Implications of Stephens Defence

(Acts 7:1-53)

Stephen was dragged before the rulers of the Jews, falsely accused of many things by men incited to stand against him and put on trial.

But The Lord was with Stephen and his defence was quite remarkable in many ways. Not only did he condemn the religious leaders of his time for their failure to recognise The Lord for who He was and their part in Jesus condemnation and death, but Stephen also made some very interesting observations in the comparisons between Jesus and Moses.

This led me to think about those comparisons and recently it occurred to me that there are a number of other comparisons between the old and new covenants that are hinted at in Stephens defence speech. So I will look at one or two of those in this post.

Jesus and Moses

Stephen made this comment in his defence where he quoted the words of Moses (vs 37).

This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.’

There were many similarities between the life of Moses and the life of Jesus that make this statement true. Both were born at a time when the respective rulers attempted to kill them as babies. Both were called out of Egypt. Both brought in a covenant to be taught and spread among the people to bring them closer to worship God. And there are many other similarities.

But there was a great difference too which the writer of Hebrews wrote about in Hebrews 3:1-6.

1 Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,

2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house.

3 For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses-as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.

4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.)

5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later,

6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

Moses served God faithfully as a servant but Jesus served as the Son of God. And as we see above Moses testified of the things that were to come, that is, the things that Jesus spoke of, and Christ spoke of the kingdom of God and how we may enter into it.

The work of Moses was to prepare the people and to deal with the evil in the people through judgement and the bringing of the law. But Christ came promoting freedom from sin and freedom from slavery and release from the law by Grace. And yet even in the comparisons between Moses and Jesus we see this freedom shown in the actions of Moses.

Freedom from Slavery

One of the most abiding mental images we have of Moses is him coming before the Pharaoh saying “Let my people go.” Many signs and wonders were performed to convince the Pharaoh to do this but he would not until the death of all the first born children occurred including pharaoh’s own son. The Israelites were spared through the keeping of the first Passover where they painted the blood of the sacrificial lambs on the lintel and door posts of their homes.

In the same way Jesus bought us our freedom from death by the shedding of His blood and when we take on His death in baptism we too pass over from death to life. It is by His death as the sacrificial lamb of God that we are now saved by grace and set free from sin and the slavery to law.

But there is an even more abiding mental image of Moses that points to this freedom we now have in Jesus Christ too.

Moses led the people out of Egypt and shortly after they left, Pharaoh had another change of heart and pursued them to bring them back. The Israelites were camped by the shore of the Red Sea appearing to be trapped and hemmed in on all sides when Pharaoh caught up to them.

But then we see that most remarkable of miracles, the parting of the Red Sea allowing the people of Israel to cross between two walls of water on dry land to escape the Egyptians. And when the troops attempted to follow, the waters closed down over them and they were all drowned.

This is an allegory that relates to the power of baptism that we now participate in under the new covenant. The children of Israel passed through the waters and it was exactly at that point in time they ceased to be slaves and were given their freedom. They were no longer slaves running away from their masters, for their masters had perished and died in the waters of the Red Sea and the children of Israel were free. Not only that, once the waters had closed over, the Israelites could no longer go back that way. The past was blocked by the waters for they had passed through and come out onto the other side.

Baptism in the new covenant works in exactly the same way. When we are baptised into the death of Jesus Christ we take on His death and His resurrection. We pass through the waters of baptism and come out the other side as new creations, no longer enslaved to sin or the law but as freed men and women in Christ. Just as Israel was freed from slavery by going through the waters, we are freed from slavery to sin and the law in baptism.

There were many times too when the people complained during the following journey and wanted Moses to take them back to Egypt, just as there are times we go through difficulties and sometimes seek an easier path. But the path of the slave is not the way into God’s kingdom just as those slaves of Egypt could never inherit the land promised to Abraham. And we are told this too in Galatians 4:30-31 which says,

30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.”
31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.

We must push forward despite the difficulties that may arise, just as the children of Israel had to push forward through the difficulties in the wilderness for forty years before they inherited the land of Canaan. We must hold fast to our freedom in Jesus Christ knowing that we are the children of the free woman who shall inherit the kingdom of God and not children of the slave.

Yes there are many interesting and revealing comparisons between Moses and Jesus and between the old and new covenants. This is only a few. What others do you see and remind you or teach you of the things to come or have helped you understand Gods will?

(Image sourced from http://www.sayfair.com/

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