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  • Jul 29 / 2018
  • Comments Off on The Church Reaching Out! (Acts 8:1-13)
Acts: The Book of Mission, Pastor Heo, Sermons

The Church Reaching Out! (Acts 8:1-13)

Download notes in a .MD file

The Church Reaching Out!

Acts 8:1-13 (Pastor Heo)

Let me finish last week’s story about Stephen – the meaning of his death. Here are 5 results of the death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

#1 Crown for Stephen

Rev 3:22 “Be faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

Only here at the death of Stephen is Jesus said to be “standing” at the right hand of God. He could not remain sitting, so he stood up to receive the first Christian martyr into heaven.

The death of Stephen and Jesus are similar.

  • They both finished their earthly lives by praying forgiveness for those who were killing them. “Lord, do not hold these sins against them.” Jesus, looking at Stephen at his moment of death, gave Stephen super grace so that he could pray for forgiveness for those who murdered him.

#2 Judgment for Israel

This was the third murder of the people of Israel.

  1. John the Baptist = permitted to be murdered (sin against God the Father who sent him)
  2. Jesus = requested death (sin against God the Son)
  3. Stephen = stoned him (sinned against God the HS, working through the witnesses including Stephen)

Jesus says, “Sin against the ministry of the HS cannot be forgiven.” So, finally, when Titus and the Roman armies invaded and burned the city and the temple in AD 70? the judgment was realized.

#3 Liberation for the early church

The early church had been witnessing first to Jews ever since Pentecost – but now would be directed to take the gospel to other areas – including Judea and Samaria (chp 8).

Yes, they preached at the risk of their lives, but they never went beyond Jerusalem – but the Great Commission says,

  • “You will receive power when the HS comes on you and you will by my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”
  • Also Matthew: “Go and make disciples of all nations.”
  • Also Mark: “Preach this message to all nations.”

So, the death of Stephen is the turning point / starting point for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

#4 Salvation for Saul

He was the champion for persecuting the church, but he saw and heard Stephen’s message and prayer and glorious, beautiful death. This death was used by God in preparing his meeting with the Lord later – because God never wastes the blood of his saints.

Some time later, Saul would behold the same glory of God that Stephen saw and see him and hear him speak to him.

#5 Living Sacrifices as Christians

A Christian’s death is not death. If we open our spiritual eyes, we will realize that this is just sleeping. When Christians die, they “fall asleep” from God’s perspective.

The body sleeps and the spirit goes into heaven to be with the Lord. Then, when he returns into this world, he will bring the spirits of those who have died, and their bodies will be raised and glorified and their bodies and spirits will be reunited to be with him in glory forever and ever.

God does not call all of us to be martyrs, but we must know that God does call us to be living sacrifices.

Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you brothers, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship.”

In some ways, living for Christ may be more difficult than to die for him. But if we continually live for him, then we will be prepared to die for him if he calls us to.

As children of God, what is really important is not HOW we die, but for what we die; not HOW LONG we live, but for what we live.

Jesus (Rev) says, “Be faithful even to the point of death and I will give you the crown of life.”


8:1 And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. 4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip [one of the 7 deacons, not one of the 12 apostles] and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.

9 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.” 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.


This chp (chp 8) is a very important chapter in the history of the church. The church began as a Jewish institution, but Philip had a mind beyond national limitations and boundaries. So here we can see the church reaching out.

In the beginning of this chapter, we see a “Great Persecution” but wherever they were scattered, they preached the gospel.

The Samaritans formed a bridge between the Jews and Gentiles because they were half-Jew and half-Gentile by descent.

v. 1-4

“8:1 And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. 4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.”

The death of Stephen is a signal for the outbreak of Great Persecution that caused all Christians to scatter and seek safety in a remote area of the country. The most dangerous place for Christians was Jerusalem.

Yet, in this most dangerous place, the 12 apostles remained to maintain the local church. But, except these, the rest scattered. Yet, even still, they did not hide in the shadows – but preached the gospel wherever they went.

Also, we can see the zealous Saul, persecutor of the church. He was:

  • born in modern day Turkey,
  • a Pharisee of the Pharisees,
  • a Hebrew of the Hebrews,
  • trained by Gamaliel, and
  • his life seemed blameless,
  • one of the most promising young Pharisees,
  • his ambition for the Law was shown most vividly in his persecution of the church.

At that time, he really thought that persecuting the Christians was one way to serve God.

  • He spent his time arresting Christians, but was soon to be arrested by Christ.
  • He did his best to arrest all Christians up to Damascus, but on the way, he will be arrested by Christ.

v. 5-13

“8:5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.

9 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.” 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.”

Remember, in church history, persecution does to the church what the wind does to seeds. Wind scatters seeds and produces a greater harvest. The Word “scatter” means to “scatter seed.” So, persecution is like scattering seeds. God used this to spread them out and plant seeds to bear more fruit.

  • Some went to Judea and Samaria,
  • others went much farther (the ends of the earth).

Philip at this point, came to Samaria to preach the Word. This was a BIG turning point – a BIG deal – because the Jews, up to now, had no dealings with the Samaritans.

Background:

In history, Israel was one country.

It was divided into 2 countries in BC 915 – southern and northern kingdoms – after Solomon.

In the 8th century, Assyria conquered the Northern kingdom (Samaria) and they put their people in that area.

Later in the 7th century, the Southern kingdom was conquered by Babylon and many were carried away – but they stubbornly remained Jewish – refusing to give up their national identity.

In the 5th century BC, those who were left in Palestine and the Northern kingdom, had intermarried with the Assyrians and other Gentiles.

When the Jews returned to the Southern kingdom to rebuild the temple and the city walls, the Northern kingdom offered their help, but were refused because the Southern kingdom thought they were “dirty” and no longer Jews.

Since then, there was bad blood between the two.

But here, Philip taking the gospel to the Samaritans is a BIG step – helping the Christians to realize that the gospel is truly for ALL people.

Simon, the sorcerer, was there, practicing magic. He made money and drew attention to himself by performing magic. The people exclaimed, “This man [Simon] is the divine power known as the Great Power.” And in this situation, Philip preached the gospel to the people and many miracles and signs and wonders were performed by Philip. And the people believed in Jesus as Savior and they were baptized.

  • When Philip arrived in this area, the people were amazed by Simon.
  • But after the ministry of Philip, that same Simon was amazed by the power of God through Philip.

This is a good reminder that no human power, nor Satanic, demonic, or even angelic power, is any match for the power of the gospel.

So, when we allow the gospel to touch us and change our lives, others around us will be astonished by the transformative effects it has on us.

  • v. 1 – starts with Great Persecution
  • v. 8 – continues with Great Joy in the city of Samaria

The people in that city were afflicted with demonic presences, and sins, so no wonder there was great joy after seeing these things.

Remember that the Samaritans are half-Jew and half-Gentile, but this experience shows that God built a bridge between the two.

Even today, we need people to carry the gospel to new places and challenge ancient ideas because the message of the gospel is “the power of God to all who believe.” It sets spiritual prisoners free, giving us real and powerful freedom.

Acts is the Book of Mission.

  • Acts of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles (The Book of Mission)
  • But we can also say that Acts is the Book of Persecution.

Can you enjoy Joy with Persecution? Ask yourself honestly.

Can I experience REAL joy within persecution? Is it possible?

Acts is a book of persecution. Let me briefly explain how full of persecution it is. If we read first to last:

  • chp 4: Peter and John imprisoned and threatened for preaching and healing in the name of Christ
  • chp 5: apostles in prison and flogged
  • chp 7: Stephen is killed (stoned)
  • chp 8: Great persecution
  • chp 9: Saul is breathing out murderous threats to arrest all Christians up to Damascus
  • chp 10: James killed, Peter in prison
  • chp 11: Paul stoned, threw his body outside the city thinking he was dead
  • chp 16: Paul and Silas in prison, stripped naked, and beaten
  • chp 21: Paul arrested in Jerusalem – and continually tried before the Sanhedrin, the governor, the king, and sent to Rome to be tried by Caesar

This is the book of persecution. Yet, amazingly, there is no atmosphere of depression, darkness, shadows, gloominess, disappointment. There is no phenomenon of darkness.

The Book of Persecution is also the Book of Joy. There is no time to show ALL the verses that have the word “joy”, but let me show 5.

  • chp 2: The ate together in joy
  • chp 5: Left the Sanhedrin rejoicing
  • chp 8: Great joy in that city
  • chp 13: Joy in the HS
  • chp 14: God filled their hearts with joy.

This is the power of real Christians in this world. What is the real meaning of the “gospel” (evangelion) “Good news of Great Joy for All the People”

This is the message of Christ – regardless of the problems, persecution, etc, around us.

“Be joyful always; pray unceasingly; give thanks in all circumstance, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Let’s pray.

  • Jul 22 / 2018
  • Comments Off on Be faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of Life (Acts 7:1-60)
Acts: The Book of Mission, Pastor Heo, Sermons

Be faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of Life (Acts 7:1-60)

Download Notes in a .MD file

Be faithful to the point of death…

Acts 7:1-60 (Pastor Heo)

7:1 Then the high priest asked him, “Arethese charges true?”

2 To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. 3 ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’

4 “So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. 5 He gave him no inheritance here, not even a foot of ground. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child. 6 God spoke to him in this way: ‘Your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 7 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,’ God said, ‘and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.’ 8 Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. And Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him eight days after his birth. Later Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs.

9 “Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him 10 and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt; so he made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.

11 “Then a famine struck all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great suffering, and our fathers could not find food. 12 When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers on their first visit. 13 On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family. 14 After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all. 15 Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our fathers died. 16 Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money.

17 “As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt greatly increased. 18 Then another king, who knew nothing about Joseph, became ruler of Egypt. 19 He dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our forefathers by forcing them to throw out their newborn babies so that they would die.

20 “At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for in his father’s house. 21 When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. 22 Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.

23 “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. 24 He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. 26 The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?’

27 “But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons.

30 “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. 31 When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to look more closely, he heard the Lord’s voice: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look.

33 “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals; the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’

35 “This is the same Moses whom they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 He led them out of Egypt and did wonders and miraculous signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the desert.

37 “This is that Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will send you a prophet like me from your own people.’ 38 He was in the assembly in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us.

39 “But our fathers refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt–we don’t know what has happened to him!’ 41 That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and held a celebration in honor of what their hands had made. 42 But God turned away and gave them over to the worship of the heavenly bodies. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets: ” ‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the desert, O house of Israel? 43 You have lifted up the shrine of Molech and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship. Therefore I will send you into exile’ beyond Babylon.

44 “Our forefathers had the tabernacle of the Testimony with them in the desert. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. 45 Having received the tabernacle, our fathers under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David, 46 who enjoyed God’s favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built the house for him.

48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says:

49 ” ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? 50 Has not my hand made all these things?’

51 “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him– 53 you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.”

54 When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.


This is my first time to deliver a sermon with 60 verses at one time. I’m challenged to finish this story – but if not this time, I will finish next time.

Humanly speaking, let us honor and respect Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

Last Sunday, we saw a story about him (in chp 6) – he was full of 5 holy qualities.

  1. Holy Spirit
  2. wisdom
  3. faith
  4. grace
  5. power

He is the first non-apostle:

  1. to whom miracles were ascribed,
  2. who was questioned before the Sanhedrin,
  3. whose sermon was recorded in the Bible,
  4. the first Christian martyr.

In this sermon, he

  • began with the God of glory and
  • finished with the glory of God –

giving a full panoramic view of the history of Israel. He summarized the whole story of the OT – beginning with Abraham (they were very proud of Abraham and thought he was their first father). They despised Gentiles, but we must remember that Abram was called from Mesopotamia – the land of idol-worship – so he himself was a Gentile when called and saved by the grace of God alone.

He continued to Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, and the prophets – and showed how EACH of them pointed to Jesus.

Let’s look at each individually (briefly).

Abraham

v. 2-8

“2 To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. 3 ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’ [Genesis 12:1-3 – this is the turning point for world evangelism] 4 “So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. 5 He gave him no inheritance here, not even a foot of ground. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child. 6 God spoke to him in this way: ‘Your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 7 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,’ God said, ‘and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.’ 8 Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. And Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him eight days after his birth. Later Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs.”

This first calling of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), “through your Seed, all nations on earth will be blessed” – this “Seed” is SINGULAR, not plural – and refers to Jesus.

Gal 3:16 “This Seed is Jesus Christ.” – this is very clear.

Abram is a picture of Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, “Your father, Abram, rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day.” (He was the father 2,000 years earlier.) “Before Abraham was, I AM.” Jesus IS before Creation – from eternity to eternity.

Joseph

v. 9-17

“9 “Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him 10 and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt; so he made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.

[Read to here]

11 “Then a famine struck all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great suffering, and our fathers could not find food. 12 When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers on their first visit. 13 On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family. 14 After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all. 15 Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our fathers died. 16 Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money. 17 “As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt greatly increased.”

  • Joseph was hated and sold by his brothers because of jealousy.
    • Also Jesus was hated and sold for thirty pieces of silver because of jealousy.
  • Joseph became the savior of Egypt and those who came to him in the famine.
    • Jesus, likewise, is the Savior of the world to those who come to him.
  • In the brothers’ second visit, Joseph revealed himself “I’m Joseph! Your brother! You sold me!” They must have been trembling and thought they would be killed. But he said, “Do not be afraid, it was God who sent me ahead of you to save many lives. God made me Lord over all Egypt.” And Joseph forgave his brothers.
    • Like this, Jesus forgave those who crucified him.
  • Joseph could save all who came to him from famine.
    • Likewise, Jesus can save all who come to him by faith.

Jesus is the eternal Savior and forgiver of all sins.

Moses

v. 18-44

“18 Then another king, who knew nothing about Joseph, became ruler of Egypt. 19 He dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our forefathers by forcing them to throw out their newborn babies so that they would die. 20 “At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for in his father’s house. 21 When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. 22 Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. 23 “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. 24 He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. 26 The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?’ 27 “But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons. 30 “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. 31 When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to look more closely, he heard the Lord’s voice: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look. 33 “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals; the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’ 35 “This is the same Moses whom they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 He led them out of Egypt and did wonders and miraculous signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the desert. 37 “This is that Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will send you a prophet like me from your own people.’ 38 He was in the assembly in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us. 39 “But our fathers refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt–we don’t know what has happened to him!’ 41 That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and held a celebration in honor of what their hands had made. 42 But God turned away and gave them over to the worship of the heavenly bodies. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets: ” ‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the desert, O house of Israel? 43 You have lifted up the shrine of Molech and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship. Therefore I will send you into exile’ beyond Babylon. 44 “Our forefathers had the tabernacle of the Testimony with them in the desert. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen.”

These two (Moses and Jesus) experienced the same thing at their birth.

  • Pharaoh ordered all babies to be killed, so Moses was put outside.
    • Herod also ordered all babies to be killed, so Jesus was put outside of Israel (his parents fled with him to Egypt).
  • Moses was sent by God to them as leader and ruler, but they did not recognize him as such.
    • Jesus also was sent by God as Messiah and they did not recognize him, nor receive him.

John 1 “In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … And we have seen his glory. He was with God in the beginning. Through him, all things have been made, and nothing has been made without him. He gives light and life to all. Even though this world was made by Christ, it did not recognize him, it did not receive him…”

John 1:12 “Yet, to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Moses prophesied Jesus’ coming:

Deuteronomy 18:15 quoted in this passage:

“15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. “

Hebrews 11:26 “26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.”

Yet, Moses lived 1500 years BC (before Christ).

John 5:46 “If you believed Moses, you would believe me.” (Jesus said) because Moses testified about Jesus.

“46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.”

Joshua

v. 45

“Having received the tabernacle, our fathers under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David,”

  • Joshua showed the people the Way into the Promised Land. This was his main mission.
    • Jesus himself is the Way into the Promised Land (heaven). “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through me.”
  • Joshua was conqueror of all nations.
    • Jesus also is conqueror of all.
  1. 1 John 3:8
  2. Romans 8:33
  • Joshua shared and distributed all land to the 12 tribes of Israel.
    • Jesus also shares and distributes his glory to his children – “If we are children, we are heirs of God, and co-heirs with Christ – if indeed we share in his sufferings, we also will share in his glory.”

David & Solomon

v. 46-50

“46 who enjoyed God’s favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built the house for him. 48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says: 49 ” ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? 50 Has not my hand made all these things?'”

David is referred to as the father of Christ (lineage), but David confessed that Christ was his Lord.

“The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

2 Samuel 6:17 “Your house (David) will last forever.” But where is David’s house today? The king of Israel? “Your kingdom will know no end. Your throne will last forever.”

We cannot see the house, kingdom, throne of David today. Therefore, this is only a picture of Jesus’ house, Jesus’ throne – because he is sitting (now) at the right hand of God.

What was David’s FIRST desire? Not fighting his enemies – he was filled with a burning passion to build the house of God.

  • So he gathered all the materials to do so. But God said, “No, because your hands have shed too much blood.” Then, his son Solomon built the Temple with the materials that David gathered.
  • Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up again in three days.” (pointing at himself) – the real ministry of the Temple is the ministry of Christ.

Climax (all OT prophets and Jesus Messiah)

v. 51-52

“51 “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! [because of this verse, the audience was so angry, they covered their ears and gnashed their teeth, and dragged him outside to stone him to death] 52 Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? [OT – 20? or so prophets – ALL the real prophets in the OT were persecuted] They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him–” [Jesus]

Remember and know that all prophets predicted and prophesied Jesus’ coming. This was their main ministry. (Acts 10:43 “43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”)

Just as Jesus was accused falsely, and false witnesses were hired to condemn him, also Stephen had false witnesses brought against him.

His sermon vindicated himself and convicted his hearers.

Their choices were clear: repent, or kill their accuser. Their response was a maddening and murderous stoning.

Someone once said, they stoned him because his sermon was too long…. well….

Conclusion

v. 59-60

“59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.”

The lesson given to us:

  • What does the death of Stephen mean to us?
  • What was the result of this?
  • What lesson or message can we get?

Here are 2 points.

#1 For Stephen himself = coronation (crown)

the meaning of his name actually is “crown”

Rev 2:10 “Be faithful even to the point of death and I will give you the crown of life.”

For himself, this was his crown. He saw the glory of God and the Son of God standing at the right hand of God to receive him into heaven. Usually, Jesus is said to be sitting at the right hand of God, but only HERE, he is standing. Of course, he could not stay sitting at this sight. He had to stand up to welcome the first Christian martyr. This is the Final time the “Son of Man” title is used in the Bible. (v. 56)

This title “Son of Man” is not used any longer in the remainder of the Bible. This is definitely a Messianic title – and Stephen’s use of it is one more witness that Christ is the Messiah.

Stephen was tried, killed, and prayed his final words in a similar manner as Christ.

  • Christ’s prayer, “Father, receive my spirit and do not hold this sin against them.”
  • Stephen, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit, and do not hold this sin against them.”

Stephen had 5 holy qualities:

  1. Holy Spirit
  2. wisdom
  3. faith
  4. grace
  5. power

And at the end, he was super-empowered with extra grace to forgive his murderers.

#2 For Israel = condemnation (judgment)

This was Israel’s 3rd murder.

  1. John the Baptist – permitted –
    • sin against God the Father who’d sent him
  2. Jesus – requested –
    • sin against God the Son who came to save them
  3. Stephen – enacted themselves –
    • sin against God the Holy Spirit who was working in and through the witnesses of Christ – including Stephen

Christ once said, “Sin against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven.” This judgment came in AD 70 when Titus and the Roman generals destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the Temple.

Bible promised in Rev 2:10:

“Be faithful even to the point of death,
and I will give you the crown of life.”

Can you?

The Bible says, “If we die, we die to/for the Lord, if we live, we to/for the Lord. Whether we live or die, we do so to the Lord.”

Let’s pray.

  • Jul 15 / 2018
  • Comments Off on Your Countenance is Your Living Testimony (Acts 6:1-15)
Acts: The Book of Mission, Pastor Heo, Sermons

Your Countenance is Your Living Testimony (Acts 6:1-15)

https://soundcloud.com/antioch-church-325593234/your-countenance-is-your-living-testimony

Download Notes in a .MD file

Your Countenance is your Living Testimony

Acts 6:1-15 (Pastor Heo)

6:1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” 5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)–Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, 10 but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke. 11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God.” 12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.” 15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.


In Greek, angel = “angelos” = messenger

Have you ever seen the face of an angel?

If you become a full messenger of God, your face will be like the face of an angel.

Two parts

  1. v. 1-7 Selection of 7 men
  2. v. 8-15 Arrest of Stephen before the Sanhedrin

When we read of the early church, the fellowship, breaking of bread, ministry, etc, we think they were perfect. But NO. The early church had problems just as we do today. Know that there is no perfect church. No church has ever been, nor will be perfect until Christ returns.

Today, some Christians are wandering from church to church looking for a “perfect” church. If a church were “perfect” – then it should not accept you and me as members in order to remain “perfect.” But if a church did not accept imperfect members, it would not be a biblical church.

A church does not have to be “perfect” to be a powerful witness for Christ.

Early church grew 120 -> 3,000 -> 5,000 – more and more added each day. “So the Word of God spread and ” (v. 7)

“So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”

This growth created logistical problems that would have consumed all the apostles’ time. So, in order to take care of this, they commissioned 7 men who would spend their whole lives to take care of this (deacons of the early church). In the Korean Bible, Philip is mentioned as an evangelist and one of the 7 deacons.

v. 1

“In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.”

At that time, almost all the early church members were Jews. There were two kinds:

  1. Hebraic Jews = Hebrew speaking (native, local) Jews (spoke Aramaic – the Semitic language)
  2. Grecian Jews = Spoke Greek, couldn’t speak Aramaic because they lived outside Israel

At that time, there was a long tradition of care for the poor in the synagogue – and the early church continued this practice. The Greek speaking Jews complained that their widows were being discriminated against.

At that time, there were many MORE widows than usual because many Jews from Greek-speaking nations had returned home to be buried with their ancestors. But, all their money was gone – because property was passed on from father to son. So widows often needed help. They had no property of their own.

In my parents’ generation, in Korea, they said, “Whole life depends on man – father in childhood, husband in marriage, son in old age.” But today is not exactly like that. But 2,000 years ago in that society, widows were totally dependent on others. But discrimination occurred because of language and class barriers.

v. 2-7

“6:2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” 5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”

So the 12 apostles called a meeting of the church and suggested the selection of 7 delegates. They chose 7 workers for this ministry of distribution and management. But there is no record about HOW they did it – but they solved this issue and the church grew, became more mature, and they experienced revival once more (growth in quality and quantity).

From this story, we can apply 3 lessons to our daily lives.

#1 Grow from problems

There is no “perfect” church – there is no “perfect” Christian

Jesus: “In this world, you will have troubles of many kinds, but take heart, for I have overcome the world.” (Matthew?)

In this earth, we live with problems – so many. But what is important is our ATTITUDE when confronting problems.

  • If we receive problems negatively, then that problem will be negative to us.
  • If we receive problems positively, then it will be positive for us and help us to grow and mature.

Met a problem? “Good.” Grow.

From Exodus, on the way to the land of promise, Moses’ father-in-law was a Gentile priest named Jethro. He’d heard of all the news that God had done for Moses and the people of Israel – so he visited them. He saw Moses doing all things alone for all the people – from early morning until evening.

Jethro said, “What are you doing? Why are you alone as judge? Why all the people come to you from early morning to evening? You will be burned out soon. You cannot handle this job alone. Choose capable men who fear God and do not like dishonest gain, to delegate this job to, and appoint them as leaders over 1000s, 100s, 50s, and 10s.”

Yes, Moses had a big problem, but Moses received that problem with an open mind and solved it positively – so the nation grew in maturity and unity.

  • If we receive problems negatively, those problems will be negative to us.
  • If we receive problems positively, those problems will be positive to us.
  1. In school, a student can grow and learn through many problems.
  2. Also a church, or a Christian can grow through many problems.

Met a problem? “Good.” Grow.

#2 Be clear in your priorities

In your life, in your home, in church, what is your priority?

We must be careful not to miss our priority #1 because of secondary jobs.

Both spiritual and physical needs are important and must be met. But, church’s priority #1 is spiritual needs. Jesus, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Administrative burdens (like the distribution of food for widows) is very important, but is NOT the #1 priority for the apostles.

v. 4

“[We] will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

In the local church, pastors are called to focus on the preaching of the Word. “I cannot do all things in AICF. I need your hands to help me. Please pray for me to pray for you. We need to pray for each other.”

So, in this story we must be very clear in our priorities – in ALL our jobs and lives.

#3 Every believer can be a minister

  • Are you a member of AICF?
  • Are you a believer in Christ?
  • Then, are you a minister of Christ in this church?

God wants every member to be a believer, and every believer to be a minister.

Requirements:

  • Believer: Believe in Christ as Savior and Lord
  • Minister: (3 things)
    1. Good reputation (integrity, faithfulness, obedience)
    2. Full of the Holy Spirit (no matter what we are doing in the local church, the guidance of the HS is essential – a Spirit-led life, focusing on Christ)
    3. Full of wisdom (“The fear of God is the foundation of wisdom” – Wisdom in Greek = “sophias” – demonstrating
      • the ability to apply God’s truth appropriately to life situations
      • the ability to get to the best ends through the best means
      • ability to put our knowledge into practice for the best outcome)

To be a minister of the local church:

  1. Good reputation
  2. Full of the HS
  3. Full of wisdom

Here are the 7 who were chosen:

v. 5

“5This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.”

  1. Stephen
  2. Philip
  3. Procorus
  4. Nicanor
  5. Timon
  6. Parmenas
  7. Nicolas

From these 7, we can learn at least 2 things.

  1. ALL 7 of their names are Greek (they are Grecian Jews) – this would lay a good foundation for the future spread of the gospel to the Greek world
  2. Stephen and Philip’s names are put first because their ministries will be explained later (Stephen in chp 7 – the longest chapter in this book, Philip in chp 8) – even though they were chosen as ministers inside the local church, outside they were also very powerful evangelists.

Remember, no matter what ministry you’re chosen to do inside the church, you are also an evangelist outside the church.

In this record, we can see, there is NO record of what they did INSIDE the church – there is only the record of what they did OUTSIDE the church.

At that time, the Word of God spread like ripples on a pond, wider and farther over time. Like this, the Word of God spreads today. So, you do not have to change the world single-handedly. It is enough to be a part of this wave, touching the next person, until ALL have felt this wave. How important is your part.

Next, we see Stephen’s arrest.

v. 8-15

“6:8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)–Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, 10 but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke. 11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God.” 12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.” 15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.”

Stephen is one of the 7 deacons of the early church. He is said to be “full of” 5 qualities:

  1. Holy Spirit
  2. wisdom
  3. faith
  4. grace
  5. power

Stephen provides an ideal model for us to develop in our lives and ministry. It is not Peter (apostle) but Stephen for today’s Christian to develop in our character and ministry.

He was also a skilled debater, minister, and preacher. He is a record holder.

  • In church history, since the resurrection of Christ, Stephen is the first non-apostle to whom miracles are ascribed.
  • The first non-apostle who was arrested and tried before the Sanhedrin.
  • The first non-apostle whose sermon is recorded in the Bible (the longest in the NT).
  • The first martyr in church history.

They could not match Stephen’s wisdom and power – so their only choice was to destroy him. The Sanhedrin’s treatment of him parallels the way they treated Jesus.

  1. Hired false witnesses
  2. Stirred up the people saying he was attacking Moses, the Law, the temple
  3. Executed Stephen

As he stood before the Sanhedrin, his face glowed like the face of an angel. In Exodus, when Moses talked to God on Mt. Sinai, his face shone. Also, Jesus’ face shone at the Transfiguration. And here, Stephen’s face shone.

Very important lesson:

We face this lost world (and others) with our face. Our face is a living testimony – our countenance – should exude rightness and warmth. Our face should reflect unearthly peace and joy that comes from knowing Jesus Christ. Are you a walking advertisement for Christ? Can others look at your face and see something different? Something attractive?

This is a big challenge from Stephen.

  • God bless our face.
  • God bless our countenance – because we can be witnesses to the lost world through our word, breathing, character, face, and faith.

We can be strong witnesses to the lost world through our countenance. Shining?

“My face is evangelizing. My countenance is evangelizing.”

Let’s pray.

  • Jan 18 / 2015
  • Comments Off on Enjoy the Freedom and Power of Forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35)
Matthew: The Book of Kingship, Pastor Heo, Sermons

Enjoy the Freedom and Power of Forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35)

01.18-Pastor Heo

01.18.2015-PHeo

Sermon Notes

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Enjoy the Freedom & Power of Forgiveness

Matthew 18:21-35 (Pastor Heo)

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26 “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ 30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”


 

The last verse is the key verse from today’s reading. Remember this not only in your brain, but also in your hearts. This is the conclusion:

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

One time, Peter asked, “Lord, how many times should I forgive? 7 times? Wow! So many!” At that time (and in the Bible) the number 7 is a symbol of perfection.

How about you and me? Can we forgive 7 times? Only 3 times? Not even one time?

Peter probably expected praise from Jesus for showing his great faith when he offered to forgive up to seven times. At that time, the rabbis taught that 3 times to forgive was sufficient.

But if we look at this passage clearly, we can see Peter’s serious mistakes:

  1. 1. He lacked humility – he was proud, he was sure that OTHERS would sin against him, but not he against others. Yes, when others hurt us, we remember this very clearly. But we have difficulty to remember our own faults against others.
  2. 2. He asked in measured limitations – if there is a limitation in numbers, then there is no true love in your heart – “Be rooted and established in love to know how wide, how long, how deep, how tall is the love of Christ – so that we may be filled to full perfection in the love of God.”

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” What number is there? NONE. If there was a number, we would surely exceed it and go beyond God’s limited forgiveness (in this scenario).

This parable deals with the power and freedom of forgiveness. This parable is not about our salvation – about grace, freely given. The emphasis here is about forgiveness between brothers – not on God’s forgiveness of sinners.

From verse 23-27:

10,000 talents – how much is that? This debt was CANCELED.

At that time, 2,000 years ago, even 1 talent was enough to start a business (50,000,000 Won?)

At that time, in another parable (Matthew 25?) the Master (king) was going on a long journey and he gave 1 talent to one servant, 2 to another, 5 to another – entrusted to them.

At that time the entire TAX of Jerusalem was 800 talents.

Ordinary people had to work 20 YEARS to make ONE talent. So, it is ludicrous to think that one slave could ever borrow 10,000 talents from the king – it was obvious that he was STEALING when the books were checked.

His story is like our story – he is a guilty debtor. He was an enemy of the king, as we were once enemies of God. He thought he could repay the king by his own effort as we once thought we could pay for our own salvation through our good works. He was powerless in his debt, and at one time, we also were powerless in our sin. Both of us received merciful debt forgiveness.

“The servant’s master took pity on his and CANCELED the debt and let him go.”

v. 28-29

100 denarii – how much is that? – CHOKING over this amount – PRISON for this amount.

At that time, an average worker earns 1 denarius per day. This debt was very small compared to what this servant owed the king. 10,000 talents = a bus full of money. 100 denarii = a pocket full of money. This wicked servant grabbed, choked, threw him in jail. This second servant used the SAME method, pleading that the first servant had used “Please, have mercy, have patience.”

This first servant had been forgiven, but was unwilling to grant to others what he’d already received. He and his family had been spared the shame and suffering of the prison, but he refused to spare his friend.

If we receive unconditional forgiveness from God and then don’t forgive our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are WORSE than him.

v. 31-35

The King delivered this servant from prison, he saved him – but this servant actually put himself back in prison. He did exercise justice and cast his friend into prison – and the king said basically, “OK, cool. Let’s live by ‘justice’ then. Here’s your justice. I’ll do to you just as you have done to him.”

Conclusion: 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

In the Lord’s prayer, we pray all the time, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

Jesus says, “If you forgive when others sin against you, also my Father will forgive you, but if NOT, then he WON’T.”

  • Eph 4: “Be kind and compassionate with one another.”
  • Col “Bear with each other. Forgive whatever grievances you have against one another.”

But, we must not forget the conclusion of this matter. This doesn’t mean “if you don’t forgive, your salvation is lost/canceled.” It also doesn’t mean “God MUST forgive you when you forgive others.”

You must understand the true meaning of forgiveness:

What is the ground/foundation of the assurance of salvation?

The assurance of salvation + the assurance of forgiveness = BOTH necessary, mutually exclusive. Without one, you can’t have the other.

Jeremiah 31:34 “The Lord (Jehovah) declares, ‘I forgive your sins. And if I forgive your sins, I remember them NO MORE.’”

Just like ONE salvation = eternal and never changes, likewise ONCE forgiveness against our original sin = eternal and never changes.

If we have assurance of salvation + assurance of forgiveness, then what is the ground/basis for our assurance?

  • We must repent. But this is not the ground upon which God forgives us.
  • We must have faith. But this is not the ground upon which God forgives us.

God cannot forgive/pardon sin/sinners MERELY on the ground of a sinners forgiveness. This would be impossible for a righteous God to do. He can forgive ONLY when the penalty is ALREADY paid.

For Him to forgive, and for us to receive his forgiveness, Christ died upon the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.

This is the ONLY ground/basis upon which we can have the assurance of salvation + forgiveness. Even as he was dying on the cross, he prayed “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Even there, he had HUGE compassion for those who sinned against him.

In this world, the worst kind of prison is an unforgiving heart. We are throwing ourselves into prison and torturing ourselves if we don’t forgive others.

We must experience the power of forgiveness in our hearts. If we live only by justice, we put ourselves in prison. But if we live by forgiveness and mercy, giving others what God’s given us, we can experience true freedom and power of forgiveness and the forgiving of others.

No matter our experience, we cannot fully enjoy freedom, peace, and joy without forgiving others.

Yes, we show the true condition of our own hearts by the way we treat others. If we are humble and repentant, we can willingly and easily forgive others. But where there is pride and a passion for revenge, there is not a place for forgiveness.

Let me show the power of the real freedom of forgiveness in the Bible:

Stephen (Acts 7)

He preached a very wonderful, powerful, marvelous and biblical sermon. His sermon is one of the most powerful sermons in church history. But how did the congregation react? Clapping? Thank you? Nope. Death. By stoning.

Imagine I’m preaching here and someone in the audience began stoning me.

But Stephen did not even pay for this. He prayed for them as they killed him. “Father, do not hold this sin against them.” Why? What made him do this? Was he different? No, a normal man, filled with the Holy Spirit – anointed to do this. The power and freedom of forgiveness that he’d personally experienced empowered him to do this and forgive his own murderers as they were murdering him.

We must experience, enjoy the power of forgiveness deep in our hearts and makes us gentle and forgiving of others.

Our brothers and sisters, coworkers, neighbors, family members – we should forgive them all deeply, readily, quickly.

Let’s pray.

  • Feb 23 / 2014
  • Comments Off on The Martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 7:1-60)
Acts: The Church Grows, Pastor Brian, Sermons

The Martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 7:1-60)

02.22

02.23.2014 Pastor Brian

Sermon Notes

<Download Notes in a .RTF file>

Acts 7:1-60

At this point in Acts, Stephen has been brought before the Sanhedrin. The apostles (Stephen included) had been put in charge of overseeing the distribution of food to the widows (particularly Greek widows). The apostles had appointed 7 disciples to do this – including Stephen and Philip.

God had more in store for Stephen and Philip. They were geared toward speaking to the Greek Jews. They were doing wonders, performing miracles before the Greek Jews (like the apostles).

Stephen was preaching before the Freedmen, and they began arguing with him. The Freedmen then accused him of blaspheming against Moses and the Law. So they brought him to the Sanhedrin where they asked him, “Is this so?”

He doesn’t answer directly, but retraces the steps of Israel (who’d not been completely faithful to Moses or the Law anyway). He was basically saying, “If you REALLY knew God in a real way, you’d know Jesus as your Savior.”

Recounting the history = 5 segments

  1. Abraham’s calling (v. 2-8)
  2. Patriarchs in Egypt (v. 9-16)
  3. The life of Moses (v. 17-36)
  4. Moses and Israel in the wilderness (v. 37-43)
  5. Tabernacle and the temple (v. 44-50)

#1: Abraham (v. 2-8)

Called by God in Mesopotamia. Stephen is emphasizing that even Abraham wasn’t a Jew at first. God called from OUTSIDE the Jews.

Stephen’s Speech to the Sanhedrin

1 Then the high priest asked him, “Are these charges true?” 2 To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. 3 ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’ 4 “So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. 5 He gave him no inheritance here, not even a foot of ground. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child. 6 God spoke to him in this way: ‘Your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 7 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,’ God said, ‘and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.’ 8 Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. And Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him eight days after his birth. Later Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs.

The Jews thought that God’s glory was in the temple. Stephen emphasizes that God called Abraham OUT of the Jews, OUT of the temple.

Stephen emphasizes God’s actions, not Abraham’s heroics:

  • He appears,
  • He speaks,
  • He moves,
  • He gives promises,
  • He judges,
  • He gives a covenant

God is the central character.

Stephen is very respectful and calls these men the Fathers (Abraham = “our father”). However, by the end of the speech he says, “your father” after he rebukes them.

He emphasizes that God can speak and act anywhere in the world – not just Jerusalem. This is very transformational. Before this, all the religion was geared toward Jews: mainly Jews preached to mainly Jews in mainly Jewish places. After this speech, Stephen is kind of the connecting link between hard-core Judaism and the Christianity Paul (in this chapter Saul) preached.

The main focus of Judaism was:

  1. The Land (Promised Land)
  2. The Law
  3. The Temple

#2 The Patriarchs in Egypt (v. 9-16)

9 “Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph,they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him 10 and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt; so he made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace. 11 “Then a famine struck all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great suffering, and our fathers could not find food. 12 When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers on their first visit. 13 On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family. 14 After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all. 15 Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our fathers died. 16 Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money.

Here, Stephen focuses on Joseph – the favored son of Jacob. The coat (colorful, yes) was a symbol of who was to receive the inheritance. This caused his other brothers to hate him. Also, the dreams he had (and proudly told them about), made them upset because they indicated that the whole family (even the parents) would bow down to him.

He was put in a pit, sold into slavery, sent to prison (falsely accused), interpreted dreams, got out of prison, became SECOND in command of one of the most powerful nations on earth at that time.

Joseph noted that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord (Romans 8:28). Then the sons of Jacob came to Egypt to meet with him – they didn’t recognize him at first. But the second time they came back, he revealed himself. They were afraid because they thought he would take his revenge, but he comforted them, blessed them, protected them, and provided new homes for them.

Jesus and Joseph

  • Jesus and Joseph, rejected by their brothers
  • Jesus, rejected by Jews, received by Gentiles (John 1 “he came to his own and his own did not receive him – but to those who did receive him, he gave the right to become children of God”).
  • Joseph, rejected by brothers, received by Egyptians.
  • Jesus, died (lowly place) and rose to the highest place.
  • Joseph, in prison (lowly place) rose to the highest place (under Pharaoh).

So Joseph is a shadow, foreshadowing of Jesus. Stephen is trying to make this crystal clear.

#3 The Life of Moses (v. 17-36)

17 “As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt greatly increased. 18 Then another king, who knew nothing about Joseph, became ruler of Egypt. 19 He dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our forefathers by forcing them to throw out their newborn babies so that they would die. 20 “At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for in his father’s house. 21 When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. 22 Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. 23 “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. 24 He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. 26 The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?’ 27 “But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons. 30“After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. 31 When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to look more closely, he heard the Lord’s voice: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look. 33 “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals; the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’ 35 “This is the same Moses whom they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 He led them out of Egypt and did wonders and miraculous signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the desert.

Through their own history, they proved that they also did not follow Moses.

Jesus and Moses:

  • Moses narrowly escaped death as an infant from Pharaoh.
  • Jesus narrowly escaped death as an infant from Herod.
  • Moses was mighty in word and deed.
  • Jesus was mighty in word and deed (Luke 9:50?)

Moses tried to reconcile the fighting Israelites and he was rejected – he had to flee to Midian. Moses was commissioned OUT of Judea – “the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

The Jews had started to “cage God” in the temple. He was trying to show them that God doesn’t LIVE in the temple, and he CAN work outside the temple.

Yes, he appeared there, but there was a time when the glory disappeared from there – when hearts strayed from true worship. Stephen’s emphasis is that God’s dwelling is not the temple building. (Paul in Eph. 2 “you are the temple of the Holy Spirit – your bodies – honor God with your bodies”)

Moses had declared that God would one day raise up a prophet like him (the Messiah = Jesus) – had all the marks/requirements that Moses had declared that God would raise up. But the Israelites had refused to pay attention to them.

Even when Peter said these similar things, he’d softened it “Yes, you did wrong in the past because you didn’t know, but NOW God has commanded otherwise.”

Here, Stephen is being much more forceful. Will he go too far?

#4 Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness (v. 37-43)

37 “This is that Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will send you a prophet like me from your own people.’ 38 He was in the assembly in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us. 39 “But our fathers refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt–we don’t know what has happened to him!’ 41 That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and held a celebration in honor of what their hands had made. 42 But God turned away and gave them over to the worship of the heavenly bodies.This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets: ” ‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the desert, O house of Israel? 43 You have lifted up the shrine of Molech and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship. Therefore I will send you into exile’ beyond Babylon.

#5 The Tabernacle and the Temple (v. 44-53)

44 “Our forefathers had the tabernacle of the Testimony with them in the desert. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. 45Having received the tabernacle, our fathers under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David,46 who enjoyed God’s favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built the house for him. 48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says: 49 ” ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? 50 Has not my hand made all these things?’ 51 “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him– 53 you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.”

The tabernacle was a moveable building where God appeared at first.

David said, “Let’s give God a house.” Nathan the prophet agreed, but said, “You are a man of blood, you can’t.” So his son Solomon did it.

The problem is that God moves, and God dwells, BUT sometimes, we put too much emphasis on the BUILDING where God HAS been, and where he DID move.

Now, Stephen is emphasizing that the TEMPLE building is “the big deal.” Even Jesus had said this “Woe to you, for you built tombs for the prophets, BUT your ancestors killed them. So, you approved of what your ancestors did, but you build their tombs.”

The Stoning of Stephen

54 When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. (And Saul was there giving approval to his death.)

At this, (so much hard speech toward them), they absolutely lost control and grabbed him, dragged him out of town, and stoned him violently.

At this part of Scripture, Jesus is standing (not sitting) at the right hand of God. It’s as if he’s standing, waiting to receive and welcome Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

It’s interesting too that when Jesus was before that same assembly, he’d said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds in glory.” That caused them to murder him.

And now, Stephen is seeing the Son of Man in glory, and they murder him.

Jesus and Stephen:

  • Jesus: “The Son of Man will be glorified.”
  • Stephen: “The Son of Man is glorified.”
  • Jesus on the cross: “Into your hands I commit my spirit.”
  • Stephen: To Jesus’ hands, commits his spirit.
  • Jesus: “Forgive them (my murderers) their sins.”
  • Stephen: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (v. 60)

Then he fell asleep (yes, death is only temporary). When we wake again (the Great Awakening) at Jesus’ Second Coming (just like Joseph showed himself to his brothers the second time), how will we wake up?

There was a first chance to receive Christ – when he came first and until the Second Coming. Have you received Jesus as your Savior?

Let’s pray.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Listen