Learning From the Lessons of History

The Story of God’s Rejection

Acts 7:1-60

April 10, 2022

Pastor Craig Ledbetter

Bible Baptist Church, Ballincollig, Cork, Ireland



I.     Introduction and Background (Acts 6:12-15; 7:1)


A.   Stephen Stands Accused (Acts 6:12-15)


1.    We read last Sunday as Stephen was arrested and brought before the religious court called the Sanhedrin

2.    Acts 6:12-15  …brought him to the council, And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.

a.     False witnesses

b.    Twisted accusations – all false accusations


1)    Blasphemy of the Jewish Temple – a very holy place

2)    And against the Law of God – the Torah


3.    Serious offenses - He could be stoned to death if found guilty

4.    And yet, Stephen, just beamed with joy like an angel!


B.   Stephen was Beaming with Joy – like an Angel (Acts 6:15)


1.    Acts 6:15 And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.

2.    He has no problem with being there in front of that crowd of Pharisees and Sadducees and scribes and religious elders


a.     Stephen was delighted, confident in excited Not fearful Not panicking

b.    Not worried at all

c.     He's glad to be able to testify the gospel and the Bible and what God thinks of the human heart

d.    He remembers that Jesus said this day would come

e.     And Stephen seems to be ready for it


C.   What was he accused of?


1.    Murder? Theft? Physical abuses? Bribery? Rape? No

2.    He was accused of:


a.    Predicting that Jesus will come back and destroy the Jewish temple

b.    And that He will change Moses' law


D.   Acts 7:1  Then said the high priest, Are these things so?


1.    They ask him Are all these things that these people say true?

2.    Are these accusations true?

3.    Because to them, they were serious crimes against their religion, and could mean the death penalty for Stephen

4.    Remember… the Pharisees nearly worshiped their temple and had forgotten what the laws of Moses actually said and nearly replaced it with traditions of men!


E.   Stephen Speaks Up!


1.    Since he's been given a chance to speak, he takes it!

2.    And he goes way back into history, and reminds his Jewish audience about their 2,000 year story of faith up until that day…

3.    And how it had been turned into the story of rejection!

4.    By the way, all of history, as boring as you may think it is, is actually HIS Story!


II.   Message


A.   Stephen Begins with Abraham (Acts 7:2-8)


1.    Acts 7:2  And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran,

2.    The Story of Faith began well (3-7) Going all the way back to the calling out of Abraham in Genesis chapter 11


a.     Acts 7:3  And [GOD] said unto him [ABRAM], Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.

b.    Acts 7:4  Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell. [THE PROMISED LAND]

c.     Acts 7:5  And he [GOD] gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give [ALL OF IT] it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.

d.    Acts 7:6  And God spake on this wise, That his seed [YOUR DESCENDANTS] should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years.

e.     Acts 7:7  And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and [THEN GOD MAKES A PROMISE…] after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place.


3.    Abraham is the Father of Faith


a.     Do you want to know what to believe? Listen to Abraham, and follow HIS faith!

b.    He is the greatest example of what God looked for in every person – a belief that God is right, and good, and keeps His promises!

c.     So, Abraham left his home and his family for a new land - the promised Land

d.    He received no inheritance there - Only promises


1)    The promise of a child born to and old man and his old wife

2)    The promise that all his descendants will someday live in this land that Abraham was walking around in

3)    But God also promised that His descendants would become enslaved in Egypt for about 400 years

4)    But God also promised that He would for certain, free His people and bring them to this same Promised Land!


4.    Stephen pointed out, how God had a special relationship with Israel – and it IS special (8)


a.     Acts 7:8  And he [GOD] gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs.

b.    God and His people are BOUND by a covenant of circumcision

c.     But circumcision is more than just a physical act

d.    Stephen will remind them of this truth at the end of his message


B.   The Story of Faith was Ruined first by Envy (Acts 7:9-16)


1.    Stephen reminds them of a named Joseph and how HE was rejected (9)


a.     Acts 7:9 And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him

b.    Watch this attitude – envy! It shows up throughout the Bible. It’s in most movies too

c.     Joseph was one of the twelve sons of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham

d.    These twelve children of Jacob did not get along

e.     Almost all the brothers rejected Jacob’s favourite son, Joseph - They actually HATED Joseph

f.     Why?

g.    Because God had given Joseph some impossible dreams where he would be great and would be more important than anyone in the family – even his own mother and father

h.    GOD gave Joseph that calling – that dream

i.      But his brothers REJECTED that revelation - And wanted to kill him – literally!

j.      And in the end, they abused him, and then SOLD him into slavery for 30 small coins of silver, where he has to endure slavery and then prison for 13 long years!


2.    But “God was with him” - GOD was WITH him! (10-16)

3.    And, after those 13 years, God stepped in, and saved/delivered Joseph out of all his afflictions.


a.     He took him out of that prison and raised him up to become ruler in Egypt!

b.    Acts 7:10  And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.


4.    And then God used that same REJECTED brother to save all his people


a.     Acts 7:11  Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance.

b.    Acts 7:12  But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first.

c.     Acts 7:13  And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph's kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.

d.    Acts 7:14  Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.

e.     Acts 7:15  So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers,

f.     Acts 7:16  And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.


5.    Joseph saved the very men who had hated him


a.     What a great picture of Jesus

b.    There is no greater example of the Lord Jesus in the entire Bible than Joseph

c.     Why did they reject Joseph? Because they envied Joseph instead of trusting God

d.    Can you guess why the Pharisees rejected Jesus? (Mark 15:9,10)  But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?  For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy.


C.   Then Stephen Describes the People of Israel becoming Slaves in Egypt (Acts 7:17-19)


1.    Acts 7:17-19  But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph. The same dealt subtilly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live.

2.    We all have our dark times in our past

3.    But, Stephen doesn't focus on the slavery


a.     Because to God, our problems are not a problem

b.    Our bondage and our slavery is not a problem

c.     As a matter of fact, slavery made Israel stronger as a nation - They grew and they multiplied under pressure

d.    As much as Israel complained about Slavery, it was part of God’s plan!


4.    Stephen focused on THE PROMISE… he focused on God keeping a promise to bring Abraham’s people out of Egypt, and to their own land, where they are even today!


D.   And That was When God Sent Moses (Acts 7:20-36)


1.    God had sent Joseph, but his brethren rejected him…

2.    I wonder how Israel was going to react to Moses?


3.    Moses was a special child from birth! (Acts 7:20,21)


a.     Acts 7:20,21  In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father's house three months: And when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son.

b.    Should have been aborted, according to the law of that day – post-birth abortion

c.     But God miraculously protected him, and placed him in Pharaoh’s own palace!


4.    Moses was Prepared to be a Leader (Acts 7:22-36)


a.     Pharaoh prepared Moses to be a great leader of Egypt (Acts 7:22)


1)    Acts 7:22  And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.


b.    But Moses knew he was destined to free his own people (Acts 7:23-25)


1)    Acts 7:23-25  And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian: For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.


c.     But God’s people, the Jews, REJECTED HIM (Acts 7:26-29)


1)    Acts 7:26  And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another? But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? Wilt thou kill me, as thou diddest the Egyptian yesterday? Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons.


d.    Why? Because they had wrong expectations


1)    Their understanding of faith was ruined by wrong expectations

2)    Moses was not what they expected a great leader to be

3)    He was not like them, and he scared them with all his authority

4)    Yet Moses went ahead and saved Israel anyways


e.     Because only there in the desert, was God able to prepare Moses (Acts 7:30-36)


1)    Acts 7:30  And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush.

2)    Acts 7:31  When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him,

3)    Acts 7:32  Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold.

4)    Acts 7:33  Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground.

5)    Acts 7:34  I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt.


6)    Humbling him from an Egyptian prince, all the way down to a lowly shepherd

7)    Teaching him patience – 40 long years waiting on God to do something!

8)    And then at a burning bush, God encouraged Moses, and raised him up out of the desert, and put him in charge of leading those slaves out of Egypt as free men!


a)    Acts 7:35,36  This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush. He brought them out, after that he had shewed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years.


9)    Leading them ALL the way to the Promised Land where they are now!


5.    Stephen then inserts an important reminder from Moses (Acts 7:37)


a.     Acts 7:37  This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.

b.    This very same Moses that you now honour and obey as Jews…

c.     Well, HE said in Deuteronomy 18, that a special Prophet would come one day who would be just like him


1)    He would speak the oracles of God – the very words of God like Moses did

2)    Would give news laws and a new covenant

3)    Would do miracles like Moses did

4)    And would save His people, just as Moses had!


d.    And remember, Moses commanded all Israel to HEAR the words of that Prophet and DO what that Prophet said

e.     I wonder WHO Moses was calling “a Prophet like him”?


E.   Stephen Continues… (Acts 7:38-45)


1.    Moses Led God’s People From Slavery into a Life of FREEDOM (Acts 7:38)


a.     Acts 7:38  This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:


1)    To Moses was given the lively, active, living words

2)    And Moses gave those words to us – we call it The Law of God

3)    He led that old Testament church in the wilderness like a pastor!

4)    What a way to speak! Because the focus of the New Testament is the church

5)    And just like the nation of Israel was supposed to follow Moses, Spiritual Israel is supposed to follow Jesus


2.    But He was NOT Followed Very Far (7:39)


a.     Acts 7:39  To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt,

b.    They wanted to go back to slavery – to the old life – to “the devil they knew”


3.    Israel Trusted the gods of their own hands to lead them (a demon) (Acts 7:40,41)


a.     Acts 7:40,41  Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.

b.    They ended up worshipping A COW!


4.    And God let them worship their own way (Acts 7:42-43) – and look where it led them!


a.     Acts 7:42,43  Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness? Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.

b.    They worshipped all the stars in the sky and the powers of the universe and the gods of heaven - Even the Queen of Heaven (which is NOT Mary)
(astrology, Stonehenge, Newgrange, spiritism, aliens from outer space)

c.     Stephen mentions two particular gods that were an embarrassment to the Jews


1)    They carried in their hearts the tabernacle of the sun-god Moloch – a Filthy wicked depraved unbelievably dark Ammonite demon that required people to burn their children in human sacrifice to make him happy!

2)    They even worshipped an insignificant little god named Rempham that almost no one else in the entire world worshipped!


5.    Stephen reminded them… (Acts 7:44)


a.     Acts 7:44  Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.

b.    That Israel had God's presence AMONG them


1)    They had God's word given to them!

2)    And they had God's miracles done for them all along the way

3)    And yet they were never happy

4)    They never were satisfied and they never made it into the promised land

5)    Their children did But not those that left Egypt


c.     It was JESUS (Joshua) Who Brought Israel into the Promised Land (Acts 7:45)


1)    Acts 7:45  Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David;

2)    The name JESUS is the same as Joshua – Ye-shew-a

3)    That must have hurt those Pharisees!


d.    And that God’s people enjoyed great success and prosperity for the next 400 years until the days of king David


F.    And then Stephen brings up the Temple (Acts 7:46-50)


1.    Israel was a blessed nation – they had known great success, and prosperity and peace – especially under David and Solomon

2.    But their Faith was ruined BY their success


a.     THAT doesn’t happen does it? Oh YES it does!

b.    Acts 7:46,47  Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob. But Solomon built him an house.


3.    Yes, they built a glorious temple a 1,000 years earlier

4.    But that glorious, beautiful, gold covered Temple was built not by God but only by a mortal man named king SOLOMON!


a.     Acts 7:48-50  Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?

b.    You see, God's presence is not IN the Jewish Temple

c.     God doesn't dwell in fancy, expensive, gold-covered temples

d.    And He doesn’t dwell in fancy Cathedrals either!

e.     God actually preferred showing up and appearing in an old TENT in the wilderness

f.     The truth is, Even heaven itself – as infinite in size as it is – cannot contain God!

g.    So Israel once again, missed the truth about faith and were only upset about a threat to the temple!

h.    Because the very Temple they were standing is WAS going to be destroyed, but not by Jesus Himself


G.   And that's when Stephen pointed his WORDS at those men staring at him (Acts 5:51-54)


1.    Acts 7:51  Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.

2.    Listen to what he calls the people listening…


a.     Stiff-necked - They were stubborn, hard-necked, arrogant, hard hearted people!

b.    And they were uncircumcised in their hearts and ears


1)    They were definitely circumcised physically, but their hearts were PAGAN!

2)    That means they were unchanged in their hearts - unconverted in their souls

3)    They were not right with God, and not humble before God, and not full of faith


3.    And then Stephen said some of the harshest words…




1)    They had resisted the people that God gave them to listen to – the prophets

2)    They resisted and rejected the words that God had spoken to them


3)    He asked them, Which prophet did you not persecute throughout history?


a)    Acts 7:52,53  Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.

b)    Jeremiah? Your fathers rejected him and threw him in prison

c)    Isaiah? You sawed him in half

d)    Elijah? No one respected him. No one took care of that faithful prophet of God.

e)    In fact, EVERY Jewish prophet was rejected by the people they preached to!


1.    Your fathers even killed the prophets that pointed to the Messiah

2.    You have been so religious, but you have not kept the law you claim to follow


4)    You have not obeyed the promised Messiah when He came!


b.    And instead, you have betrayed the Messiah to the cross of the Romans!


H.   The Reaction is Four-Fold (Acts 7:54-60)


1.    Acts 7:54  When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, …

2.    THAT was when Stephen went too far - His words had cut to the very heart of his audience – like a knife!

3.    The reaction of the audience is… ANGER (7:54)


a.     Acts 7:54  When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.

b.    Deep, fierce, murderous anger

c.     As they grinded their teeth and tensed into a deadly mob


4.    The second reaction… is Stephen being in AWE (7:55,56)


a.     Act 7:55,56 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

b.    He's been beaming this entire time

c.     He's not angry in his words… He's just loud and clear

d.    He preached full of the Holy Ghost

e.     And still being full of the Holy Ghost, he looked up and saw the glory of God almighty sitting on his throne

f.     AND… then he saw Jesus standing there next to Him at God's right side

g.    And he announced to everyone, Gentlemen I see the Messiah ready to come back!


5.    And then the crowd… STONED Stephen (7:57-59)


a.     Acts 7:57-59  Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen…

b.    Stopped their ears They didn't want to hear it

c.     And they ran upon him

d.    They grabbed him and dragged him out of Jerusalem

e.     And in just a few moments They began to pulverize Him with stones

f.     Knocking him down, down, down, as he was struck time and again


6.    And at the last… Stephen FORGAVE those men (7:59,60)


a.     Acts 7:59,60  …Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

b.    Looking up to heaven He cries out, “Here I come, Lord!”

c.     And, “Lord, I forgive these men”

d.    “Please forgive them too”

e.     And then he fell asleep – the Christian’s death!


III.         Conclusion - What Have We Just Learned?


A.   We have just read through one of the longest chapters in the Bible. Dedicated to the preaching of a faithful man named Stephen


1.    He was not an apostle

2.    His day job was taking care of widows

3.    He was in trouble for just telling people Jesus is alive, and is soon returning as King of kings

4.    And he just spent the last hour going through the history of the Jewish people


a.     Stephen used actual historical events to convince religious people of their sins

b.    Stephen proved that God is always working in OUR lives, and how we respond to His work on us is just as important as how Israel responded


5.    He ends up getting murdered/stoned by religious zealots - the first martyr to die for Jesus


B.   What ruined the Pharisee’s ability to follow Jesus?


1.    Envy

2.    Wrong expectations

3.    Idols

4.    Success – thinking you don’t need Jesus


C.   What has ruined YOUR ability to believe and follow the Son of God?


1.    NOT your circumstances or your problems or your past

2.    But probably the very same things: Envy, wrong expectations of everyone in your life, idolatry, and the deception of success


D.   What has God done in your life that maybe you misunderstood and fought instead of yielded to?


1.    Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9:6 realised on that road to Damascus, that it was stupid and hard to help resisting and fighting the Lord Jesus’ pricks to his own heart, and finally surrendered to faith! Saving faith!

2.    Are you fighting God too?


E.   Where are the men who will stand up, speak up and pay the price to speak GOD’S Truth?