Monday, February 15, 2016

Stephen - the First Christian Martyr

Stephen - the first person to die for the faith - was one of the 7 chosen by the Apostles

Acts 6:7-7:2 - People other than the apostles were working miracles at this time - not record of what in scripture, but just notes that they did.

Must understand that the Jews valued above ALL things:  #1 - the land, ie.  Jerusalem and surrounding
                                                                                       #2 - the Law
                                                                                       #3 - the Temple

Stephen's Sermon = 1)  condensed history of God's dealings with Israel
                               2)  a review of their repeated rejection and rebellion (resistance)

#1.  Concerning the History -- Note the Charge  Acts 6:13-14

Jews:  "God has given us this Land, this Law, this Temple."
Stephen:  "Yes.  But, these are a means to an end .... NOT the end itself!!!"

Illustration: - a train = the vehicle, means of traveling to a destination.
                  a train is NOT THE DESTINATION - it is a means, a tool to get you there.

SO, the Land, the Law, the Temple = vehicles to carry Israel where God wanted them to go ... ie:  to Christ!!

#2.  Concerning the rejection/Rebellion

Israel rejected Joseph.... who was to be their deliverer.
Israel rejected Moses... who was to be their deliverer.
and now you've rejected Jesus......the Christ/Deliverer  (The Messiah)
They have a history of rejecting the deliverers that God sends

Conclusion:  Acts 7:51-53

Response: - acts 7:54-60, 8:1 - now he has committed blasphemy because he attributed the 'right hand of God' position to Jesus

Outcome:    Acts 8:1-4
1)  persecution
2)  dispersion
3)  evangelism - they took the Word with them

The text = a Narrative, not Instruction
Nevertheless = recorded for our Instruction...... So:

#1.  don't let the church become your destination.
On one hand, it is VERY important --> (HIS church, HIS bride, HIS purchase, therefore you should gather, support, serve
However, the church is NOT the Goal - it's the vehicle, the tool.  It's about relationship with God, grow - develop, bring others
If going to church, working in the church, teaching a class, is ALL there is, you may be worshiping the church!

#2.  Recognize that with privilege comes responsibility  Acts 7:53 - You!!???
Compare the US - 21st. century Americans!!!  - We are PRIVILEGED beyond any others.  Unlimited access to the Word, churches readily accessible, top 10% of the wealthiest people in the world, freedom to worship, etc.

#3.  Be warned:  to be used of God is not always pleasant.  Example:  Stephen.
Isa. 6:8-12    hence  "service" - work, serving, not always enjoyable
Heb. 12:2 - "endured"

#4.  (but) remember:  God can (and will) use bad things to accomplish good!
Example:  Stephen martyred --> dispersion --> evangelism --> Phillip --> Saul!!
Rom. 8:28
Tertullian, 2nd. century church father, made this statement:  "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church."

#5.  True faith is portable   Acts 8:4 - doesn't stop at a particular age, when you get tired, ticked off, retirement, etc.  It continues until the end.

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