The Message of Stephen
(1) Then the Jewish high priest (probably Caiaphas, who presided over Jesus’ trial) asked Stephen, “Are these charges being made against you true?” Stephen responded to his question with this message:
(2) “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was still living in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. (3) God told Abraham in Genesis 12:1, ‘Leave your land and your people, and go to the land I will show you.’
(4) “So Abraham left the land of the Chaldeans and lived in the city of Haran. After the death of his father, God sent Abraham to the land of Israel where you now live. (5) God did not give him any land as an inheritance here, not even enough ground to put his foot on. But God promised him that he and his descendants would one day possess this land, even though at that time Abraham had no children. (6) God said to Abraham in Genesis 15:13, ‘For 400 years your descendants will be strangers in a land that belongs to others, and they will become slaves and mistreated.’ (7) But God said in Genesis 15:14, ‘I will judge the nation where they are made slaves and will deliver them from that land so that they can worship me in this land.’
(8) “Then God gave Abraham the covenant confirmed through circumcision. And he became the father of Isaac and circumcised him eight days after his birth; Isaac did the same with Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the 12 patriarchs (tribes) of Israel.”
(9) “Because Jacob’s sons were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him (10) and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and positioned him to receive much favor from Pharaoh of Egypt. So Pharaoh made him governor over Egypt and all his household.
(11) “Then a famine came upon all of Egypt, causing great suffering in Canaan, and our ancestors had nothing to eat. (12) When Jacob heard that there was food in Egypt, he sent our forefathers to visit Egypt for the first time. (13) During their second visit to Egypt, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family. (14) After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and the 75 people of his family, to come and live with him in Egypt. (15) Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our ancestors died. (16) Their bodies were brought back to Shechem (in Samaria, the modern city of Nablus) and were buried in the tomb purchased by Abraham from the sons of Hamor at Shechem.
(17) “As the time came near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt had grown tremendously. (18) But at that time, a new king became the ruler of Egypt who did not know Joseph. (19) The new king ruthlessly exploited our people and oppressed our ancestors by forcing them to throw out their infant sons so that they would die.”
(20) “It was during this time that Moses was born. He was an extraordinary child. His parents secretly cared for him for three months. (21) When they placed him outside (floated him down the Nile River in a basket), Pharaoh’s daughter found him and raised him as her own son. (22) Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.
(23) “When Moses was 40 years old, he went to visit his own people, the Israelites. (24) He saw an Egyptian mistreating an Israelite, so he came to his defense and killed the Egyptian. (25) Moses thought that the Israelites would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. (26) The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting, He tried to make peace between them, by saying, ‘You are brothers, why do you want to hurt one another?’
(27) “But the man who was hurting the other man pushed Moses, and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? (28) Are you going to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ (29) When Moses heard this, he fled to the wilderness of Midian (a region in the Sinai Peninsula), where he lived as a foreigner, married a Midian woman, and became the father of two sons.
(30) “After Moses had lived in the wilderness of Midian for 40 years, an angel appeared to him in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. (31) When Moses saw the burning bush, he was amazed at what he was seeing. When he went over to get a closer look at the bush, he heard the voice of the Lord say, (32) ‘I am the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Moses trembled with fear and didn’t dare look.
(33) “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, because the place you are standing is holy ground. (34) I have seen the severe oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free from their slavery. Now, come! I’m sending you back to Egypt.’
(35) “This is the same Moses they had rejected by saying, ‘Who made you our ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. (36) Moses led Israel out of Egypt after doing miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, at the Red Sea, and for 40 years in the wilderness.
(37) “This was Moses who told the Israelites in Deuteronomy 18:15, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own people.’ (38) Moses was in the congregation in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received the life-giving words of God to pass on to us.
(39) “But our ancestors refused to obey Moses in the wilderness. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. (40) They told Aaron in Exodus 32:1, ‘Make us gods who will lead us, because we do not know what happened to Moses who led us out of Egypt.’ (41) That was the time they made a calf idol and offered sacrifices to it, and began to celebrate what they had made with their own hands. (42) So God turned away from them and gave them over to worship the sun, moon, and stars, just as it is written in Amos 5:25-27, ‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings for 40 years in the wilderness, people of Israel? (43) No! Instead you took up the shrine of Moloch and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship. Therefore, I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.’ ”
(44) “Our ancestors had the tabernacle of the covenant law with them in the wilderness, which was made according to Moses’ instructions and the pattern that he had received from God. (45) After receiving the tabernacle, our ancestors under the leadership of Joshua carried it with them when they took possession of the Promised Land from the nations God drove out before them.”
Kings David and Solomon
(46) “The tabernacle remained in the land until the time of David, who enjoyed God’s favor, and he asked God if he could build a temple for him. (47) But God determined that it was Solomon who would build a temple for him.
(48) “However, as we all know, the Most High God does not live in temples made by human hands; as it is written in Isaiah 66:1-2, (49) ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, or where will my resting place be? (50) For I am the creator of all things!’ ”
Stephen Rebukes the Sanhedrin
(51) “You are a stubborn people! You have uncircumcised hearts and ears. You are just like our ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! (52) Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One of Israel. And now you have betrayed and murdered him! (53) You have received the law of Moses that was given to us through angels, but you have not obeyed it!”
The Martyrdom of Stephen
(54) When the members of the Jewish governing council (the Sanhedrin) heard Stephen’s message to them, they were furious and began to grind their teeth at him. (55) But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw God’s glorious beauty, and Jesus standing in authority at God’s right side. (56) Then Stephen proclaimed in a loud voice, “Look! I see heaven open and the Son of Man (see Daniel 7:13-14) enthroned at the right side of God.”
(57) At this the members of the Sanhedrin covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all ran at Stephen. (58) Then they dragged him outside of Jerusalem, and began throwing rocks at him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats (outer cloaks) at the feet of a young man named Saul (Paul).
(59) While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed aloud, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” (60) Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” After he said this, he died.