There is a theology known as Biblical Theology. It does not intend to counter any other “Theology” such as Systematic Theology. Rather it looks at the storyline of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and develops a picture that flows. This picture is the story of God’s Rescue Plan for man. It’s first statement is found in Genesis 3:15 and this is developed progressively, adding more information in following eras (epochs – time zones) and through different leaders God raises up such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel), Joshua, king Saul, king David, king Solomon and various prophets like Isaiah, Ezekiel, etc. until in the fullness of time Messiah arrives in the shape of God Incarnate (Jesus Christ), who pays the perfect sin price, dies, is raised back to life, returns to heaven and is seated upon the Throne of Glory. From there He reigns … with the Holy Spirit now living within the hearts of believers, growing and maturing the Kingdom until Jesus returns for the second time to Judge all mankind, sending the rebels to hell and the saints to glory. You will see something of this as Stephen defends himself. We will consider his address over a few days … starting here:
Ac 7:1 Then the high priest asked him, “Are these charges true?” 2 To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. 3 ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’
4 “So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. 5 He gave him no inheritance here, not even a foot of ground. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child. 6 God spoke to him in this way: ‘Your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 7 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,’ God said, ‘and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.’ 8 Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. And Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him eight days after his birth. Later Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs.”
1) The high priest’s question. He asks Stephen … “Are these charges true? The high priest knew they were not true. He knew they were trumped up and designed to cause Stephen’s downfall just as similar charges led to Jesus’ crucifixion. Where the high priest, who alone had the privilege of entering into the Holy of Holies once a year, he ought, out of the entire Jewish community, to have been the most spiritual … but he was not because he buckled to pressure.
2) Stephen’s answer. It is lengthy, theological and filled with Biblical Doctrine stretching from verse 2 through to verse 53. He is very respectful calling the members of the Sanhedrin “brothers and fathers”. Some might have been his age and others old enough to be his father. Spiritually speaking in Judaism, they were his elders and he showed respect for this. Stephen was a Hellenistic Jew and spoke in Greek. The words “listen to me” implies Stephen is requesting an audience in the sense he wants a full opportunity to respond to the high priest without any interjections.
(1) His answer starts with Abraham. In other words, he starts with the father of the nation, not with Moses the Law giver. Although Stephen was born a Hellenistic Jew he was thoroughly schooled in Hebrew history, culture and genealogy.
(2) He starts with God calling Him the God of Glory. The reason he uses this unusual name for God is because some of the patriarchs saw the Glory of God! As examples:
Ge 12:7 The LORD appeared to Abram.
Ge 35:9 After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him.
Ex 24:15 When Moseswent up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, 16 and the glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai.
Stephen wants the Sanhedrin to know that the God he worships (Jesus) is the same God who revealed Himself to their forefathers.
(3) He then refers to this God of Glory meeting with Abraham whilst he was still Abram, a pagan living in Mesopotamia. The religion there was polytheistic where over 2,100 deities were worshipped. The various “states” within Mesopotamia worshipped a variety of minor gods. The three main ones were Ea, the god of wisdom and magic, Anu, the sky god and Enlil the god of earth, storms and agriculture as well as the controller of fates.
(4) When the God of Glory revealed Himself to Abram, he and his family were not yet living in Haran.
Ge 11:31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there.
Although this verse does not say God revealed Himself to Abraham here, Stephen implies it as he says The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. We believe all Scripture to be inspired of the Spirit, therefore what Luke writes about Stephen and what Moses writes about Abram comes from the same Spirit.
(5) Then God said to Abram:
Ac 7:3 “‘Leave your country and your people, and go to the land I will show you.’”
This matches with
Ge 12:1 The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”
On purpose we will not hurry through Stephen’s response because we want to see Biblical Theology in action. A great lesson for us to learn and especially those who teach the Bible, is that care needs to be exercised so that we do not cut corners. Truth requires the whole story be told. At times this might seem dreary or cumbersome, but we are called to be men and women of the Truth.
God of Glory, Majestic Holy One, teach us to be thorough in our studies and use of the Bible. We want Truth, teach us Truth so that we will know and use Your Truth correctly. Lord, Stephan was a man of Biblical Knowledge. Make us like this too. Amen.