1 Then the high priest said, “Are these things so?”
Stephen gave a speech before the Sanhedrin in Acts 7:1-53, defending himself against the trumped-up charges from Jewish leaders. This address is the longest in the book of Acts, showing the importance that Luke gave this message. Stephen’s address was not a legal defense of himself but a theological argument. His reasoning revolved around how the Jews of his day violated God, as had their rebellious ancestors. Interestingly, Stephen was a Grecian Jew who gave this message. The Sanhedrin put Stephen to death.
Then the high priest said,
As the leader of the Sanhedrin, the high priest (maybe Caiaphas) led the questioning against Stephen.
“Are these things so?”
The high priest asked Stephen if the charges against him for violating the Temple and the law were true. The upshot of this question was, “How do you plead?”
The progression in God’s program for His people shows how He came to the concept of the church.
There is a progression in God’s program, first for Jews, then for Christians. The argument of Acts 7:1-50 shows how God changed what Israel needed for different periods, especially since Israel’s leaders resisted His will. The charge against Stephen was that he undermined the Temple and the law, but he argued that God is a God of change. He changed the tabernacle to the Temple. God introduced the concept of the church in Stephen’s day, which is an entirely different economy than God’s dealings with Israel. God constantly renewed His approach to Israel.
The purpose of Stephen’s message was to show how Christianity is vindicated by Old Testament history; God had a history of progressively working under His sovereign by changing His economy of dealing with His people. First, He worked with Abraham (Acts 7:2-8) by establishing a new nation of Jews. Then He sovereignly moved in Joseph’s life to fulfill the prediction of Acts 7:6-7. Then He raised Moses to enable Israel to exit from Egypt (Acts 7:17-43), to build the tabernacle (Acts 7:44-46), and to construct the Temple (Acts 7:47-50). Both the tabernacle and Temple were temporary symbols of God’s presence. God continued to work to establish the church, where He would dwell in His people. This was Stephen’s answer to the charge against him that he was out to destroy the Temple and the law.