Acts 6:8-7:60: A Teaching on the Old Covenant to the Council

bible by the lake on a table

It should be safe for you to assume from the title of this teaching that this will be one of my longer teachings. I am not going to quote every verse from Acts 6:8-7:60 but, I am going to point out several key items. In my last teaching, I discussed the first Christian Deacons, and one of their names was Stephen. Acts 6:8 (NKJV) tells us, “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.”.  We know that Stephen did many great signs and wonders through the power of the Holy Spirit. A true minister will authenticity by having the Holy Spirit in them and results through flowing with the Spirit.

Stephen is Charged

Acts 6:9-12 (NKJV) goes on to tell us, “Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen.  And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.  Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.”  And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council.”. The people of the synagogues accused Stephen of blasphemy of God, just like they did with Jesus. We will see why the people got upset with his teachings as we get into chapter seven. The people in the synagogues could not tolerate him so they took him to the Sanhedrin Council.  Acts 6:13-14 (NKJV) continues, “They also set up false witnesses who said, “This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us. ”. When he was brought to the council, they made up false witnesses against him. We also see that they are still more concerned about holding onto their religious customs from the Law of Moses. However, we know that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice and there is no need for any more sacrifices, Hebrews 10:14-18 (NKJV) reminds us, “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,”  then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”  Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.”.

About Abraham

As we go into chapter seven, I would like to remind you that I am not going to elaborate on each verse, so I encourage you to take some time to read this chapter in its entirety. I would like to first look at Acts 7:1-3 (NKJV), “Then the high priest said, “Are these things so?” And he said, “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives and come to a land that I will show you.’”. When you look back in the Old Testament you will see that God called Abraham out of the City of Ur. The people in this city worshiped the moon, and handmade idols of the moon gods. God picked Abraham out and told him to leave this pagan land. This call on Abrahams life was the beginning of Israel.  Acts 7:6-7 (NKJV) goes on to tell us, “But God spoke in this way: that his descendants would dwell in a foreign land, and that they would bring them into bondage and oppress them four hundred years.  ‘And the nation to whom they will be in bondage I will judge,’ said God, ‘and after that, they shall come out and serve Me in this place.’”.  God not only promised a blessing, but He did warn of a time of some suffering. As we continue to look at Stephen’s teaching, we will see how he shows us that God has been working since the beginning of creation. He shows us how the Old Testament Scriptures, Offerings, Tabernacles, High Priests all point to Jesus Christ. If your Bible has reference notes you will see many reference notes in Acts chapter 7 pointing to the Old Testament scriptures, I encourage you to take some time and look back on these as well!

About Moses

Skipping several verses to Acts 7:21-23 (WEB) tells us, “When he was thrown out, Pharaoh’s daughter took him up, and reared him as her own son. Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. He was mighty in his words and works.  But when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel.”. Moses was born of Jewish parents, but Pharaohs daughter took him, and raised him in Egypt. He got educated from the Egyptians, yet God called on Moses to use him, God called on a non-Hebrew to become a follower of God. In Acts 10 we will see this take place as pagan people came to the early church and left their pagan ways. Acts 7:30 (WEB) also tells us, “When forty years were fulfilled, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush.”. Moses had three periods in his life, each lasting about 40 years and those were:

1.    Time in Egypt

2.    Time in Midian

3.    Time in the wilderness

When God called on Moses, He knew that he would need a sense of belonging, and a reason to continue. So, what did God do? Acts 7:32 (WEB) tells us, “‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ Moses trembled, and dared not look.”. God revealed Himself to Moses as the God of his forefathers, this gave Moses a sense of belonging.

The Covenant of Circumcision

Skipping a few more verses, Acts 7:48-50 (WEB) tells us, “However, the Most High doesn’t dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says, ‘heaven is my throne, and the earth a footstool for my feet. What kind of house will you build me?’ says the Lord; ‘or what is the place of my rest? Didn’t my hand make all these things?’”. God does not dwell in temples made with hands. In the Old Testament God allowed the Tabernacle to be built by Solomon to accommodate the people to be able to approach God and fellowship with Him. The Tabernacle was the only way for the Hebrews to approach God in the Old Testament. However, because of Jesus, we do not need to go to a place anymore to seek God, because the Holy Spirit dwells in us! This now brings me onto my last point from chapter seven and that is the Covenant of Circumcision. Many people overlook the Covenant of Circumcision from the Old Testament, however, there is so much behind it that we do not realize unless we really study. Continuing Stephen tells us in Acts 7:51 (WEB), “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit! As your fathers did, so you do.”. They are uncircumcised because they do not have the Holy Spirit in them like Stephen does, simply because they are not accepting Jesus Christ. Looking back Acts 7:8 (WEB) tells us, “He gave him the covenant of circumcision. So, Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day. Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs.”. You can read about the Covenant of Circumcision in Genesis 17:9-14 and 21:1-5. To sum up circumcision, it was simply the seal of the covenant, and a covenant is a binding agreement between two people. In our covenant with God through Jesus Christ, our circumcision is the Holy Spirit that comes into us when we are born again. When the Holy Spirit comes into us when we are first born again, He does a work in us, and we are a new creation.  2 Corinthians 5:17 (WEB) tells us, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.”.  The unbelieving Jews were more worried about outward signs rather than transformed hearts, and this was exactly what Stephen’s point was in Acts 7:51. Romans 2:28-29 (NKJV) tells us, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh;  but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.”. So, I would like to ask you, do you have the circumcision of the Holy Spirit? Or are you more concerned about your works? This is something that many people need to be reminded of.

Stephen’s Death

Acts chapter seven ends with the unbelieving Jews stoning Stephen to death. Because Stephen was a follower of Jesus Christ, he went up to Heaven. Acts 7:55-56 tells us, “But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly 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 at the right hand of God!””.  Lastly, one of his last requests is ‘Lord receive my Spirit’. Acts 7:59-60 (NKJV) continues, “And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” The Bible often describes one dying as falling asleep.

Looking Ahead

In my next teaching I will continue onto chapter eight, which will look at Saul who will persecute the church, he was also present during the stoning of Stephen. I encourage you to take some time and read Acts chapter seven in its entirety and really study for yourself Stephen’s teaching as he shows us that God was working from the beginning to make the Old Testament point us to Jesus Christ.