Acts 6:8 “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.”
The message the Lord gave Stephen when he stood among the people, caused a dispute in the synagogue so the priests and scribes came upon him and brought him to the counsel.
Acts 6:12 “And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon [him], and caught [him], and brought [him] to the council,
13 “And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law:
14 “For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.
15 “And all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.”
Acts 7:1 “Then said the high priest, Are these things so?
2 “And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran,
3 “And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.
4 “Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell. 5 “And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not [so much as] to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession and to his seed after him, when [as yet] he had no child.”
God chose Abraham, one man out of many people. God saved him because of his faith and his obedience. Abraham didn’t argue with God; but he got up and moved out of the country and moved into the area that the Lord had told him to move to. God promised Him an inheritance; but he didn’t have any children.
6 “And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat [them] evil four hundred years.”
What is happening? Stephen is telling the story to the people of Israel about what happened to Abraham. He was telling them because of the draught, and they had no food. They had gone into Egypt where they stayed for 400 years. They were treated very badly.
7 “And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place.
8 “And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so [Abraham] begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac [begat] Jacob; and Jacob [begat] the twelve patriarchs.”
God promised Abraham a son and Isaac was that child of promise and through this son Isaac, Jesus Christ was going to be born. Isaac was a miracle; because he was born by Sarai when she was past child bearing age. Isaac was a miracle from God. How many of you know what happened to Joseph? His brothers were jealous and sold him to a caravan from India and they sold him into slavery in Egypt. They never expected to see him alive; but God took care of Joseph in Egypt; because He knew Isaac’s family would end up there because of the famine in their land.
The king had a dream and God gave Joseph the interpretation. There was going to be a famine in Egypt and they would have seven years of plenty and then seven years of drought. God prepared the way by sending Joseph ahead of time and giving him favor with Pharaoh who placed him over the management of the food. The Lord told Joseph what to do and the king listened to him and heard what he had to say. If they would take those 7 good years and save everything, they would have food when the famine comes. So that’s what Joseph did and they gave him charge over this huge supply of food.
During the famine Joseph’s family heard there was food in Egypt and Isaac sent his brothers to Egypt to find something to eat. Did Joseph recognize him? He knew who they were. God delivered him from all of his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh who made him Governor over Egypt and his house.
Acts 7:11 “Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance.
12 “But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first.
13 “And at the second [time] Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph’s kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.
14 “Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to [him], and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.”
There wasn’t very many of them was there? They lived 400 hundred years in Egypt under the rule of Egyptians, a very cruel rule. The people grew and multiplied in Egypt until another king arose which didn’t know Joseph.
Acts 7:19 “The same dealt subtly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live.”
How many of you remember the story of when Moses was born and the king had sent out a decree that all their male children were going to be killed? We found that after Joseph died and after the king that honored Joseph was also dead, then the children of Israel were treated very badly by Egypt. Even though they were working them very hard, God had blessed them under the heavy bondage.
God had in mind a deliverer and when Moses was born he was protected by the Lord. He was to have been killed by the Egyptians with the other male children; but God used Pharaoh’s daughter to rescue him. She took him as her own, and hired his own mother to come and take care of him. See how the Lord worked it to take care of him?
Acts 7:22 “And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.”
Let’s go back to Moses in the wilderness. He said to the Lord that he couldn’t speak, because he was afraid. God didn’t really want Aaron to be a spokesman, for Moses had been trained; he could adequately speak. Moses didn’t feel he was capable to do it. Against that which God would have done he sent Aaron with him to be a spokesman. God would have received the greater glory if Moses would have stood alone and done what God had told him to do.
Stephen was telling the whole story of what had happened to the children of Israel down in Egypt. One day, when Moses was forty years old, he wanted to go back to his brethren and thought they would understand; but they didn’t. They told him that he killed an Egyptian and they asked him if he was going to kill them too.
Moses knew that he had to flee from Egypt so at the age of forty he left Egypt and went into the land of Median where he lived for forty years. That made Moses eighty years of age. Moses knew when he was in Egypt he was going to be used by God as a deliverer of Israel. He was getting ready to accept himself as a deliverer for them; but God sent him away. After forty years of God’s training in Midian he was sent back to Egypt to lead His people out.
Stephen is telling them this story; because Stephen is one of their people. These scribes and Pharisees should know that he wasn’t against God; neither was he trying to destroy the laws of Moses. He did know what he was talking about and told this story of what God did for him.
Acts 7:34 “I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt.
35 “This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send [to be] a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush.
36 “He brought them out, after that he had shewed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years.
37 “This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.
38 “This is he that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake
to him in the mount Sina, and [with] our fathers: who received the lively oracles to
give unto us:
39 “To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust [him] from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt,
40 “Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us:”
Here was another reason that God wanted Moses because here was Aaron and his heart wasn’t pure before God. If it had been pure before God, he would never have made idols for the children of Israel. They said who is this Moses? They set up idols! They took all the gold and silver and made idols with it.
Stephen wasn’t telling them something that they didn’t know. He was bringing it to their mind that this was so. Who was this prophet that was raised up? Let me show you here: Jesus was that prophet. He was raised up by God, as the son of man, to speak forth the words of God. He goes on and he says more. “Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god.”
Acts 7:44 “Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.
45 “Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David; 46 “Who found favor before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob. 47 “But Solomon built him an house.
48 “Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, 49 “Heaven [is] my throne, and earth [is] my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what [is] the place of my rest?
50 “Hath not my hand made all these things?
51 “Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers [did], so [do] ye.”
This is the thing that got him in trouble. They didn’t want to hear it; because they were guilty of it.
52 “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which shewed before the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:
53 “Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept [it].
54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with [their] teeth.”
Just think about it. They gnashed Him with their teeth, literally!
55 “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven…”
Then they knew what he looked like when they started talking to him. He looked like an angel standing there. With God’s glory on him the words that he spoke was spoken by the Holy Ghost and he stood there unafraid even when they began to gnash upon him.
55 “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
56 “And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”
Now He could have said he saw the Son of God, but He did not say it. Why did He say the Son of man? Because Jesus can only redeem us and could only forgive our sins as He died for us as the Son of man. Even though He was the Son of God, He came to us as a little baby. He had human flesh and that is the son of man. So only a sinless man could redeem men out of the hand of Satan and bring them back to God. So He saw him as the son of man with the Father. When he told them this of course, they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,
Actsv7:58 “And cast [him] out of the city, and stoned [him]: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.
59 “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon [God], and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
60 “And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Two things happened. Did he die from the stoning? No he didn’t. “Jesus, receive my spirit. Lay not this sin to their charge.” When he said this he fell asleep. He didn’t feel any pain or the stoning or their biting. He was filled with the glory of God. He gave his spirit to Jesus. Then he said, “Don’t look at this sin.” Why?
There was a young man in that crowd and they laid the clothes of Stephen down at his feet. Had that sin been laid at their charge Paul or Saul probably would never have come out to be one of the greatest apostles in the kingdom of God. This man Saul who had persecuted the Christians was the one that had caused Peter to be stoned. The word that Stephen spoke caused the sin not to be charged against them; because out of that group was going to come this man Paul.
He became a mighty man of God and was used mightily by Him. The sin was not held against him. It was Stephen’s death and the glory and presence of God and the very words that he spoke, I’m sure, that pierced the heart of Saul as he was there and saw the whole thing.
Stephen was the first martyr for the cause of Christ who became a very powerful man of God. The word says that Stephen was full of the Holy Ghost and did many signs and wonders among the people. He was a man of great faith and of great wisdom. And yet God chose that he should be the first martyr; the first one that laid his life down for the cause of Jesus Christ.
Out of that death came the apostle Paul; who was one of the greatest of all of the apostles and his life was given wholly unto Jesus and after dedicating his life he gave us the word of God that is so powerful; the revelation of Jesus Christ that even now as we accept Jesus in our heart, He comes to live in us by His spirit. This same Jesus that lifted up Paul and changed his life is lifting us up by the same Spirit of God and changing our hearts so that God can live in us.
He said that God can’t live in these temples made by man; our temples aren’t made by man, they were made by God. Our bodies were made by Him; our bodies, our flesh and bone and blood. But He made our spiritual bodies, by the Spirit; an act of God to never die.
He made man never to die. Satan came and Adam and Eve sinned and thereby death came to man. Because of that sin God cut that spirit from us instantly and made our symptoms to die and forever go to hell. Jesus came as the son of man to redeem mankind back to the Father and bring us back to Him; that God, once more, could dwell within.
Rev. Agnes I Numer