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Saturday, 28 May 2022
Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, Acts 7:52
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).
Stephen’s last words were concerning the stiff necks and uncircumcised hearts and ears of those in the council. He also noted that they always resist the Holy Spirit, just as their fathers did. Now he asks them a direct question that somewhat mirrors the words of Jesus, “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?”
It is reflective of what Jesus said to the leaders in Matthew 5 (and also in Luke 13) –
“Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. 33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” Matthew 5:31-36
Jesus’ words were an affirmative statement. Stephen’s words are put in the form of a question, but one that begs the answer, “Your fathers have persecuted them all.” The Scriptures themselves testify to the truth of the matter. But that question was only asked to connect what the fathers had done to what this very council would do. He is showing that there is an unbroken line of hatred by them to the very people who proclaimed the coming of the Messiah. This is seen in Stephen’s continued words, saying, “And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One.”
The title, the Just One, is not directly proclaimed by the prophets, but the intent behind it is seen in the words of the prophets. A similar thought to it is found in Isaiah 11 –
“But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins,
And faithfulness the belt of His waist.” Isaiah 11:4, 5
The title was understood well enough that it is used here. Likewise, 1 John 2:1 uses a similar title saying, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” The word John uses is the same Greek word meaning both just and righteous. The title is also similar to that already stated by Peter in Acts 3:14.
As for the continued words of Stephen, what he says still refers to the fathers, meaning those leaders who had come before. At the time when the prophets were proclaiming the coming of the Messiah, these leaders of Israel were busy killing those same prophets. The prophets called the people to turn from their wicked ways while also proclaiming that the Messiah was coming. Because of their words of correction concerning holiness and living according to God’s standards, the fathers had persecuted and killed those prophets of God. And, following in their unrighteous footsteps, Stephen says of those before him, “of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers.”
There is no article before “betrayers” in the Greek. Because of the way he says it, the statement bears an emphasis, “you betrayers and murderers have become.” The council both conspired against God’s Messiah, and they were directly involved in His killing. One example of the conspiracy is found in Matthew 27:3, 4 –
“Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’
And they said, ‘What is that to us? You see to it!’”
As for acknowledging guilt in the murder, that is also found in Matthew 27. In verse 27:20, it acknowledges that the chief priests and elders were present at this time. Then in verses 27:24, 25, it says –
“When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.’
25 And all the people answered and said, ‘His blood be on us and on our children.’”
The weight of Stephen’s words may not be pleasant to the ears of the council, but they are words of truth that cannot be denied from the written eyewitness record of what occurred.
Life application: To this day, those who call the people to turn from wickedness are persecuted and even killed for their stand. The message of Jesus is not one of tolerance, even if it is one of acceptance. Jesus will accept any who come to Him, but the expectation is that in coming to Him there will be lives lived out in holiness. There will be judgment upon all – both saved and unsaved – for unholy living. The difference is that those who never come to Him are destined for an eternal swim in the Lake of Fire. Those who do come to Him will be judged for loss of rewards.
It is best to come to Jesus and then put Him first in our lives. Let us endeavor to learn the word, apply it to our lives, and live out our days in right conduct and holy living. May it be so to the glory of God who has saved us.
Lord God, thank You for the salvation that is found in the giving of Your precious Son for us. Help us to live out our lives in holiness rather than in pursuit of the things of the flesh. It is a tempting world, a world filled with trials and stresses, and a world that calls out for us to join it in earthly pursuits. But, Lord, help us as we keep our eyes on Jesus, striving for that which lies ahead of us. Help us in this, O God. Amen.