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Thursday, August 20, 2020

ACTS 7: STEPHEN’s DEFENSE and HIS MESSIANIC MESSAGE

ACTS 7: STEPHEN’s DEFENSE and HIS MESSIANIC MESSAGE
ACTS 7:1-60

 
Introduction: Summary of Chapter 6: Stephen is one of seven men chosen by the church who will minister to the needs of the body of Christ, some of which feel that they were neglected – these being the Hellenized Jews. And who were they? From 
GOTQUESTIONS.com we have the following explanation:

The believing Jews are here divided into two groups. There were those who had remained in Judea, near Jerusalem, who used the Hebrew language, and who were appropriately called “Hebrews.” The other group consisted of those who were scattered among the Gentiles, who spoke the Greek language, and who used the Greek translation of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint. These were called “Hellenists,” from a word meaning “Greek” or “Greek-speaking.” To “Hellenize” is to adopt Greek culture and ideas.
“Dissensions arose between the Hellenistic Jews and the Hebraic Jews. The Hebraic Jews prided themselves on the fact that they had always lived in the land of the patriarchs, used the language that their fathers spoke, and were near the temple, regularly worshiping there. The Hellenistic Jews from other parts of the world were jealous of the first group and made to feel like outsiders. Sadly, the strife between the two groups was not automatically eliminated by their conversion to Christianity, as the complaints concerning food distribution to widows of the two groups show. However, in a wonderful example of godly wisdom and Christian unity, the early church worked through the dispute, and the office of deacon was formed
(Acts 6:2–6).”

Then there were some of the synagogues of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and also of Cilicia and of Asia (all of these are Hellenized Jews from Greek-influenced cities!), that disputed with Stephen (a Hellenist who showed fair treatment to all Jews, Hebrew and Hellenist!) but couldn’t defeat the wisdom of Stephen, so they framed this godly man with false witnesses that claimed he spoke against Moses and against GOD as well as blasphemy against the Temple and the Law, and further, the false claim that Stephen stated that JESUS of Nazareth would destroy the Temple and change the “customs which Moses delivered to us” (ACTS 6:10-15), and so they haul him to the council of the Sanhedrin, and this is where we pick up in Chapter 7. 

Here Stephen, a Hellenized Jew himself is going to set the record straight before the most august and intimidating group of Jewish scholars in all the land, the Sanhedrin. But more than this, he is going to show from Scripture, that prophets and godly men that the LORD sent to Israel were initially rejected but then later received and he is going to draw a parallel between these, and how the Messiah Himself was initially rejected by Israel, but will be received the second time.

ACTS 7:1-3
1 Then said the high priest, Are these things so? 2 And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, 3 And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee
.

So Stephen begins his monologue and recites the Hebrew history beginning with The Hebrew, Abraham himself. 

ACTS 7:4-5
4 Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell. 5 And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.
Abraham didn’t completely leave his family behind and head out into the unknown territory that GOD would show him, he brought his father with him, and didn’t go any farther than Charran and stayed there until his father died
.

ACTS 7:6-7
6 And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years. 7 And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place
.

The LORD is faithful to direct and inform us of what lies ahead for our lives. Just as the LORD explained to Abraham that his descendants would become slaves for four hundred years – and that GOD would judge the nation that will enslave them, then return Abraham’s descendants back to the land, the LORD has told us what lies ahead for us, in the prophetic Scripture and how He will judge the world for how they persecute and martyr the church (JOHN 16:1-3; MATT 13:21; MATT 24:24-26). Then there are things that the LORD doesn't reveal to us, but calls us to walk by faith, not by sight. 

Note also that when Jacob and family first came to Egypt, it was because of the wide-spread famine that affected the entire Middle East! They didn’t intend on staying in Egypt – they were “sojourners” – pilgrims, just passing the time until the famine ended and they would then return to Canaan. 

But they got comfortable in Egypt, life was prosperous, life was good, they went from being sojourners to settlers. Then the LORD had to stir them up and make life uncomfortable, and allowed them to suffer slavery, which then caused them to cry out to GOD.

Christians can too often get comfortable in this world; they experience prosperity, life is good, and we forget that we too are called to be sojourners – “this world is not my home, I’m just passing through” – and the LORD stirs us up, makes life uncomfortable, allows us to experience hardship and suffering that causes us to cry out to GOD. Then the LORD delivers us, and we get back to being sojourners and learn that it’s no good to get ‘settled’ in this world that is passing away! 

ACTS 7:8-10
8 And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs. 9 And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him, 10 And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house
.

Here we have the first example that Stephen offers of the one that GOD raises up and honors, but who is dishonored and rejected by his brethren – Joseph. And as we have seen in our study in GENESIS, the parallels between the life and character of Joseph and of the LORD Jesus Christ are remarkable! 

An interesting side note that we observed while going through the book of GENESIS: the LORD first appeared unto Abraham in GEN 12:7; the LORD appeared to Isaac in GEN 26:2; and to Jacob in GEN 28:12; when did the LORD appear unto Joseph?
Joseph never had an appearance of the LORD, and yet of all these men, whose life was the greatest in conduct, the highest quality of integrity, the deepest compassion, love and mercy?
This just goes to show that we walk by faith, not by sight!

Joseph was the well-beloved of his father, just as the LORD Jesus is the beloved of the Father, of Whom He is well pleased (MATT 3:17; 17:5; 2 PET 1:17).

Because Joseph was the second to the youngest, he was among the least esteemed among his eleven other brothers; likewise Christ Jesus was not at all esteemed by the religious establishment in Israel and even among many of the people (JOHN 1:11).

Joseph was given a coat of many colors, a very costly garment that was not offered to any of his brothers; likewise Christ wears the flawless robe of righteousness (ISAIAH 59:17; ROM 3:22; 10:4). Joseph was stripped of that coat, just as the LORD laid aside His eternal glory as the Word of GOD.

Just as Joseph began in high esteem in his homeland by his father Jacob, then in a very humble position in Egypt, but was eventually raised up in a place of honor in Egypt – likewise Christ was highly esteemed in his Homeland that is Heaven, but then came into this world (of which, Egypt is a type) in the most humble position imaginable (The WORD made flesh, in the likeness of sinful flesh: JOHN 1:14; ROM 8:3), but was glorified in this world at the Cross (JOHN 12:27-28) and will be glorified in this world as the name above all names when He returns (EPH 1:20-22; PHIL 2:9-11)!
Arthur Pink lists over 400 parallels between Joseph as a type for Christ and the LORD Jesus Christ.

ACTS 7:11-13
11 Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first. 13 And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph's kindred was made known unto Pharaoh
.

When Joseph’s brothers received the revelation from GOD through Joseph’s dreams, they rejected both the dreams and their brother. To the point that they even betrayed him by selling him into slavery!
It isn’t until their lives are threatened from starvation, and they are forced to go to the only place that has food – Egypt – that they encounter Pharaoh’s steward, who unbeknownst to them is their brother Joseph, who then reveals himself to them, and they bow before their younger brother and give him reverence.

Likewise, Christ Who is the Lamb of GOD, was rejected when He revealed Who He was, before the people of Israel, and His own received Him not (JOHN 1:11); and to this day, the majority of the Jewish nation not only rejects Jesus, but many of them blaspheme Jesus! 

Yet there is coming a day, when Israel’s life will be threatened with destruction from the anti-Christ and the armies under his command, and then the LORD Jesus will reveal Himself and deliver them from the Beast; this time He appears not as the LAMB of GOD but as the LION of the Tribe of JUDAH, bearing the emblems of His far greater deliverance and salvation from sin for His people, the scars of the nails in His hands and feet – and then at His Second Coming He will be received and all Israel will be saved (ROM 11:26)! 
Just as Joseph’s brethren were made known to Pharaoh, Israel as well as the church will then be revealed to the entire world as the beloved of the LORD (PSALM 87:2-3; ROM 11:12; 2 THESS 2:10). 

ACTS 7:14-19
14 Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls. 15 So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers, 16 And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.
17 But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, 18 Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph. 19 The same dealt subtly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live
.

So Joseph and all his family lived in the northern region of Egypt, near the coastline that bordered the Mediterranean Sea and the delta of the Nile River, enjoying the extremely fertile land of Goshen and were blessed.
But then what happened?

“…another king arose that ‘knew not Joseph’.” That is, this other Pharaoh, long after Joseph (and his brothers and immediate family) died, and the people of Israel flourished, that this Pharaoh didn’t regard what this Hebrew steward of the former Pharaoh did for the land of Egypt, rescuing the nation, the entire region from starvation.

Another thing: when it says, “another king” the Greek word used here in this verse for ‘another’ is heteros.
In English, I can say I want another sandwich please, and the one I just ate was with ham and Swiss cheese, but this time I’d like roast beef and cheddar. So I’d have to be specific and say, ‘another but a different kind’ of sandwich.
In Greek however if I say I want another sandwich of the same kind (another ham & Swiss cheese) I would use the word ‘allos’. If I wanted a second sandwich made with roast beef and cheddar, it’s still a sandwich, but of a different kind, I would use the Greek word ‘heteros’.

In ACTS 7:18, the Greek word used for "another king" is heteros – another, but a different kind of King. History records that this Pharaoh that didn’t acknowledge Joseph was not an Egyptian, but probably an Assyrian. Not being a native Egyptian, but ruling over the Egyptian people, he undoubtedly was a bit insecure in his reign, especially with these Hebrews outpacing the Egyptians in giving birth, outnumbering the Egyptians 2, perhaps 3 to 1!

It’s somewhat similar to King Herod the Great, that Rome made king over Israel, even though Herod was not a Jew; he was most likely an Idumean, of the nation of Edom (part of modern day Syria). But he reigned over the nation of the Jews and history records he also was very insecure, paranoid in fact, in his rule as king. So when the wisemen show up, asking, where is the newborn King of the Jews, because they came to worship him! Scripture states that Herod was “troubled and all Jerusalem with him” (MATT 2:2-3). Herod no doubt saw this newborn as a threat to his rule, and Satan, even more so!

One more point: consider verse 17:
17 But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt,

Let’s always, always, always remember that GOD fulfills His promises – in HIS own time, and in the manner HE chooses! We witnessed how GOD fulfilled His promises to Joseph that the LORD gave him in these dreams this young man had. But where Joseph might have thought GOD would take him on this path to His promise in the particular manner of point A to point B, to point C, D, and E; we saw that GOD fulfilled His promises from point A to Y, to B to M, to C to Z. He often fulfills His will in our lives in ways that we can’t predict, much less understand. Remember, GOD’s ways are not our ways (ISAIAH 55:8-9)!

We read in Scripture repeatedly, “It came to pass” (GEN 7:10; 15:17; 1 SAM 1:20) and “in the fullness of time” (GAL 4:4; EPH 1:10) – there are times appointed when GOD moves on behalf of His own, to fulfill His promises that He has sworn by His own Word, and it pleases GOD to do so, to show us that He is entirely trustworthy – we just have to trust Him, even when His promise is yet unseen with our eyes!

HEBREWS 6:13-20
13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he swore by himself, 14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. 15 And so, after he [Abraham] had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. 16 For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. 17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: 18 That by two immutable things [a promise and an oath], in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: 19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters into that within the veil; 20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek
.

And we see the promise of GOD, made to Abraham, coming to fruition. The LORD promised Abraham that though his descendants would be enslaved for 400 years, He would bring them back into the promised land. And Moses would be the instrument in the hand of GOD that He used to accomplish this!

ACTS 7:20-29
20 In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father's house three months: 21 And when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up and nourished him for her own son. 22 And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was mighty in words and in deeds. 23 And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian: 25 For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not. 26 And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another? 27 But he that did his neighbor wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Wilt thou kill me, as thou diddest the Egyptian yesterday? 29 Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Midian, where he begat two sons
.

GOD appointed Moses as the Deliverer of His people Israel; but again, as with Joseph, when Moses presented himself as a rescuer of his Hebrew brethren that he visited, he was rejected. And when he understood that “this thing is known” – that he actually murdered an Egyptian, that he fled from Egypt and dwelled in Midian.

ACTS 7:30-32
30 And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sinai an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him, 32 Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold
.

Here we see, after forty years was expired (“in the fullness of time”) that the LORD appeared to Moses in the form of this burning bush – probably an acacia, a very thorny tree that has an oily resin contained inside, that when subjected to the intensely hot desert sun, would spontaneously burst into flames and burn up.
So if this phenomena had a natural explanation, why then did Moses “wonder at the sight”?


[See GOTQUESTIONS article: Why did God speak to Moses out of the burning bush?]

We get the answer in EXODUS 3:2-3
2 And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt
.

The thorns represent the curse of sin due to the fall of Adam (GEN 3:18), yet the fire represents the holiness of GOD (Our GOD is a consuming fire (HEB 12:29) that will judge, burn away and destroy all sin; but the bush was not consumed by the fire – and that speaks of the mercy and grace of GOD that we receive through Jesus Christ:

LAMENTATIONS 3:22
It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not
.

ROMANS 3:20,23-24
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus
:

ACTS 7:33-35
33 Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground. 34 I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt. 35 This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush
.

Never doubt for a moment that GOD doesn’t see the struggle you’re going through. He sees you and what you're enduring in every detail. He hears the cry of those who plead with Him from a humble heart of brokenness. See here again, the witness the Hebrew people who refused Moses as the Deliverer, just as the nation of Israel in the days of our LORD refused Him as the Deliverer “who shall come out of Zion and turn ungodliness from Jacob” (ROM 11:26) as well.

ACTS 7:36-37
36 He brought them out, after that he had shewed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years. 37 This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear
.

Just as there are ways in which Joseph was a type of Christ, likewise we see many parallels between Moses and the LORD Jesus:

~ Both escaped being killed as babies: Moses escaped Pharaoh’s command to slay all the male Hebrew babies; Christ escaped Herod’s command to slay all the male Hebrew babies 2 years old and younger (EXOD 1:8-22; MATT 2:1-16).
~ The childhood of both was obscured and unknown in the records of Scripture.
~ Neither were Egyptian yet lived among the Egyptians for a time (EXOD 2:1-10; MATT 2:13-15).
~ Both had the legal right to become King but belonged to the nation of Israel under foreign rule: Egypt and Rome, respectively.
~ Just as Moses freed his people from physical slavery, so too did Christ free His people from the spiritual slavery to sin (ROM 6:22).
~ Moses passed through the Red Sea, a symbol of baptism (1 COR 10:1-3); just as Christ was baptized in the Jordan River (EXOD 14:21-28; MATT 3:13-16).
~ Just as Moses spent 40 years in the desert, so likewise the LORD Jesus spent 40 days in the desert; and both fasted for forty days and forty nights (DEUT 8:2; 9:9; MATT 4:1-2; LUKE 4:1-2)
~ Both were ministered to by angels while in the wilderness (EXOD 23:20-23; MATT 4:8-11).
~ Both were noted for their remarkable meekness, the LORD most especially however.
~ Both gave the Law from a mountain; Moses the Law from the Old Testament; Christ the New Law from the New Testament (EXOD 19-24; MATT 5-7).
    From: Moses as a Similitude of Christ 

ACTS 7:38-40
38 This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sinai, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us: 39 To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt, 40 Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him
.

We’ll discover in EXODUS that even after those 10 powerful, undeniable miracles that demonstrated GOD’s power over the false gods of Egypt – the plagues of Egypt performed by GOD Almighty that delivered His people from Egyptian slavery, while Moses was on Mt. Sinai, the people grew restless, rejected Moses’ leadership and determined to return to Egypt with idols that they fashioned to lead in their procession!

People often think that if only they could see some ‘sign’ or ‘wonder’, that this would strengthen their faith, but what greater or more powerful signs and wonders in all the pages of Scripture do we see than these 10 astounding miraculous displays of power from GOD, these 10 plagues of Egypt – to say nothing of the parting of the Red Sea, the lasting preservation of the Hebrews clothes and shoes during the 40 year crossing of the desert, the water gushing from the Rock in the wilderness, and others – but how did this bolster the faith of the Hebrews? Mostly, it didn’t!

Again, the just shall live, and walk by faith, and not by sight!

ACTS 7:41-43
41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. 42 Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness? 43 Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon
.

The Hebrews continued in their rebellion against GOD after the nation of Israel was established, after the death of David the King, it began with Solomon, then his sons, then for generations afterwards until the captivity of Israel came by GOD’s instrument of judgment: Babylon!

ACTS 7:44-50
44 Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen. 45 Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus [Joshua] into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David; 46 Who found favor before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.
47 But Solomon built him an house. 48 Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, 49 Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? 50 Hath not my hand made all these things?

The religious establishment, the Sanhedrin and particularly the Pharisees (who were the conservatives of the Sanhedrin; Sadducees were the liberals) idolized the Temple (MATT 23:16-20) and focused on the false notion that righteousness came by the Law – something that the apostle Paul deftly refuted (GAL 2:21; PHIL 3:9) – and claimed to revere Moses more than the coming Messiah that Moses prophesied of (JOHN 9:28-30)! Yet Christ pointed out their hypocrisy and told them:

JOHN 5:45-47
45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. 46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?
After expounding on how righteousness was given to Abraham, not by the Law but by faith, and how both Joseph and Moses were initially rejected by Israel, but later received as messengers from GOD, Stephen is about to bring it home and nail these religious hypocrites!

ACTS 7:51-54
51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. 52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: 53 Who have received the law by the disposition of angels and have not kept it. 54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth
.

GOD wants hearts devoted to Him, out of a love for Who He is, not devoted to a religion of self-righteousness that idolizes self, which is what the religious leadership of Jerusalem was all about. Though they were circumcised according to the Jewish religion, they had uncircumcised hearts and ears – they didn’t understand the truth of GOD, much less receive it; that righteousness comes by faith, not by the Law. The lives of Joseph and even Moses, the Law giver, were testimonies of this truth, as were all the prophets that the religious persecuted, culminating with the persecution and rejection and crucifixion of the “the Just One”, the Son of GOD, just as the LORD Jesus pointed out in His parable in MATTHEW 21:33-40

The implication that Stephen was leading to was that just as Joseph was at first rejected, then accepted, and likewise with Moses, that the One that the Sanhedrin rejected – Jesus of Nazareth, Israel will one day accept as the Messiah of Israel; and that is where the Sanhedrin becomes unhinged and they rush at Stephen to murder him.

ACTS 7:55-56
55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God
Note that: the LORD Jesus here is not seated at the right hand of the Father (MATT 22:44; 26:64; ROM 8:34; EPH 1:20; COL 3:1; HEB 1:3,13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 PET 3:22) as we read elsewhere but standing now – to receive His faithful servant!

ACTS 7:57-60
57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, 58 And cast him out of the city and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep
.

This is Saul of Tarsus, the best student of the Pharisee Gamaliel he ever had; he later receives the commission from the Sanhedrin to seek out, imprison, persecute, even kill Christians! And here he witnesses this ‘Christian’ praying to GOD for His forgiveness of these Jews stoning him to death. I’m sure that image haunted him throughout his younger days!

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