Stephen and the Glories of Christ (click here for audio)
Our message - Stephen - v.15 his face …an angel
We met Stephen last time -- review - growth of church - demands on the church—be more organized to help those in need….esp. widows - 2 groups Hebraic / Hellinistic
Complaint……….Apostles …gathered church…you select seven men…good reputation (v.3)…v.4 we will devote….
ONE – Stephen (v.5) full of faith and of the Holy Spirit…
Not only is he part of those who served tables…..he preaches the gospel…
He displayed the likeness of Christ—so much -- face like an angel –
Luke, who writes the book of Acts, gives us information about Stephen. He writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. These are the words of the Lord.
What is it that we should learn about the life of Stephen? We are introduced to Stephen in this chapter and in the next chapter he is stoned to death. A brief life here on earth, but his ministry is unique and very important. He makes a vital contribution to the life of the early church.
His life was short, but his sermon was so important that more space is given to it in the book of Acts than the sermons of Peter and Paul. Peter – the apostle to the Jews; and Paul the apostle to the Gentiles are the leading men in the Book of Acts. Stephen’s ministry, though short, served as a driving force, a catalyst to move the church outside of Jerusalem. At his death there came great persecution against the church.
Look at Acts 8:1 And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles
(turn the numbers around 8:1 to 1:8…..I know the chapter/verses were added later little over 1000 years later)
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
The church is coming to a transitional time…. The movement is from Jerusalem to Judea …and then we’ll read of Philip coming to Samaria. They will receive Christ. With the Apostle Paul the gospel goes to Rome… and the ends of the earth..
Stephen is the transitional preacher… He serves as a bridge… to move on from the temple ….and what the Jews considers sacred ground….and show that Christ is the fulfillment of the law ….and God’s glory is on Christ…He is the sacrifice for sin. Stephen preaches this ….and that’s the reason for the uproar against him.
Stephen displayed Christlikeness in several ways. He was captivated with the glories of Christ.
(1) He was filled with grace and power.
v.8 He’s full of grace and power……”grace” means lovingkindness, “power” from Holy Spirit.
Jesus was filled with grace and power. Even though the Lord Jesus is the source of grace and power, He submitted to God the Father while here on earth. It is said in Acts 10:38,
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
The Lord Jesus submitted to the Father’s will, He said, “I came to do my Father’s will”
He relied upon the Power of the Holy Spirit as He ministered here on earth..
STEPHEN followed that example. Acts 1:8 you shall receive power after that….
Full of GRACE - Jesus is the source of “grace”; Stephen was full of grace that he received from Christ. It was not his own.
John 1:14, 16-17
4 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
ONLY JESUS – is the source of GRACE and TRUTH -- Stephen received grace; and received the truth, but he was not like Christ Who is the SOURCE of Grace and Truth.
Full of grace – which means - lovingkindness - Christlikeness -
There was Christlikeness in the man Stephen.
a. He served with loving kindness.
b. He served by doing great wonders and signs among the people… The Lord used him.
HE GLORIFIED CHRIST AS HE SERVED OTHERS FULL OF GRACE AND POWER…
ALSO, He glorified Christ in his rejection from others.
(2) He was rejected by his own people. (v.9)
These were Stephen’s people - Hellenistic Jews – Greek-speaking Jews….
There were a lot of Jewish synagogues in Jerusalem. According to one historian, there were around 500 synagogues in Jerusalem. All it took to have a synagogue was 10 Jewish men. Here we have five groups…..either from five synagogues, or some came from the same synagogue.
· Synagogue of the Freedmen (Libertines) - this is a group who were formerly slaves under the Roman government. They were free from slavery and they came back to Jerusalem and formed a synagogue …
· Cyrenians - they are from a city in Africa near Libya. There was a large Jewish colony in that area, and when they came to Jerusalem they would meet in a synagogue for worship.
· Alexandrians - there was a huge Jewish population in Egypt. Alexandria was the capital of Egypt. It was founded by Alexander the Great. It was known for its many scholars and was home to a great library.
· Cilicia and Asia- located near Syria -southern section of Turkey…. home to a large Jewish colony…it’s capital, or main city is TARSUS. Guess who was probably the main leader of this synagogue that met in Jerusalem… Saul of Tarsus..
Here is a mixture of Jews with various backgrounds…..and they all come up against Stephen.. they disputed with Stephen……
THEY REJECTED WHAT STEPHEN WAS PREACHING….
John 1:11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.…
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Here Stephen came unto his own people, and they would not receive him. Jesus told disciple…if they hated me, they will hate you………This is something we have to constantly remember - This world is NOT a friend to Jesus. It never has been. This world is NOT a friend to the Gospel message. It has NEVER been politically correct to be a Christian.
A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. (Matthew 10:24)
And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” Mark 6:4
Like Christ – Stephen was rejected by his own people.
(3) ..Like Christ, they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking….HE SPOKE WITH WISDOM AND WITH THE SPIRIT.
The critics of the Lord could not catch him in his words. They tried to trap him with their questions.
John 7:46 “No one ever spoke like this man!”
Luke 20:40 no one dared to ask him anymore questions
(4) Like Christ, They brought false witnesses against him
v.11 secretly instigated men (persuaded men) to say “we have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God…
v.12 they stirred up the people
Like Jesus – Stephen was brought before the Jewish council, the Sanhedrin (70 member court) to decide his fate.
v.13 set up false witnesses--- Stephen was “set up”…”this man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law…
55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. 56 For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. 57 And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’”
False witnesses - SAYING speak words against this holy place and the law… against Moses and God…….Jesus nor Stephen were against the temple, against the law, against Moses…
THINGS WERE CHANGING….. WITH THE COMING OF CHRIST-- THERE’S COMES A NEW COVENANT….IT IS REPLACING THE OLD COVENANT… Stephen like Christ, preached the glories of the cross….
(5) Like Christ, He preached the Glory of the Cross
Mark 14:58 We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’”
READ v.14 “for we have heard him say…..” Stephen was preaching what Jesus said…
at the trial of Jesus….witnesses came forward
“This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days
John 2:18-22 (Jesus drove out the moneychangers…overturned tables…)
18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
People thought he was referring to the temple…they were in the temple…
Why would Jesus use the word “temple” and say this while he was “in the temple”, even though his disciples understood after the resurrection that he was referring to his body?
I believe Jesus had both his body and the temple in mind….
I believe STEPHEN understood this…..
The critics…the false witnesses …..took what Stephen was saying….. as blasmpheous words against Moses and God….and against the temple and the law…
(John Piper has some interesting insight into this..)
Jesus was saying -- when I die…the temple dies.
When I am destroyed, the temple is destroyed. Everything about the temple is finished.
· All the sacrifices --- the blood flowing down to atone for sins… it’s finished…it’s over…because now there is only ONE Sacrifice for Sin
· All the priestly services in the holy temple---- no longer necessary--- it’s over --- it all ENDS when I die..
· You destroy me and in dying I destroy the temple.
JESUS TAKES THE PLACE OF EVERYTHING IN THE TEMPLE.
· THIS IS WHY the curtain in the temple tore in two as Jesus died…..it was a sign of destruction. The walls were coming down. Jesus replaces everything in the temple.
· Jesus -is our high priest.
27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.
Temple priesthood – destroyed. Hebrews 9:12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.
25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
REASON - Acts 6:7 “a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith” out of a job; no longer needed….
Jesus replaces everything…..He is the temple….He is our High Priest….He is the one time Sacrifice for Sin….He is our Mercy Seat…..and
On Christ dwells the Glory of God…
who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
The Glory of God does NOT rest upon the temple…. It is on Christ…
This temple is coming down….Jesus said,
5 And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, 6 “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
Historically… 70AD the temple was flattened….by the Romans…
22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.
The Glory of God is the light that puts out all other lights…. When Christ came and died on the cross, on the 3rd day raised from the dead ….the temple is replaced….
The temple, the priesthood, the old covenant, mosaic law… were only shadows of Christ….
Now Christ has come….the shadows are gone. It’s like taking an object….bring it down…the shadow of that object gets smaller and smaller….finally lands…the shadow is swallowed up by the object…
Christ is the REALITY….the fulfillment….of the Old Covenant….no longer is there a need for animal sacrifices…Christ is our Sacrifice….no longer need for the priesthood….Christ is our High Priest….
Change the customs that Moses delieverd to us --- yes ….Christ changed the customs…we are no longer bound to Mosaic ceremonial customs….
Stephen – face - like angel--- he reflected the glory of God, just like the angels do…
v.55…before he was stoned…looked up full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven saw the glory of God…
 See John Piper’s commentary on these verses