Stephen’s Sermon–God’s Covenant of Circumcision to Abraham

An old country preacher was met by a member of his congregation who asked, “Preacher if salvation is free, how come you’re always asking for money?” Good question, maybe one you’ve asked yourself. The preacher responded by saying “Salvation is free, … More

Salvation
This chapter contains the longest sermon recorded in the book of Acts. In these first eight verses Stephen gives the history of Abraham. The Jews greatly admired Abraham and prided themselves in being his “children.” Furthermore, they depended on their nation’s heritage rather than their personal faith. They were blind to the simple faith of Abraham, and had made salvation a matter of good works, not faith. Stephen pointed out three distinctive things about Abraham (vv 1-7):
  1. Abraham was a man who answered God’s call. For Stephen, the man of God was one who obeyed God’s command even when he had no idea what the consequences might be.
  2. Abraham was a man of faith. He did not know where he was going, but he believed that, under God’s guidance, the best was yet to come.
  3. Abraham was a man of hope. To the end of his life he never saw the promise fully fulfilled, but he never doubted that it would be.

In this message Stephen did not give a legal defense of himself, but instead he set forth Israel’s past history and God’s past workings in order to vindicate Christianity. Abraham had been saved by grace, through faith (Eph. 2:8-9) and not because he was circumcised, kept the law, or worshiped in a temple (v. 8). Stephen was trying to show how God was not restricted to a special place or a special person. Abraham pulled up stakes and left his homeland to follow wherever God might lead.  He left Ur and settled in Haran.

The high priest and his party could not deny the points of Stephen’s argument. Abraham’s faith rested on the Word of God and in the omnipotence and omniscience of the One who made the promise.

Application

I have heard different people say he or she is a Christian because they were born into a Christian family. This is certainly not true (Eph. 2:8-9). I need to make sure that anyone I witness to understands that they are personally responsible to trust Christ.

Acts 7:1-8 (English Standard Version)

And the high priest said, "Are these things so?" 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, and said to him, 'Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.' 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. 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. 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. 'But I will judge the nation that they serve,' said God, 'and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.' 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."

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