In this passage, we see the church’s first martyr, Stephen. Stephen was one of the seven deacons that had been chosen by the apostles in the first part of chapter 6.
But in preaching the Word of Christ, he came into conflict with the Jewish leaders, and he was hauled before the Sanhedrin, with false witnesses testifying against him.
When asked to give his defense, Stephen went into a detailed account of Israel’s history. His main point? That the Jews, time and again, rejected those God had sent to save them. They did it with Joseph, sending him to Egypt as a slave, only to have Joseph save their lives later from the famine that had struck their land. They did it with Moses, not only rejecting him before his encounter with God at the bush, but after he had led them out of Egypt.
This pattern continued even after they entered the land God had promised them, as they rejected the words of the prophets and worshiped false idols.
And now, they had rejected the Christ himself. And still they claimed they were God’s people because they worshiped in his temple. But as Stephen said,
The Most High does not live in houses made by men. 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 where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things? (7:48-50)
In other words, “The temple means nothing if you have rejected and murdered the one God sent to save you!”
The Sanhedrin’s response? They continued in the pattern of their fathers. They murdered a man sent to warn them to repent.
How about you? What kind of pattern do you have in your life? You may be religious. You may go to church every week and do a lot of good things. But if you reject Jesus as Lord and Savior, and reject those who share the gospel with you, all your religious acts mean nothing to God. Instead, you will find yourself condemned along with all the others throughout history who have rejected Jesus and those whom Jesus has sent to warn them. There is only one way of salvation, and that’s through Christ. Won’t you receive him today?
Father, I have sinned. All my life, I have lived my own way and rejected the One you sent to save me. Jesus thank you for dying on the cross to take the punishment for all the wrong things I have done. Now I accept you as my Lord and Savior. Fill me with your Spirit, and teach me how to follow you each day. In your name I pray. Amen.