Monday, May 16, 2022

2022.05.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 6:8–7:60

Read Acts 6:8–7:60

Questions from the Scripture text: With what is Stephen full, and what does he do (Acts 6:8)? From what Synagogue do some rise against him (Acts 6:9)? What can’t they resist (Acts 6:10)? What do they do instead (Acts 6:11-13)? What specific charge do they make in Acts 6:14? What does the council see in Acts 6:15? Who asks what (Acts 7:1)? With whom and where does Stephen begin, instead of Moses (Acts 7:2)? What had God said in Acts 7:3? What had God done in Acts 7:4? What didn’t God give Him (Acts 7:5a)? What did God promise (verse 5b)? When would this happen (Acts 7:6)? How (Acts 7:7)? Who did God give what in Acts 7:8? Who came from him? What did these men do (Acts 7:9)? Who was with him? What did God do for him (Acts 7:10)? Then what happened, and how were the persecutor fathers spared (Acts 7:11-16)? What time drew near in Acts 7:17? And what was done to God’s people (Acts 7:18-19)? But whom was God pleased to deliver, and how (Acts 7:21-22)? What did Moses do and think in Acts 7:23-25? But how was he treated for this (Acts 7:26-28)? With what result for Moses (Acts 7:29)? How much later is Acts 7:30? What happens then, and where (Acts 7:30-34)? What did God use Moses to do for the persecuted Israelites (Acts 7:35-36)? What promise of God had Moses prophesied in Acts 7:37? What else had Moses and the congregation received (Acts 7:38)? What did the Jews’ fathers do with Moses and with the Law (Acts 7:39)? What did they do in their hearts? What did they ask Aaron to do (Acts 7:40)? In what did they rejoice (Acts 7:41), despite pretense to the contrary (cf. Exodus 32:5–6)? How did God punish them for this (Acts 7:42)? As what did He consider their sacrifices, and to what did He give them over for it (Acts 7:43)? What had the fathers had (Acts 7:44)? And where did they bring it (Acts 7:45)? How long was it used? Why (Acts 7:46) and how (Acts 7:47) was the tabernacle replaced? But why was the temple not an end in itself (Acts 7:49-50)? What does Stephen call them in Acts 7:51? In what more important organs are they uncircumcised? Whom have they resisted, how often? Whom are they like in this? With what question does Acts 7:52? Whom had the Jews’ fathers killed? Now of Whom have these Jews become what? What did they receive by messengers (Acts 7:53)? What haven’t they done? What effect does the sermon have upon its hearers (Acts 7:54)? How do they act upon this conviction? With what was Stephen full (Acts 7:55)? Where did he gaze? What did He see? Whom did he see doing what? Whom did he tell about this (Acts 7:56)? What did he call Jesus? Where, specifically, did he say the Son of Man stood? With what five actions did they now respond to this (Acts 7:57-58)? What did Stephen ask Whom to do what to him in Acts 7:59? Then what did he do (Acts 7:60)? And what did he ask the Lord not to do? And then what?

As a portion of the apostolic ministry was now handed off to the new deacons, the Holy Spirit attended the deacons’ ministry with the same displays of power in wonder (Acts 6:8) and truth (Acts 6:9–10). Since most, if not all, of the deacons were of Hellenistic (Greek, cf. Acts 6:1) background, the synagogue mentioned in Acts 6:9 would have been their “home church” before joining the apostolic church. Since they couldn’t resist the wisdom and Spirit by which Stephen spoke (Acts 6:10), they convinced some false witnesses to say that Stephen spoke blasphemous words against Moses, God, Jerusalem, and the law. This is charged language, designed to result in Stephen’s execution, but as the council considered their prisoner, he bore such a look of fearlessness and holiness that it was as if he belonged to the heavenly world and could neither be affected by the attacks of men nor be thought guilty of such wickedness as they claimed.

The high priest proceeds to ask a short question, “Are these things so?” to which Stephen responds with a 52 verse counter-accusation. The basic answer was that from the call of Abraham until Christ, the called people of God are the ones who have been against God, His servants, and His ways.

Persecuted deliverer one: Joseph (Acts 7:1–16). The age of the patriarchs was considered by the Jews with great reverence. But sometimes “the good old days” aren’t so much good as merely old.  That “great time” from Abraham to Moses was primarily marked by trying to survive in Canaan and then the ten brothers abusing the one brother through whom God was going to save them.

Persecuted deliverer two: Moses (Acts 7:17–50). Now, Stephen moves on to the more specific accusation of being against Moses, against this holy place, and against the law. Moses’s first foray into delivering Israel (Acts 7:23-26) ended with him being rejected (Acts 7:27-28) and fleeing (Acts 7:29). But God still used the rejected ruler and deliverer (Acts 7:35) to bring them out (Acts 7:36).

But it was Moses who said to look for a Prophet like unto him, and that this Prophet they should listen to in place of Moses (Acts 7:37). Yes, there was a season for being governed by the right regulations that God gave by Moses (Acts 7:38), but Israel was rejecting those regulations from the time at the mountain (Acts 7:39-41), through the time in the wilderness (Acts 7:42, cf. Amos 5:25–27), until even the exile (Acts 7:43). And yes, through Moses, God gave a holy place (Acts 7:44-45)—but one which God Himself authorized to be replaced (Acts 7:46-47). But these places were always earthly and temporary, as Solomon himself prayed at the first replacement (Acts 7:48, cf. 1 Kings 8:27) and the prophets continued to say (Acts 7:49-50, cf. Isaiah 66:1–2). As Moses had taught them to expect (Acts 7:37), when the Christ came, He would put an end to the ceremonial law (cf. John 4:21–26, Hebrews 7:11–12). 

Persecuted deliverer three: the Just One (Acts 7:51–53). The promised prophet came, Jesus the Just One. But because Israel did not have the inward spiritual reality of the outward signs that God had given them (Acts 7:51), they committed the same errors as their spiritually dead ancestors. Whenever the Spirit spoke by a prophet, they persecuted him and even killed many (Acts 7:52). The law itself they never kept (Acts 7:53), and when the One Whom that law told them to expect and hear actually came, they betrayed and murdered Him instead (Acts 7:52).

The New Prophet, Holy Place, and Worship Law (Acts 7:54–57). The council and his accusers were plenty angry at this counter-accusation that it was actually they who were against Moses and God (Acts 7:54). But they turned murderers when Stephen told them about the Spirit’s giving him the vision of the glory of God (the new Holy Place), and Jesus (the new Prophet), standing at the right hand of God (leading the New Worship) in Acts 7:55-56

But note the final difference. They claimed to be the defenders of Moses, when they were the true rejectors of Moses. The final display of the fact that Stephen was righteous and they were wicked comes both in his faith and his forgivingness. He’s not afraid to die; like Jesus, he is content for his soul to depart and be with the Lord (Acts 7:59). And like Jesus, he’s eager to forgive, even praying for his murderers to be forgiven (Acts 7:60). Rather than the apostolic signs and wonders with which this account of Stephen began, his faith and this forgivingness are the marks of a true follower of God, and His Great Prophet Jesus, Who leads the new and forever-worship in glory!

Whose worship regulations should we follow? How do we do that? Where should we worship? How can we go there? Who is the Great Prophet? Whom does He use to address us with His Word? How does your heart respond when that Word steps on the toes of your religious traditions? In what ways do you see the eternity-prioritizing faith of Stephen (Jesus!) in yourself and your family? In what ways do you see the persecutor-forgiving forgivingness of Stephen (Jesus!) in yourself and your family?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for sending Your own Son as the last of the prophets. Thank You for His forever-priesthood and once-for-all sacrifice. Thank You for His leading our worship from His place in glory. Forgive us for treasuring traditions instead of listening to Jesus. Forgive us for being obsessed with the specialness of earthly places that are soon to be replaced and destroyed. Forgive us for clinging to this world instead of being content to have our souls depart and be with you. And forgive us for our unforgivingness, we ask, through Him in Whom we have been forgiven, even Jesus Christ, our Lord, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP110B “The LORD Has Spoken to My Lord” or TPH271 “Blessed Jesus, At Your Word”

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