Stephen: Defender of the Faith
February 27, 2005
INTRODUCTION: This is the longest message in the book of Acts and one of the most important. Before the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the three great pillars of popular Jewish piety were the land, the law, and the temple. In this message, Stephen reviewed the history of Israel and the contributions made by their revered leaders: Abraham 2-8, Joseph 9-17, Moses 18-44, Joshua 45, and David and Solomon 46-50. But this message was more than a recitation of familiar facts; it was also a refutation of their familiar facts; it was also a refutation of their indictments against Stephen and a revelation of their own national sins. Stephen proved from their own Scriptures that the Jewish nation was guilty of worse sins than those they had accused him of committing.
Stephen knew what Richard Baxter said to be true: "I preach as a dying man to dying men and women as if never to preach again."
Let me relate this truth personally and concisely to us. We wonder about the approach Stephen took when he was given the opportunity to speak. It would appear that he took a very long period of time recounting the history of Israel and telling at great length about personalities of the Old Testament about whom the Sadducees and Pharisees had heard thousands of times since they were old enough to understand. But had they understood? Did they have any idea of the deeper meaning, the purpose, the fulfillment, and culmination in the Messiah? Stephen carefully selected the events he retold, each one to build to the one point he wanted to make. Stephen established his credentials as a faithful Hebrew student who knew his faith. Further, he wanted to show the faithfulness and goodness of God all through Israel's history, leading up to the gracious and forgiving gift of His Son.
I. HIS DEFENSE BEFORE THE SANHEDRIN. 1 ff
"are these things so" – proper protocol allowed the accused to respond to ...
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