes the accusation against the people listening. Stephen accuses them of being just like their ancestors. Just like those people who did not listen and resist the Spirit. He then tells them that they have killed the ultimate prophet in Jesus. These people know the law but do not obey it. Then Stephen receives a vision of Jesus at the right hand of God and at this they stone him.
So what can we learn from this speech? Several things. The first is that the Old testament is so vital to who Jesus is. They aren’t just stories. They are stories of God’s people and ultimately our story that we all share. More importantly, Stephen recognized that these people rejected Jesus and did not obey his teachings. This he knew led to death and so he was compelled to confront them. When we prioritize ourselves instead of God, bad things happen. The people wandered in the wilderness, were exiled in Babylon and now the people of Stephen’s day were being rejected by Jesus because they rejected him. We can’t let our pride get in the way of us seeing Jesus and resisting the Spirit just as these people were doing.