Acts: Day 10

Stephen’s Sermon


Today's Text: Acts 7:1-53, Genesis 15:13-14, Deuteronomy 18:15

Text: Acts 7:1-53, Genesis 15:13-14, Deuteronomy 18:15

Dragged before the Sanhedrin, Stephen’s platform was a courtroom packed with men determined to put an end to the shockwaves caused by Christ’s resurrection. He’d endured a trial shored up by false witnesses and fabricated stories. And now, staring down the barrel of a trumped-up guilty verdict, perhaps knowing he’d be sentenced to death for his faith, Stephen went for the spiritual jugular.

“Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They even killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. You received the law under the direction of angels and yet have not kept it.”
-Acts 7:52-53

Standing before them, Stephen mapped out the long history of idol worship among the Jews. He didn’t have to bribe witnesses or plant evidence to prove that God’s people chronically looked to idols instead of turning to the one true God. The Jews were prone to put their hope in:

Their promised land instead of the God who created it (vv. 2-3).
Their house of worship instead of the intended object of worship (vv. 43).
Their law instead of the God who handed it down (vv. 53).

When we look at Scripture through a rearview mirror, it’s easy to adopt a posture of chronological snobbery. We read stories like Stephen’s and see the religious leaders through the lens of “us vs. them.” They are the villains of the New Testament. Perhaps when we read Stephen’s sermon, we imagine ourselves in his place, preaching our guts out for the glory of God. But it’s good to remember that we could easily swap places with the judges who condemned him to death.  

Idols have a gravitational pull on our hearts too. There is a tendency among God’s people in every generation to worship something or someone other than the one true God. And we still have a nasty habit of throwing stones toward those who remind us that our own idol worship is futile and sinful.

But read Stephen’s sermon again. Let it marinate. Stephen’s words map out Israel’s rebellions, but there’s a parallel trajectory telling the story of God’s remarkable faithfulness.

He was faithful to Abraham, and to Joseph, too (vv. 2-6, 9-10).
He never turned His back on Jacob, the deceiver (vv. 12-16).
He remained with Moses (vv. 17-36).

The Israelites may have rejected their human leader as they wandered around in the desert, but God never did. He never has. He never will.

Stephen was sharing this key truth with the Sanhedrin: all of humanity—every last one of us—is prone to reject God’s gifts and worship idols instead, prone to hide from the God who made us. That’s been true in every generation since the Garden of Eden.

Before a call to repentance pierced our own hearts, we also rejected the Truth that Jesus is the Promised Savior we desperately need. But even so, God is faithful and merciful in every season. Therefore, we ought to repent and believe, because Jesus, the Righteous One, was murdered to pay the penalty for all our sins for all time.

Our hope is built on Christ alone—not land, or temples, or laws. The religious leaders may have covered their ears and tried not to listen, but they couldn’t change the truth Stephen died telling: God is faithful. He was with Stephen that day, and He is present with us now. Looking back we see His grace and forgiveness. Looking forward we see His coming rescue.


Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.


  • This study makes me want to almost cry knowing all of the times I rejected or tried to hide from God because it wasn’t cool or I thought it was just ancient history. And yet, He was always there to keep me safe. I owe him my prayers and worship.

  • Kasey Summers

    Our hope is in Christ alone! Loving this study!

  • Even as I was praying last night in bed, I was thinking of how I often focus more heavily on God’s commands (and my problem following them) then I do on God. Then reading this today – how the Jews put their focus in the law rather than in the One giving them the law – it really drove home the point to me. As I grew up through a more legalism point of view, it has definitely stuck with me longer than I’ve wanted. It makes finding freedom in God more challenging and I so long to be more in love with God than focused on 100% obeying His commands regardless of where my heart is in regards to Him.

  • Jen Gladwell

    Anyone else got different references in study book compared to phone app? Study says Deuteronomy 15:18 but phone app says Deuteronomy 18:15??

  • I was struck by the mention of God’s people putting their hope in the promised land instead of the God who created it… that is all too true of the “if onlys” and “one day when…” thinking that so easily guides my thoughts when I’m struggling through the mundane. And yet He remains. Thank you God for your faithfulness. Please show me how to be content in the moment and continue to reflect on Your faithfulness as I go about my days.

  • I’m reading this while I’m pumping, which I’ve realized has become an idol for me – the dependence of breast milk to sustain my baby. I am struggling with lactation majorly, trying every supplement, medication, food, etc. instead of running to the Lord for provision for her, I run to myself and “science”. I am realizing God is the one who sustains her bc she is his and not mine. And a formula fed baby will grow up to love Him just as much as a breast milk-fed baby!

    • Bethany

      Oh, Jess, I am with you in that struggle! It has been so easy to become obsessed with breastfeeding! I have to keep reminding myself of the times when I really prayed and asked for God’s hand on the situation – and he delivered! And I love that you said that she is his and not mine – that was what I repeated to myself nonstop during those anxious moments of pregnancy when the “what-ifs” filled my mind. She is his, and what a special privilege I have to get her for this time on earth!

  • churchmouse

    Those in the Sanhedrin were just the first in a very long line of those who just didn’t get it. Read a good book on church history and you will find a repetition of their faults lived over generations. Hearts turned back to Egypt. False accusations. Persecutions. Martyrdom. Resisting the Holy Spirit. Political machinations within the church. Stiff-necked and rebellious people. Self – serving leadership. And yet there is also a very long line of Stephens. There are many who spoke boldly of their convictions and preached the full Gospel with power and clarity. Evidence of God’s faithfulness through the generations to this day. To. This. Very. Day. Praying that we learn from the past, stand firm in the present and keep our eyes on the Hope to come in the future. Amen.

  • Anything I want with all my heart is an idol. Anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol. Worship is more than a song – Clear the stage and crush the idols. Seek the Lord and wait for what He has in store.

    • Bri

      Love Jimmy Needham’s music, so brutally honest and beautiful

    • Lisa Dawn

      I’ve seen this video before but I think it was just the right timing to watch it again. Thanks for posting! “Anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol.” That hits home today, especially as someone who is feeling the loneliness of singleness these days.

      • Nikravesous

        That really hits home for me as well, as I’ve been struggling over the past few months to understand why my first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage and trying not to obsess over becoming pregnant again. I find myself, essentially if not in so many words, saying “God, you aren’t enough. I need a child too!” And that is idolatrous to the core. Lord, forgive me. It’s a long road reconciling that I might not have children but God is good and he is in control of this and every situation we face.

  • This was such a good truth today. I recognize that I find myself, more often than not, as the Pharisees and Priests. But Jesus’ truth is alive and piercing, and His Spirit is patient, kind and forgiving. Amen!

    • She Reads Truth

      Love this, Sara! Thanks for joining us today!


  • I need to keep my priorities in check and work hard to keep them from becoming idols. So many things can easily become idols if we do not pay attention.

  • Chritina

    I’m grateful God keeps forgiving us. I am trying to move my life in a more positive direction through Christ and realize I have a ton of negative people on my facebook. I actually commented to two people before I unfriended them. I felt horrible for commenting. It’s not my place to say anything to anyone about why I do not want them on my social media. Half the time people don’t even notice because they are consumed with themselves. I deactivated my account until I can accept people in my past for who they are and that everyone is worthy of God’s love. Perhaps I was not feeling worthy of God’s love when I committed those acts.

  • Those proclaiming Jesus were persecuted and then he himself was persecuted and killed. Why have we always resisted God? Even Adam and Eve sinned. It amazes me that he keeps forgiving us and putting up with us. I would have long ago written off anyone who treated me this way. I have a lesson to learn in forgiveness here. He also turned them away for a time. How do I do this with people and follow God’s example?

    • Brandi

      I could have written this. Thank you. Struggling with showing forgiveness and/or defending myself from someone I feel hurt by.

    • Pam B

      I hear ya. Forgiveness is not my strong suit. It can be so hard sometimes because we don’t forget the hurt. This is where we need the Holy Spirit to step in and help us forgive because we cannot do it in our own strength.

  • Caroline

    Amen! Whew. So thankful He is ALWAYS faithful. His word never returns null or void!

  • Have you ever been slapped up side of the head with Truth??? I was this morning! Before I even looked at Erin’s blog post, I had written out a prayer on the blank page in my book. Then I turned my attention to Erin’s words and had to inwardly nod as people’s faces appeared in my mind…people who OBVIOUSLY had idols in their lives and were blind to them. I thought her words are sure true…I would be “stoned” if I were to point them out. In a flash of a moment, the Lord brought to my remembrance words I had just penned in my study book…my last few sentences asking God to forgive my sins of self-indulgence and gluttony… and the truth hit me…I AM MY OWN IDOL! Oh, Lord, forgive me for being so blind to my own idol worship and seeing others so clearly! Thank you, Erin, for a post that smacked some sense into me. Truth is…had my husband brought to my attention these idols…I probably would have “stoned” him with some pretty harsh words, but the Holy Spirit used a blog post while I sit here all alone…no one to stone. I am so grateful that He refuses to leave us where we are and that He rescues us from our idols!

    • Christa

      Wow! Thank you for that insight into myself!, my self indulgence and gluttony for “things”. Convicted!

  • Keri Underwood

    It’s so easy to fall to idols isn’t it? Most of the time we do without even knowing it! Praying this morning that the Lord will point out the idols in my life. That He will soften my heart to see things/people that I put before Him.

    • Bernadette

      You both are so right. Right after the passing of my daughter, I instantly felt the need to not want to live again. For days, and even weeks, all I could say to myself and to my husband is that I wish I did not have to live anymore. I would never do anything to take my life, because I know that our life is a gift from God, but I still did not want to be here. One day I said it again, “I wish I did not have to live on this earth”. As I said it, I thought to myself, “am I saying that I loved my daughter more than God, more than life, more than the gift that God gave me”. We can’t love the world, or things in the world, more than we love God. Sometimes we can love things and people, and even our pets more than God, without even realizing it. I have since prayed for forgiveness. Satan will creep into our minds and hearts and have us worshiping things of this world before we realize it. This is why we have to guard our hearts and minds and like you both said, we have to pray that God point out the idols in our lives that we are not even aware of.

      • Sarah Jenik

        Wow what an amazing truth from the Lord, and I am so sorry the pain you have gone through. May we all learn from your wisdom

      • Keri Underwood

        Wow, such powerful revelation in the midst of your pain. It’s sometimes such a hard thing to think about. Because we love our families, our friends, and so it’s hard to not put them first. Thank you so much for sharing, Bernadette! Blessings to you and I’ll be praying that the Lord continues to grant you peace!

      • MarshaG

        Thank you for your transparency. I’m so very sorry for the pain you have and continue to experience. Having two sons in Heaven, I totally understand how you felt. And I had to tell myself that my number one reason for wanting Heaven is to be with Him – being reunited with my loved ones will be a blessed bonus. In the meantime there is much for us to do here to further His Kingdom, as did Stephen. God bless you, Bernadette.

        • Bernadette

          Marsha, I know that my daughter is in heaven. She loved God so much, and she would always tell me to pray that God take her hurt away, take her pain away. She knew if she was to get better that her only help would come from our God. Many people have said to me that I will see my daughter in heaven, and I really hope and pray that I will. But… What if I don’t see her? What if I see her and not know that she is my daughter and she not know that I am her mother? Do I still want to get to heaven? What I am saying is that our main purpose is to want to make it to heaven so we can see “GOD”. I’m not saying that that is not your purpose. I am saying that I had to tell myself that, I have to love God. I have to keep his commandments, love God, and witness to his people so I can experience everlasting life. I read in the bible once that, when we make it to heaven that there will not be any husbands and wives. That we all will be sisters and brothers in Christ. I have to confess that if I knew for 100% that I would see my baby again in heaven, I would probably be on somebodies corner right now, preaching the gospel!! I pray that I can have that much zeal for God! I am so sorry for the loss of your sons, may God continue to be with us all.

  • Ellington

    Our hope is built on Christ alone- not land, or temples, or laws. God is faithful. Looking back we see his grace and forgiveness. Looking forward we see His coming rescue. PTL!

  • This is so true! I felt the Holy Spirit really pulling on my heartstrings. Opening my eyes to see some of my idols. Asking are you really being fulfilled. This study has been such a blessing to me so far! Thank you for another thought provoking devotion where I left worshipping the God who is faithful even when I am not to Him

  • Brittany

    Erin, this was incredibly compelling!

  • Lord thank u so much that u never leave me I m not faithful but you are amazing faithful love u

  • This is so convicting. I believe in our society we are our own golden calves. We/I seek out unending pleasure, comfort, gain, power, prestige, social advancement etc. and put God’s plan for us and worshiping Him on the back burner. I allow day to day activities to take precedence over my time spent with Jesus. How foolish I am. Thankful this morning for His grace and mercy, as well as this reminder to put Him first in every area of my life.

    • Angela

      Amen. The verse that jumped out at me this morning was the end of v. 41, “… they were rejoicing in the works of their hands”. We spend far too much time thinking about ourselves and not enough time praising and honoring Him. Praying to have a shift in mindset today.

    • Keri Underwood

      This is so true. We are living in the “selfie” generation aren’t we? I’m so thankful that I serve a forgiving God!

    • churchmouse

      Yes! I see the evidence throughout the rise of social media where self is elevated above all else. Indeed, the golden calf still exists.

  • Probably what stands out to me this morning is the boldness and fearlessness with which Stephen spoke. With all the things going on in our country right now with elections and shootings and so much sad news…. People are looking for HOPE. We place our hope in everything but God. We place our hope in a candidate, laws and even in our own wisdom thinking we know all the answers. The only answer for any of it is Jesus. Stephen spoke with boldness because he understood the real TRUTH about all of it. His eyes were opened and he saw clearly the Answer and he knew he could stand on that without fear no matter what was coming. Can we? Can we speak boldly the answer to a hurting world? Are we willing to stand on Truth? “Then the Lord said to him, “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place you are standing is holy ground.” Acts 7:33. We have a place to stand if we are filled with His Spirit like Stephen. We can speak TRUTH and not be afraid. Challenged this morning in my own walk. Lord, let me speak Your truth to a hurting people and help them to see clearly the answer has always been and will always be JESUS. Thanks SRT, for the deep devotional this morning. It got me thinking…

  • Sarah_Joy

    So much to meditate on this morning. What are the idols in my life? How have I forgotten God by embracing the gift? In what ways do I act like a pharisee?

    • Christa

      I like what you said about forgetting God, while embracing the gift. I often get focused on the evidence of his material blessings and forget about the salvation he has provided me… The true gift.

  • Erin, you point out a truth that is hard to hear. We still struggle with idolatry. I am quick to bow to my religious activity, failing to prioritize righteousness and intimacy with Jeus. Even still, God is faithful. His mercies are new every morning! My eyes are fixed on Him this morning. Lord, hold my gaze on You!

  • This is a lovely devotional! Can anyone tell me what is the significance of the scripture from Deuteronomy?

    • Buttercup

      I wondered about that too. When I checked the references there is one for Dt. 18:15 which makes more sense. The reference is for Acts 47. Perhaps it’s just an error and they meant to put 18:15.

    • She Reads Truth

      Hi Liz! The scripture reference has been updated to Deuteronomy 18:15. Grateful for your grace!


    • Ashley

      It correlates with what Stephen was saying in the text in Acts- God will send a messenger/prophet/preacher to deliver us. Whether it be John the Baptist, Jesus Christ Himself, and then a preacher in the future to spread the gospel.

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