Sunday, February 19, 2012

From Acts to Revelation: Part 17 - Stephen's Defense

From Acts to Revelation
Part 17 – Stephen's Defense
Pastor Bruce A. Shields
House of Faith Church | |

Up to this point in the Book of Acts, we have seen;

ñ Jesus gave the Apostles their command before His ascension
ñ They obeyed, returning to Jerusalem
ñ They replaced Judas, and waited for the promise
ñ The Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost
ñ The Church began
ñ Peter & John were preaching and teaching in front of the temple daily
ñ They healed a man lame from birth
ñ The Sanhedrin became jealous and angry and arrested them
ñ They warned them to stop preaching and teaching about Jesus
ñ They continued, and were arrested again, and beaten
ñ They continued and the Church grew
ñ They appointed Deacons to help see to the Disciples needs

Last week we see the Sanhedrin move their focus from Peter and John to Stephen.

They had challenged Stephen publicly on numerous occasions to no avail. Since they could not stop him theologically, they decided to do what they had done when they could not silence Jesus, so they made up charges against Stephen, and arrested him for trial.

Once arrested, they repeated the false charges to the Sanhedrin, while Stephen stood silently before them.


Acts 7:1-53  Stephen's Defense

1.      Acts 6:11-12 “Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God.” So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin.”
1.      because they could not stop the Church from a Theological stand point, unable to out-match the Holy Spirit which now dwells in believers, they decided to trump up charges and have them killed, as they did with Christ.

2.      Acts 6:13a  “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place...”
1.      Did the Apostles preach against the holy temple?
2.      In a matter of speaking, yes.
3.      Just as Jesus did, because man had made the “place” above God.
4.      But Stephen will correct them at the end of Chapter 7 when he charges them, not with false accusations as they did, but with prophetic charges by God.

3.      Acts 6:13b  “...and against the law.”
1.      Did Stephen speak against the Law?

2.      Yes, just as Jesus did, teaching that the Law was the tool of God to bring attention of man to his sin, so that he would seek a savior, Jesus Christ. As Jesus said, He did not come to do away with the Law, but to fulfill it!

4.      Acts 6:14a “For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place ...”
1.      This is a distortion of the truth, when the Law was fulfilled in Christ, the need for the Temple, priests, sacrifices, etc, would exist no more.  Because of Jesus and His perfect sacrifice, man could once again have a relationship with God, and no longer need to cover his sin, because Christ removed it, no longer needing a high priest to meet with God, because now Jesus is our High Priest, no longer needed the Temple, because we could now meet with God anywhere, because we have the Holy Spirit in us.

5.      Acts 6:14b “...and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
1.      Yes, Stephen once again was a good minister, preaching and teaching what Jesus had taught. Thank God there is no longer a need for the customs handed down by Moses, through the New Covenant between man and God, we can once again have relationship with God through the perfect sacrifice of  Jesus christ.

1.      Acts 7:1-53 records Stephen's defense
1.      and answer against the charges and false imprisonment by these illegitimate self-appointed rulers of Israel.

2.      Stephen begins from the beginning
1.      Speaking of God appearing to Abraham to establish a covenant with him and his future generations. This is the foundation of Judaism. The Sanhedrin listened, because everything Stephen said was true, and accurate with the Torah.

3.      Stephen continues
1.      Reciting the records of the lineage of covenant and promise from Abraham to the building of the Temple, establishing, not only his understanding, but calling into record these facts before speaking on his own position.

4.      Once he established the foundation
1.      He spoke prophecy about Israel, which is recorded in the Torah and indisputable by the Sanhedrin.

2.      The Truth does not need be can always stand on its own.

1.      First, Stephen made clear God's position about the temple
1.      The prophet Isaiah says, “The Most High dwells not in the Temple made with hands. Heaven is My Throne, and the earth My footstool. What house will you build for me, says the Lord. What is My place of rest? Has not My Hands made al these things?”
2.      The modern church needs to remember this lesson from scripture. The Church is not a building where God dwells, rather a meeting place for believer's in whom God dwells to meet and build and strengthen one-another with the Spiritual Gifts.

2.      Stephen then continues by turning the tables.
1.      Instead of the one being judged with trumped up charges, he uses the Torah to recite God's charges against Israel.

3.      Acts 7:51-5351 “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your fathers 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 put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.”

1.      Charge 1 - Circumcision
1.      Galatians 5:2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised (physically), Christ shall profit you nothing.”

2.      Romans 2:28-29 28 A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.”

3.      The Israelites failed to see that circumcision was an outward expression of an inward Spiritual Truth, just as water baptism, prayer of salvation, communion, etc...It's not the outward act that accomplishes anything, but the inward, which is followed by an outward expression to show the world what has taken place inwardly.

2.      Charge 2 - You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!
1.      Everything carried out by God on Earth is through the person and Office of the Holy Spirit.

2.      To resist Him is to resist God, for He is God.
3.      They resisted Him by resisting the Plan of God, Jesus Christ.

3.      Charge 3 – Which if the prophets have your fathers not persecuted?
1.      Jesus said the same thing in Matthew 5:12, Matthew 23:30-31; Matthew 23:34-37; and in Luke 13:33-34

2.      “They have killed them for showing the coming of Christ”

4.      Charge 4 – “You are the betrayers and murderers”

5.      Charge 5 - “You received the Law, and have not kept it!”

The lies and twisting of the Truth Jesus taught to Stephen brought about false charges by the Sanhedrin against him.

When asked by the High Priest if these charges were true, Stephen spoke of the history of the Israelites. He spoke of how the leaders not only consistently resisted the Holy Spirit, but also kill any Prophet God sends to teach them about His Will and His Way, which was the coming of Jesus Christ to mend relationship with God, broken by sin.

 Apply this to our lives today, right now.

Is your relationship with God “right” at the moment?

How would you stand Stephen’s charges against the Sanhedrin?
·        Have you circumcised your heart to follow the Lord, making an inward change to make Jesus your Lord and Savior?
·        Or are you following your old ways, resisting the Holy Spirit, not allowing Him to do a work in you?
·        Are you persecuting those who share the Gospel with you?
·        Do not betray the Lord who saves you, you have received Christ, Keep Him!