Hey everyone! I wanted to thank you for taking your time out to tune into Table Church tonight! For some of you that noticed an immediate change in the location where I’m at this week, you are absolutely right! A family member in my family passed away on Sunday so I’m in Texas as we have an opportunity to celebrate her life.
Last week we got introduced to the 7 who were selected or appointed by the apostles to lead, to serve at the food bank. They were tasked with restoring order, structure where they could distribute the food evenly for the people who where there and their widows but also the people who were flooding into to this place who were looking for food. This allowed the apostles to continue to pray and to bring the word to people. We mentioned in our groups this week that it takes a village for this to work! We have to be willing to be a part of a team. Last week we also discussed how we will struggle. Struggle does not represent the absence of God moving in our life! It’s the result of being aligned right where God wants in our season of life.
With so much going on in our country, our cities, our communities and in our own lives, how can we pray for you? Take a moment, even it’s an unspoken request, and type it into the comments section and let us pray for you on the spot!
As we dive into Acts 7, we are going to continue on the journey of someone who we were introduced to in Acts 6 and his name was Stephen. So members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen could not stand up to the wisdom that Stephen brought to them because he was filled with the Holy Spirit. They started spreading rumors that Stephen was speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God. They had him arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin and that’s where we pick up today in Acts 7. We go from the shortest chapter in Acts (Acts 6) to the longest chapter in Acts (Acts 7).
So let me give you a quick synopsis here of Stephen and his speech to the Sanhedrin. What Stephen did was pick out four major times in the history of Israel that were dominated by four major characters. What Stephen did here was that he went from being a defendant in a trial to the prosecutor against the people who were accusing him.
We have to look at the room and realize it was basically 71 hard hearted men against Stephen at the Sanhedrin. But yet there was no fear in Stephen. You know why Stephen had no fear, let’s go back to Acts 6:8:
“Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people.”
Stephen had no fear because he was filled with the Holy Spirit. So what Stephen did was that he built his sermon on Jewish history, the leaders favorite subject. He knew how to get their attention!
In verses 1-8, we see Stephen get into a time of history with Abraham and the patriarchs.
Then in verses 9-44, Stephen talks about Joseph and his time in Egypt but also Moses with the exodus out of Egypt and the time in the wilderness.
Lastly we see in verses 45-50 that Stephen then talks about David and Solomon, and the establishment of the monarchy.
So why did Stephen give a history lesson the these Jewish leaders. Here are two key truths that Stephen was trying to bring to these leaders.
The presence of God has never been restricted to one place like the Temple
Religious leaders have a history of rejecting God’s truth and those who communicate it.
When we look at these four times in history, none of them was where God’s presence was limited to any particular place. The religious Jews in the Sanhedrin put their emphasis on the Temple and the Torah. They told people that to have any relationship with God, they must go into the temple because the presence of God was in the temple. What Stephen was doing here is that he was exalting the name of Jesus above the land, the Law and the temple. Let’s go back to Acts 7:2:
“2 To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran.”
“44 “Our ancestors had the tabernacle of the covenant law with them in the wilderness. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. 45 After receiving the tabernacle, our ancestors under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David,”
The reason these verses are important is that Stephen is proving is that God is not a God limited to their specific spot in the temple of Jerusalem. God goes with us anywhere and everywhere! Isn’t that what the book of Acts is all about? The Holy Spirit doesn’t just sit in one place and wait for everyone to come. He is urging us to go and make disciples in our communities, everywhere!
Acts 7:51-53: “51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him—53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
You look at Stephen in these 3 verses and Stephen brought fire! He brings this tone saying I have brought all this to you but I hope and pray you realize this was all out of love and you still have a chance for repentance! Throughout the book of Acts we see a response but this time, the response was not so positive.
Acts 7:54-60: “54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him,58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.”
They, these leaders response wasn’t one of repentance, it was out of rage. They mobbed and dragged Stephen out and stoned him. There are so many things we see at the end of Acts 7 that we will dive into in our community groups. We see the witnesses laid their coats in front of a man named Saul who approved of the killing of Stephen. This foreshadows this man that we see again in Acts 9. The last words of Stephen, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” This shows that Stephen’s heart was always aligned with the Holy Spirit.
It’s the death of Stephen that we see a turning point in the book of Acts. Stephen’s murder is the catalyst of the church spreading out and multiplying!
In summary, here are the few things that we see from Stephen’s message that we can take.
1. The presence of God is not restricted to one place. 2. No matter what we do, there is an opportunity for repentance. 3. As long as we have the Holy Spirit, we can speak confidently and fearfully in His Name