Acts 7 contains Stephen’s speech before “the council” (Acts 6:12). In Stephen’s speech and the furor it incites, there is an interesting contrast involving the Trinity. If Stephen’s speech could be distilled to one word, I think it would have to be “rejection.” Abraham had to reject the comforts of his homeland to walk in faith (7:2-8). The patriarchs rejected Joseph (7:9). Israel rejected Moses (7:27, 35, 39). Israel rejected God (7:41). God rejected Israel (7:42). Israel rejected the tabernacle/temple (7:44-50). Israel rejected the law (7:53). Stephen’s stomach-punch is his declaration that he is not just talking about history, “As your fathers did, so do you” (7:51). Israel’s rejection of God was current and it was Trinitarian,
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” Acts 7:51-53
Israel resisted the Holy Spirit. They did this by rejecting the prophets: those men who spoke the words the Holy Spirit gave them. Israel rejected God the Father. They did this my betraying and murdering his Son: the Righteous One God promised to raise up (7:37). Israel’s rejection was complete. They spurned work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Stephen’s audience only confirms the condemnation by stoning Stephen in a furious rage.
Yet we are given a glorious demonstration that the death of his saints is precious in the Lord’s sight:
But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Acts 7:55-56
The role of the Holy Spirit in revelation has been alluded to several times already in Acts, but now he gives the most blessed vision of all. The Holy Spirit opens Stephen’s eyes to see the glory of God the Father. He sees God’s glory because no one has seen God. He sees God’s glory because he sees the Son of Man who had been glorified with the glory he had from before the world existed. So Stephen is that first soul given by the Father to the Son in answer to the Son’s prayer,
Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Just as he is to enter heaven, that paradise of love, Stephen’s eyes are opened to behold the love the Trinity has for each other. It is their love for each other that guarantees their goodness to us. Thanks be to God!