Acts 7:59

Artwork by Doug Kallerson.

Saturday, 4 June 2022

And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Acts 7:59

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).

The words of this verse are important to consider in their greater context. They are tied directly to verses 55 & 56 and can be understood more clearly by presenting them in this manner –

“But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 56 and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ … 59 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’” Acts 7:55, 56, & 59

There are several points of importance concerning what is said now. The first is that the word “God” is inserted by the translators. The Greek reads –

“And they were stoning Stephen, he was calling and saying…”

As such, there are various ideas about how to rightly translate it. For example, the Pulpit Commentary (among other similar commentaries) says inserting God “is certainly not justified by the context, because the words which follow, ‘Lord Jesus,’ show to whom the invocation was made, even to him whom he saw standing at the right hand of God.”

As such, there are various translations of the words –

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, (NIV)
And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, (NKJV)
They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, (NASB)

Some stick with the action and leave out the implied object. Some say “God.” Some say “Lord.” And so on. What is obvious is that Stephen is praying to Jesus. That is understood from the previous verses, and it is obvious from the final clause of this verse. To leave the object out is fine. It expresses the Greek. To say “Lord” is clear and precise and it is an exacting expression of what the intent is.

However, the commentaries (such as the Pulpit above) that say that translating this as “God” are incorrect and they fail to consider the intent of the translators. Jesus is the Lord and Jesus is God. By making such a statement, they fail to understand the meaning of “the right hand of God.”

As noted in previous commentaries, this is a statement that confirms Jesus is God, not the other way around. The right hand of God is not a physical position, as if He is sitting (or standing) next to God. It is a way of saying that He is at the position of all of the authority and power of God. By inserting the word “God,” it is thus an acknowledgment of this.

With this understood, and regardless of the three general translations noted above, Stephen continues with, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” This is the second main point of importance. Prayers are to be made to the Lord YHVH, meaning “God” (such as in Psalm 39:12), or simply to God (such as in Psalm 54:2). Any observant Jew would know this. To hear any other prayer would be considered blasphemy –

 “And in all that I have said to you, be circumspect and make no mention of the name of other gods, nor let it be heard from your mouth.” Exodus 23:13

“Therefore be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, lest you turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left, and lest you go among these nations, these who remain among you. You shall not make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause anyone to swear by them; you shall not serve them nor bow down to them, but you shall hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have done to this day.” Joshua 23:6-8

By invoking the name of Jesus, as he is being stoned, he is explicitly acknowledging that Jesus is the Lord God. The fact that he is being stoned means that the Jews have rejected this notion. Regardless of that, this is the intent of Stephen’s words, and thus it makes this a direct and explicit reference to the deity of Jesus.

The record says that Jesus is the glory of God and that He is at the position of all of the power and authority of God. Stephen then acknowledged that. Stephen then appeals to Jesus in the presence of all of the Jews, invoking His name and calling for Him to do something that only God can do, meaning receive his spirit.

Life application: Those who deny the deity of Christ are without excuse. The record of the Bible leaves no other option than the Father is God, the Son is God, and that the Holy Spirit is also God. As such, there is a Godhead that forms the Trinity.

Stephen’s words now clearly confirm that he understood that Jesus is God, and his calling out His name at the ending of his life is a final, forceful acknowledgment of that. It is another witness against those of his people who disbelieve, and it is a witness against anyone who denies the intent of what he says.

Even if you do not fully grasp the idea of the Trinity, and nobody fully does, you should – by faith – accept that it is what the Bible teaches. Be clear in your thinking and be steadfast in your acknowledgment that Jesus is God.

Glorious God Almighty, You have revealed Yourself in the Person of Jesus. In seeing Him, we are seeing the complete expression of who You are in a manner that we can understand. Thank You for this eternally available view into Your very nature. You have done it! Thank You for what You have done. Thank You for Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.