Scripture Reading: Acts 7:1—8:3

After Stephen was opposed and arrested (6:8—7:1), he testified before the Sanhedrin (7:2-53), and then he was stoned (7:54-60). Following this, we read in 8:1-3 concerning the devastation of the church in Jerusalem.


The God of Glory Appearing to Abraham

As Stephen testified before the Sanhedrin, he said, “Men, brothers, and fathers, listen! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, Go out of your land and from your relatives, and come into the land which I will show you” (vv. 2-3). The glory spoken of in verse 2 might have been visible glory (see v. 55), as when the cloud and the fire appeared to Israel (Exo. 16:10; 24:16-17; Lev. 9:23; Num. 14:10; 16:19; 20:6; Deut. 5:24) and filled the tabernacle and temple (Exo. 40:35; 1 Kings 8:11). It was the God of such glory who appeared to Abraham and called him. His glory was a great attraction to Abraham. It separated, sanctified, him from the world unto God (Exo. 29:43), and it was a great encouragement and strength which enabled him to follow God (Gen. 12:1, 4). In the same principle, God also calls the New Testament believers by His invisible glory (2 Pet. 1:3).

Stephen’s teaching in Acts 7 begins with the word regarding the God of glory appearing to Abraham. We do not know where Stephen gained this understanding, for in Genesis we are not told that the God of glory appeared to Abraham. But Stephen tells us that when God appeared to Abraham, He appeared as the God of glory. Although we do not know where Stephen learned this, we believe that his word was spoken according to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Stephen’s message, therefore, begins with the God of glory calling Abraham.

Stephen’s word about the God of glory fits in with God’s New Testament economy. Peter in his second Epistle tells us that God has called us by His glory and to His glory (2 Pet. 1:3). Because we have been called by God’s invisible glory, we eventually received the Lord Jesus, realizing that He is better than anything else and anyone else. For example, certain Chinese believers came to appreciate Jesus Christ more than Confucius. Because of this appreciation, they eventually believed in the Lord and received Him. This evaluation of Christ implies glory.

The God of glory called Abraham, and Abraham was attracted and caught by that glory. The principle is the same with us today. We all have been caught by the Lord in His invisible glory. We have been captured by His glory, and we cannot escape.

Abraham’s Seed

In 7:4 Stephen went on to say of Abraham, “Then going out of the land of the Chaldeans, he dwelt in Haran. And from there, after his father died, He removed him into this land, in which you are now dwelling.” Apparently it was Abraham journeying into Canaan (Gen. 12:4-5), but actually it was God removing him into the good land.

Acts 7:5 and 6 continue, “And He did not give him an inheritance in it, not even a place to set his foot on; and while he had no child He promised to give it to him for a possession and to his seed after him. And God spoke to this effect, that his seed would be a sojourner in a land belonging to others, and they would enslave them and mistreat them four hundred years.” The land referred to in verse 6 is Egypt (Exo. 1:1), and the pronoun “they” denotes the Egyptians (Exo. 1:11, 13-14). The word “them” refers to the seed. According to verse 6, Abraham’s seed was to be mistreated in Egypt for four hundred years. This differs from Galatians 3:17 which speaks of four hundred and thirty years. This is the length of time counted from the time God gave Abraham the promise in Genesis 12 to the time He gave the law through Moses in Exodus 20. This period was considered by God as the time of the children of Israel’s dwelling in Egypt (Exo. 12:40-41). The four hundred years mentioned in Genesis 15:13 and Acts 7:6 are counted from the time Ishmael mocked Isaac in Genesis 21 to the time the children of Israel came out of the Egyptian tyranny in Exodus 12. This is the period when Abraham’s descendants suffered the persecution of the Gentiles.