Summary: Stephen's death and the following persecution was a bad news/Good News Scenario. On the one hand it was a very negative thing for the church. Yet God used this evil to motivate the church with the Great Commission they had previously ignored.
GOOD NEWS – BAD NEWS FOR THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST
Dorn Ridge Church Of Christ, September 07, 2014
1.) The story has been told of a man waking up in the hospital after a car accident.
A.) As the man gains consciousness, his doctor says to him, I have good news and bad news for you.
B.) The man asks to be given the bad news first.
C.) His doctor replies your injuries were very severe. We had to amputate both of your legs.
D.) The man in the bed replies if that is the bad news what then is there for good news?
E.) The doctor responded “The man in the next bed wants to buy your shoes.”
2.) It is very rarely I would ever use a joke in the pulpit, and perhaps even more rare that I would open a sermon with a joke.
3.) But this morning I have chosen to do so because the situation in our text today though neither trivial nor funny is like some of the jokes a matter of good news and of bad news for the Church of Jesus Christ.
4.) It is a scene where the church had to face some bad news, and the bad news was replaced with even worse news, and from this downward spiral of events, God brought about His good news.
I. BAD NEWS FOR THE CHURCH.
1.) Stephen had been put to death.
A.) Last week in the Word of God, we looked at the scene as Stephen preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
B.) As Stephen preached to this Jewish Synagogue, he tried to convict them of their need for Jesus Christ.
ba.) Sadly, not only was he preaching to an audience that was spiritually dead, he was also speaking to an audience that was very hostile to the message of salvation in Jesus Christ.
C.) Instead of coming to repentance, and a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, his audience turned on him, dragged him from the city, and stoned him to death.
ca.) I want to tell you that Stephen was a man well respected within the church.
cb.) The Scripture does not say on the effects of Stephen’s death, but we can be sure that it shook up the church.
cc.) I suspect that many felt this news was as bad as it could get.
cda.) Yet as bad as this news was for the church, this was the birth pains of even:
II. WORSE NEWS FOR THE CHURCH.
1.) On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem.
A.) Acts 8:1
B.) I want you to notice the location that Luke includes for this persecution.
Luke tells us that this all happened in Jerusalem.
ba.) As I had stated a few weeks ago, the church was by this time probably about seven years old.
bb.) Under the former Jewish dispensation, Jerusalem had been both the political as well as the religious capital.
bc.) As these events were unfolding, the temple was still in Jerusalem, and the sacrifices were still being carried out there each and every day for about another 30-35 years.
C.) Just as the Jewish system had been primarily focussed in Jerusalem, so also for the first few years of the church, the church had remained an entirely Jewish organization.
ca.) Not only did the church remain a Jewish organization, but it also remained one which like the temple was only in the city of Jerusalem.
D.) The death of Stephen was a major turning point for the early church.
da.) Under the direction of a Pharisee we know as “Saul of Tarsus” the Jewish religion began an all-out assault against the Church of Jesus Christ.
db.) Saul’s persecution was no small attack on the church.
dc.) It was an extremely painful attack on the church.
dca.) Perhaps the American civil war in the United States can give us some idea as to how and why this attack on the church was so painful and
dbc.) As in the American Civil war the fighting was with brothers, and cousins, and in some instances even fathers and sons were on opposite sides of the battle lines.
dbd.) In the same way, this persecution on the church was being carried out by family members, and relations, of those within the church.
dd.) The attack on the church was coming from people the church had worshipped with; it was from men who had been well known and respected by those who were now in the church.
dda.) Some of these had even been spiritual mentors in earlier days.
de.) The only thing that had changed between the two groups was the acknowledgement of Jesus as the Christ of God.
df.) Those who were attacking the church had not come to place their faith in Jesus as the Messiah or Christ that God had promised for them.