Stephen is hauled before the Jewish Council and accused of speaking blasphemous words against the Law and saying the Temple would be destroyed. His speech in Acts 7 is a history lesson! Why did he give this? What was his purpose? He reviews all that had happened since the time of Abraham. Didn’t the members of the Council know their history?
Stephen is tracing the things God had instigated since He called Abraham from his homeland in Ur. The lesson is for humans to be aware of God in action. After Abraham he looks at the work and faith of Joseph. Then God raised up Moses and when he became faithful, miracles occurred both in leaving Egypt and in the wilderness when the commandments and the Law were given.
Then comes the establishment in the land under Joshua; the days of David and the great Temple built by Solomon. God’s presence was with them, yet God is far greater than just dwelling in the Temple they had built, God said “Heaven is my throne and earth is my footstool” (verse 49). Yet their religious life in Stephen’s time was still built around the Temple! Did they have a relationship with the One God for whom it was built? No! Stephen portrayed the real lessons for them, the mistakes that their history should teach them – how often their ancestors had not been awake to see God in action but had pursued their own ends.
Stephen suddenly challenges them, “You stiffnecked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit (God in action) as your father’s did …” (verse 51). He accuses them – you betrayed and murdered the righteous one, Jesus … you did just the same as your ancestors – a folly which they complete by murdering Stephen. It is evident that Stephen had included in his preaching a warning that the Temple was to be destroyed. And it was, about thirty-five years later, along with their nation.
Our twenty-first century will see the climax of human history. God will act again but the whole world is blind and unprepared just as the Jews were! An awesome time is coming to destroy the “temples” of the gods of today. Do we preach a message like Stephen’s? Are we prepared? Is our faith strong enough to endure? How appropriate are the words of Jesus, “Because lawlessness will abound the love of many will grow cold, but those who endure to the end will be saved” (Matthew 14:12,13). We must have the fellowship of fellow believers to help us to endure.