This article on Acts 7:56 is about the righteous and their position before God, and innocence.

Source: Clarion, 1995. 2 pages.

Acts 7:51-60 – Defended Against False Charges

Read Acts 6:8-15 and 7:51-60

But he … gazed into heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God

Stephen was one of the seven deacons chosen by the church. In addition to distributing food to the needy, he did work which we do not quickly associate with deacons. Full of grace and power, he did great wonders and signs among the people. Stephen spoke of salvation not through the keeping of the law but through faith in Jesus the Righteous One. He spoke of how they were to worship God in spirit and in truth. Since the sacrifice of Christ, the place of worship, namely, the temple, had become irrelevant.

Men from the Hellenist synagogues opposed Stephen. Stephen was winning converts for the Christian church at the expense of their synagogues. They disputed with Stephen, but did not stand a chance. They could not withstand Stephen's wisdom. They could not combat the Holy Spirit who spoke through Stephen.

So they brought false charges against Stephen similar to the accusations false witnesses had brought against Christ (Matthew 26:61). They brought Stephen before the Jewish council and accused him of having spoken against the law of Moses and the temple.

Throughout chapter 7, Stephen defended himself. He rehearsed Old Testament history beginning with Abraham and ending with the Messiah. From this he showed that God had always been merciful to His people. He sent them saviours to deliver them when they were in trouble. He gave them a land in which to live. He gave them the law to live by. God fulfilled all His promises to His people. But the people consistently resisted God. They disobeyed the law. They persecuted and killed the prophets whom God sent to call the people to repentance. Finally, they betrayed and murdered the Righteous One.

They murdered the One who had kept the law perfectly. They killed the One who had come to bring the one sacrifice that would put an end to the endless routine at the altar of burnt offering. When Stephen, the defendant, accused the judges of resisting the Holy Spirit and murdering the Righteous One of God, they became so enraged they ground their teeth at him.

As they raged at him, Stephen saw another Judge. He saw heaven opened. He saw the Lord Jesus standing, not sitting, but standing, at the right hand of God.

Lord Jesus is the judge. But the Judge stood up to serve as Advocate, as Counsel for the defense. That is the wonderful thing. The One who will judge us is also the One who defends us on the basis of His own righteousness. As well, He is the High Priest who brought the sacrifice for our sins.

A human court condemned and executed Stephen; however, another court passed a judgment as well - the court of heaven. The human judges declared him guilty of blasphemy and worthy of death. The divine court declared him innocent for the sake of Jesus Christ and worthy of eternal life. Christ defended Stephen against false charges and received his spirit.

As we confess in article 37 of the Belgic Confession, The cause of the church of Christ has often been

… condemned as heretical and evil by many judges and civil authorities… .

But on the day of judgment it,

… will be recognized as the cause of the Son of God.

Today already,

… we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous.1 John 2:1

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