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Stephen’s Speech to the Council


Then the high priest asked him, “Are these things so?” 2And Stephen replied:

“Brothers and fathers, listen to me. The God of glory appeared to our ancestor Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you.’ 4Then he left the country of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After his father died, God had him move from there to this country in which you are now living. 5He did not give him any of it as a heritage, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as his possession and to his descendants after him, even though he had no child. 6And God spoke in these terms, that his descendants would be resident aliens in a country belonging to others, who would enslave them and mistreat them during four hundred years. 7‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ said God, ”and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’ 8Then he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs.

9 “The patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him, 10and rescued him from all his afflictions, and enabled him to win favor and to show wisdom when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who appointed him ruler over Egypt and over all his household. 11Now there came a famine throughout Egypt and Canaan, and great suffering, and our ancestors could find no food. 12But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our ancestors there on their first visit. 13On the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh. 14Then Joseph sent and invited his father Jacob and all his relatives to come to him, seventy-five in all; 15so Jacob went down to Egypt. He himself died there as well as our ancestors, 16and their bodies were brought back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.

17 “But as the time drew near for the fulfillment of the promise that God had made to Abraham, our people in Egypt increased and multiplied 18until another king who had not known Joseph ruled over Egypt. 19He dealt craftily with our race and forced our ancestors to abandon their infants so that they would die. 20At this time Moses was born, and he was beautiful before God. For three months he was brought up in his father’s house; 21and when he was abandoned, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22So Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his words and deeds.

23 “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his relatives, the Israelites. 24When he saw one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. 25He supposed that his kinsfolk would understand that God through him was rescuing them, but they did not understand. 26The next day he came to some of them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you wrong each other?’ 27But the man who was wronging his neighbor pushed Moses aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? 28Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29When he heard this, Moses fled and became a resident alien in the land of Midian. There he became the father of two sons.

30 “Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush. 31When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight; and as he approached to look, there came the voice of the Lord: 32‘I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Moses began to tremble and did not dare to look. 33Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34I have surely seen the mistreatment of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to rescue them. Come now, I will send you to Egypt.’

35 “It was this Moses whom they rejected when they said, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’ and whom God now sent as both ruler and liberator through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36He led them out, having performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years. 37This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up a prophet for you from your own people as he raised me up.’ 38He is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living oracles to give to us. 39Our ancestors were unwilling to obey him; instead, they pushed him aside, and in their hearts they turned back to Egypt, 40saying to Aaron, ‘Make gods for us who will lead the way for us; as for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.’ 41At that time they made a calf, offered a sacrifice to the idol, and reveled in the works of their hands. 42But God turned away from them and handed them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:

‘Did you offer to me slain victims and sacrifices

forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?


No; you took along the tent of Moloch,

and the star of your god Rephan,

the images that you made to worship;

so I will remove you beyond Babylon.’

44 “Our ancestors had the tent of testimony in the wilderness, as God directed when he spoke to Moses, ordering him to make it according to the pattern he had seen. 45Our ancestors in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our ancestors. And it was there until the time of David, 46who found favor with God and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the house of Jacob. 47But it was Solomon who built a house for him. 48Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with human hands; as the prophet says,


‘Heaven is my throne,

and the earth is my footstool.

What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord,

or what is the place of my rest?


Did not my hand make all these things?’

51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. 52Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. 53You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.”

The Stoning of Stephen

54 When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. 55But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56“Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 58Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.

44. The tabernacle of witness. Stephen showeth here that the blame cannot be laid upon God, because the Jews polluted themselves with divers superstitions, as if God had suffered them to wander freely. 457457     “Sine freno,” without a curb. For he saith that God had commanded how he would be worshipped by them. Whereupon it followeth that they were entangled in so many errors, because they would not follow that form which God had appointed. Although he girdeth [reprehendeth] them for two causes: Because, being not content with that rule alone which God had prescribed, they invented to themselves strange worships; secondly, because they had no respect unto the right end of the temple, and of the ceremonies which God had appointed. For whereas they ought to have been unto them exercises of the spiritual worship, they apprehended nothing but that which was carnal, according to their carnal nature; 458458     “Pro crasso suo ingenio nihil nisi terrenum et carnale apprehenderent,” in accordance with their gross disposition, they apprehend nothing but what was earthly and carnal. that is, they took the shadow for the body.

Therefore we see that the Jews were first reprehended for their boldness, for because that being not content with the plain word of God, they were carried away after their own inventions. Secondly, they are reproved for the preposterous abuse of the true and sincere worship; because they followed the flesh instead of the Spirit. They had, saith he, the tabernacle of witness. Therefore it was their own wantonness and rashness only which caused them to sin. For seeing they were well taught what was the right way and order of worshipping God, all cloak and color of ignorance was taken away.

Which thing is worth the noting. For seeing God doth after a sort bridle us, when he maketh his will known unto us, if after we have received his commandment we turn aside, either unto the right hand or to the left, we be twice guilty; because the servant which knoweth his master’s will, and doth it not, shall suffer more stripes: This is the first mark whereby the Holy Spirit doth distinguish all bastardly and corrupt worshippings from the true and sincere worship. Yea, (to speak more briefly,) the first difference between true worship and idolatry is this: when the godly take in hand nothing but that which is agreeable to the Word of God, but the other think all that lawful which pleaseth themselves, and so they count their own will a law; whereas God alloweth nothing but that which he himself hath appointed. To this end serveth the word witness.

The Hebrew word [מד] (moed) signifieth, indeed, an appointed place and time, or an assembly of men; but the reason expressed in Moses showeth that there is another cause why it is so named. For in Moses this is oftentimes repeated, “I will meet with you there.” Therefore the tabernacle was consecrated by the covenant and the word of the Lord, and his voice was heard there continually, that it might be distinguished from all profane places.

According to the form which he had seen. This is referred unto the second point which I have touched; for it may be that he which shall use the ceremonies only which God appointed, shall notwithstanding worship God amiss. For God careth not for external rites, save only inasmuch as they are of the heavenly truth; therefore God would have the tabernacle to be made like unto the heavenly figure, 459459     “Archetypum,” archetype, model. that the Jews might know that they were not to stay still in the external figures. Furthermore, let him which is disposed read my Commentaries upon the Epistle to the Hebrews, and he shall see what that figure, whereof mention is made Exodus 25, (Exodus 25:40; Hebrews 8:5,) did signify. Stephen doth only briefly tell them in this place that the worship which God commanded the Jews is spiritual, and that they, according to their carnal blockishness, were evil and false interpreters; therefore, as we have said, that God alloweth no worship but that which is grounded in his commandment, so we are taught here that it is requisite in the right use of the commandment, that the spiritual truth be present; which thing being granted, it was the like question which we said did consist principally in this issue, whether the shadows ought to yield to the body or not. Whereas Moses is said to have seen a form or figure, the Spirit of God signifieth thereby that it is unlawful for us to invent forms at our pleasure; but that all our senses must be set upon that form which God showeth, that all our religion may be formed according to it. The word figure signifieth here, in this place, the principal pattern, 460460     “Primarium exemplar,” the primary pattern, the original model. which is nothing else but the spiritual truth.

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