Stephen was polite and respectful toward the religions leaders (Acts 7:2), and then gave his "Reader's Digest Version" of the the history of the Jews. He began with the call of Abraham and the promise his seed would possess the land (Acts 7:2-5). Stephen reminded them of those things which transpired to cause the children of Israel to be in bondage to Egypt for 400 years (Acts 7:5-19). He recounted how God used Moses to free Israel from Egypt, to give them God's Law, and to lead them in the wilderness for forty years (Acts 7:20-45). He rehearsed how God allowed Israel to have an earthly king, and how Solomon was permitted to built the Temple in Jerusalem, a "dwelling place for God," even though the Creator of the Universe had all of heaven as His habitation (Acts 7:46-50).
Every thing was going fine until he called them "stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears," and that they did "always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye" (Acts 7:51). Then he accused them of killing the "Just One," a name everyone knew that could only apply to the "Anointed One," Israel's Messiah, also known as the Christ (Isa. 61:1; Matt. 16:16; Jn. 1:41; 4:25). He must have "struck a nerve," because they surrounded him and "gnashed on him with their teeth" (Acts 7:54). This was a Jewish colloquialism for they began "to chew him out."
As they were preparing to stone Stephen, the Lord allowed him to see God's throne room, with Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father (Acts 7:55-56). My pastor asked the question last night at Bible study: "Jesus is always described as being seated at the right hand of the Father; why do you suppose Stephen saw Him standing?" My first thought was, if He was anything like me, He was about to come down and "smite" a few guys. Fortunately, He is not like me! My pastor asked a second question: "What do you do when someone enters the room?" The answer is obvious; you stand out of respect! Jesus was prepared to welcome Stephen home! I do not know if He does that with every born again believer, but based upon Stephen's prayer for the forgiveness of his murderers, may have been the answer. I am sure Jesus was not the only One to celebrate his "graduation" (Ps. 116:15)!
Stephen's defense was not aimed at winning his accusers to the Lord, as he did not present the Gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4) which is the "power of God unto salvation" (Rom. 1:16). Peter, being filled with the Holy Spirit, preached a salvation message to the Jewish leaders in Acts 2:14-36, but here, Stephen also being filled with the Holy Spirit, was not led to speak of Christ's Resurrection. The Holy Spirit knew the outcome, and did not have Stephen "cast his pearls before the swine" (Matt. 7:6). Ironic isn't it? The self-righteous Jewish leaders, men who would have nothing to do with pork, actually qualified as "swine!"
The moral of the story:
There is a time for preaching, and there is a time for silence.
The only One who knows which is which is the Holy Spirit.