Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? - Ye have not only resisted the Holy Ghost, but ye have persecuted all those who have spoken to you in his name, and by his influence: thus ye prove your opposition to the Spirit himself, by your opposition to every thing that proceeds from him.
They have slain them, etc. - Isaiah, who showed before of the coming of Christ, the Jews report, was sawn asunder at the command of Manasseh.
The coming of the Just One - Του δικαιου, Meaning Jesus Christ; emphatically called the just or righteous person, not only because of the unspotted integrity of his heart and life, but because of his plenary acquittal, when tried at the tribunal of Pilate: I find no fault at all in him. The mention of this circumstance served greatly to aggravate their guilt. The character of Just One is applied to our Lord in three other places of Scripture: Acts 3:14; Acts 22:14; and James 5:6.
The betrayers and murderers - Ye first delivered him up into the hands of the Romans, hoping they would have put him to death; but, when they acquitted him, then, in opposition to the declaration of his innocence, and in outrage to every form of justice, ye took and murdered him. This was a most terrible charge; and one against which they could set up no sort of defense. No wonder, then, that they were instigated by the spirit of the old destroyer, which they never resisted, to add another murder to that of which they had been so recently guilty.
Which of the prophets - The interrogative form here is a strong mode of saying that they had persecuted “all” the prophets. It was “the characteristic of the nation” to persecute the messengers of God. This is not to be taken as literally and universally true; but it was a general truth; it was the national characteristic. See the notes on Matthew 21:33-40; Matthew 23:29-35.
And they have slain them - That is, they have slain the prophets, whose main message was that the Messiah was to come. It was a great aggravation of their offence that they put to death the messengers which foretold the greatest blessing that the nation could receive.
The Just One - The Messiah. See the notes on Acts 3:14.
Of whom ye - You thus show that you resemble those who rejected and put to death the prophets. You have even gone beyond them in guilt, because you have put the Messiah himself to death.
The betrayers - They are called “betrayers” here because they employed Judas to betray him - agreeable to the maxim in law, “He who does anything by another is held to have done it himself.”
As Stephen stood face to face with his judges to answer to the charge of blasphemy, a holy radiance shone upon his countenance, and “all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.” Many who beheld this light trembled and veiled their faces, but the stubborn unbelief and prejudice of the rulers did not waver. AA 99.1
When Stephen was questioned as to the truth of the charges against him, he began his defense in a clear, thrilling voice, which rang through the council hall. In words that held the assembly spellbound, he proceeded to rehearse the history of the chosen people of God. He showed a thorough knowledge of the Jewish economy and the spiritual interpretation of it now made manifest through Christ. He repeated the words of Moses that foretold of the Messiah: “A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; Him shall ye hear.” He made plain his own loyalty to God and to the Jewish faith, while he showed that the law in which the Jews trusted for salvation had not been able to save Israel from idolatry. He connected Jesus Christ with all the Jewish history. He referred to the building of the temple by Solomon, and to the words of both Solomon and Isaiah: “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?” AA 99.2
When Stephen reached this point, there was a tumult among the people. When he connected Christ with the prophecies and spoke as he did of the temple, the priest, pretending to be horror-stricken, rent his robe. To Stephen this act was a signal that his voice would soon be silenced forever. He saw the resistance that met his words and knew that he was giving his last testimony. Although in the midst of his sermon, he abruptly concluded it. AA 100.1Read in context »
Stephen was questioned as to the truth of the charges against him, and took up his defense in a clear, thrilling voice that rang through the council hall. He proceeded to rehearse the history of the chosen people of God in words that held the assembly spellbound. He showed a thorough knowledge of the Jewish economy, and the spiritual interpretation of it now made manifest through Christ. He began with Abraham and traced down through history from generation to generation, going through all the national records of Israel to Solomon, taking up the most impressive points to vindicate his cause. SR 264.1
He made plain his own loyalty to God and to the Jewish faith, while he showed that the law in which they trusted for salvation had not been able to preserve Israel from idolatry. He connected Jesus Christ with all the Jewish history. He referred to the building of the temple by Solomon, and to the words of both Solomon and Isaiah: “Howbeit the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” “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?” The place of God's highest worship was in heaven. SR 264.2Read in context »