Acts 7:38
This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:
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(38) That was in the church in the wilderness.—The word ecclesia is used, as it had been in the LXX. (Deuteronomy 18:16; Deuteronomy 23:1; Psalm 26:12), for the “congregation” of Israel. Of the earlier versions. Tyndale, Cranmer, and the Genevan, had given “congregation.” Even the Rhemish contented itself with “assembly.” The translators of 1611, acting on the instructions which were drawn up for their direction, did not see any reason for making this an exception to the rule, and so gave “church.” Assuming that ecclesia was so rendered elsewhere, it was, it may be admitted, right, as a matter of consistency, that it should be used here, as presenting the thought, which was emphasised in Stephen’s speech, that the society of believers in Christ was like, in character and in its relation to God, to that of Israel. The new ecclesia was the development of the old. (See Note on Matthew 16:18.)

The lively oracles.—The noun was used by the Greeks for the solemn utterances of the Pythian oracles, and thus came to be used by the LXX. in connection with the Urim and Thummim of the high priest (Exodus 28:30), and so for any answer from God (Numbers 24:4). In the New Testament it appears again in Romans 3:2; Hebrews 5:12; 1Peter 4:11.

7:30-41 Men deceive themselves, if they think God cannot do what he sees to be good any where; he can bring his people into a wilderness, and there speak comfortably to them. He appeared to Moses in a flame of fire, yet the bush was not consumed; which represented the state of Israel in Egypt, where, though they were in the fire of affliction, yet they were not consumed. It may also be looked upon as a type of Christ's taking upon him the nature of man, and the union between the Divine and human nature. The death of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, cannot break the covenant relation between God and them. Our Saviour by this proves the future state, Mt 22:31. Abraham is dead, yet God is still his God, therefore Abraham is still alive. Now, this is that life and immortality which are brought to light by the gospel. Stephen here shows that Moses was an eminent type of Christ, as he was Israel's deliverer. God has compassion for the troubles of his church, and the groans of his persecuted people; and their deliverance takes rise from his pity. And that deliverance was typical of what Christ did, when, for us men, and for our salvation, he came down from heaven. This Jesus, whom they now refused, as their fathers did Moses, even this same has God advanced to be a Prince and Saviour. It does not at all take from the just honour of Moses to say, that he was but an instrument, and that he is infinitely outshone by Jesus. In asserting that Jesus should change the customs of the ceremonial law. Stephen was so far from blaspheming Moses, that really he honoured him, by showing how the prophecy of Moses was come to pass, which was so clear. God who gave them those customs by his servant Moses, might, no doubt, change the custom by his Son Jesus. But Israel thrust Moses from them, and would have returned to their bondage; so men in general will not obey Jesus, because they love this present evil world, and rejoice in their own works and devices.In the church - The word "church" means literally "the people called out," and is applied with great propriety to the assembly or multitude called out of Egypt, and separated from the world. It has not, however, of necessity our idea of a church, but means the "assembly," or people called out of Egypt and placed under the conduct of Moses.

With the angel - In this place there is undoubted reference to the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. Yet that was done by God himself, Exodus 20:It is clear, therefore, that by "the angel" here, Stephen intends to designate him who was God. It may be observed, however, that "the Law" is represented as having been given by the ministry of an angel (in this place) and by the ministry of "angels," Acts 7:53; Hebrews 2:2. The essential idea is, that God did it by a messenger, or by mediators. The "character" and "rank" of the messengers, or of the "principal" messenger, must be learned by looking at all the circumstances of the case.

The lively oracles - See Romans 3:2. The word "oracles" here means "commands" or "laws" of God. The word "lively," or "living" ζῶντα zōnta, stands in opposition to what is dead, or useless, and means what is vigorous, efficacious; and in this place it means that the commands were of such a nature, and given in such circumstances, as to secure attention; to produce obedience; to excite them to act for God - in opposition to laws which would fall powerless, and produce no effect.

38. in the church—the collective body of God's chosen people; hence used to denote the whole body of the faithful under the Gospel, or particular sections of them.

This is he that was in the church in the wilderness, with the angel … and with our fathers—alike near to the Angel of the Covenant, from whom he received all the institutions of the ancient economy, and to the people, to whom he faithfully reported the living oracles and among whom he set up the prescribed institutions. By this high testimony to Moses, Stephen rebuts the main charge for which he was on trial.

In the church in the wilderness; or congregation; with the rest of the people in all their difficult journey.

The angel; see Acts 7:30.

The lively oracles; God’s law and word is so called, as the only rule to walk by unto life, Deu 32:47: it is there said to be our life; and it is the only ordinary means of a spiritual and holy life, which it begets and preserves.

This is he that was in the church in the wilderness,.... Which must be understood of the children of Israel, who were the then church of God, whom he had chosen and separated from the rest of the world, to be a peculiar people to himself, to whom were given the word and ordinances, the service of God, and the promises; and God always had, and will have a church, though that is sometimes in the wilderness; which has been the case under the Gospel dispensation, as well as before; Revelation 12:6 and it was a peculiar honour to Moses, that he was in this church, though it was in the wilderness; even a greater honour than to be in Pharaoh's court. This has a particular respect to the time when all Israel were encamped at the foot of Mount Sinai, when Moses was not only in the midst of them, and at the head of them; but was

with the angel which spake to him in the Mount Sina: this is the same angel as before, in Acts 7:30 and refers either to his speaking to him then, saying, I am the God of thy fathers, &c. which was at Mount Sinai; or rather to the time when the law was given on that mount; and it may be to both; it is true of each, though it, may more especially regard the latter; for it was the angel of the divine presence, the second person in the Trinity, the word of God, that bid Moses come up into the mount; and who spake all the ten words to him; and who is described in so grand and august a manner in Deuteronomy 33:2

and with our fathers; the Jewish ancestors, who came out of Egypt under Moses, with whom he was as their deliverer and ruler, their guide and governor:

who received the lively oracles to give unto us; he received from the angel which spake to him the law, to deliver to the children of Israel; which is called "the oracles", because it came from God, and contained his mind and will, and was a sure and infallible declaration of it; and "lively" ones, because delivered "viva voce", with an articulate voice, and in audible sounds, and because it is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword. The Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions render it, "the words of life": not that the law gives life, or points out the way of life and salvation to sinful men; it is to them all the reverse; it is the killing letter, and the ministration of condemnation and death: it is indeed a rule of life, or of walk and conversation to men, and it promises life in case of perfect obedience, Leviticus 18:5 but this is impracticable by fallen men, and therefore there is no life nor righteousness by the law. Though these lively oracles may be considered in a larger extent, as including all the promises of God respecting the Messiah, delivered to Moses, and all the rites and ordinances of the ceremonial law, which pointed out Christ, as the way of life, righteousness, and salvation, from whence they may very well take this name.

This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:
Acts 7:38. This is he who … had intercourse with the angel … and our fathers, was the mediator (Galatians 3:19) between the two. On γίνομαι μετά, versor cum, which is no Hebraism, comp. Acts 9:19, Acts 20:18; Mark 16:10; Ast, Lex. Plat. I. p. 394.

ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ] in the assembly of the people (held for the promulgation of the law) in the desert, Exodus 19. This definite reference is warranted by the context, as it is just the special act of the giving of the law that is spoken of.

λόγια ζῶντα] i.e. utterances which are not dead, and so ineffectual, but living, in which, as in the self-revelations of the living God, there is effective power (John 6:51), as well with reference to their influence on the moulding of the moral life according to God’s will, as also especially with reference to the fulfilment of the promises and threatenings thereto annexed. Comp. 1 Peter 1:23; Hebrews 5:12; Deuteronomy 32:47. Incorrectly Beza, Calvin, Grotius, Kuinoel, and others hold that ζῆν stands for ζωοποιεῖν. Even according to Paul, the law in itself is holy, just, good, spiritual, and given for life (Romans 7:12; Romans 7:14); that it nevertheless kills, arises from the abuse which the power of sin makes of it (Romans 7:5; Romans 7:13 ff.; 1 Corinthians 15:56), and is therefore an accidental relation.

Acts 7:38. οὗτός: again emphatic use.—ἐκκλησίᾳ: “in the congregation,” R.V. margin: held in the wilderness for the giving of the law, although the word does not occur in Exodus 19, but cf. Deuteronomy 31:30, Joshua 8:35 (Acts 9:2). By Wycliffe the word was translated “Church” here, but afterwards “congregation,” so in Tynd., Cranm., Gen., until A.V. again rendered “Church,” cf. Hebrews 2:12, and on the word see above on Acts 5:11, Hort, Ecclesia, p. 3 ff., and B.D.2 “Church”. In Hebrews 2:12, R.V. reads “congregation” in text (but “Church” in margin), following Tynd. and Cranm., and Psalm 22:22 from which the quotation is made (where both A. and R.V. have “congregation”). Schmiedel would dismiss the word as a later gloss, which has been inserted here in a wrong place, see Wendt (edit. 1899), p. 160, note.—γενόμ.… μετὰ, cf. Acts 9:19, Acts 20:18 (Mark 16:10); no Hebraism, cf. σύν in Luke 2:13.—τοῦ ἀγγέλου τοῦ λαλ., but in Exodus Moses is said to speak with God, cf. Acts 7:30 above, and see also Acts 7:53, “who was with the angel … and with our fathers,” i.e., who acted as the mediator between the two parties, who had relations with them both, cf. Galatians 3:19, and Philo, Vit. Moys., iii., 19, where Moses is called μεσίτης καὶ διαλλακτής, cf. also Hebrews 2:2, and Jos., Ant., xv., 5, 3; the latter passage represents Herod as saying that the Jews learned all that was most holy in their law διʼ ἀγγέλων παρὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ (see Westcott Hebrews, and Wetstein on Galatians 3:19). On the title μεσίτης as given to Moses, see further Assumption of Moses, i., 14, and Charles’ note and introd. lxiii., but it does not follow that the inference is justified that the Apocryphal Book in question was known to the writer of St. Stephen’s speech. Dr. Charles maintains this on the ground of three passages, but of (1) it may be said that the term μεσίτης evidently could have been known from other sources than Acts, (2) the parallel between Acts 7:36 and Assumption of Moses, iii., 11, is, as Dr. Charles admits, an agreement verbally “for the most part,” but the words “Egypt, the Red Sea, and the wilderness for forty years” might often be used as a summary of the history of Israel at a particular period, whilst the context with which the words are here associated is quite different from that in Assumption of Moses, l.c., and (3) there is no close resemblance between the prophecy from Amos quoted in Acts 7:43 below and the prophecy in Assumption of Moses, ii., 1–3; in both the phraseology is quite general. Perhaps the omission of the word μετά before τῶν πατέρων gives emphasis to the privilege of “our fathers,” when one can speak of being with the angel and with them, Simcox, Language of the N. T., p. 159. Thus Moses prefigures the Mediator of the new coventant, cf. Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 12:24, and the mention of this honour bestowed upon Moses emphasises still more fully the indignity which he received from his countrymen, cf. St. Chrysostom on the force of οὗτος in this verse.—λόγια, cf. Romans 3:2, as in LXX of the words of God, cf. Numbers 24:4; Numbers 24:16, and chiefly for any utterance of God whether precept or promise, only once of human words (Psalms 18(19):14); so Philo speaks of the decalogue as τὰ δέκα λόγια, and Jos., B. J., vi., 5, 4, of the prophecies of God in the O.T., and Philo writes τὸ λόγιον τοῦ προφήτου (i.e., Moses), Vit. Moys., iii., 35, see Grimm-Thayer, sub v., λόγιον, lit[208], a little word, from the brevity of oracular responses.—ζῶντα: “vim vitalem habentia,” Blass, cf. Hebrews 4:12, 1 Peter 1:23, cf. Deuteronomy 32:47. The words again show how far St. Stephen was from despising the Law of Moses, cf. Hebrews 4:12, “living,” R.V. (“quick,” A.V.); 1 Peter 1:3; 1 Peter 2:5, where R.V. has “living” instead of “lively”; in Psalm 38:19 “lively” is retained in R.V. (see also in Exodus 1:19, in contrast to feeble, languid), cf. Spenser, Faërie Queene, iii., 8, 5. Here the word has the sense of living, i.e., enduring, abiding, cf. “thy true and lively [living] word” in prayer for the Church Militant, cf. 1 Peter 1:23, R.V.

[208] literal, literally.

38. This is he, that was in the church [congregation] in the wilderness] i.e. with the congregation of Israel assembled at Mount Sinai.

with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina [Sinai] As in Acts 7:35, the angel is God Himself; just so in Acts 7:31 the voice which spake is called “a voice of the Lord.”

and with our fathers] Jewish tradition says that the whole world was present at Sinai. Thus Midrash Rabbah on Exodus, cap. 28 ad fin.: “Whatever the prophets were to utter in prophecy in every generation they received from Mount Sinai,” and presently after, commenting on the words of Moses (Deuteronomy 29:15), Him that is not here with us this day, it is said, “These are the souls which were yet to be created,” i.e. to be sent into the world; and to explain (Deuteronomy 5:22) and he added no more, (on which they found the teaching that all revelation was completely given at Sinai,) they say, “The one voice was divided into seven voices, and these were divided into the seventy tongues,” which Jewish tradition held to be the number of the languages of the world.

who received the lively oracles to give unto us] Who (i.e. Moses) received living oracles, &c. Moses is thus shewn to have been a mediator (see Galatians 3:19), and thus to have prefigured the mediator of a better covenant (Hebrews 8:6) and of the New Testament (Hebrews 9:15), even Jesus (Hebrews 12:24).

The oracles are called living, just as “the word of God” is called living [A. V. quick] (Hebrews 4:12), because it is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. On this effect cp. St Paul’s language concerning the law (Romans 7:9), “When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” But there is at the same time the other sense in the word, which appears when (John 6:51) Christ calls Himself “the living bread which came down from heaven.” For the law pointed onward to Christ, who should lead His people “unto living fountains of waters” (Revelation 7:17). For the thought, cp. 1 Peter 1:23, “The word of God which liveth and abideth for ever.”

Acts 7:38. Οὗτος, this) Moses.—γενόμενος) Construed with μετά.—ἐν τῆ ἐκκλησίᾳ) It is not the people in this passage, but the congregation of the people, that is denoted.—μετὰ τοῦ ἀγγέλουκαὶ τῶν πατέρων, with the angel—and the fathers) Therefore Moses was mediator. Stephen does not say, with the angels, but with the Angel, i.e. of the covenant.—ἐδέξατο, received) did not invent.—λόγια, words) oracles: λόγιον, a diminutive, on account of the brevity of the several enunciations. Every paragraph that begins with that formula, And the Lord spake unto Moses, is in itself a λόγιον. The Decalogue especially is referred to.—ζῶντα, living) Living is his expression, not life-giving. He praises the law. It is fiery: it is living; Deuteronomy 33:2.

Verse 38. - Sinai for Sins, A.V. (Hebrew for Greek form); living cracks for the lively cracks, A.V. In the church. St. Stephen probably used the word ἐκκλησία without any reference to its special meaning, "the Church." It is used in a secular sense in Acts 19:32, 39, and of the congregation of Israel in the LXX. of 1 Chronicles 13:2; 1 Macc. 2:56; Ecclus. 44:15; and elsewhere. In Stephen's time it could hardly have become widely known as the designation of the flock of Christ. On the whole, the marginal rendering, "the congregation," seems best, but with the idea attached that it was the Lord's congregation. The angel which spake. It may be doubted whether the phrase, "the angel which spake to him in the mount Sinai," refers to the angel spoken of in ver. 30, or to the angel by whose mouth God spake the words of the ten commandments on Mount Sinai, as recorded in Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:1-22. Chrysostom and most commentators seem to understand it of the angel who gave the Law; but Whitby, not without reason, thinks the reference is to the burning bush. Living oracles. In like manner, St. Paul calls the Holy Scriptures "the oracles of God" (Romans 3:2), and in Hebrews 5:12 we read again of "the first principles of the oracles of God," and St. Peter says, "Let him speak as the oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:11). For the force of the living or lively oracles, see 1 Peter 1:23, 25. Stephen magnifies Moses by reminding his hearers how he had received the Law from God to give to the people. Acts 7:38Lively

Better, living, as Rev. Compare 1 Peter 2:4, 1 Peter 2:5.

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