Monday, February 13, 2012

From Acts to Revelation: Part 16 - Stephen's Arrest


From Acts to Revelation
Part 16 – Stephen Arrested
Pastor Bruce A. Shields
House of Faith Church | www.PS127.org | www.TruthDigest.org


INTRODUCTION

Up to this point in the Book of Acts, we have seen;
- Christ Give instruction to the Apostles before His ascension
-The Apostles obeying Christ and waiting in Jerusalem for the Promise of the Father (Holy Spirit)
- They had their first church meeting, replacing Judas
- The Day of Pentecost came, and they received the Holy Spirit
- They preached the Gospel to ALL God fearing Jews who had come to Jerusalem from all over the world to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost
- Peter and John taught outside the Temple daily
- They healed a man cripple from birth
- They were arrested for this and warned to stop preaching Christ
- They continued to preach, and were arrested again
- They were beaten, warned and released
- They continued to preach the Gospel
- The church picked Deacons to take care of the congregational needs

And now, we see the continuing battle between Christ's church, and the Sanhedrin, which Jesus referred to as the synagogue of Satan, calling those who were part of it the children of Satan.

Today in scripture, we will read how the Sanhedrin continue to deny the teachings of Christ, refuse to accept the fulfillment of what the old Testament teaches will take place, and how they were willing to commit sin, breaking the command, “Thou shalt not bear false witness...” to try and stop the plan of God from saving mankind.

What we will also see in a few weeks as we get deeper into the word, is a story about a man named Saul, and how he, who was a high ranking member of the Sanhedrin, and an official of the Synagogue, whom Jesus called the synagogue of Satan, and Saul a child of Satan, turned his life around. Saul was transformed by meeting with Jesus Christ, and converted because of the power of God, from a murderous covenant breaker, to one of the most powerful followers of Christ we read about in the New Testament!

Thus teaching us, no matter how wicked a man is, the power of God is greater, and can transform any heart willing to accept Jesus as their Lord and savior.

SCRIPTURE READING

Acts 6:8-15  Stephen Arrested
8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, 10 but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.

 11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God.”

 12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”

 15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.


I.       THE ONGOING CONFLICT BETWEEN GOD AND MAN
1.      Who was Stephen?
1.      A man full of faith and power, who did great wonders and miracles among the people.

2.      He was knowledgeable in the Word, and no novice to Christ

2.      The Synagogue leading the attack against the Church
1.      The Synagogue of the Libertarians was a group of Jews who were once slaves in Rome to the Roman Empire, but were now free.

2.      They, along with other Synagogues, disputed with Stephen regularly.

3.      One of these were the Synagogue from Cilicia, of Tarsus, where Saul (who later becomes Paul) lived and served in the Synagogue persecuting followers of Jesus Christ.

3.      The Synagogue was out-matched
1.      We see the Sanhedrin resort to violence and sin again and again, and each time it is brought about because they are no match for the wisdom of the Holy Spirit speaking through the followers of Christ.

2.      With each argument, they are stopped by the Holy Spirit's reason.

3.      This frustrates a people who are unwilling to change.

4.      Since they are out-matched by God's reason, they decide they need to get rid of the messenger, since they are unable to stop the message.


II.   MAN'S PLAN OF ACTION AGAINST GOD'S PLAN
1.      This was not a fight of man against man, but man against God

2.      Gamaliel warned the Sanhedrin about fighting against God
1.      Acts 5:38-39 “If this is of mans doing, it will go away on its own. But if this of God, you are not fighting against men, but God, and you cannot stop it.”

3.      The Synagogue planned and schemed against Stephen
1.      They must have tired of arresting Peter and John, unable to refute their teachings, they singled out another...Stephen.

4.      They stirred up others with false witness
1.      Breaking one of their Laws they said they love so much, and were supposedly defending by attacking the followers of Christ, they bore false witness against Stephen, and stirred up the people.

2.      Stirring up the people, and the Elders, and the Scribes.

3.      They wanted the same support they got when they crucified Christ.

5.      The lies they told
1.      This man will not stop speaking blasphemy against this Holy Place, and the Law.
1.      Why did they play the blasphemy card?

2.      Because in scripture, it's the ONLY unforgivable sin.

3.      Did Stephen speak against the Temple?
1.      Yes, because the New Covenant is exactly that, a NEW agreement between God and man.

2.      The teaching of Christ does not negate the teaching in the Old Testament, but fulfills it!

4.      Did Stephen blaspheme against the Temple and the Old Covenant as well as the Law of Moses?
1.      No, fulfillment of prophecy is of God, and not blasphemous at all!

5.      They had more to say;
1.      “We heard him say Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place.”

2.      This was probably from Jesus' mount of Olives discourse in the book of Matthew.

3.      Matthew 24:1-2 1 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings.2 “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

4.      Jesus was prophesying of the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple which would take place approximately 35 years later...and it did!

6.      They also said they heard Stephen speak about Jesus shall change the customs which Moses delivered to them. (The Old Covenant)
1.      What they failed to understand is that the Old Covenant was never meant to save men, the Law ONLY brings death (Romans 7:5)

2.      The Old Covenant was only meant to serve as a covering for sin, until the coming of the Savior, the Messiah, who would remove the sin, and bring with Him salvation. This is the New Covenant that was prophesied of in the Old which was ALWAYS MEANT to replace the Old Covenant.


III.  THE SET UP
1.      They arrested Stephen

2.      They twisted his words and lied

3.      They were ignorant of the Word of God, and thus, they were going to die without salvation because they rejected the Truth.
1.      My people die because they lack knowledgeIsaiah 5:13

4.      And they looked upon Stephen, and saw his face as it had been a face of an angel.
1.      The glory of the Lord was shining, and they all saw it...but refused to accept it.



CONCLUSION
We see from scripture here that even when we live our lives full of power and faith as Stephen, we will still meet opposition in this world.

There are wicked powers at work, and they want to put a stop to anything doing with Christ.

We see Satan working in the Synagogue among the leaders and scribes, using them to do his bidding...and today we can see Satan at work in the church, among the leaders, trying to do the same thing as 2000 years ago, destroy the name of Christ.

Man may fight against God, but he will never win.

Don't resist God's love, kindness, forgiveness. Accept his free gift of Salvation, and receive the Holy Spirit, and God will transform you, not into the person you think you should be, but into the person that God created you to be!

If you are facing trials in your life like Stephen, come forward and I will pray with you.

If you are facing struggles with your faith like the Sanhedrin, or Saul, come forward and I will pray with you.

As it says in James 5, if any among you are sick, let the Elders lay hands on you, anoint you with oil and pray for you so that you may become well.