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What are the chances you will miss Christmas this year? Saturday will come and go and you will somehow just miss it? The Sanhedrin had not only missed the coming of Christ, but after His resurrection they continued to cover up and deny the historical reality of His appearing.

The account of Stephen appearing before the angry Sanhedrin in Acts chapter 7 marks a pivotal watershed in God’s dispensational dealings with His people. You know what a watershed is. You see the sign on the highway: marks a great divide between the waters flowing in one direction or the other. We have seen how Peter attempted to re-offer the kingdom to the Jewish nation if they would only repent and trust in the risen Lord Jesus. But they persisted in their rejection and rebellion. So at this point Stephen — rather than defending himself against the false charges of speaking blasphemy against Moses and God, and trying to tear down the Law and the temple and the Jewish traditions – actually presents God’s final indictment against the nation of Israel. God is now going to switch directions and take this new gospel message directly to the despised Gentiles. The Jews could not abide this change in approach and the loss of their favored status – even though God was not permanently setting them aside.

They have proven by their actions that they follow in the footsteps of their OT brethren who consistently resisted the work of the Holy Spirit and persecuted God’s appointed messengers. As Stephen faced death himself, his mind was not spinning out of control in panic; instead he calmly reviews with these Jewish religious leaders the history of their stubborn arrogance and self righteousness. They had failed to respond in faith to God’s gracious initiation. They thought they could confine God to a box of a physical connection to the temple in Jerusalem.

So Stephen gives a brief historical theology of four different epochs of God’s interactions with His chosen nation. We will look at the first of these this morning in 7:1-8 – dealing with God’s sovereign election and effectual calling with respect to Abraham and the patriarchs. [Good opportunity for us to get back into the OT some.] The Sanhedrin wrongly took confidence in their spiritual lineage – thinking that God was limited to dealing with the physical descendants of Abraham and those who would become proselytes of their pattern of temple worship centered in the holy city of Jerusalem. But they proved to be ignorant of God’s intentions of bringing about the fulfillment of the law and the OT types in the person of His Son Jesus Christ who came to fully reveal grace and truth.



“And the high priest said, ‘Are these things so?’ And he said, ‘Hear me, brethren and fathers!’”

Motivation of Caiaphas – same judge present for railroading of Jesus – not a genuine interest in the truth but out to convict Stephen; yet his response is gracious and respectful; no hope of a fair trial;

Stott: What Stephen did was to pick out four major epochs of Israel’s history, dominated by four major characters. First he highlighted Abraham and the patriarchal age (7:2-8); then Joseph and the Egyptian exile (9-19); thirdly Moses, the Exodus and the wilderness wanderings (20-44); and lastly David and Solomon, and the establishment of the monarchy (45-50). The connecting feature of these four epochs is that in none of them was God’s presence limited to any particular place. On the contrary, the God of the Old Testament was the living God, a God on the move and on the march, who was always calling his people out to fresh adventures, and always accompanying and directing them as they went.

Boice: His speech is a transition speech that paves the way for presenting the gospel to the Gentiles, which begins in the very next chapter of Acts.


Pattern: God Initiates by Grace / Man Responds by Faith

Man of Faith / Friend of God – Stephen is actually faithfully following in the footsteps of Father Abraham as opposed to these religious leaders who think that they can box God in to some type of local deity tied only to their physical temple

Wiersbe: Abraham was the founder of the Hebrew nations, and his relationship to God was one of grace and faith. God had graciously appeared to him and called him out of heathen darkness into the light of salvation, and Abraham had responded by faith. Abraham was saved by grace, through faith, and not because he was circumcised, kept a law, or worshipped in a temple. All of those things came afterward (see Rom. 4; Gal. 3). He believed the promises of God and it was this faith that saved him.


“The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran,”

A. God of Glory Graciously Appears – Revelation is the key – God appears to man – Amazing; Immanuel – God actually comes and dwells with man — Amazing

“ophthalmology” – from Greek word for “appeared”

1. Eternal Perspective of God of Glory – sees the end from the beginning

Stephen condemning the Jewish leaders for their limited perspective

2. Universal Scope of God’s Program for Man – not just about the nation Israel

Stephen condemning the Jewish leaders for their nationalistic prejudice and arrogance; God not limited by geography to one special holy land;

God was with Abraham wherever he went – not tied to the land or the temple

At the time Abraham and his family were worshipping other gods (Joshua 24:2); call in Haran was a confirmation of earlier call when he was in Ur (Gen. 12:1)

Abraham was a very unlikely choice – just as David was not the obvious choice for Samuel when he came looking for the man God wanted anointed as king; family of idolaters living in a pagan land

Psalm 29:3 – “God of glory” – absolute supremacy of God over everything

Stott: His glory is his self-manifestation, and Stephen is about to give details of how he made himself known to Abraham.

MacArthur: Glory is the fullness of the manifestation of all that God is. The glory of God is the composite of all His attributes. We can talk about the God of love, the God of justice, the God of grace, the God of wisdom, the God of righteousness, the God of wrath, the God of power, or the God of any other element of His divine nature. But we can just say, “The God of glory,” and that would encompass every single thing that God ever is. That’s the most comprehensive expression. Therefore, Stephen is saying, “I believe in God in the fullest conceivable sense possible.”

B. Man of Vision Sees by Faith – Response is Required

1. Sees God’s Person – Do you see who God is?

2. Sees God’s Plan – Do you see what God sees?

Illustration: Once you see what God sees you can never go back and not see it again – cf. Federal Express logo on their delivery trucks – you see the arrow – had to be pointed out to me … now it screams out


“and said to him, ‘Depart from your country and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.’ Then he departed from the land of the Chaldeans, and settled in Haran. And from there, after his father died, God removed him into this country in which you are now living.”

A. God of Sovereign Direction Graciously Commands

1. Based on Divine Election

2. Based on Effectual Calling

3. Based on Providential Leading/Pushing

B. Man of Mission Obeys by Faith

1. Forsaking Personal Comfort and Security

Key to obedience is obeying when you cannot see what the consequences will be

God tested Abraham severely in the incident with sacrificing Isaac

2. Needing Divine Push to Reach God’s Goals


“And He gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground; and yet, even when he had no child, He promised that He would give it to him as a possession, and to his offspring after him.”

A. God of Promise Graciously Talks Big

Boice: This statement [that Abraham remained a pilgrim in Canaan] must have been meant as a rebuke to these settled leaders of the people. They were in the land God had given. It was a blessing. But they were too much at home in the land. They had forgotten that, wonderful as possession of the land of promise was, they were nevertheless only to be pilgrims in it as Abraham had been. Without this orientation, they lacked the spiritual depth that characterized their ancestor. Abraham, we are told in Hebrews, was not looking for an earthly city, but “to the city with foundations [the heavenly city], whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10). These rulers had ceased to look forward. They were looking back, and they had taken the things of the world and the blessings of the world to be permanent. They had allowed God’s temporal blessings to eclipse their sense of God’s presence.

B. Man of Future Possession Hopes Big by Faith

Promise was really directed to his offspring – Big Problem = Abraham had none!


“But God spoke to this effect, that his offspring would be aliens in a foreign land, and that they would be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years. ‘And whatever nation to which they shall be in bondage I Myself will judge,’ said God, ‘and after that they will come out and serve Me in this place.’”

A. God of Judgment Graciously Disciplines His Children But Destroys His Enemies

1. God Allows His Children to Suffer Greatly

2. God Does Not Forget or Forsake His Children

3. God Ultimately Judges the Instruments He Uses for Disciplining His Children

4. God Desires Our Worship and Service

Chris Vogel: Stephen then makes a play on words in v7. Quoting from Exodus 3:12 he refers to “this place.” Up to this point “this place” in the discussion of Acts refers to the temple on Mt. Zion, but the context of Exodus refers to Mt. Sinai. The goal of God’s promise was not the land, but the relationship. The place that is important to God is the place where God meets his people.

B. Man of Redemption Responds to Deliverance with Service by Faith

Do we grasp the depth of our bondage – what original sin and total depravity mean in our own situation?

Have we appreciated the precious value of our redemption?

Do we live as those delivered from the power of sin?

How are we serving God in the place where He has put us right now?


“And 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.”

A. God of Covenant Faithfulness Graciously Acts Unconditionally

Abrahamic covenant – only God passed through the path between the bloody pieces of the slaughtered animals

Gen. 15:17-18 “It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram” symbolizing the presence of God

God has never wavered in His faithfulness and covenant loyalty to His chosen people; although He has set Israel aside for a time, He will yet draw them to Himself in national repentance, give them possession of the promised land and usher in His Messianic Kingdom

B. Man of Circumcision Blessed on Conditional Basis by Faith

Probably not the sign of the covenant that Abraham would have chosen – fortunately we don’t have to circumcise our own baby boys – Jewish faith was pretty messy and bloody in a lot of respects – we lose much of that emphasis

Gen. 17:24 “Now Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin”

Jewish leaders loved everything that their circumcision represented – their connection to Abraham and the patriarchs; their connection to Moses and the law; their connection to Jerusalem and the temple – Circumcision was a badge of great honor; spoke of God’s loyal covenant love to His chosen people; but they missed the point of all of God’s revelation which pointed to the fulfillment of everything in the person of the promised Messiah Jesus Christ

No individual blessing apart from faith in God and His promises


Maybe this passage can be a watershed in your relationship to the God of glory. There is no grandfathering in of spiritual relationships based on the faith of your parents or those who have gone before you. God still initiates new spiritual relationships by His grace; but you must personally respond in faith.

Illustration: Shopping at Columbia Mall on Friday … in parking lot passed a young couple; possibly dating; the girl was chewing on the guy; “Takes two people to have a conversation!”

1) What type of Vision do you have for God and His program for this age?

2) Are you living as one sold out to the Great Commission that Jesus commanded for today?

3) Are you more concerned with what new possessions you will unwrap on Christmas day or is your hope set on the future realization of the promises of God?

4) Do you appreciate your redemption from future judgment and from bondage to serving sin?

5) Are you living a circumcised life of separation from the world and dedication to the worship and service of God?