Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Theme Number 20 Stephen’s address to the Council in Jerusalem - His Martyrdom.

Stephen before the Council.
Acts 6:8 - 7:59
Stephen The name (grk stephanos) means crown or garland even wreath. The name is significant to Christians: according to the Book of Acts. Saint Stephen was a deacon who was stoned to death and is regarded as the first Christian martyr.
1.  He was a deacon but he did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Acts 6:8
2. He was opposed by the Synagogue of the Freedmen - Libertines ( as it was called) (A Greek-speaking synagogue in Jerusalem involved in instigating the dispute with Stephen (Acts 6:9 ; KJV “Synagogue of the Libertines”). The Greek syntax suggests two groups of disputants. The first consisted of the Synagogue of the Freedmen, composed of Cyrenians and Alexandrians (so NAS, TEV). It is possible that this first group has three parties, the freedmen (freed slaves), the Cyrenians, and Alexandrians. Some early versions have Libyans in place of “libertines,” giving three groups of North African Jews. The second party in the dispute was composed of Greek-speaking Jews of Asia and Cilicia. ) Holman Bible Dictionary. They could not withstand what he said.

3. They accused him of Blasphemy against Moses and against God. He was seized and brought before the Sanhedrin. All there looked intently at him and saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
4. To the charges against Him he answered,:

  • The Glory of God appeared to our father Abraham in Mesopotamia saying, “ Leave your country and your kindred and go to land I will show you.” He came to this country where he had no inheritance but God promised him and afterward his descendants would possess the land even though he had no child at that time. God told him that his descendants would be ill-treated and enslaved for four hundred years and he would bring them out and that they would worship God in this mountain. Gen 15:13-14. With the covenant of circumcision he fathered Isaac and circumcised him on the 8th day. Later Isaac fathered Jacov and he the 12 Patriarchs
  • The jealousy of the Twelve brothers caused them to sell Joseph into Egypt where he became the ruler over all Egypt and all his palace.
  • Jacov went down to Egypt when the famine was devastating the Land of Canaan. Jacov died as did the fathers and their bodies were carried back to be buried in Shechem in Canaan.
  • Another Pharoah arose who did not know Joseph and he tried kill the Israelites having their sons thrown into the Nile River. Moses was born at this time and was miraculously saved out of his basket floating on the Nile. He grew up as supposedly the Son of Pharoah’s daughter. After trying to deliver the Israelites by killing an Egyptian slaver, Moses fled to Midian where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons. After 40 years God appeared to him in the flames of the Burning Bush and said, “Take off your sandals, the place where you are standing is holy ground.”
  • God sent Moses back to Egypt after 40 years to be the Ruler and Judge of the Israelites. He lead the Israelites out with great signs and wonders in Egypt and at the Red Sea. He lead them in the desert for 40 years.
  • God promised to Him that he would raise up another prophet like Moses from among his own people. God gave him the law at Sinai.
  • The Israelites rejected God and asked Aaron to make them their own gods and to return to Egypt. They made and worshipped a calf idol.  Stephen then quoted Amos 5:25-27
  • Their fathers had the tabernacle in the wilderness which Joshua took with them when they conquered Canaan. The tabernacle remained until David who asked that he might build a permanent dwelling-place for the God of Jacov. It was Solomon who built the house for Him.
  • Stephen then said,” The Most High does not live in houses made by men quoting Isaiah 66:1-2. He divorced the presence of God from the temple site which they thought was holy.
  • He then accused the Council of always resisting the Holy Spirit being stiff-necked and uncircumcised of heart. He said that their fathers had killed those who prophesied the Coming of the Holy One - the Messiah. And now they had killed the Messiah Himself. They received the law that was put into effect by angels but they have disobeyed the law
  • The member  were furious and gnashed on him with their teeth. But he looked up to heaven and saw the Glory of God and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. “Look”, he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
  • At this they all yelled with a loud voice, covering their ears they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. They laid their clothes at the feet of the young man Saul as they did the dreadful deed. He was giving approval to the murder.
  • That Day a Great Persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem.
1. A deacon can be used mightily by God if he full of faith and the Holy Spirit like Stephen.
2. He knew the Historical background of his people and was will to tell them the truth about what had happened in the past. They had murdered the prophets and they had killed the Messiah Himself.
3. What a Man Stephen was. He was unafraid to tell the truth to these wicked men. He witnessed even though he lost His life for it.

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