In Isolation Thoughts 2

Sunday 26th July 2020

Music: YouTube: My faith has found a resting place

Bible Reading: Acts 6.8-15

Here we are Again! Or Church v Sanhedrin

It seems that in the church in the early days, when issues had been resolved, it was not long before another confrontation comes along. In our last look at the story of the early church, we found there was and internal disagreement. This was speedily resolved by the apostles with the appointment of men of faith, good character and with suitable ability to deal with the day-to-day administration of the Church. We need to remember that the church grew at a phenomenal rate, so there was much to be done in the administration, especially in terms of the day to day support for those in need. It is not surprising that the next attack was focused on one of these seven men. In 6.5 we read that the first man mentioned, Stephen, was full of faith and the Holy Spirit; now he became the focus of attention.

Man in Action

We may well ask the question as to why he is singled out from all the others for special attention. We have already mentioned that he was a man of faith and full of the Holy Spirit. We now see how his Faith became action. We should not to be surprised at how God used him, he is described as being full of God’s grace and power. He was chosen by the church for his spiritual ability as well as for his practical ability. It is recorded that he did great wonders and signs in the church.

When Christians are active for Christ then there will be blessings and signs of the power of God as a result. We need more Stephens in the church today, people of faith and action, guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Men in Opposition

On this occasion the opposition did not come from the Jerusalem Jewish section of the Sanhedrin. It came from the Jews who lived in areas outside of Jerusalem, places such as Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia and Asia. We have seen in previous studies that the Sanhedrin was totally opposed to any teaching about Jesus. They had given a clear instruction that there should be no teaching about Jesus, so they would be quite upset at the continued action of the Apostles and the other members of the early church who totally disregarded that instruction. The reason for this disregarding was because they were filled with the Holy Spirit and knew that they were acting on instruction from God-His power could not being ignored. Perhaps this group of the Sanhedrin felt they had to do something to reflect the reason for their place on the Sanhedrin. Maybe they felt they were second class members; they would also be a minority group. They decided to argue with Stephen about his faith and actions. Did they think that they would be able to sort him out? It did not go as they expected, they thought with all their knowledge and experience, it would be easy to show him up and he would retreat in defeat. As with their colleagues previously, they ignored the power of God. Stephen, the man of faith-full of the Holy Spirit, was now given wisdom to answer all their questions and at the same time explain to them why he was teaching about Jesus. His power and ability came not from man, but from God.

There is clearly an lesson for us all to learn from this confrontation. We need to trust in the power of God and His ability to use us in His service. If we try to depend on or use our own strength, we will be like this group of the Sanhedrin. We are most likely to fail and not make the impact we had hoped would be the outcome.

Men in Collusion

Failure was not something they could live with, so the group gave up arguing with Stephen and tried another tactic. They now acted completely outside of all Jewish law, they persuaded men to give false witness. Jewish law demanded witnesses to any accusation. In fact the law demanded at least two witnesses, it also explicitly stated the penalty for giving false witness. Their actions are reminiscent of what happened to Jesus. False accusations were made against Him, accusations which did not stand up in Pilate’s court. When that had failed, the people were stirred up to call for His crucifixion and the mob rule was successful. The accusation against Stephen was that he was blaspheming about Moses, about God, about the Temple and the Jewish law. They also introduced, perhaps deliberately misinterpreting, something that Jesus said about the Temple. They chose two things which were very dear to the heart of the people, the Temple and the Law of Moses. It is interesting that the people as well as the Jewish leaders put a high priority on a building and the Law-which they manipulated in their own interest. Material things were more important than their relationship with God. At the same time having brought in the words of Jesus which did not to refer to the Temple but to His body, they also stated that the OT system of sacrifices was under threat. The system of sacrifices was not under threat, it had been completed with the final sacrifice, the perfect sacrifice the Son of God. There would be no need for any more sacrifice.

Man in Comfort

How did Stephen react to all this? The Sanhedrin stared at him, what would he do, what would he say? All through the ordeal he had been totally dependent on God and the power of the Holy Spirit, so why would he change now? He was at peace with God, totally trusting Him and this why it is reflected in his face. They saw in him, the face of an angel. This is not the end of story; we shall see what happens.

More lessons for us, if we trust in God then we can have His peace. Opposition may not fade away but we are told to stand firm, depend on God and we will know His protective arm around us. Perhaps we can sum up all the lessons as follows:

  • We need to be faithful to God’s word.
  • We need to depend on God’s power given to us by the Holy Spirit.
  • We need to stand firm against the opposition.
  • If we trust in God, we shall know His peace.

Stephen gives us, like so many others in the NT, an example to follow, to live in the will and power of God. This must give us courage in the days in which we live.

 

Music: YouTube- Step into the water


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