Keith Hunt - Bible Story, NT - Chapter Fifty-one: Acts Six and Seven - Death of Stephen   Restitution of All Things
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New Testament Bible
Story

Chapter Fifty-one:

Acts Six and Seven - Death of Stephen


                      THE BOOK OF ACTS 
                             AND
                      RELATED EPISTLES

                 ACTS chapters Six and Seven


SERVANTS FOR PHYSICAL ADMINISTRATION CHOSEN

     The Church of God had mushroomed rapidly in those early
months since the feast of Pentecost and the physical
administration of helping all the people that needed food
and money was getting harder and harder for the apostles to take
care of. It got so out of hand for them that those of Greek
background and upbringing complained against those of Hebrew
background and culture, because they said the widows among them
were getting neglected, in physical matters.
     So the twelve apostles called the multitude of disciples
together for an open meeting, and said to them:

     "It is not reasonable that we should leave off the study and
     teaching of the word of God to attend to the administration
     of such things like placing food on tables for people to
     eat. So we want you brethren to pick out from among
     yourselves SEVEN men of honest business workings and having
     respect from all of you, who are also filled deeply with the
     Holy Spirit, and who are known to have wisdom. Then we
     apostles will appoint and set them over this physical
     administrative matter of making sure everyone receives
     what physical things they need. We apostles can then devote
     ourselves to prayer and study and teaching of the word of
     God."

     The multitude of disciples were very pleased with what the
apostles suggested be done to so things could be at peace between
all of them. They chose, Stephen, a man full of faith and the
Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon,
and Parmenus, and Nicolas a convert at first to Judaism, from
Antioch. They set those seven men before the apostles: and when
the apostles prayed, they laid hands on them, to dedicate them to
the function of administrating physical needs to the brethren. 
     This was a correct and wise administrative department that
was created by the apostles, in fact it was so beneficial that
Luke records for us that the word of God increased even more, and
the number of disciples multiplied in Jerusalem GREATLY, even a
part of the Jewish priesthood became converts and were obedient
to "the faith" (Acts 6: 1-7).

     We need to note here that it is right and proper for
physical administration functions to be created in the Church of
God if there is a need for such functions. We need to note the
basic qualifications required to function in that department
within the Church. We need to note that the members of the
congregation have a very important part to play in choosing the
persons for this function. We also note that it is made very
clear the spiritual leaders (more than one as we find in this
example) have the final approval, it is recorded as "whom we"
(that is the apostles or spiritual leaders) "may appoint over
this business." And it is the spiritual leaders who prayed and
laid hands on them. We must note as well that prayer and the
laying of hands was performed in appointing the chosen persons to
this administration duty.
     And we must not forget that this function was first and
foremost a physical function, for the handling of money, food,
and all the physical things that God's children were in need of.
It was not a spiritual function that they were appointed to, but
a function of "serving tables." But that does not imply that
those chosen could not be used for spiritual matters IF God so
decided. After all the bottom line is that God decides who he
will use for spiritual matters, yet the first and original main
intent in choosing those seven men was not to be spiritual
leaders but to administrate correctly and wisely the physical
matters of the Church of God. But we shall see immediately that
the Lord did use some of those men in a mighty way teach His word
and proclaim Jesus as the Savoir and Messiah.

     There is nothing here to indicate anything "special" about
choosing seven person. It would seem that the apostles thought
seven would be what was needed to carry out this function they
were being chosen for, with the number of disciples in Jerusalem
being as many as they were.  The number chosen could be any
number that was needed to administer the physical matters of any
given congregation at any given time.

     One more lesson comes out in this example. The main function
and duty for the spiritual leaders of a congregation is NOT to be
working hard at physical matters within a congregation, but to be
mainly having lots of time to be able to pray and study and teach
the word of God.

STEPHEN IS USED MIGHTILY BY GOD

     The power that Stephen had through faith was very great
indeed, he did many mighty wonders and miracles, but we are not
told any specific ones, just that he did them.
     Certain ones from different synagogues throughout the Roman
Empire, who had come to Jerusalem to observe the feast of
Pentecost and had not yet returned home because of everything the
new "Christian" sect was doing and saying, had disputation
with Stephen over the word of God and Stephen's theological
teaching. But they were not able to resist the wisdom and the
spirit by which he taught. so they hired people who said
they heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against
God. Then they stirred up the people, some of the elders of the
people, some of the scribes, and then had enough power to send
the Temple guards to arrest him and bring him before the
Jewish Sanhedrin council.
     As Stephen stood before the council, false witnesses came
forth and said, "This man does not cease but to speak blasphemous
words against this holy place and the law of Moses. For we have
heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this
place, and shall change the rites which Moses delivered to us."
     When all in the council looked at Stephen when these charges
were uttered, they beheld his face as it was the face of an
angel. We are not told how the face of an angel looks when
talking to men, but it obviously looked much more radiant and
striking than does a normal human face. Probably God was
answering the accusations from those false witnesses, in such a
way as to tell them what Stephen was being accused of was
a huge bunch of garbage (Acts 6:8-15).

     The High Priest turned to Stephen and said, "Are these
things spoken of you true?" Now, Stephen had the chance to speak,
and from what he went on to say, they certainly allowed him to
say his mind. He preached somewhat of a sermon to them, saying:

     "Men and brethren and fathers, listen to me; The God of
     glory appeared to our father Abraham, when he was in
     Mesopotamia, (now called Iraq) before he lived in Charran
     (Haran, a city in what is now called Syria). And God said to
     him, 'Get you out of your country, and from your relatives,
     and go into the land which I will show you.' And so he came
     out of the land of the Chaldeans, and dwelt in Haran; and
     from there, when his father was dead, he moved into this
     land, where you now live. God gave him no inheritance in it,
     no, not so much as a square foot; yet God had promised that
     he would give it to him for a possession, and to his
     offspring after him, when as up to that time he had no
     children, not one. The Lord had spoken to him and told him
     that his offspring would live in a strange land; and that
     they would come under bondage, and much evil would they
     experience for four hundred years. The nation that would put
     them under bondage God said He would punish, and then
     Abraham's offspring would come out of that land, and serve
     the Eternal God in the land where you now live. 
     And He gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham
     had a son calledIsaac, and circumcised him the eighth day;
     and Isaac had a son called Jacob;and Jacob had the twelve
     sons who became the patriarchs. And they were moved with
     envy, and sold Joseph their brother into Egypt; but God was
     with him, and  delivered him out of his troubles and
     afflictions. He gave him favor and wisdom in the presence of
     Pharaoh king of Egypt, who eventually made him governor over
     Egypt as well as his own household.
     Now there came a famine over all the land of Egypt and
     Canaan, and great affliction there was, our fathers could
     not find enough food to live on. But when Jacob heard there
     was grain in Egypt he sent his sons, our fathers, out to
     seek favor in egypt. It was on their second visit that
     Joseph made himself known to them, and Joseph's brothers
     were introduced to Pharaoh. After this Joseph sent to tell
     his father and all with him to come to Egypt. They all came
     to Egypt, and Jacob and all his sons died, and were taken
     over to Sychem, and put to rest in the grave site that
     Abraham bought for a sum of money from the sons of Emmor the
     father of Sychem.
     As the time drew near for God to perform that which He had
     promised to Abraham, the people of Israel grew very populous
     in Egypt. Then came another Pharaoh who did not care to
     remember Joseph. He dealt very deceitfully and harshly with
     our fathers, even to killing the new born children. At that
     time Moses was born pleasing to God. after being in his
     parents house for three months, he was cast out into the
     river in a basket. It was Pharaoh's daughter that found him
     and adopted him as her own son.
     Moses was taught in the highest form of education in Egypt,
     and knew how to handle words exceedingly well. He also grew
     to be mighty in many deeds of valour. He had by the time he
     was forty years old come to know that he was an Israelite,
     and one day went out to walk and talk with his brethren the
     children of Israel. He saw an Israelite being treated by an
     Egyptian overlord in an evil and unfair manner. Moses got
     into a physical fight with the Egyptian and killed him. He
     thought his brethren would have understood that God would
     deliver them from Egyptian bondage through him. The next day
     as he walked among them he tried to stop an argument between
     two of them, by telling them that being brothers of the same
     family of people they should not quarrel and do wrong to
     each other. But the man who was mainly in the wrong pushed
     Moses away, and said, 'Well who made you a ruler and judge
     over us? Will you kill me, as you did the Egyptian
     yesterday?'

     Moses then knew that soon all Egypt would find out what he
     had done, so fearing for his life he departed Egypt and went
     to the land of Madian, and it was there that he married and
     had two sons. He lived there for forty years. Then one day
     the angel of God appeared to him in the wilderness of Sina
     in a bush that looked like it was on fire. As he approach
     the burning bush the voice of God came to his ears, saying:
     'I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, and the
     God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' Moses was shaking and
     could not look at the flaming bush.
     The Lord continued to speak, 'Take off your shoes for the
     place you stand on is holy ground. I have seen the
     affliction of my people who are in Egypt, I have heard them
     crying and groaning, I have come down to deliver them from
     bondage. I will send you back to Egypt.' So Moses whom they
     refused forty years earlier saying,'who made you ruler and
     judge over us?' is sent back by God to be ruler and
     deliverer. And after showing many wonders and signs in
     Egypt, he also led them to the Red Sea and led them through
     the wilderness for forty years.
     This is that same Moses which said to the children of
     Israel, 'God will raise up a prophet from among you like
     unto me, and Him you shall hear.' This man was the very one
     who was with that church in the wilderness, was the
     messenger that spoke to Moses in mount Sina, and to the
     children of Israel, who received the live giving oracles of
     writings, to pass on to us. But our fathers would not obey
     God and in their hearts went back to Egypt, even saying to
     Aaron, 'Make us gods to lead us, for this Moses we do not
     know what has become of him.' So a calf god was made from
     the physical things they had, and they bowed before it and
     did sacrifice towards it, and rejoiced in something that
     their own hands had made.

     God finally just turned them over to let them worship the
     many gods of heaven invented by men, as it is written in the
     books of the prophets, 'O, you house of Israel, Did you
     offer to me slain beasts and sacrifice, for forty years in
     the wilderness? Yes, physical sacrifices you did offer, but
     not to Me. You went in to the house and shrine of Moloch,
     and the star god Rephan, and the images you made to worship
     them, not Me. So, I will send you into captivity into a land
     far away in Babylon' (Amos 5:25-27).

     Our ancestors carried the Tabernacle they constructed with
     them through the wilderness. It was made in exact accordance
     with what had been shown to Moses by God. Years later when
     Joshua led them in the battles against the nations that the
     Lord drove out of the land, the Tabernacle was taken with
     them into the promised land. and it was used there until the
     time of David.
     David found favor with God and wanted to build a permanent
     Temple for Him, but was not allowed to do so. It was his son
     Solomon who actually did build it. However, the Eternal God
     does not live in physical building made by human hands, as
     the prophets say, 'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my
     footstool. Could you ever build me a temple like that? Could
     you ever build a physical dwelling place for me? No, not at
     all, for I have made everything in the heaven and in the
     earth' (Isa.66:1-2).
     
     You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to
     the truth of God. Must you always be resisting the Holy
     Spirit? Your fathers did and so you do also. Name just one
     prophet your ancestors did not persecute! They even killed
     the ones who predicted the coming of the Messiah - the
     righteous anointed One. And you betrayed and murdered Him.
     You have deliberately disobeyed God's law, though given to
     you through the serving function of angels" (Acts 7:1-53).

     Well, Stephen's finally words cut like a razor sharp knife
going through butter. They were cut in their hearts but
immediately resisted the truth given to them, and snarled at
him, or cursed him with their mouth and teeth.
     Stephen looked up to heaven and with the power of the Holy
Spirit, in the minds eye, he saw into heaven, and beheld the
glory of God the Father, and Jesus Christ standing at His right
hand. Then, he proclaimed, "I see the heavens opened, and the Son
of man standing on the right hand of God" (Acts 7:54-56).

     They could take no more words form Stephen, they placed
their hands over their ears, started to scream insults at him,
and all with one accord ran towards him, some grabbing him with
their hands and pulling him all the way out of the city. So
worked up with furry and madness of mind they had determined to
stone him to death. Some of the witnesses to all this also got
into the act, they laid down their outer garments of clothing
at the feet of one called Saul (the man who is more popularly
known as Paul in the New Testament), and with many of the angry
members of the Sanhedrin, they cast stones at Stephen until he
was dead. 
     As Stephen was getting stoned to death, he called out, "Lord
Jesus, receive my spirit." He then kneeled down, shouted out with
a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them."

     Luke finished this account by writing, "And when he had said
this, he fell asleep"
(Acts 7:57-60).

     We see again that the New Testament makes it very clear that
death is a "sleep" not a continuance of life, as we saw Jesus
taught in the Gospel of John chapter 11. It will take a
resurrection to bring us back to life and to be with Jesus
forever more. That resurrection to eternal glory life is when
Christ comes again to earth, to set up the Kingdom of God. We
covered all that in some detail as we went through the four
Gospels.

     What a sermon speech from Stephen this was, and the way he
finished it....wow, he pulled no punches, told them like it was,
called a spade a spade, laid the cards on the table, and they
became so out of their minds, they could not think straight.
Their emotions took control of their actions. Under Roman rule
the Jews were not allowed to put a man to death. This was "mob
mentality violence" - mob mentality gone wild.     

     There are times when a Christian, a true follower of Jesus,
must speak up in no uncertain terms, with plain words, even
cutting words, and in such a situation it may cost you your life,
that is your physical life on earth. Being a true disciple of
Christ can be tough at times, sometimes very tough indeed. It is
then no wonder that Jesus said those who would follow Him, would
and should "count the cost" (Luke 14: 25-33).

               ..............................

TO BE CONTINUED


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