Summary: The requirements of taking a standing for Christ
A Study of the Book of Acts
Sermon # 14
“Standing Tall When It Counts”
“Death reveals who we really are. Consider the famous French philosopher Voltaire, who … boasted, “In twenty years Christianity will be no more. My single hand shall destroy the edifice it took twelve apostles to rear.’ Voltaire was proud, confident and cynical. But when he died, he cried in desperation, ‘I am abandoned by God and man! I give you half of what I am worth if you will give me six months life. Then I shall go to hell and you will go with me. O Christ! O Jesus Christ!’
In contrast, the moment of death also sometimes reveals spiritual beauty, John Wesley, (founder of the Methodist movement) died full of counsel, exhortations, and praise for God. His final words were, ‘ The best of all is, God is with us. The best of all is, God is with us. The best of all is, God is with us. Farewell!’ Adoniram Judson, the great American missionary to Burma, suffering immensely at death, said to those around, ‘I go with the gladness of a boy bounding away from school, I feel strong in Christ.’ Jonathon Edwards, dying from smallpox, gave some final directions, bid his daughter good-by, and expired saying, ‘Where is Jesus, my never-failing friend?’” (R Kent Hughes. Acts: The Church Afire. [Wheaton, ILL: Crossway Books, 1996] p.102)
Acts 6:8- 7:60 shows us the final day in the life of a man named Stephen – how he lived, what he said and how he died,
how he stood tall when it counted. This morning I want to share with you “The Principles of Standing Tall!”
I. Standing Tall May Require You To Stand Alone
“And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. 10And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. 11Then they secretly induced men to say, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God."
In verse eight of this chapter we are again introduced to Stephen one of the seven men chosen by the church to serve in the ministry of the local church in Jerusalem, one of the first deacons. The church has obviously chosen well, for he is a man of unusual personal spiritual strength. Luke describes him as a man “full of faith and power.” Although he is not one of the apostles, he also manifested the ability to perform “great wonders and signs among the people”(v. 8). Such a man would be a magnet to those in need and a target for those who opposed the church. The resistance arose from the a special synagogue made up of Hellenistic Jews like Stephen himself. Luke tells us that even the most intellectual and gifted of the Jews leaders found themselves “not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke” (v. 10). Since they could not resist his argument they arranged to have false witnesses bring charges of blasphemy against him.
II. Standing Tall May Require You To Stand Against Error
12And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council. 13They also set up false witnesses who said, "This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; 14for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us." 15And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.”1 Then the high priest said, "Are these things so?"
Stephen stood tall before the Council and he disabused the religious leaders of the fallacies under which they existed. He came down hard on the three pillars of their religion; the land, the law and the temple – three false bases for confidence before God.
Stephen perhaps understood the more clearly than any of the apostle the implications of the death, resurrection and ascension of the Jewish religious system. He knew that Judaism had to give way to Christianity because Jesus was the fulfillment of al that Judaism stood for.
A. The Land (vv. 2-36) (vv. 2-3,9-10, 29-33)
2And he said, "Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, 3and said to him, "Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’ 4Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. …… 9 "And the patriarchs, becoming envious, sold Joseph into Egypt. But God was with him 10and delivered him out of all his troubles, and gave him favor and wisdom in the presence of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house…… Moses fled and became a dweller in the land of Midian, where he had two sons. 30"And when forty years had passed, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire in a bush, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai. 31When Moses saw it, he marveled at the sight; and as he drew near to observe, the voice of the Lord came to him, 32saying, "I am the God of your fathers--the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and dared not look. 33"Then the LORD said to him, "Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.”