Hello everyone and welcome back to our Trinity study. Our thanks to Dan for guessing at the prophecy Stephen had in mind in Acts 7. Unfortunately, that’s not it. Do you really want to know what passage it is? Stay tuned since I do plan on discussing it tonight.
Last time, we started discussing what Stephen said and how the Jehovah’s Witnesses, among other groups, use that passage in an attempt to disprove the deity of Christ. It’s quite amusing that they like to go to a passage like that, but yet a passage that gives them an exceptionally hard time is just three verses down and they ignore that one completely. I had hoped to find something at their website on this passage but a look at the Watchtower website unfortunately gave no hits when I searched for Acts 7:59. I wonder why….
Of course, that is our text for tonight, to get the broader context, we’ll be doing Acts 7:57-60:
57At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
The problem the JWs have with this is that this is a prayer, but it is one that is prayed to Jesus and addressing him as Lord and the one who would receive Jesus’s Spirit. Stephen is pointing back to the example his Lord followed when he said “Into my hands I commit my spirit.” Stephen is doing that now and instead of commiting his spirit into the hands of the Father as some might suspect, he is commiting his spirit into the hands of Christ.
This is also something that is exceptionally early in the church and has a reference to a passage where Jesus is seen as deity. Are you wondering what passage I was referring to? I suggest opening your Bibles and turning to Daniel 7 and seeing what we have.
We have the Ancient of Days in a vision which would mean God the Father. We have thrones that are there. We have the Son of Man coming to the Ancient of Days. This is one of the few times after the gospels when the term “Son of Man” is used and it is not a coincidence that that is the same term that is used in Daniel 7.
Stephen is pointing to that event and saying that Jesus is indeed the Son of Man that was spoken of and he is the one who will receive the kingdom. When we looked at that passage earlier, we saw strong connotations of deity on the part of the one who is the Son of Man. Now as much as I love the eschatology of the passage, I’m not going to give in and write on that. I leave that for yourselves to work out.
The conclusion is that the early church did see Jesus on an equal level with God so much that he could be addressed in prayer. This is a problem verse for Jehovah’s Witnesses and I recommend using it.
We shall continue our study tomorrow.