Stephen’s Defence – 1 – Deliverer or Judge?

Stephen being stoned

Stephen, the Protomartyr of the Church, gives an amazing speech to those about to kill him for his faith in Jesus.

In this speech in Acts chapter 7 Stephen reviews the whole religious history of the Jewish people. He draws out of this two key themes.

The first theme that emerges is that God raised up a succession of leaders for His people; but each time the People of God ended up rejecting them.

When God first raises up Moses to lead them out of their Egyptian slavery, the first response he gets from his fellow Hebrews is the challenge –

‘who made you ruler and judge over us?’

God’s appointment of Moses was for him to be their ‘ruler and deliverer’ (Acts 7:35), yet the people, in their rejection of him as their appointed ‘deliverer’, have made him a ‘judge’ against them.

Stephen’s application is obvious – what the contemporary Jews were doing in their rejection of Jesus, was just what their ancestors had done in their rejection of Moses.

There is a further point of application too.

When God appoints someone as your Ruler, he is your Ruler. That is a divine decree that cannot be gainsaid.

Christ IS the King of the Universe, sitting in glory at God’s right hand, the Supreme Power over the Cosmos. We cannot change that fact.

If we accept it, if we embrace Christ as our King, accept His teaching about the reality of the Universe and ourselves, if we turn from our sin and rebellion against God and God’s ways – then Christ becomes our Deliverer, He frees us from our bondage to sin, He forgives us, He reconciles us to the Father and He will safely lead through this life and into the next.

But if we reject Christ as our Deliverer, then the only role He can take on is that of our Judge.

For in Scripture it says:

‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’

Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,

‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,’


‘A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’[1]

You cannot choose whether Christ is your Ruler or not, you can only choose whether He is your Deliverer or your Judge.

[1] 1 Peter 2 :6-8 NIVUK