Stephen Speaks to Sanhedrin

Stephen Speaks to Sanhedrin

Today’s Bible study lesson comes from Acts 7:1-53 where Stephen speaks to the Sanhedrin after being arrested. In his speech, Stephen gives an account of the history of Israel. He tells how God chose Abraham and his descendants to be his people. Stephen also explains why the people of Israel rejected Jesus and why he was innocent of the charges brought against him.

In modern times, Stephen is a disciple not mentioned that often. But, he became a Biblical hero who did not back away — even when his life was threatened. He faced basically the same charges as were brought against Jesus before the crucifixion.

Although Stephen knew that his words could mean death, he bravely told the story of how Israel rejected God in the past, and how they were now rejecting the risen Christ.

Sanhedrin and Stephen’s Speech in Acts 7

The high priest said, “Are these things so?”

And he said, “Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.’

Then he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran.

From there, after his father died, God had him move to this country in which you are now living.

But He gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground, and yet, even when he had no child, He promised that He would give it to him as a possession, and to his descendants after him.

But God spoke to this effect, that his descendants would be aliens in a foreign land, and that they would be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years.

And whatever nation to which they will be in bondage I Myself will judge,’ said God, ‘and after that they will come out and serve Me in this place.’

And He gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of  the twelve patriarchs. – Acts 7:1-8 NASB

The Synagogue of the Freedmen

The charges against Stephen were false. The men making the charges were commissioned by a group called the Synagogue of the Freedmen. But, who were they?

The Freedmen were formed by former slaves of Rome. They were Jewish and came together to form a synagogue in the city of Jerusalem. A freedman was a person who had been freed from slavery and was now a free citizen. These Freedmen were an important force in Jewish culture and left a lasting legacy in Jewish history.

With that said, the Freedmen missed the Messiah, as did most Jewish leaders.

So, these men lied about Stephen. They charged he spoke blasphemy against God – and against Moses. He was arrested and brought before the high priest. Most scholars believe this was Caiaphas, the same high priest who brought charges against Christ.

So, the story begins.

Stephen’s Defense

As with Jesus, Stephen had no real defense as the people against him had already convicted him in their minds.

Instead of pleading with them for mercy, Stephen gave a very long speech talking about the history of the Jews and how they disobeyed God all through the past.

The History of God

Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin shows three main points derived from the Old Testament. These include:

  1. The Bible (before Jesus) was a history of how God worked through His people.
  2. The people did not need a temple (synagogue) to worship God – He does not only sit on the throne in the Holy of Holy’s.
  3. Stephen pointed out that putting Jesus to death was a rejection of God. Just another link in the chain of a rebellious people.

Is the Temple More Important than God?

The accusation made toward Stephen was one of speaking out against the synagogue and to a point, it was true. Stephen had openly criticized many of the leaders and members of the synagogue for their beliefs and practices. So, they arrested him with a charge of blasphemy and eventually executed him.

Stephen was not necessarily speaking against, but clarifying what was more important – God or the temple? Ultimately, his courage to stand up for God’s truth cost him his life.

Don’t Limit God’s Power

The narrow-minded people of the synagogue, even though they proclaimed to know all about God, tried to limit God’s power by stating He only lived in the temple. Stephen knew better. He knew that God was everywhere and lived within those who believed.

What about us? Do we try to put God in a “little box“, or do we admit that He is Omnipotent?

Thea gospel song entitled; “Big Mighty God” shows that God is not only there for the small problems in our lives. In truth, He’s big enough to help in any situation, if we allow Him to work in our lives.

This week, let’s try not to belittle what God can do.

Love in Christ

– Bob

If you would like to discover more about the love and life-changing experience of Jesus Christ, please take a moment to see John 3:16.



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