Summary: WHAT WE HAVE BEFORE US IS BY FAR THE LONGEST SERMON WE HAVE SEEN IN THE BOOK OF ACTS, AND I WOULD VENTURE TO SAY, IS THE LONGEST OF THE BOOK ITSELF. IT IS ALSO THE FIRST SERMON GIVEN BY A NON-APOSTLE, AND WOULD RESULT IN THE FIRST DEATH OF A NON-APOSTLE.
A SERMON OF NOTE TO A PEOPLE OF NEED
INTRODUCTION: AT THE ONSET, I NEED TO TAKE A MOMENT TO APOLOGIZE FOR THE EXTENT OF OUR TEXT THIS MORNING. LITERALLY, THIS IS A WHOLE CHAPTER. YET, I CAN FIND NO PLACE WHERE THE TEXT CAN BE DIVIDED THAT WOULD NOT DO DAMAGE TO THE CONTEXT. SO, HERE WE ARE; WITH AN ENTIRE CHAPTER TO LOOK AT AND SEE WHAT GOD WOULD TEACH US.
WITH THAT SAID, WHAT WE HAVE BEFORE US IS BY FAR THE LONGEST SERMON WE HAVE SEEN IN THE BOOK OF ACTS, AND I WOULD VENTURE TO SAY, IS THE LONGEST OF THE BOOK ITSELF. IT IS ALSO THE FIRST SERMON GIVEN BY A NON-APOSTLE, AND WOULD RESULT IN THE FIRST DEATH OF A NON-APOSTLE.
YET THIS TEXT IS A CONDEMNATION OF THE NATION OF ISRAEL AND ITS LEADERS, AS WELL AS AN EXHORTATION TO US TO BE WATCHFUL, LEST WE FOLLOW THE SAME PATH.
THE KEY VERSE OF THIS ACTS 7:51 "YOU STIFF-NECKED PEOPLE, WITH UNCIRCUMCISED HEARTS AND EARS! YOU ARE JUST LIKE YOUR FATHERS: YOU ALWAYS RESIST THE HOLY SPIRIT!
PROPOSITION: WE NEED TO AVOID THE FAILURES OF THE PAST.
I. THE LESSONS FROM OUR FOREFATHERS
a. ABRAHAM – GOD IS WORTHY OF FOLLOWING
ACTS 7:2-8 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.
i. GOD APPEARED TO ABRAHAM WHILE HE WAS IN MESOPOTAMIA
ii. GOD HIMSELF APPEARED TO ABRAHAM – THIS WAS A SOVEREIGN CALL
iii. ABRAHAM REMAINED A PILGRIM EVEN WHILE HE CAME TO THE LAND GOD HAD PROMISED TO HIM
1. THE BLESSING OF GOD ARE NOT LIMITED TO THE LAND OF ISRAEL OR THE TEMPLE.
2. THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS WERE CAUGHT UP IN THE NOTION THAT THEY HAD A LOCK ON GOD – GOD’S LAND AND GOD’S HOUSE!
THE POINT STEPHEN WAS MAKING HERE WAS THAT:
GOD CAME TO ABRAHAM WHILE HE WAS STILL IN MESOPOTAMIA.
THESE RELIGIOUS LEADERS WERE TOO JERUSALEM FOCUSED, TOO TEMPLE OBSESSED.
THEY HAD BETTER GET THEIR EYES OPEN, OR THEY WOULD MISS WHAT GOD WAS DOING.
THE CHURCH WAS MEANT TO BE A PLACE THE EDIFIED THOSE INSIDE AND EVANGELIZED THOSE OUTSIDE. JESUS COMMANDED US TO MAKE DISCIPLES – TO REPRODUCE OURSELVES.
THE DANGER THAT FACED THE LEADERS OF ISRAEL AND THE PRESENT CHURCH IS THAT OF INWARD FOCUS. A FOCUS THAT DENIES THE NEEDS OF THE WORLD FOR THE COMFORTS OF COMPLACENCY.
IN ORDER FOR ABRAHAM TO RECEIVE THE PROMISE AND BLESSING OF GOD, HE HAD TO LOOK FORWARD, NOT BACKWARD OR EVEN CURRENT
AS A CHURCH WE NEED TO BE MINDFUL THAT WE DO NOT FALL INTO THE COMFORT OF COMPLACENCY.
IF WE ARE NOT LOOKING FORWARD WE ARE LOSING GROUND!
b. JOSEPH – THE PRODUCT OF JEALOUSY
Acts 7:9-16 "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.