1 And the high priest said, “Are these things so?” 2 And Stephen said:
“Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’ 4 Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living. 5 Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him, though he had no child. 6 And God spoke to this effect—that his offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them four hundred years. 7 ‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’ 8 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.
What do we say here? Stephen is a genius? The Holy Spirit is a genius?
The religious leaders are seeing and hearing this new group teach new things, and central to their story is that those leaders killed the Author of Life! So instead of starting with the accusations, Stephen starts establishing what they all agree with: Genesis.
The story that Stephen’s enemies started was that Stephen was teaching against Moses and against the Temple. If you’ve read the Gospels or Romans or Ephesians or Galatians, you know where they got this. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are free from the Law and we are free from condemnation because of sin. That sounds a lot like being against Moses and the Temple.
Stephen is looking to establish some common ground. He’s showing all who will listen that the things they are teaching are not out of nowhere but were foretold by the prophets and Moses himself. Peter explained all of this back a few chapters, but Stephen is happy to take them all to school again.
Imagine how life-giving our conversations could be if we were known as people that spoke to one another peaceably and considerately. What are some ways we can find something that we agree about and then slowly see how many of our agreements overlap? This works with our neighbor and his lord car stereo, it works with our teenage kids, it works with co-workers and ideological opponents. It may even work on your dad.
Through this whole speech, you can almost see some of the leaders elbowing each other and pointing and saying “This guy’s alright!” May we be so kind to our onlookers.
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