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AF-S103-010106 Acts 7

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 Alêtheia Christian Fellowship, January 1, 2006. Sermon #103, Acts "J."

One of the greatest stories in the entire Bible; Stephen preaches the longest sermon in the New Testament and then his story culminates in a death that graphically illustrates the diametric juxtaposition between Godly perspective and the perspective of humanity. As a direct result of these events Christianity moves from a city in Palestine to the four corners of the world.

We've already been introduced to the characters and the setting in the first few chapters.

1- Stephen is a Jew who by tradition came from Alexandria and studied under Gamaliel along with Saul/Paul. 6:3 - men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, 6:5 - Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, Ste>fanov, victor's crown.

2- The Hellenistic Jews are those that are extremely pius and have made great sacrifice to come to Jerusalem in general and to worship in the Temple in particular. They necessarily believe that there is no better place or they wouldn't be there in the first place! Why? they want to be there when the promised Messiah arrives. Pentecost & Widows

3- The Jewish leadership is the mafia style Sadducees and the experts in the law, the Pharisees led by Gamaliel.

4- Ultimately, it is the people as a whole who hold power and at some level the leadership and even Rome understand this fact.

Acts 6:8-7:1 ~ And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians (Libya) and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.” And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came up to him and dragged him away and brought him before the Council. They put forward false witnesses who said, “This man incessantly speaks against this holy place and the Law; for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us.” And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel. The high priest said, “Are these things so?”

Like Moses who they venerate, Stephen has been in the very presence of God. They are completely oblivious to the completely obvious; why?

Angels are not whimps!

Among others, perhaps, who told Luke what Stephen's face was like?

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Preface__________________......

History for a point!

Stephen’s message has a geographical orientation. The charge against him was that he spoke against “this holy place.”

Stephen’s message has a continual rejection of God by His people.

In spite of the fact that Stephen’s sermon had a very strong message of divine judgment, it was motivated by a loving and gracious spirit. He was not an “angry young preacher,” a hostile fellow belching forth the fire of hell. He was a man who loved his listeners, who prayed for their forgiveness and salvation. Paul was a delayed answer to this prayer. How the words and actions of Stephen must have stuck with Paul and even encouraged him in his hours of danger as he often brushed with death.

The charges against Stephen were false in the sense that they were not completely accurate.

But the coming of Jesus did mean that radical changes had come and that since the Law of Moses was fulfilled in Christ, Jesus told the woman at the well that worship was no longer a matter of being in the “right place” but a matter of the “right person.” Thus, those who were to worship “in spirit and in truth” must worship the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. And so the temple was set aside as the only place of worship, and the customs of Moses were being altered.

As Stephen led his accusers on their trek through the history of Israel, he was seeking to demonstrate two fundamental concepts: (1) The history of Israel bears out the fact that much of the life of the Jews was spent outside of the land; and, (2) that for all their smug self-righteousness, Israel had always shown themselves to be rebels against Moses and against the Law which was given through him.

Acts 7:2-8 ~ And he said, “Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.’ “Then he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. From there, after his father died, God had him move to this country in which you are now living. “But He gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground, and yet, even when he had no child, He promised that He would give it to him as a possession, and to his descendants after him. “But God spoke to this effect, that his descendants would be aliens in a foreign land, and that they would be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years.

 “‘And whatever nation to which they will be in bondage I Myself will judge,’ said God, ‘And after that they will come out and serve Me in this place.’ “And He gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs.

Acts 7:9-16 ~ “The patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt. Yet God was with him, and rescued him from all his afflictions, and granted him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he made him governor over Egypt and all his household.

“Now a famine came over all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction with it, and our fathers could find no food. “But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers there the first time. “On the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family was disclosed to Pharaoh. “Then Joseph sent word and invited Jacob his father and all his relatives to come to him, seventy-five persons in all. “And Jacob went down to Egypt and there he and our fathers died. “From there they were removed to Shechem and laid in the tomb which Abraham had purchased for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.

Acts 7:17-24 ~ “But as the time of the promise was approaching which God had assured to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt, until there arose another king over Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph. “It was he who took shrewd advantage of our race and mistreated our fathers so that they would expose their infants and they would not survive. “It was at this time that Moses was born; and he was lovely in the sight of God, and he was nurtured three months in his father’s home. “And after he had been set outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him away and nurtured him as her own son. “Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds. “But when he was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel. “And when he saw one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian. 

Acts 7:25-32 ~ “And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but they did not understand. “On the following day he appeared to them as they were fighting together, and he tried to reconcile them in peace, saying, ‘Men, you are brethren, why do you injure one another?’ “But the one who was injuring his neighbor pushed him away, saying,

‘Who made you a ruler and judge over us? ‘You do not mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday, do you?’ “At this remark, Moses fled and became an alien in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons. “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning thorn bush. “When Moses saw it, he marveled at the sight; and as he approached to look more closely, there came the voice of the Lord: ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.’ Moses shook with fear and would not venture to look. 

Acts 7:33-38 ~ “But the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground

‘I have certainly seen the oppression of My people in Egypt and have heard their groans, and I have come down to rescue them; come now, and I will send you to Egypt.’ “This Moses whom they disowned, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’ is the one whom God sent to be both a ruler and a deliverer with the help of the angel who appeared to him in the thorn bush. “This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in the land of Egypt and in the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. “This is the Moses who said to the sons of Israel, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren.’ “This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you.

Acts 7:39-45 ~ “Our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to him, but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt, Saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us; for this Moses who led us out of the land of Egypt—we do not know what happened to him.’ 

“At that time they made a calf and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. “But God turned away and delivered them up to serve the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets,

‘It was not to Me that you offered victims and sacrifices forty years in the wilderness, was it, O house of Israel? 

You also took along the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of the god Rompha, the images which you made to worship. I also will remove you beyond Babylon.’ “Our fathers had the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness, just as He who spoke to Moses directed him to make it according to the pattern which he had seen. “And having received it in their turn, our fathers brought it in with Joshua upon dispossessing the nations whom God drove out before our fathers, until the time of David. 

Acts 7:46-54 ~David found favor in God’s sight, and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. “But it was Solomon who built a house for Him. 

However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says: ‘Heaven is My throne, And earth is the footstool of My feet; What kind of house will you build for Me?’ says the Lord, ‘Or what place is there for My repose? ‘Was it not My hand which made all these things?’

~ ~ ~ ~ “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did

“Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.”

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. 

Acts7:55-8:3a ~ But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently 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 up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep. Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church….

The immediate effect = Acts 8:4 ~ Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. 

Subsequent effect = 1 Corinthians 15:9-10 ~ For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 

Why did they stone him?

Luke 22:69 “But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” 70And they all said, “Are You the Son of God, then?” And He said to them, “Yes, I am.” 71Then they said, “What further need do we have of testimony? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.”

If Jesus is who He said He was….

They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become

performing wonders and signs (Also his face shown) “This is the Moses who said to the sons of Israel, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren.’ (To be rejected?) living oracles to pass on to you. Our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to him, but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt

Abraham in Mesopotamia left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran.

Joseph and sold him into Egypt

Jacob went down to Egypt and there he and our fathers died reburied in Shechem.

Moses was educated by Egyptians - fled to the land of Midian - Mount Sinai is holy ground - sent back to Egypt

People in the desert for 40 years then Babylon

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Patriarchs became jealous of Joseph

They would expose their infants and they would not survive

He pushed him away, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and judge

This Moses whom they disowned performing wonders and signs (Also his face shown) “This is the Moses who said to the sons of Israel, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren.’ (To be rejected?) living oracles to pass on to you.

Our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to him, but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt

idol, and were rejoicing in the works of their hands the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness, “However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands;

doing just as your fathers did. Guilty of their sins, to reject New covenant is to reject the Old.

What an illustration we have here of “dying grace.” The death of Stephen can rightly be called, “Spirit-filled dying.” It was a peaceful death, even though the surroundings and the circumstances were violent and chaotic

Stephen, like his Savior, called upon God to receive his Spirit. His last words, like those of Jesus, were words of compassion. He prayed for the forgiveness of those who had sinned by taking his life. The salvation of Saul, while it would be at a later time, was, I believe, an answer to this prayer.

Stephen had a grasp of the Scriptures, as a whole, and in large portions. While the scribes and Pharisees “strained the gnats” and focused on the obscure points, on the unknown, Stephen focused on the “camels”

In previous sermons in Acts, many have been saved. Here (and for the first time), the preacher is put to death. God prospers some sermons in the salvation of many, but He also uses sermons for other purposes, as here. Those who are saved are not the audience of Stephen, but the Samaritans and Gentiles who will be saved because of the persecution resulting from Stephen’s death. Without knowing it, these Jews are propelling the gospel beyond Jerusalem to the very places from which they have come.

Tertullian, [Father of the Latin Church, 160-220 Carthage, attack on Pope Callistus along with anti-pope, Hippolytus, in 202 A.D. (a disciple of Irenaeus, tradition for December 25th, still made a saint)]

"They should have known that he was God. His patience should have proved that to them."

"Kill us, torture us, condemn us, grind us to the dust…. The more you mow us down the more we grow, the seed is the blood of Christians."

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