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Summary: CONTINUING WITH THE THOUGHT OF THE STEADFAST CHURCH

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A STEADFAST CHURCH: STEPHEN'S EXECUTION

ACTS 7:54ACTS 8:4

POINT ONE: STEPHEN’S EXECUTION:

PSALM 116:15: THE DEATH OF ONE THAT BELONGS TO THE LORD IS PRECIOUS IN HIS SIGHT.

STEPHEN REALIZED THAT HE WAS SOON TO DIE, BUT HE HAD A CALMNESS AND PEACE AROUND HIM THAT ONLY GOD CAN GIVE. HE TRULY UNDERSTOOD WHAT PAUL WOULD LATER WRITE TO THE CORINTHIANS:

2 CORINTHIANS: 5:1-3, 5-6, 8-10:

WE KNOW THAT OUR BODY—THE TENT WE LIVE IN HERE ON EARTH— WILL BE DESTROYED. BUT WHEN THAT HAPPENS, GOD WILL HAVE A HOUSE FOR US. IT WILL NOT BE A HOUSE MADE BY HUMAN HANDS; INSTEAD, IT WILL BE A HOME IN HEAVEN THAT WILL LAST FOREVER. 2 BUT NOW WE GROAN IN THIS TENT. WE WANT GOD TO GIVE US OUR HEAVENLY HOME, 3 BECAUSE IT WILL CLOTHE US SO WE WILL NOT BE NAKED. 5 THIS IS WHAT GOD MADE US FOR, AND HE HAS GIVEN US THE SPIRIT TO BE A GUARANTEE FOR THIS NEW LIFE. 6 SO WE ALWAYS HAVE COURAGE. WE KNOW THAT WHILE WE LIVE IN THIS BODY, WE ARE AWAY FROM THE LORD.. 8 SO I SAY THAT WE HAVE COURAGE. WE REALLY WANT TO BE AWAY FROM THIS BODY AND BE AT HOME WITH THE LORD. 9 OUR ONLY GOAL IS TO PLEASE GOD WHETHER WE LIVE HERE OR THERE, 10 BECAUSE WE MUST ALL STAND BEFORE CHRIST TO BE JUDGED. EACH OF US WILL RECEIVE WHAT WE SHOULD GET—GOOD OR BAD—FOR THE THINGS WE DID IN THE EARTHLY BODY.

THERE WAS NOTHING MORE TO BE SAID, NO FURTHER DEFENCE TO BE GIVEN. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE BLOOD-THIRSTY SANHEDRIN AND THE CALM AND PEACEFUL STEPHEN SPEAKS VOLUMES AS TO HIS INNOCENCE, BUT SO DOES THE NEXT OCCURANCE.

ACTS 7:55-56:

55 BUT STEPHEN WAS FULL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. HE LOOKED UP TO HEAVEN AND SAW THE GLORY OF GOD AND JESUS STANDING AT GOD’S RIGHT SIDE. 56 HE SAID, “LOOK! I SEE HEAVEN OPEN AND THE SON OF MAN STANDING AT GOD’S RIGHT SIDE.”

ACCORDING TO CUSTOM, A PRISONER WAS GIVEN A CHANCE TO CONFESS AND ASK FORGIVENESS FOR HIS CRIME ON THE WAY TO THE EXECUTION SITE. THEY CAN THEN DIE WITH A CLEAR CONSCIENCE AND GAIN ACCEPTANCE INTO THE WORLD TO COME.

STEPHEN’S WORDS THOUGH WERE NOT AN ADMISSION OF GUILT, BUT A DECLARATION OF INNOCENSE FROM GOD.

THE VISION IS UNIQUE FOR TWO REASONS:

1. OUTSIDE THE GOSPELS, ONLY IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION AND HERE IS THE TITLE “SON OF MAN” USED. STEPHEN IS THE ONLY PERSON IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, OTHER THAN JESUS, TO USE IT.

IT IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE IT POINTS US BACK TO THE ONE IN WHOM STEPHEN PUTS HIS HOPE. STEPHEN POINTS US BACK TO THE INCARNATION, HIS SAVING FAIATH AND RESURRECTION, TO HIS HEAVENLY EXALTATION, UNIVERSAL DOMINION, AND HIS GLORIOUS FUTURE REIGN.

SOMETIMES, IN THE MIDST OF TRIALS, WE NEED TO BE POINTED BACK TO THE ONE THAT IS CONSTANT, AND WON’T LET US DOWN.

ILLUSTRATE: OLD MAN IN DEATH HOLDING GOD’S HAND.

2. NOTE THE FACT THAT JESUS IS “STANDING” AND NOT SITTING AT GOD’S RIGHT HAND. IT IS MOST COMMON TO PICTURE JESUS “SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD. WE SPEAK OF THIS BECAUSE THE WORK OF SALVATION ON HIS PART IS COMPLETE.

HERE THOUGH HE IS STANDING, SO WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS GESTURE? I BELIEVE HE IS STANDING TO WELCOME THE FIRST CHRISTIAN MARTYR IN HONOR. I BELIEVE HE IS STANDING IN DEFENCE OF STEPHEN BEFORE THE FATHER AS STEPHEN STOOD IN DEFENCE FOR JESUS BEFORE THE SANHEDRIN AND THE WORLD.


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