Summary: When we are bound by stubborn patterns, we can become hostile when our stubborn ways are exposed.
That Same Old Song and Dance
(Acts 7: 1-53)
1. It is natural for all of us to get absorbed in our own worlds; as a result, we often lose sight of the big picture.
2. Our nation’s current economic meltdown is causing us to rethink life and the way we do things in this country.
3. But God’s concern is for both the individual and for all. And it is important for us to remember that not all the citizens of planet earth live in America; we are less than 6% of the world’s population.
4. In the last hour, while we were in Sunday school -- or any hour, for that matter, here is what typically happens in this world.
2,738 people died from starvation
342 people died from malaria
76 mothers died from childbirth
9,582 babies died from induced abortion
8,898 infants and children were abandoned
4,650 rural poor people migrated to cities
$2trillion (2thoushand million), 86 billion, and 752 million dollars was earned by church members
$2 million, 738 thousand dollars were given to foreign missions.
$2 million, 966 thousand was embezzled by trusted church leaders (more than given to missions)
20 Christians were martyred, put to death for their faith, in the last hour.
[source: Mission Maker 2009 Magazine, numbers rounded off]
5. There are two approaches we can take toward these statistics: we can appreciate how good we have it here in America, or we can care about reaching the world. And it is not wrong to do both, but caring is the more important of the two, IMO.
6. God cares, and the stoning of Stephen, ironically, is about that care. Because the church at Jerusalem was persecuted from the point of Stephen’s stoning, the Gospel would spread throughout the Mediterranean world. You see, it is about us, but not just us; it is primarily about God, and we fit in somewhere in the pattern of it all. God uses our sufferings to accomplish His greater purposes.
7. In his defense, Stephen preaches a sermon. Stephen’s sermon follows traditional Greek oratory for persuading a hostile audience. (1) exordium (2a), (2) narration (2b-34), (3) transition/proposition (35), (4) argument (36-50), (5) peroratio.
[Source: quoted by Ben Witherington III, ¬in his commentary on Acts]
Stephen’s speech was masterful. Stephen has been accused of speaking negatively about the Law, the Temple, and the customs handed down from Moses. This is simply not true.
Let me take the time to read this text to you, and then we’ll have to rush through our outline, but I think this is the best approach.
Main Idea: When we are bound by stubborn patterns, we can become hostile when our stubborn ways are exposed.
TS --- > Stephen argued his case that God has never confined Himself to one place (like the temple), and that the Jewish people have a habit of rejecting those God sends to them! He began using a number of insinuations around the lives of key Bible characters and then forcefully stated his conclusion.
I. The Big NAMES Illustrate A Pattern (1-36)
A. ABRAHAM (1-8)
1. God blessed Abraham apart from TORAH and TEMPLE
2. As a matter of fact, God appeared to Abraham in IRAQ