Summary: Truth will bring freedom to those who receive it.
The Truth Will Set You Free
Intro: [Review Stephen’s ministry, arrest, and the charges against Him.] Acts 6:8 ”Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.” He faced opposition from other Greek-speaking Jews who falsely accused him of blasphemy against Moses and God. False witnesses were coached to say, "This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us." The high priest then asks Stephen, “Are these charges true?” This gave Stephen an opportunity to share the truth… the whole truth… and nothing but the truth- even though it would cost him his life. The main thought of today’s message is this:
Prop: Truth will bring freedom to those who receive it.
Interrogative: How do we know this?
TS: Let’s look at 5 truths that come out in this account of Stephen’s sermon and execution.
I. The Truth about the Land of Israel (7:1-7) God is universally accessible!
-Text: 1Then the high priest asked him, "Are these charges true?" 2 To this he replied: "Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. 3 ’Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ’and go to the land I will show you.’ 4 "So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. 5 He gave him no inheritance here, not even a foot of ground. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child. 6 God spoke to him in this way: ’Your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 7 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,’ God said, ’and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.’
-Israel is special, but God’s blessing is not geographically limited. He can reach clear around the world to reveal Himself to people and to accomplish His purposes.
-Habakkuk 2:14 “For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea.”
-Stephen made this point with the life of Abraham. The God of glory spoke to him long before he ever set foot in the Promised Land. Abraham’s life created a contrast with the lives of the Sanhedrin. They lived in the Holy Land, but they were not holy. They worshiped on the same holy mountain that Abraham had worshiped on, but they were not true worshipers. See, God cannot be formulized. Just doing the right things at the right place at the right time does not constitute true worship. It is something that must come from the heart. This is the truth Stephen was trying to convey, as we will see in a moment.
-There are some today who embrace and teach the mystical notion that God is more accessible in certain geographical locations than others. They speak of heavenly portals, where God’s presence comes down more frequently or forcefully than other locations. I ask you this: Is God limited by geography? Does He have favorite geographical locations that we must travel to in order to find Him? If so, based on sheer beauty, Eastern Oregon would have to be one of those places.
-If you want to find an audience with God, let me assure you that you can get His attention by simply calling out to Him from wherever you are. You don’t even have to be in a special geographical location. God is everywhere. He is not limited by time or space, and we can be near Him and hear His voice from anywhere in the world.
-Now, before we move on to the next truth, let me qualify what I’ve said. I do believe that God has a plan for national Israel and its land. He does want to show His glory there in a special way as a testimony of His grace and power. God’s salvation is coming again to the land of Israel. However, God’s salvation is available to anyone who will call on the name of the Lord and repent of their sins. God is universally accessible!
II. The Truth about God’s Leaders (7:8-41) Those who reject God’s leaders are rejecting Him.
-Long ago Israel rejected such Godly leaders as Joseph and Moses. Stephen spends the bulk of this chapter explaining how rebellious Israel has mistreated the leaders God sent. I will not read it aloud, due to its length, but it gives a brief history of some of Israel’s leaders and shows how the rebellious people of Israel treated them. Now Stephen is addressing the current leaders of Israel who have rejected the Messiah, and are persecuting His followers.