Acts 6-7;The First Christian Martyr

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 10

This chapter is based on Acts 6:5-15; 7.

As the priests and rulers saw the power that attended the preaching of Stephen, they were filled with bitter hatred.

Wait a minute! Why would a humble little deacon filled with the Holy Spirit make pious religious leaders so hateful and bitter? Is someone jealous here? You know you have to give it to Eli. Even with all his faults, when Samuel kept getting up in the night thinking Eli was calling him Eli finally told little Samuel that God must be calling him. That was great humility on Eli’s part. Most of the religious leaders of his day and ours would have thought there was no way God would be calling little Samuel. If it was the voice of God he would be calling me not him.  

 Instead of yielding to the evidence that he presented, they determined to silence his voice by putting him to death. On several occasions they had bribed the Roman authorities to pass over without comment instances where the Jews had taken the law into their own hands and had tried, condemned, and executed prisoners in accordance with their national custom. The enemies of Stephen did not doubt that they could again pursue such a course without danger to themselves. They determined to risk the consequences and therefore seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin council for trial.  {AA 98.1} 

Aren’t you glad we never see any religious leaders like that anymore? Or do we? We haven’t seen anyone murdered by a religious leader in a long time here in the U.S. Is that because we are not like that anymore or because we just can’t get away with it here. Let’s face it. Human nature is human nature regardless of time and place. Human nature always does what it can get away with. If we can gossip and cut down our foe, even though we know it is wrong, human nature will still do it as long as it can get away with it. Likewise human nature will commit murder if human nature thinks it could get away with. Even in a religious guise, human nature will stoop to any level that its culture will let it get away with to accomplish its own lustful purposes. In John 7 Jesus tells the people He knows they want to kill Him. They pretend to be shocked and offended, asking who would want to kill you? They wanted to, but could not get away with it then so they acted all shocked and offended by the suggestion. Once they could get away with it though…well you know the story.

This, my friends is why human nature must be crucified! Romans 8:3-4, Galatians 2:20, Galatians 6:14.

   As Stephen stood face to face with his judges to answer to the charge of blasphemy, a holy radiance shone upon his countenance, and “all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.” Many who beheld this light trembled and veiled their faces, but the stubborn unbelief and prejudice of the rulers did not waver.  {AA 99.1} 

 

When Stephen reached this point, there was a tumult among the people. When he connected Christ with the prophecies and spoke as he did of the temple, the priest, pretending to be horror-stricken, rent his robe. To Stephen this act was a signal that his voice would soon be silenced forever. He saw the resistance that met his words and knew that he was giving his last testimony. Although in the midst of his sermon, he abruptly concluded it.  {AA 100.1} 

     Suddenly breaking away from the train of history that he was following, and turning upon his infuriated judges, he cried: “Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.”  {AA 100.2} 

     At this, priests and rulers were beside themselves with anger. Acting more like beasts of prey than human beings, they rushed upon Stephen, gnashing their teeth. In the cruel faces about him the prisoner read his fate; but he did not waver. For him the fear of death was gone. For him the enraged priests and the excited mob had no terror. The scene before him faded from his vision. To him the gates of heaven were ajar, and, looking in, he saw the glory of the courts of God, and Christ, as if just risen from His throne, standing ready to sustain His servant. In words of triumph Stephen exclaimed, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”  {AA 100.3} 

There are many references in the Bible to Jesus sitting on the throne or by God. However, when Stephen is being stoned for his faith this is something Jesus will not take sitting down. We see Jesus standing up for Stephen because Stephen was standing up for Jesus! Friend even if no one else stands with you when you stand for the right, Jesus will stand with you!

     As he described the glorious scene upon which his eyes were gazing, it was more than his persecutors could endure. Stopping their ears, that they might not hear his words, and uttering loud cries, they ran furiously upon him with one accord “and cast him out of the city.” “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”  {AA 101.1} 

The dead know not anything and so the next thing Stephen will know is the resurrection. Stephen was not afraid when he was being killed. Stephen knew at that point, heaven was just a stones throw away!

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.

Acts 6; The Seven Deacons

A recent deacon ordination at the Tampa First Sventh-day Adventist Church where I am writing from today.

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 9

This chapter is based on Acts 6:1-7.

The appointment of the seven to take the oversight of special lines of work, proved a great blessing to the church. These officers gave careful consideration to individual needs as well as to the general financial interests of the church, and by their prudent management and their godly example they were an important aid to their fellow officers in binding together the various interests of the church into a united whole.  {AA 89.2} 
     That this step was in the order of God, is revealed in the immediate results for good that were seen. “The word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests  were obedient to the faith.” This ingathering of souls was due both to the greater freedom secured by the apostles and to the zeal and power shown by the seven deacons. The fact that these brethren had been ordained for the special work of looking after the needs of the poor, did not exclude them from teaching the faith. On the contrary, they were fully qualified to instruct others in the truth, and they engaged in the work with great earnestness and success.  {AA 89.3} 
     To the early church had been entrusted a constantly enlarging work–that of establishing centers of light and blessing wherever there were honest souls willing to give themselves to the service of Christ. The proclamation of the gospel was to be world-wide in its extent, and the messengers of the cross could not hope to fulfill their important mission unless they should remain united in the bonds of Christian unity, and thus reveal to the world that they were one with Christ in God. Had not their divine Leader prayed to the Father, “Keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, as We are”? And had He not declared of His disciples, “The world hath hated them, because they are not of the world”? Had He not pleaded with the Father that they might be “made perfect in one,” “that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me”? John 17:11, 14, 23, 21. Their spiritual life and power was dependent on a close connection with the One by whom they had been commissioned to preach the gospel.  {AA 90.1} 
     Only as they were united with Christ could the disciples hope to have the accompanying power of the Holy Spirit and the co-operation of angels of heaven. With the help of these divine agencies they would present before the world a united front and would be victorious in the conflict they were compelled to wage unceasingly against the powers of darkness. As they should continue to labor unitedly, heavenly messengers would go before them, opening the way; hearts would be prepared for the reception of truth, and many would be won to Christ. So long as they remained united, the church would go forth “fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.” Song of Solomon 6:10. Nothing could withstand her onward progress. The church would advance from victory to victory, gloriously fulfilling her divine mission of proclaiming the gospel to the world.  {AA 90.2} 

Does the New Testament give us an example of all the churches acting alone or in unity with each other?

 The order that was maintained in the early Christian church made it possible for them to move forward solidly as a well-disciplined army clad with the armor of God. The companies of believers, though scattered over a large territory, were all members of one body; all moved in concert and in harmony with one another. When dissension arose in a local church, as later it did arise in Antioch and elsewhere, and the believers were unable to come to an agreement among themselves, such matters were not permitted to create a division in the church, but were referred to a general council of the entire body of believers, made up of appointed delegates from the various local churches, with the apostles and elders in positions of leading responsibility. Thus the efforts of Satan to attack the church in isolated places were met by concerted action on the part of all, and the plans of the enemy to disrupt and destroy were thwarted.  {AA 95.3} 
     “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” 1 Corinthians 14:33. He requires that order and system be observed in the conduct of church affairs today no less than in the days of old. He desires His work to be carried forward with thoroughness and exactness so that He may place upon it the seal of His approval. Christian is to be united with Christian, church with church, the human instrumentality co-operating with the divine, every agency subordinate to the Holy Spirit, and all combined in giving to the world the good tidings of the grace of God.  {AA 96.1}

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.