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Get Motivated! (6:8-7:60) | Mp3 Podcast
A. Understanding Motivation (Acts 6:5,8) |
B. Uncompromising Motivation (Acts 6:9-15)
C. Affirming Motivation (Acts 7:1-60)
Purpose: Acts 7 Affirming Motivation is the last part of the Bible exposition of Get Motivated for the Kingdom of God on Acts 6:8-7:60 which reveals Stephen's deep convictions which formed the basis of his life motivation in life as he faced martyrdom.
Chapter 7 is a long message that is given by Stephen to the Sanhedrin (the Council). At the end of it, the Council, including Saul who later became the Apostle Paul, rushed out and stoned him to death. This was Stephen’s last sermon. Let us read the last part before discussing the former.
“You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. “Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him.
But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears, and they rushed upon him with one impulse. And when they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him, and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they went on stoning Stephen as he called upon the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” And falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” And having said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:47-60).
Stephen answered the priest who asked Stephen, “Are these things so?” That is, are the lies true of what Stephen had said? He was being set up. But Stephen was greatly motivated. If he was motivated from things on earth, then he would have apologetically talked and given in, but filled with the Holy Spirit and the boldness that He gave to Stephen, he unabashedly spoke a powerful scripturally apologetic sermon.
We only read the last part, but the sermon as a whole greatly agitated the leaders of Jerusalem. It is always interesting to see what stirred them up. In this case it was Stephen who accused them as being like their forefathers who would not receive God’s Word. But even more, they could not tolerate hearing how Jesus was standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55).
They covered their ears, ran out with him and stoned him at the foot of the leader, Saul, who later would become the Apostle Paul. In 7:58 it says that “the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of young man named Saul.” These witnesses were no doubt the same that had been paid to give false witness.
When a person is stoned, the witnesses need to start the stoning. They laid their robes at Saul’s feet because he was heading up this whole process. He undoubtedly knew of their lies. Saul was the ring leader of this ‘mob’ and certainly showed this later as he gathered Christians together to prosecute them.
We will use this message largely to help us understand the person of Stephen. And it will become obvious through a study of this sermon that he was steeped in God’s Word. He not only had a grand overview of God’s Word but could even quote large parts of it.
The high priest asked, “Are these things so?” (Acts 7:1). There were two specific charges to which the high priest was referring.
“We heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God” (Acts 6:11).
“We have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us” (Acts 6:14).
Stephen’s response is recorded in the sermon that followed.
The first thing we should notice is that Stephen did not directly answer the charges. He instead begins to speak about some well-respected characters in the Old Testament. He was deeply acquainted with the scriptures to be able to quote and refer to these men as he did. In each case we find that God was with Old Testament characters and because of it changed them.
The key message to Abraham was that God called him from a far away land to the Promised Land of Israel to have a great inheritance. He pointed out that Abraham's offspring would be mistreated for 400 years. Though they were blessed of God, they were persecuted.
““But God spoke to this effect, that his OFFSPRING WOULD BE ALIENS IN A FOREIGN LAND, AND THAT THEY WOULD BE ENSLAVED AND MISTREATED FOR FOUR HUNDRED YEARS” (Acts 7:6).
God was blessing Abraham even though his people would be enslaved and mistreated.
Luke skips over Jacob and focuses on Joseph. The patriarchs were jealous of Joseph. “And the patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt. And yet God was with him,” (Acts 7:9). And yet God was with him. Notice this emphasis.
His brothers were jealous of him, but God was with him.
Moses himself was chosen and yet started his life by being left to die. When he tried to defend his people, his brethren did not understand him and became hostile to him. “‘YOU DO NOT MEAN TO KILL ME AS YOU KILLED THE EGYPTIAN YESTERDAY, DO YOU?’” (Acts 7:28).
By going over Moses’ calling from God, Stephen pointed out how God promised to be with him. Moses went but again was disowned by his people. God’s deliverer was rejected.
““This Moses whom they disowned, saying, ‘WHO MADE YOU A RULER AND A JUDGE?’ is the one whom God sent to be both a ruler and a deliverer with the help of the angel who appeared to him in the thorn bush” (Acts 7:35).
Even though God spoke to Him through angels, “Our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to him, but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt” (Acts 7:39). God patiently worked in their midst by having His tabernacle present, but they had their own idols. They didn’t want God to work through Moses on their behalf. God’s appointed leader suffered from the people of God.
God has been working through the many years, but as a whole they have been resistant to God’s work. Stephen was no doubt making His defense of Jesus. Jesus had come as God’s Deliverer (i.e. Joshua - after Moses 7:45) and yet they rejected God’s ruler.
Stephen scripturally convinced them that it is not the persecuted person that is necessarily wrong. After all this happened to Joseph and Moses. God chose them but God’s people rejected them or was jealous of them. Stephen came to the climax of his message in 7:56 when Stephen affirmed God’s presence with Jesus.
They killed the Chosen Deliverer from God (the Messiah). Notice that he subtly states that Jesus is the Son of Man. Twice Stephen says it and it is at this point they rushed upon him to stone him to death making Stephen the first known martyr of the early church.
Stephen mentions little of himself here. He instead gave a panoramic view of the scriptures as his defense. He pointedly showed them their own guilt and thus defended himself. They had committed premeditated murder. Subtly he was defending himself and showing that they should not kill him either. They were doing the same thing they did to Jesus.
Stephen was accused of speaking against “this holy place and the Law,” but find that the Old Testament already spoke about them. The Old Testament revealed that a greater one was coming that would reveal truth and righteousness and that no place on earth could suit His majesty. The Law is one great revelation of God’s glory, but the people rejected the Lawgiver along with the Law.
God’s people were all along treated as aliens. Even now they are chased out as if they did not belong (see 8:2-3).
Stephen provided here a theological argument that God has rejected working through the Jewish nation as a whole and has now commenced His plan to reach out to the nations. The words about Abraham show that Jesus like Abraham did not receive an inheritance while here on earth but that it would be found in His offspring found in a foreign land (non-Jews). Romans 4:16 shows that we who believe in Christ are Abraham’s seed. The Gospel is for the world.
Stephen never lost his hope and therefore he never lost his motivation. He saw Jesus on the right hand of God. He was determined to be faithful to the end. God’s plan for Stephen is different than ours (I bet you are glad!). However, we need to make sure that we are living according to God’s will (purpose) and live in the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish those good works but we also must trust God for what results that happen. Our job and focus is to obey Jesus.
Stephen was not only highly motivated but more important rightly motivated to serve God in His kingdom. If he was looking to things on the earth, he certainly would have compromised his faith, but he focused on serving God on whatever task God would give Him just as Jesus did.
What purpose are you living for? Are you still attached to the earth or been bound in your heart to do God’s heavenly will? Depression is the sign of seeking the wrong thing when you can no longer obtain it.
What power do you live by? The world speaks about your own divine power. We have none. But do you tend to give up once you face difficulties? Defeat is the sign of little faith.
What promise do you hope in? If our hopes are in this world, then we will have our purposes here. But if we seek His kingdom and the presence of the king, then we do not need to demand instant results. We can wait for God in them. Doubt is the sign of little faith.
This concludes this mini series on 'Get Motivated for God's Kingdom.'
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