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The IVP New Testament Commentary Series – Stephen's Speech (7:1-53)
Stephen's Speech (7:1-53)

Human religious effort is a fact of life in almost every culture. Yet Stephen declares it is such effort that has kept Israel from knowing the righteous Savior and true worship.

Stephen's opponents see in his preaching a challenge to first-century Judaism's twin pillars of piety: the law and the temple (6:11, 13-14). Stephen now proceeds to answer these charges, not as one defending himself but as a witness to the gospel (Lk 21:13). He exposes the falseness of the charges as he affirms his loyalty to God's law and true worship. But more important, he reveals how religious effort, in this case first-century Judaism, is an obstacle to the true knowledge of God's saving provision, the Messiah. The words of historian John MacMurray about Jesus may be appropriately applied to Stephen: "The great contribution of the Hebrew to religion was that he did away with it."

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