Kingdom Advance Through Wisdom, Prophetic Words and Dying Well
NOTE: SUNDAY POSTS ARE INTENDED TO BE USED ALONG WITH THE SERMON. IF YOU MISSED THE SERVICE, YOU CAN FOLLOW THE NOTES AS YOU LISTEN ALONG JUST LIKE YOU WERE THERE. http://www.threeriversc.org/#/sermon-audio
Remember, Acts 1:8 is our framework.
We will be Jesus’ witnesses from the home base to the end of the earth.
The Spirit has navigated the church through receiving the empowering Spirit,
-an influx of 3,000 new followers of Jesus that had to be discipled,
-healing lame beggars,
-questioning about one’s motives and intentions in healing,
-sharing their resources,
-an internal and intentional threat to unity through deception,
-signs and wonders, imprisonment, supernatural escape, beating, a little civil disobedience
-and the drawing of distinctions with an intentional response to preserve unity.
Now, the kingdom will encounter it’s worst violence in the narrative as a Spirit filled and wise servant of the church named Stephen will perform signs and wonders and preach the gospel and refute the push back through the work of the Spirit to give him wisdom and power and prophetic application and dying well.
Stephen is going to show us how to live well, speak prophetically on point, and die well.
Observation 1: What do we see/what does it mean?
Stephen lived well in service and in kingdom power 6:8-15
1. Stephen was a servant appointed to bring about unity, thus well thought of by others 6:1-7
2. Stephen was full of grace and power 6:8
3. Stephen was doing “great wonders and signs” 6:8
Signs and wonders accompanied the preaching of the gospel in Acts. Luke does not have to tell us Stephen was preaching the gospel. That is what he’d been tasked to do.
Signs and wonders came because the Spirit was bearing witness to the gospel of the kingdom.
4. Stephen was opposed by the spiritual powers that be 6:9
Synagogue of the Freedmen: “Members of a Jewish synagogue in Jerusalem (Acts 6:9), descended from Jews who had been captured and taken to Rome by the general Pompey (106–48 b.c.), then later released. Pompey found that the Jews adhered so strictly to their religious and national customs that they were worthless as slaves. Not all the freedmen returned to Jerusalem; some stayed in Rome. In the time of the Roman writer Pliny, a freedman was described as a “mean commoner.” The freedmen derived their name from a Latin term for one manumitted, or the son of such a former slave.”
5. Stephen, under the influence of the Spirit, was not beatable 6:10
6. Stephen was treated like Jesus 6:11-14
Their treatment of Stephen parallels the way the Jewish leaders treated Jesus. First, they hired false witnesses to testify against him. Then, they stirred up the people who accused him of attacking the Law of Moses and the temple (the land is part of the accusation since the temple sits on the land and Stephen addresses that first). Finally, after listening to his witness, they executed him (see Matt. 26:59–62; John 2:19–22).
7. The Lord bears witness to what Stephen was about to do in giving him a “shining face” like Moses as he is about to uncover their idolatry of the land, the law of Moses and the temple.
It was not even necessary for Stephen to speak in order to give witness, for the very glow on his face told everybody that he was a servant of God. Certainly the members of the Sanhedrin would recall Moses’ shining face (Ex. 34:29–30). It was as though God was saying, “This man is not against Moses! He is like Moses—he is My faithful servant!”
What do we do with this?
1. Strive to be a follower of Jesus who is worthy of appointment to service, ready, available, gracious and powerful in the Spirit.
Powerful ministry starts with humble service.
No “ministry leader” worth their salt ever started in leadership but started under authority and learned to serve first.
2. Preach the gospel every opportunity you have.
3. Expect opposition and expect to be treated like Jesus.
Expectation is an application. There are things Jesus taught us to expect. He taught us to expect him to answer prayer offered in his name (in concert with his mission and reputation, expect faith in Jesus to be powerful to even move what some think immovable)
4. Expect the Lord’s empowerment of kingdom labor.
Observation 2: What do we see/what does it mean?
Stephen speaks prophetically to Jewish idols and rebukes their unbelief before the kingdom expands to the Samaritans and the Gentiles of the world 7:1-60
Stephen’s powerful testimony would be the climax of the church’s witness to the Jews. Then the message would go out to the Samaritans and then to the Gentiles.
TO KEEP IN MIND: Judaism as the relationship between God and his people predated the temple, the law and even the land of Israel; all of these were expressions of Judaism rather than its core.
THE PEOPLE’S PROBLEM IS THAT THEY GRABBED ONTO THE EXPRESSION IN THAT SEASON OF THE MISSION AS THE CORE AND SERVED THE EXPRESSION RATHER THAN THE GOD WHO GAVE THEM THE EXPRESSION AND SEASON.
IDOLS ARE GOOD THINGS THAT WE TURN INTO GOD THINGS AND PUT FLESH TO AND THAT MAKES THEM BAD THINGS.
1. Idol 1: The Land 7:1-36
The land was to be a launching point for the mission to the nations with evidence of God’s mercy and grace for all to see (Genesis 12:1-3).
The land became something to hoard rather than something to supply mission and invite others to come and see.
God’s greatest works happened outside of the land (see the Exodus).
2. Idol 2: The Law of Moses 7:37-43
The law as to be a teacher to lead folks to the one like Moses (Jesus) who would teach them all of God’s truth (Galatians 3:24ff).
The law became something to control people rather than reveal a Savior/King who would reveal God’s glory to us.
3. Idol 3: The Temple 7:44-50
The temple was to be a “come and see” landmark for the nations (see the Queen of Sheba) to know the Lord.
2 Chronicles 6:32-33, Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple: “Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for the sake of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm, when he comes and prays toward this house, hear from heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.”
4. The Rebuke 7:51-53
This transition in thought would probably flunk most public speaking classes. It’s a bit rough and seemingly unwarranted.
“Stephen had become a bit strident, but rightfully so. Similarly, in a later era George Whitefield preached to a New England church three evenings in a row on ‘You must be born again.’ the message was so vigorous that the elders finally came to him and asked, ‘Mr. Whitefield, why do you keep preaching, ‘You must be born again’?’ Whitefield responded, ‘Because you must be born again!’ Stephen wanted to get his message across: You have sinned – you need a Savior.
Transitions be darned. Idols needed uncovering and they needed to repent.
What do we do with this?
1. Know your culture well enough to speak prophetically to it!
Part of the prophet’s job is to rebuke knowledge contrary to God.
See Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Micaiah (1 Kings 22).
2. Speak boldly for the sake of the King and his Kingdom.
What are some of our idols?
Children are arrows to extend the mission (Psalm 127:3-4) not objects of over done affection that become dulled, weak and can no longer be launched.
In order to sharpen to a point and edge there has to be friction. Rough edges have to be ground off and done so carefully but skillfully and intentionally.
Likewise our children have to be trained to be sharp and pointed arrows that are made so with skillful, careful and intentional strokes.
Comfort, lack of discipline, improper rescue, lack of concern for others first makes sticks for warming ourselves by a fire and making “smores” not implements for advancing the kingdom.
2. Community without the Kingdom
We like being together with like-minded people (like-minded in similar idol worship). We don’t like being on mission, in covenant with, and accountable to a group who are submitted to Jesus, his church and his global mission of being worshiped by all peoples.
3. Super informed faith with no actions
Faith without works.
Classroom orthodoxy field heresy (these condemn practitioners but do nothing to test their learning).
Many bible studies zero bible practices (this is like the person who watches football and has never practiced football…talkshow guys).
Observation 3: What do we see/what does it mean?
Stephen dies well v. 54-60
1. The leadership did not receive the prophetic word with repentant hearts.
2. They were enraged (literally “cut to the heart” but not in a good way).
3. “Being full of the Holy Spirit”
“huparcho pleres” Two words to make one idea, a participle and an adjective, describing in one one word Stephen’s existence, “FULL”.
Stephen was not filled with the Spirit. He was full when he got there!
4. The Spirit revealed a heavenly scene, perhaps to make the hardship about to be entered a bit more appealing.
5. Jesus stands in honor of the death of his prophet/servant.
Psalm 116:15 “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”
6. They kill him.
7. Saul witnesses Stephen’s death but not before he heard the prophetic words that would have great effect later on.
What do we do with this?
1. Don’t always expect that everyone will receive prophetic words.
2. Live life full of the Spirit. Don’t only go after fullness when stuff is going in the toilet.
3. Know that Jesus honors the sacrifice of his people.
4. Know your suffering for the kingdom is not wasted. It can have great effect on those who witness us suffer well. (See Saul who becomes Paul)
Psalm 147:1 “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”