Acts 7:1
Then said the high priest, Are these things so?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
VII.

(1) Then said the high priest, Are these things so?—The question was analogous to that put to our Lord. The accused was called on to plead guilty or not guilty, and had then an opportunity for his defence. On that defence we now enter.

Acts 7:1-3. Then said the high-priest — Who was president of the council, and, as such, the mouth of the court; Are these things so? — Are they as these witnesses have deposed? for thou art permitted to speak for thyself, and make thy defence. And he said — Stephen had been accused of blasphemy against Moses, and even against God; and of speaking against the temple and the law, threatening that Jesus would destroy the one and change the other. In answer to this accusation, rehearsing, as it were, the articles of his historical creed, he speaks of God with high reverence, and a grateful sense of a long series of acts of goodness to the Israelites; and of Moses with great respect, on account of his important and honourable employments under God; of the temple with regard, as being built to the honour of God; yet not with such superstition as the Jews; putting them in mind, that no temple could comprehend God. And he was going on, no doubt, when he was interrupted by their clamour, to speak to the last point, the destruction of the temple, and the change of the law by Christ. The sum of his discourse is this: I acknowledge the glory of God revealed to the fathers, Acts 7:2; the calling of Moses, Acts 7:34, &c.; the dignity of the law, Acts 7:8; Acts 7:38; Acts 7:44; the holiness of this place, Acts 7:7; Acts 7:45; Acts 7:47. And, indeed, the law is more ancient than the temple; the promise more ancient than the law. For God showed himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their children, freely, Acts 7:2, &c., 9, &c., 17, &c., 32, 34, 45; and they showed faith and obedience to God, Acts 7:4; Acts 7:20, &c., 23; particularly by their regard for the law, Acts 7:8, and the promised land, Acts 7:16. Meantime God never confined his presence to this one place, or to the observers of the law. For he hath been acceptably worshipped, before the law was given, or the temple built, and out of this land, Acts 7:2; Acts 7:9; Acts 7:33; Acts 7:44. And that our fathers and their posterity were not tied down to this land, their various sojournings, Acts 7:4, &c., 14, 29, 44, and exile, Acts 7:43, show. But you and your fathers have always been evil, Acts 7:9; have withstood Moses, Acts 7:25, &c., 39, &c.; have despised the land, Acts 7:39; forsaken God, Acts 7:40, &c.; superstitiously honoured the temple, Acts 7:48; resisted God and his Spirit, Acts 7:50; killed the prophets, and the Messiah himself, Acts 7:51; and kept not the law, for which ye contend, Acts 7:53. therefore God is not bound to you, much less to you alone. And, truly, this solemn testimony of Stephen is most worthy of his character, as a man full of the Holy Ghost, and of faith, and power: in which, though he does not advance so many regular propositions, contradictory to those of his adversaries, yet he closely and nervously answers them all. Nor can we doubt but he would, from these premises, have drawn inferences touching the destruction of the temple, the abrogation of the Mosaic law, the punishment of that rebellious people, and, above all, touching Jesus of Nazareth, the true Messiah, had not his discourse been interrupted by the clamours of the multitude, stopping their ears and rushing upon him. Men, brethren, and fathers — All who are here present, whether ye are my equals in years, or of more advanced age. The word which, in this and many other places, is rendered men, is a mere expletive. The God of glory — The glorious God; appeared to Abraham before he dwelt in Charran — Therefore Abraham knew God long before he was in this land. And he said, Get thee out of thy country — Depart from this thy native country, which is become idolatrous; and from thy kindred — Who are now alienated from my worship; and come into the land — A remote land; which I shall show thee — And to which, by my extraordinary interposition, I will guide thee; though at present thou dost not know even its situation, much less the way leading to it. See note on Genesis 12:2.7:1-16 Stephen was charged as a blasphemer of God, and an apostate from the church; therefore he shows that he is a son of Abraham, and values himself on it. The slow steps by which the promise made to Abraham advanced toward performance, plainly show that it had a spiritual meaning, and that the land intended was the heavenly. God owned Joseph in his troubles, and was with him by the power of his Spirit, both on his own mind by giving him comfort, and on those he was concerned with, by giving him favour in their eyes. Stephen reminds the Jews of their mean beginning as a check to priding themselves in the glories of that nation. Likewise of the wickedness of the patriarchs of their tribes, in envying their brother Joseph; and the same spirit was still working in them toward Christ and his ministers. The faith of the patriarchs, in desiring to be buried in the land of Canaan, plainly showed they had regard to the heavenly country. It is well to recur to the first rise of usages, or sentiments, which have been perverted. Would we know the nature and effects of justifying faith, we should study the character of the father of the faithful. His calling shows the power and freeness of Divine grace, and the nature of conversion. Here also we see that outward forms and distinctions are as nothing, compared with separation from the world, and devotedness to God.Then said the high priest - See the notes on Matthew 2:4. In this case the high priest seems to have presided in the council.

Are these things so? - To wit, the charge alleged against him of blasphemy against Moses and the temple, Acts 6:13-14.

CHAPTER 7

Ac 7:1-60. Defense and Martyrdom of Stephen.

In this long defense Stephen takes a much wider range, and goes less directly into the point raised by his accusers, than we should have expected. His object seems to have been to show (1) that so far from disparaging, he deeply reverenced, and was intimately conversant with, the whole history of the ancient economy; and (2) that in resisting the erection of the Gospel kingdom they were but treading in their fathers' footsteps, the whole history of their nation being little else than one continued misapprehension of God's high designs towards fallen man and rebellion against them.Acts 7:1-8 Stephen, called upon to answer the charge against him,

relateth how God called Abraham, and gave him and his

seed the land of Canaan by promise,

Acts 7:9-16 how Joseph was sold by his brethren, and Jacob with

his family went down into Egypt,

Acts 7:17-36 how, when they were oppressed by the Egyptians, Moses

was born, and sent to deliver Israel out of Egypt,

Acts 7:37-43 that this same Moses witnessed of Christ, received the

law, and experienced the disobedience and idolatry of

their forefathers,

Acts 7:44-50 who had the tabernacle of witness, till Solomon built

the temple,

Acts 7:51-53 He reproacheth his hearers with imitating their

fathers’ rebellion against God, and persecution of his

prophets, by having themselves murdered Christ, and

transgressed the law they had received,

Acts 7:54-60 Stung with reproach, they stone him, looking up with

faith unto God, and calling upon Jesus to receive his

soul, and forgive his persecutors,

Then said the high priest; who was resolved to condemn any, right or wrong, that should profess Christ, as appears John 9:22.

Are these things so? That he might seem just, he gives him a kind of liberty to answer for himself; not to defend his doctrine, but; to know out of his own mouth whether he preached it, or not.

Then said the high priest,.... The Ethiopic version adds, "to him"; that is, to Stephen; for to him he addressed himself: or he "asked him", as the Syriac version renders it; he put the following question to him:

are these things so? is it true what they say, that thou hast spoken blasphemous words against the temple, and the law, and hast said that Jesus of Nazareth will destroy the one, and change the other? what hast thou to say for thyself, and in thine own defence? this high priest was either Annas, or rather Caiaphas; See Gill on Acts 4:6.

Then {1} said the high priest, Are these things so?

(1) Steven is allowed to plead his cause, but for this reason and purpose, that under a disguise and pretence of the Law he might be condemned.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 7:1. The high priest interrupts the silent gazing of the Sanhedrists on Stephen, as he stood with glorified countenance, and demands of him an explanation of the charge just brought against him.

Is then this (which the witnesses have just asserted) so? With εἰ (see on Acts 1:6; Luke 13:23) the question in the mouth of the high priest has something ensnaring about it. On the ἄρα, used with interrogative particles as referring to the circumstances of the case (here: of the discussion), see Klotz, ad Devar. p. 177; Nägelsb. on the Iliad, p. 11, ed. 3.Acts 7:1. The question of the high priest breaks in upon the silence (Holtzmann). St. Chrysostom, Hom., xv., thought that the mildness of the inquiry showed that the assembly was overawed by St. Stephen’s presence, but the question was probably a usual interrogation on such occasions (Felten, Farrar).—On εἰ see Acts 1:6, and Blass, Grammatik, p. 254.1. Then said the high priest, Are these things so?] Read, And the high priest said, &c. Thus he called upon Stephen to answer the charges laid against him.Acts 7:1. Ὁ ἀρχιερεὺς, the high priest) as the president.—εἰ, whether) The interrogation serves the convenience of (gives occasion to) the defence of Stephen against the charges of his adversaries. Ἄρα, then, has an appearance of fairness, and of expressing astonishment. This is the sum of the defence: I acknowledge the glory of GOD, revealed to the fathers, Acts 7:2; the call of Moses,[45] Acts 7:34-35; the majesty of the law, Acts 7:8; Acts 7:38; Acts 7:44; the sanctity of the temple and of this place, Acts 7:7, at the end, 45, 47. And indeed the law is more ancient than the temple: the promise, than the law. For GOD both gave and showed Himself gratuitously (of free grace) to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and their sons, as their GOD, Acts 7:2-3; Acts 7:9-10; Acts 7:17-18; Acts 7:32; Acts 7:34; Acts 7:45; and they also showed (rendered) faith and obedience to GOD, Acts 7:4; Acts 7:20-21; Acts 7:23; especially in upholding the law, Acts 7:8; and their claim to the land of promise, Acts 7:16. Meanwhile GOD neither at the beginning, nor ever after, tied down His presence to this one spot: for even before the erection of the temple, and outside of the favoured land, He vouchsafed (permitted) Himself to be known and worshipped, Acts 7:2; Acts 7:9; Acts 7:33; Acts 7:44; and that the fathers and their posterity were not utterly restricted (fixed down) to this place, their numerous wanderings show, Acts 7:4-5; Acts 7:14; Acts 7:29; Acts 7:44; and exile in Babylon, Acts 7:43, at the end. But ye always were evil, Acts 7:9; ye resisted Moses, Acts 7:25-26; Acts 7:39-40; ye turned away from the land of promise, Acts 7:39; ye abandoned God, Acts 7:40-41; ye worshipped the temple superstitiously, Acts 7:48; ye resisted GOD and His Spirit, Acts 7:51; ye have slain the prophets and Messiah Himself, Acts 7:52; ye have not kept the law, Acts 7:53. Therefore GOD is not bound to you, much less to you alone. The histories of former events are wont to be commemorated in Scripture, the fact being traced up from its beginnings: but in such a way that, according to the exigency of the purpose in hand, some things are rapidly gone through, others are omitted: see ch. Acts 13:17-18; Deuteronomy 33:2-3; Psalm 106:7-8 : Ezekiel 20:5-6; Habakkuk 3:3-4; Hebrews 11:3-4, where faith is treated of, as here, unbelief. And most opportunely at this solemn time and place, whereas (whilst) the apostles were rather bearing witness as to Jesus Christ, Stephen makes a recapitulation of ancient events: which also affords a specimen of how one ought wisely to draw out the kernel (to give the salient points) of an Ecclesiastical History. Wherefore by no means ought we to assent to Erasmus and others, who think that “many things in this speech have not very much pertinency to the matter in hand which Stephen undertook.” In truth, this testimony is most worthy of the fulness of the Spirit, as also of the faith and power which were in him; and although he does not put his enunciations in direct contradiction to the enunciations of his adversaries, yet he answers to all the charges with power. Nor can it be doubted but that Stephen, after that he had cleared up the events of the past and present, would have introduced (inferred) something as to the future, viz. the destruction of the temple, the abrogation of the ceremonial law, and the punishment of the people (with which comp. Acts 7:43, at the end); and moreover, more at large, as to Jesus being the true Messiah (with which comp. Acts 7:37), had not “his speech been interrupted by the cries of the Jews vehemently clamouring against him” (as the same Erasmus appropriately suggests). This is the only lengthened speech in this book, delivered by a witness of Christ who was not an apostle; a precious sample of the power of the Spirit.

[45] Note, the Italics throughout refer to the very words of their charge, ch. Acts 7:11; Acts 7:13-14.—E. and T.Verse 1. - And the high priest said for then said the high priest, A.V. The high priest spoke as president of the Sanhedrim (see Acts 9:1 and Matthew 26:62). Theophilus the son of Annas or his brother Jonathan is probably meant. Then said the high-priest

"The glorified countenance of Stephen has caused a pause of surprise and admiration, which the high-priest interrupts by calling upon the accused for his defence" (Gloag).

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