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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.

47. Solomon built. Stephen seemeth to gird Solomon glancingly 463463     “Videtur hic oblique Stephanus Solomonem perstringere,” Stephen here seemeth indirectly to rebuke Solomon. in this place, as if he did not regard the nature of God in building the temple; yet did he attempt that work not without the commandment of God. There was also a promise added, wherein God did testify that he would be present with his people there. I answer, that when Stephen denieth that God dwelleth in temples made with hands, that is not referred unto Solomon, who knew full well that God was to be sought in heaven, and that men’s minds must be lifted up thither by faith; which thing he uttered also in that solemn prayer which he made:

“The heaven of heavens do not contain thee,
and how much less this house?”
(1 Kings 8:23;)

but he reproveth the blockishness of the people, which abused the temple, as if it had had God tied to it; which appeareth more plainly by the testimony of Isaiah, (Isaiah 6:6,) which he citeth also; God, saith he, would have Solomon to build him a temple; but they were greatly deceived who thought that he was, as it were, included in such a building; as he complaineth by his prophet that the people do him injury, when as they imagine that he is tied to a place; but the prophet doth not for that cause only inveigh against the Jews, because they worshipped God superstitiously, thinking that his power was tied to the temple, but because they did esteem him according to their own affection, and, therefore, after that they had ended 464464     “Defuncti sunt,” performed. their sacrifices and external pomp, they imagined that he was pleased, and that they had brought him indebted to them. This was almost a common error in all ages; because men thought that cold ceremonies were sufficient enough for the worship of God. The reason is, because forasmuch as they are carnal, and wholly set upon the world, they imagine that God is like to them; therefore, to the end God may take from them this blockishness, he saith that he filleth all things.

49. For whereas he saith, that heaven is his seat, and the earth his footstool, it must not be so understood as if he had a body, or could be divided into parts, after the manner of men; but because he is infinity, therefore he saith that he cannot be comprehended within any spaces of place; therefore, those men are deceived who esteem God or his worship according to their own nature; and because the prophet had to deal with hypocrites, he doth not only dispute about the essence of God, but also teacheth generally, that he is far unlike to men, and that he is not moved with the vain pomp of this world as they are. Here ariseth that question also, why the prophet saith that the Lord hath no place of rest in the world, whereas, notwithstanding, the Spirit affirmeth the contrary elsewhere, “This is my rest for ever,” (Psalm 132:14.) Moreover, Isaiah doth adorn the Church with this self-same title, that it is the glorious rest of God, alluding unto the temple, I answer, that when God appointed signs of his presence ill the temple, and sacrifices in times past, he did not this to the end he might settle and fasten himself and his power there; therefore, the Israelites did wickedly, who, setting their minds wholly upon the signs, did forge to themselves an earthly God. They dealt also ungodly, who under this color took to themselves liberty to sin, as if they could readily and easily pacify God with bare ceremonies. Thus doth the world use to mock God.

When God doth declare, by the external rites, that he will be present with his, that he may dwell in the midst of them, he commandeth them to lift up their minds, that they may seek him spiritually. Hypocrites, which are entangled in the world, will rather pluck God out of heaven; and whereas they have nothing but vain and bare figures, they are puffed up with such foolish confidence, that they pamper themselves in their sins carelessly, so, at this day, the Papists include Christ in the bread and wine in their imagination; that done, so soon as they have worshipped their idol with foolish worship, they vaunt and crack as if they were as holy as angels. We must diligently note these two vices, that men do superstitiously forge to themselves a carnal and worldly God which doth so come down unto them, that they remain still having their minds set upon the earth, and that they rise not up in mind to heaven. Again, they dream that God is pacified with frivolous obedience; hereby it cometh to pass, that they are besotted in the visible signs; and, secondly, that 465465     “Neglecta pietate,” neglecting a piety, omitted. they go about to bring God indebted to them after a childish manner, and with things which be nothing worth.

Now we understand in what sense the prophet saith that God hath no place of rest in the world. He would, indeed, that the temple should have been a sign and pledge of his presence, yet only to the godly, which did ascend into heaven in heart, which did worship him spiritually with pure faith; but he hath no place of rest with the superstitious, who, through their foolish inventions, tie him unto the elements of the world, or do erect unto him an earthly worship; neither yet with hypocrites, who are puffed up with drunken confidence, as if they had done their duty towards God well, after that they have played in their toys. In sum, the promise received by faith doth cause God to hear us in his temple, as if he were present to show forth his power in the sacraments; but unless we rise up unto him by faith, we shall have no presence of his. Hereby we may easily gather, that when he dwelleth amidst those that be his, he is neither tied to the earth, neither comprehended in any place, because they seek him spiritually in heaven.

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