Stephen's Sermon: Part 3; Lesson 1 of 8
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
January 25, 2014
Acts of the Apostles
Lesson II.E.3: Stephen’s Sermon (7:1-53)
Part 3: verses 37-53
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.
This is that Moses which said unto the children of Israel.
Steven acknowledges Moses as the Lawgiver, but he shows by Moses’ own words that the Law pointed to a more perfect thing, that is to say, to the prophetical office, of which Christ is both the chief Prophet and the head of all Prophets.
This is that Moses who was rejected by his people, and who was chosen by God to be a prince and a savior. What he said is recorded here and in Deuteronomy 18:151, and in Deuteronomy 18:182, and in Acts 3:223. Moses said it in the first two places and Peter in the third on the occasion of the healing of the lame man.
This is that Moses, which said - A prophet, etc. - This very Moses, so highly esteemed and honored by God,
A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.
What was behind this statement by Stephen? It may have been said for one or all of the following reasons:
1. Stephen said it to remind them of the promise of a Messiah; to show his faith in that promise; and "particularly" to remind them of their obligation to hear and obey Him.
2. This was quoted to remind his Moses-worshipping judges of the wonderful testimony of their faithful lawgiver, that he himself was not the last and grand object of the Church's faith, but only a humble predecessor and lesser model of Him to whom they owed total submission.
3. Steven intended to show his audience that while they boast that Moses is their teacher now that he is dead, that they refused to believe him when he was alive.
4. Moses promised that there would come after him another Prophet and warned Israel to take special care to listen to this coming Prophet. But just like Israel rejected Moses, they rejected Jesus, who is the Prophet Moses spoke of. But they went further than Moses’ persecutors did, and put Jesus to death.
This is the greatest honor God ever put upon him, that he gave notice to the children of Israel of the great Prophet that would come into the world; he raised their expectation of him, and required them to receive him.He was not guilty of blaspheming Moses, but instead did him the greatest honor imaginable, by showing how the prophecy of Moses was accomplished, which was made so clear by Christ when He told them himself, “If they had believed Moses, they would have believed him” (John. 5:46).
1. Moses, in God’s name, told them that, in the fullness of time, they would have a prophet raised up among them, one of their own nation, that would be like him (Deuteronomy 18:151, 182), a ruler and a deliverer, a judge and a lawgiver, like him, who would therefore have authority to change the customs that he had delivered, and to bring in a better hope, as the Mediator of a better testament.
2. He charged them to hear that prophet, to receive his dictates, to accept the change he would make in their customs, and to submit to Him in everything.
38 This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:
This is he that was in the church in the wilderness.
Stephen probably didn’t use the word “church” in the same way it is used in the New Testament, but more like it is commonly used today, to signify a congregation. In Stephen's time, it could hardly have become widely known as the designation for the congregation of believers in Christ. In the New Testament, the church is the collective body of God's chosen people; therefore, it is used to denote the whole body of the faithful under the Gospel. Steven was, without a doubt, making reference to the Jewish people he led out of Egypt and for forty years of wandering through the wilderness. The word "church" means literally "the people called out," and is applied correctly to the assembly or multitude called out of Egypt, and separated from the world. It was not, however, necessarily our idea of a church, but means the "assembly," or people called out of Egypt and placed under the oversight of Moses.Israel was never called a church after entering the Promised Land, but while in the wilderness, Israel was a true church, but very different from The New Testament church.
The camp of Israel is called here the church in the wilderness, because it was a sacred society, incorporated by a divine charter under a divine government, and blessed with divine revelation. The church in the wilderness was a church, though it was not yet perfectly formed, as it was to be when they came to Canaan, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes (Deuteronomy 12:8, 94). It was necessary for Moses to have been in that church, since many times it would have been destroyed if Moses had not been in it to intercede for it. But Christ is the president and guide of a more excellent and glorious church than that one in the wilderness, and He is more in it, as the life and soul of it, than Moses could be in that church in the wilderness.
With the angel which spake to him in the Mount Sina.
Who was this angel? It says here that he was the angel that “spoke to him in the mount Sinai,” and with our fathers—he was with Him twice for forty days: He was the Angel of the Covenant, our Savior. Moses spoke with God, but he never lay in his bosom as Christ did from eternity past. This verse may be rendered thus: Moses was in the church in the wilderness, and it was the angel that spoke to him at Mount Sinai, that is, at the burning bush; for that was said to be at Mount Sinai (v. 30); that angel went before him as his guide, or else he could not have been a guide to Israel. God speaks of this in Exodus (Ex. 23:205 and 33:26). He was in the church with the angel, without whom he could not have been of service to the church; Christ himself was that angel which was with the church in the wilderness, and therefore has authority over Moses. Stephen may be referring to the burning bush or the time when the Law was given on that mount; and it may be to both, since it is true of both. It was the angel of the divine presence, the second person in the Trinity, and the word of God that bid Moses come up into the mount; and who spoke all ten words to him. By this exalted testimony to Moses, Stephen rebuts the main charge for which he was on trial.
And with our fathers.
“Our fathers” are the Jewish ancestors, who came out of Egypt under Moses, with whom he was deliverer and ruler, their guide and head. He was present with the fathers, so that he might be their guide in obedience to the commandment of the Lord; he was with the angel (Christ) as His minister.
Who received the lively oracles to give unto us.
“The lively oracles” are called the words of God by Paul in Romans 3:27, and Peter calls them “the oracles of God” in 1 Peter 4:118. The word "oracles," as it is used here means "commands" or "laws" of God. The word "lively," or “living,” stands opposed to what is dead, or useless, and means what is vigorous, and effective; and in this place it refers to the commands which were given to secure attention, to produce obedience, or to excite them to act for God, as opposed to laws which would fall powerless, and produce no effect.
Stephen magnifies Moses by reminding his hearers how he had received the Law (lively oracles) from God to give to the people; not only the Ten Commandments, but the other instructions which the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, Speak them to the children of Israel. The words of God:
(1.) Are reliable and infallible oracles, and contain unquestionable authority and compulsion; they are to be consulted as oracles, and all controversies must be decided by them.
(2.) Are Lively oracles, since they are the oracles of the living God, not of the dumb and dead idols of the heathens; and because they contained His mind and will, and were a sure and infallible declaration of it; and "lively" ones, because they were delivered with an articulate voice, and in audible sounds, and because it is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword. The word that God speaks is spirit and life; although the Law of Moses could not give life, it showed the way to life, for it says, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”
(3.) Contain all the promises of God regarding the Messiah, and all the rites and ordinances of the ceremonial law, which pointed out Christ, as the way of life, righteousness, and salvation.
(4.) Points out the way of life and salvation to sinful men; it is a rule of life, and it promises life in case of perfect obedience (Leviticus 18:59); but this is impractical for fallen men to do, and therefore there is no life nor righteousness by the law.
(5.) Promised eternal life for those who are faithful unto death.
(6.) Living and powerful (Hebrews 4:1210), enlightening the eyes, rejoicing the heart, converting the soul, and raising the dead.