Summary: The holy place of Jesus Christ resides not in any building, cathedral, or historical site, the holy place of Jesus Christ resides in your heart.
Stephen stands before the highest religious court in the land to answer charges of blasphemy against Moses and against God. This is the same court that Peter and John recently stood before and the same court Jesus recently stood before. All the same men are there who were at Jesus’ trial, all the same men are there who were at Peter and John’s trial - including the same High Priest Caiaphas.
We saw last week that an epiphany had hit Stephen and the epiphany was this: Since Jesus is our one atoning sacrifice for all time, since through Jesus alone we receive forgiveness, new life and salvation, that means we don’t need anything more than Jesus.
Bottom line: All we need is Jesus.
The practical effect of this revelation is that if all we need is Jesus, then we don’t need the Temple sacrifices anymore and if we don’t need the Temple sacrifices anymore, then the Temple is redundant. By extension, we see that not only is the Jewish Temple redundant, but the Temple and rituals of any other religion are ineffectual.
Stephen has been going around Jerusalem arguing that Jesus is greater than the Temple, Jesus is greater than any religion, Stephen has been in effect saying Jesus is all we need.
For us today, the practical effect is this: If Jesus gives us all we need, what is the point in searching elsewhere for fulfillment? Answer, there is no point in searching elsewhere.
This morning, here in chapter 7, we see Stephen following a traditional Greek rhetorical outline with the heart of his argument in verses 37-53 which is where we will concentrate our study this morning.
Stephen argues that God is not in any one location and that the power of God is not contained in anything built by human hands, God is in the hearts of His believers. This is not a new idea that Stephen has come up with, this is how it always has been. This is not a new progression of understanding of who God is and how God operates, this is how it always has been. God never changes, Jesus is the same today, yesterday, forever.
For us this truth applies the same today. Wherever there are believers, wherever there are those who are believers in Jesus Christ, there exists the Church of Jesus Christ. Fact is, the holy place of Jesus Christ resides not in any building, cathedral, or historical site, the holy place of Jesus Christ resides in your heart.
Let us understand, and hear me clearly on this: True desecration of the Christian Church is not graffiti spray painted on a church building or some unholy act preformed within the walls of a church, true desecration of the Christian Church is the sin we each harbor within our hearts. Respecting the church is not behaving correctly within the sanctuary of a church, (only the ignorant believe that), respecting the church is repentance of sin and the overcoming of sin in your life. Why? The true church is within your heart, not in any physical building.
There are those who do all the right things in church, but in their heart - the true church, their sin chokes out the movement of the Holy Spirit.
Better to have a clean heart, than hold any position of power within a physical church; Better to have a clean heart, than to hold any influence within a physical church; Better to have a clean heart, than to be respected for what you have done for the physical church.
A man and a woman are judged for what is within their heart. What is within the heart takes precedence over everything we see in happening in the physical church.
As Stephen stands before the Sanhedrin he is asked a simple yes or no question about Stephen’s views on the Temple, “Are these charges true?” Yes, or no? But, Stephen, sees an opportunity to offer the Gospel, and so Stephen proceeds with an extended argument.
Stephen is not simply recounting the history of the Hebrew people, everyone in the Sanhedrin knows this history by heart. Instead, in the first part of his argument, Stephen is showing two parallel truths: He shows how historically there was no Temple, and yet God was still there with his people, and that historically humans have had a hard heart toward God.
Abraham. There is no Temple in existence, but still God appears to Abraham and He appears to Abraham in Iraq of all places - not in the holy city of Jerusalem. (verses 2-8)
Joseph. There is no Temple in existence, but God still appears to Joseph in Egypt of all places - not in the holy city of Jerusalem...and note that the ancestors of the Hebrew people rejected God’s representative Joseph, the history of the hard heart starts here. (verses 9-19)