The First Church Leaders

Scripture: Acts 6:7, Acts 7:48, Hebrews 5:11-14
Date: 07/28/2018 
Lesson: 4
"Why must we be careful not to be so locked into some of our cherished notions that we close out new light when it comes?"

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Good morning, friends. Welcome again to Sabbath School Study Hour coming to you from the Granite Bay Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sacramento, California. Now, we started a brand new series of lessons about two weeks ago on the book of acts. And it's really an exciting study that we're looking at that first century Christian church and what we can learn from them. Because we know at the end of time, we need to have the same faith and devotion that the believers had at the beginning of the Christian era.

Today, we find ourselves on lesson number four, that's entitled "the first church leaders". Well, before we get to our lesson, we would like to let our friends, who are watching know about a free offer that we have. It is a dvd, and it's entitled "help wanted, workers in the vineyard". And if you'd like to receive that, all you'll need to do is give us a call on our phone line there, and we will be happy to share that with you. The number is 866-788-3966, and you can ask for offer number 852.

And also for those who would like to download a digital version of the sermon, you'd need to text the number 40544 and the code "sh100", and you'll be able to get information about how you can download a digital version of that special sermon. Well, at this time, I'd like to invite our song leaders to please come forward. And they will lead us in our worship this morning. Dear Father in Heaven, once again we are grateful for the opportunity to be able to open up Your Word and study so many important lessons that we can learn from this first century Christian church, the church that you raised up to do the work of taking the Gospel to the world. Father, we have a similar mission in these last days that of taking the Gospel to the world as well.

Bless our time today as we study. In Jesus' Name, amen. Our lesson this morning is going to be brought to us by Pastor Doug. I want to welcome you to Sabbath school at the Granite Bay church here. And we're continuing in our study of acts.

This is just one of the, in fact, the great books in the new testament that tells about the power of God, the growth of the church. And I'm trusting that as we go through this, we're going to learn lessons that are going to help us also as a church family and how to incorporate these things in our lives and in our church. I want to welcome our friends who are watching via satellite or perhaps the internet. We're glad that you could join us. And we're on lesson number four today, talking about the first church leaders.

And we have a memory verse. And the memory verse is from acts 6:7, if you want to say it with me. Acts 6:7, and it says, "the Word of God continue to spread, the number of disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith." Would the Lord send that time once again where the Word of God would spread like that, and there'd be this phenomenal, exponential church growth? Well, our assignment in our study today is to be going through acts 6-8. Next week, we'll be talking about the conversion of Saul to Paul, but if you have your Bibles, go ahead and turn to acts 6, and we're going to see about how they started to introduce some of the new leaders in the church, and what it was that brought that about. I'm going to read the first few verses.

Acts 6:1, "now in those days, when the number of disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint." Now we need to notice that there are so many wonderful good things happening. We've read about the miracles, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the great number of baptisms, the signs and the wonders, but they aren't free from problems. We learned in chapter 5, it says, "but." Everyone was so sacrificial, and honest in giving, but ananias and sapphira. Well, the church is growing here again. It says, "there was a complaint, they've got a dispute happening, "against the Hebrews by the hEllenists because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.

" Okay, we've got to give you the background of what's happening here. First of all, they did not have social security. They did not have government assistance for the poor among them. And in particular, poor women and children. You read in the book of James 1:27, "pure religion and undefiled before God and The Father is this, to visit the widow and The Fatherless in their affliction.

" So much of what the Bible says talks about caring for the widow and The Fatherless because it did not fall on the government back then, it fell on the church. And Paul even goes to great lengths to talk about what were the qualifications of a widow, who would be able to receive sustenance with some regular ration from the church to take care of their basic needs. And so they had a program back then where they would take care of each other, I mean, they really did. Now there's a dispute though. It says, the Hebrews and the hEllenists, there was a disagreement that in the daily distribution of bread or provisions to help the church as it was growing, the hEllenists said, "we're being neglected.

There's discrimination happening here. We're being left out, but we're the last in line." Who were the hEllenists? HEllenization was something that was introduced by alexander the great, where when he conquered a country, he would introduce some of the education, the learning, the philosophy of the Greeks. And so that became a word that was used to describe Jewish believers that did not originally live in Jerusalem, they spoke Greek. These are jews that spoke Greek or they could be converts to judaism. They read the Bible, not in Hebrew, but they read the septuagint.

They read the Greek version of the new testament. And they were sort of considered foreign jews. They were jews, but they had an accent because they came from spain, or they spoke Egyptian, or they spoke one of the other languages of asia, and they couldn't read the Bible in Hebrew, they read the Greek version of the Bible. And they were sort of looked upon as well. You know, you've been contaminated by living among the gentiles.

And so... Here they're jews. Now, who were some of the examples of the hEllenistic jews. Acts 2. "Now they were dwelling in Jerusalem, at that time, devout jews out of every nation under heaven.

" And they had come for pentecost. And these are jews who'd come. They're devout. They've come for the Jewish holiday of pentecost. But it says they're parthians, and they're medes, and those of mesopotamia, and they're from all these different parts of the roman empire, even beyond the roman empire.

The jews had been scattered in this great diaspora, and they'd come back to worship, but they're not really jews, jews because, you know, they don't speak good Hebrew, and they can't read the Bible in Hebrew. And we just saw this when we were in Israel, is that we... I could spot them, you know, I'd be talking to Karen, and we've been walking around Jerusalem and I said, "those are New Yorker jews 'cause they grew up in New York. And sure enough, I'd hear them talking, and they're talking like this to each other. They're jews, you know, they were wearing the yarmulke, and they're dressed differently too.

And they're sort of treated as a lesser class of jews by the orthodox jews that you would see. And you could spot the orthodox jews, they've got the black coat, and they've got the black hat. It's 90 degrees out, but they're dressed completely in black, and they've got, you know, the long sideburns, and... And so, you know, they had even that going on back then. Well, some of these Greek jews had accepted Jesus, they were baptized, and some of them had widows, and when it came that they were dispersing the bread or maybe there was a little allowance to the widows among them, they kept speaking in Hebrew, so that the hEllenistic jews didn't know what they were seeing, and they said, "oh, well, we're sorry, you're in the line.

" And so there was some discrimination happening there and there was a complaint. One of the apostles was going, "oh, brother." Do we have to leave what we're doing in preaching the word, and praying for the Holy Spirit, and the wonderful things that were happening. You read in acts 4. They prayed and the place were shaken, they were filled with the Holy Spirit. And there's so much important work that's going on.

Are we supposed to leave that now and settle disputes and arguments about the dispersion of bread? And so when this happens, you can read in acts 6:2, "then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, "it is not desirable, it's not appropriate," that we should leave the Word of God and serve tables.' Now, therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom," now I'm going to make a point. I'll make it, then I'll make it again, and then I'll make it one more time. The deacons were not busboys. "I know," Peter says, "it's not good that we should leave the Word of God and serve tables." If all they needed was people to serve tables, they would not be looking for people that were filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom. That's usually not on a job description for a busboy.

And so he uses that as hyperbole. It's a figure of speech that, you know, where the apostles even called the God. We've got a lot of leadership things. You really want us to be settling the disputes about the daily distribution of bread. And so he uses that but he said, "really, what we need to do is we need to find people that will help us administer a growing church.

" What kind of growth have we read about so far? Pentecost, how many baptized? Three thousand. Then after the incident of the golden gate and their preaching, how many baptized? Five thousand. Now they're talking about all the baptisms. There's many more beyond that. It's that the church was growing.

It was exploding. And so you've got thousands and thousands of people, you know, in just a few months that are coming to the church. How are the 12 apostles going to be able to manage all that? They need to now start delegating authority. And so this is what leads us into what's going on here. There's a quote in your lesson from the book Acts of the Apostles, page 88.

It says, "the cause of complaint was an alleged neglect of the Greek widows in the daily distribution of assistance. Any inequality would have been contrary to the Spirit of the Gospel, yet satan had succeeded in arousing suspicion. Prompt measures must now be taken to remove all occasion for dissatisfaction, lest the enemy triumph in his efforts to bring about a division among the believers." What is the devil trying to bring about? Division. So one of the reasons that we help delegate authority is to keep things running smoothly, and to snuff out divisions. Now, they give them a command.

They said, "seek out from among you." The disciples didn't do it. They said, "you nominate some people." Look around, help us pick the very best, and then they give qualifications. It says, "pick out seven men, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, that we might appoint over this business." So they want people to help them administer business. There's some business in the church. And you need qualified people with those gifts to do it.

Now where does Peter get this idea? You have your Bibles? Turn to Exodus 18. This is going to be worth reading. Exodus 18:13. Now Moses, he's led the children of Israel, you know, we got 900.000 men. So you count women and children.

.. There's got to be two, two and half million of them. It's a conservative estimate. Have you ever tried to manage two and half million people? That's a big group. It specifically says that they numbered 900,000 who could go to war.

Well, it was somewhere between 20 and 50. And so then you add in the other men and the women, and this is a big group. And listen to what he says. Father-in-law, Moses is visiting with jethro. He's brought them into the land of midian.

And it was so on the next day that Moses sat to judge the people. And the people stood before Moses from morning until evening. So when Moses' father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, "what is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand before you from morning till evening?" And then he says some other things and go on, he says, "listen to my voice, and I'll give you counsel, and God will be with you. Stand before God for the people, so that you might bring the difficulties to God. You have to intercede to pray.

And you shall teach them the statutes, you were to minister the word." Isn't that what Peter just said? Why should we leave prayer and the ministry of the word to serve tables? And he said, "you shall teach them the statutes, and the laws, and show them the way in which they must work and what they must do. Moreover, you shall select from all the people, able men, such as are able to fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness, and place them over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. Let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, and every smaller matter, they them self will judge. So it will be easier for you and they will bear the burden with you.

" Our country, right now, is a little exercised because we just heard the word that one of our supreme court justices has set the date for his resignation. Now why does that stir everybody? One of the most important things in the country, in the us, in particular, is the supreme court Judges. They are much more important than president. I think, I mentioned to you last week. I was in a meeting in New York city, where different Christian leaders were sitting down and asking questions of candidate donald trump at the time.

And during lunch, I sat down with a gentleman, who was out there to visit. And he said his name was george barna. Have you ever heard of the barna research and barna studies? I never met him. I'd seen his studies but never seen his face, so I didn't know. Very nice Christian man.

We were talking together. And he said, "this is such an important election." He said, "that's not because of the president." He said, "it's because statistically this president is going to be responsible for picking anywhere between one and three supreme court Judges." And he said, "that is going to set the trend for the country for the next 30 or 40 years." Because the final arbitration in our country is what? The supreme court. So what's happening here is God is telling Moses that you've to threw jethro. You're the supreme court. It says all the minor matters, you know, people have an argument with their ox getting out and that.

They said, "don't bring that to Moses. There ought to be someone who can deal with that." And these other disputes, you know, and they can appeal to the next court, and the next court, but finally you're the supreme court. And it's the final word. They can't appeal beyond that. And so, you know, our court system is based on this council that jethro gave Moses 3,400 years ago.

And he took the council, and what was the result of that? He said, "you will prosper. God will bless." And so what did Moses have to do? Moses said, "no, no, I want to make all the decisions." Could he do that? He said, "you're going to wear yourself out." And this is his father-in-law, who's even older than Moses, who is 80 at this time. So jethro's up there a little bit. And it says that if you do this, you will prosper, the people will prosper, but you've got to let go of control, and you've got to delegate decisions to other people. Pick the very best people.

Now that's what they did during that time. They did something different during the time of the Kings. 1 Timothy 3, they're going to pick deacons. What are the qualifications of deacons? You need to know how much soap to put in the dishwasher. You need to be able to bus the tables.

You need to know how to cut the bread for the widows. Is that what it says? None of it. Listen to the qualifications. Go to 1 Timothy 3:8. Now we read where he said, search out people, who are full of the Holy Spirit and they have wisdom.

1 Timothy 3:8, "likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given too much wine," and in some versions you'll say, that means not given too much strong wine. "Not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. Let these also first be tested, and let them serve as deacons." Well, they should be tested, in other words, to just make sure that they might be in apprentice period. "Not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husband of one wife, ruling their children and their own households well.

For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus." So that's a pretty high calling for a busboy. Or was a deacon more than that? What do we see... Well, let me go on here. And all right, so he says, "we will give ourselves to the ministry of the word and to prayer.' The saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose stephen, a man full of faith and of Holy Spirit, and Philip, and prochorus, and nicanor, and timon, and parmenas, and nicolas, a proselyte from antioch, whom they set before the apostles," and what did they do? "When they had prayed, they laid hands on them." Now what does that mean? You know there's a lot more to laying on of hands in the Bible than I think is taught in the church today because when Paul talks about, he says, "let us move on from the basic doctrines of baptisms and laying on of hands. They actually have a doctrine of laying on of hands.

And so that basically meant that someone in a position of leadership, who was invested with authority, would transfer the authority. It was also symbolic of a transferring of blessing, and transferring of the Spirit. 'Cause when did they lay hands on in the Bible? They did it when aaron was priest. They did it when a son was blessed. And so it was a transfer of a blessing of authority.

And so these men are then invested with authority from the apostles, and Jesus had laid hands on the apostles. And so it's like they're transferring this great authority because they've got to make decisions. If there's a dispute, the deacons need to say, "no, this is how we're going to do it." And they need to respect. They say, "well, who are you? We are not listening to you?" They have been invested with authority that was to be respected. Isn't that what's happening here? A position of leadership.

And so that's very important. And so... You know, sometimes I think, you know, when we pick deacons, I hear some churches say, "oh, you know, we don't have enough people moving the grass, better find another deacon. Is that the qualification of a deacon? I mean, should everyone in the church be a servant? Pastors should be able to mow the grass and help. Pastors ought to be there helping with a work project.

Pastors ought to know how to vacuum. That for every Christian, Jesus said, "he who is greatest among you, let him be minister of all." Isn't that right? And so all need to be able to do the jobs of service. But the deacon, there was also some spiritual leadership there that we see. It's a very high calling. All right so.

.. And there was a principle here of delegation that was given. Now in the days of the Exodus, Moses was the supreme court judge. Then there was a period in church history where they had Judges. So you don't have to guess.

Even Samson, believe it or not, was the supreme court at one time, wasn't he? He was a judge in Israel. As was, you know, a number of others, we had Samuel and many others. Then when you get to the time of the Kings, who is the supreme court? the King is. But did the King do it all by himself or did he delegate? I'm going to have some of you help me read a couple of verses. Okay, hoftis, you have the first one.

That'll be 2 Chronicles 19:5. But 1 Kings 7:7. Let me read this. "Then he made a hall for the throne, called the hall of judgment, where he might judge" now Solomon... What was Solomon's principle prayer? When God said, "what do you want?" Wisdom.

"Why did he want wisdom?" That I might know how to determine between right and wrong. A king was a judge, and he needed to judge wisely. Solomon not only had a house, he's got a throne, he's got a temple, he had a judgment hall. Isn't that what it said? You read in 1 Kings 3:16, "two women that were harlots came and stood before the King." Do you remember that was... This was such a difficult case.

It was brought to the supreme court. How many remember the story about Solomon saying, "let's divide the baby." All right. All right, go ahead, you can read for us in 2 Chronicles. "Then he set Judges in the land throughout all the fortified cities of judah, city by city, and said to the Judges, 'take heed to what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgment.'" Very important. He said.

.. And this was jehoshaphat. He's setting up a series of Judges. There's the districts that are scattered throughout the land. How many of you heard of the cities of refuge.

Typically, where there was a city of refuge, there would be a judgment seat, where you could bring your cases there, for the district. You know, if you've lived in the county, county seats usually got a courthouse. In North America, it's typically how that's set up. Just a couple more verses on this. Look in 2 Chronicles 1:2.

"Now Solomon spoke to all Israel, to the captains of thousands and hundreds, and to the Judges." Boy. Can you imagine being tested as a judge by Solomon. You have to qualify. Why did they tell Samuel... Why did the people tell Samuel, "we don't want to be like you anymore.

We want to have a king." Why did they say that? What instigated them not wanting to go under the Judges any more? Because The Sons of Samuel... I said Solomon, Samuel. The Sons of Samuel, they were taking bribes. And so when they felt like they couldn't trust the Judges... And so these people were invested with authority, God through his church history has had times where authority and leadership was distributed and delegated.

And that's what's happening here. And it doesn't stop just with the deacons. Do they... Doesn't Paul go from town to town? And he then appoints elders and bishops which are pretty much the same thing in the different cities. Now we've got a number of friends who are watching on Facebook, and we've got a question that came in.

Someone is asking, "does the Bible still require us to sell all that we have and to split it among the brethren, like the apostles did?" It tells us that the apostles were taking the distribution. First of all, it never says that they were required to sell everything they had. It does say that many of them sold houses and lands. It doesn't say they sold every house and land. Because later, Paul is talking about those who are wealthy among you, be willing to distribute.

Well, if everybody joins a church, and the first criteria is that you sell everything and give it to the church. That sounds like jim jones. That's kind of what he did it. It doesn't say that. They were very sacrificial, selling houses and lands, but they may have other things.

If every member of the church sells all their houses, where do they live? Are you with me? So that wasn't really a criteria. Are we required to be more sacrificial? I think that as God pours out his spirit, you're going to see in the church in the last days the same level of sacrifice that you saw when Christ came the first time. Amen? I see another question here. "How important is church tradition when it comes to finding truth?" Well, how do we determine truth, by tradition? No. It tells us that you have a fine way of setting aside the commandments in order to observe your tradition.

And so we're to put the commandments of God first. All right. Well, some of the questions... We want to stick to the theme here about the early church, and talking about the leadership here. And so.

.. And then he says here, they had Judges. Finally, should we have the ability to do this in the church? 1 Corinthians 6:1-6. 1 Corinthians 6:1-6. "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And so if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge in the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more then the things that pertain to this life? If then you have judgment concerning things pertaining to life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? I say this to your shame.

Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you?" What were the qualifications of the deacon? Man full of wisdom. "Is there not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!" And so this all started with what? A dispute between two brethren. And the devil was trying to bring in division. Has the devil changed? So when there are disputes, how should we deal with them as Christians? First of all, as far as possible, love, forgive. Jesus said, you know, "if it means someone suing you for your shirt, give him your shirt if you got an extra one.

" Don't let the devil get in and cause division. And then if there is a dispute that needs some just settlement, go to people leadership in the church. Is there no one with wisdom? You know, when you sign a lot of contracts now, there's a clause that before you go to court, you do what? I haven't heard anyone. Mediation, mediation. And there should be mediation in the church, where people can sit, and a lot of these things could be resolved.

All right, let's move on here. Stephen's ministry. So after stephen is chosen. It says, he's a man full of the Holy Spirit. You can also read in acts 6:8.

"And stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people." Now, what wondering sign does he do? It doesn't say. Probably it talks about some of the signs and wonders the apostles did. A lot of it had to do with healing. And a lot of the signs and wonders that Jesus did, they had to do with healing. So I'm guessing that some of it had to do with healing.

He may have had some of the gift of prophecy, being able to foretell some things. But one of the things that really cause a problem now, he is preaching. This is a deacon. But he's now teaching and preaching with power. And he's saying that Jesus now is the Messiah.

He's also explaining that the same thing that Paul and others say, "it doesn't make sense for us to sacrifice lambs anymore. Jesus was the lamb of God. And when the veil ripped in the temple, all that that temple pointed to was really in Christ." And, boy, the very idea that you would say anything against the temple, the life of the jews in Jerusalem revolved around the temple, even the apostles were infected with that, saying to Jesus, "look at the temple. Look at the stones." They kind of worshipped the building. But where in the Bible are we told to worship the building? Nowhere.

And did God at one point or on a couple of occasions allowed the temple to be destroyed because of unfaithfulness? He said," I'll inhabit this place, and you should pray towards these place, and I'll answer your prayers as long as you're faithful." But if you're not faithful, it's nothing. It's just bricks and mortar. Well, saying things like that, in that environment, those are fighting words. And so false witnesses are found. And it says in acts 6:11, "then they secretly induced men to say, 'we have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.

' And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes, and they came, and they seized him, and they brought him to the council." Now does this sound familiar of somebody stirring up false witnesses? And bringing a person to the sanhedrin. They brought him to the council, and they said, "this man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law." Now who else did that? Jezebel. Any of you remember the story of naboth's vineyard? Ahab wanted the property next door to his castle because it was great southern exposure, good soil. He wanted to put in a vegetable garden. And so he goes the naboth, who owns the land, he says, "sell me your land, so I can put in a vegetable garden.

I'll give you some other land. I got lots of land. I want this right here by the house, so I can bring the vegetables to my kitchen quickly." And he said, "your highness, I'm sorry. But, you know, the law says, 'I cannot sell the birthright of my ancestors.'" That was in the law. And the King got mad.

He came home and started to pound. Jezebel said, "why are you pounding?" Our neighbor won't sell me his vineyard. She said, "you're king in Israel, give me your signet ring, I'll take care of this." So she writes letters to the people there in jezreel, and says, "proclaim up fast. Bring everybody together." And they get two witnesses to point at naboth and says, "he has cursed God and the King." If you had two witnesses to do that, it was a death penalty. So she arranges all this.

She gets two scoundrels who are willing to do that. She pays them to say this, and they say, "naboth has cursed God and the King." And he seemed like such a good man. They were surprised. They take him out, they stone him to death outside the city. He's a type of Christ.

It's because ahab, the wicked king, wanted to take the property that belonged to God. The devil wants to take God's vineyard. And so Christ was taken out of the vineyard. Do you know the parable Jesus tells? They said, "let us seize The Son. Let's kill him that the vineyard might be ours.

" And all of that is talking about this battle between good and evil. So someone's going to read for me in Matthew 5:11, okay, in just a moment here. Let me read Mark 14:55, "now the chief priests and all the council sought to find testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. Then some rose up and they bore false witness against him, saying, "we heard him say, 'I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.

'" What's the argument over with Jesus? He's been accused of not appreciating the temple and they get false witnesses. Does that sound familiar? But not even this testimony did agree. Now Jesus did say something like that. Jesus did say, "destroy this temple, and in three days I'll raise it up." And he spoke of his body in the Gospel of John. All right.

Go ahead, please read for us Matthew 5. Matthew 5:11. "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake." What's to be the Christian response when people revile you? Will there be false witnesses against you? And, well, you'll have that. And you know what? You just got to shrug it off. It happens.

And for Christ's sake, if you stand up for Jesus, you're going to be falsely accused. 1 Peter 4:14, "if you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and God rests upon you. On their part he is blasphemed, but on your part he is glorified." Did the disciples rejoice when they were worthy to be persecuted for Christ sake? Not too many of us want that, but he says that we can rejoice, we don't have to be afraid. All right. And so now it goes into one of the great sections of the Bible.

He's brought in. Look in acts 6, and you'll see here in verse 14. "We have heard him say that Jesus of nazareth will destroy this place." Now does that sound like what they accused Jesus of? "And change the customs that Moses delivered to us." And all who sat in the councils, stephen is brought before the sanhedrin. He's going to be tried. And what happens to his face? All who sat in the council looking steadfastly at him saw his face as the face of an angel.

Like Moses, when he had been communing with God, his face was shining. Remember when Jesus said, they came to arrest Jesus, and they said, "are you Jesus?" He said, "I am." And when he said, "I am," they fell back from the glory that came out of his face. God did something there, maybe not to the same degree, but his face was shining. Now, I'm bringing out these points because I want you to notice how many similarities there are between stephen and between Jesus. What is stephen's name mean? Any of you? Some of you've got steve.

.. We got a steve there. We got a surname steve. And you're s-t-e-v-e. And then you got stephanie.

And you got... It comes from the Greek word stephanos, which means crown. Who is the first martyr? Stephen is the first Christian martyr. Now the first apostle to die is Judas, but that was a suicide that's doesn't count. The first good Christian to die.

.. I said it wrong, Judas is a suicide, right? And stephen is the first martyr for the faith. And so he becomes a type of Christ because Jesus said, "if they have persecuted me, they will persecute you." And you will notice that stephen ends up going through a lot of the very same things that Jesus went through. So he's in the council, his face is shining, and finally the council convenes, and the high priest. And who's this high priest? Same high priest, caiaphas, that condemned Jesus.

So the high priest says, "are these things so?" He's been accused of, you know, not appreciating the temple, and speaking against The Fathers and Moses, and he preaches. It's the longest sermon in the book of acts. That should be significant right there. Now why am I making a big deal of this? I'm not going to tell you yet, but I will in a minute. "He said, 'brethren and fathers…'" listen, he starts it very respectfully, "the God of glory appeared to our father Abraham," he says we're brethren, he was our father, 'cause he was in mesopotamia, he talks about Abraham.

And then he talks about Joseph, and then he talks about Moses, you can read in verse 7 of this speech. "The patriarchs, becoming envious, sold Joseph into Egypt." Why does he talk about them betraying Joseph? What had God's people just did on to Jesus? Did Joseph forgive his brethren? Did Jesus say, "father, forgive them." Stephen is going to say that in just a minute too. Many says, Moses, go to verse 35. "This Moses whom they rejected, saying, 'who made you a ruler and a judge?' Is the one God sent to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush." Now he then goes on to quote and if you go in your Bibles to Deuteronomy 18, and it may be, let me see here. It's Deuteronomy 18:13.

It's a very important verse. I think that you got to look this up and I've got it Marked in my Bible. My Bible is three days old. It's a new Bible. I've already got this Marked because I was going to share with you.

Verse 15, Deuteronomy 18:15. "the Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you will hear..." So Moses is making a prophecy that God was going to raise up another great leader, another great judge, another great law giver, like him from among their own people but just as they rejected Moses and tried to stone him on several occasions and who made you a judging the Lord over us, they would reject Jesus. So you see what's happening here in what... What stephen is saying in his sermon, Abraham separated from his family because they had turned to idols.

Moses walked away from Egypt, he wasn't appreciated by his own people. Joseph separated from his brothers, they didn't know who he was when they came to Egypt, right? He had to reveal himself. They didn't know who Moses was. And so he's trying to show them, you have just repeated history. And finally when they realize where he's going, they can't handle it.

He sees in his sermon, I'm going back to acts 7. In his sermon, you'll notice... Go to verse 51. Now I want to back up a little bit. Go to verse 49.

No, go to verse 48. "However, the most high does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says, 'heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What house will you build for me? Says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? His, has not his hand made these things?'" He saw their faces change when he began to say, "the temple doesn't really hold God." What temple can you make it hold? He's speaking against the temple. Now didn't he just quote from the Bible? Their Bible. Even though he quoted from their Bible, they got mad, even though he was right.

That was he could see from the expression on their face, they started to murmur among themselves and then he realized, "all right, I can see this is… they're not going to let me finish my sermon. So then he says, "you stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit, as your fathers did, so you do. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute?" Does he look like he is appealing for mercy now? Or he is going from prosecuted to the prosecutor. He is a prophet now in the way he is talking to them. "Which of The Fathers did you not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the just one, of whom you now have become the betrayers and the murderers, who've received the law by the direction of angels but you've not kept it.

When they heard these things they were cut to the heart..." Now there's one or two things that will happen when you're cut to the heart. When on the day of pentecost, Peter preached and he said, "you crucified The Son of God." The men were more noble, they were cut to the heart, they humbled themselves and said, "what shall we do?" The high priests are not cut to the heart, high priest in the sanhedrin and they don't want to hear it. They want to stop the voice. "They were cut to the heart, they gnashed on him with their teeth." They were grinding their teeth. "But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven, saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God," and he couldn't keep it to himself, "he said, 'look! I see the heavens opened and The Son of man standing on the right hand of God!'" Showing the divine position of Jesus they saw as blasphemy.

Isn't that right? "And they cried out with a loud voice, and they stopped their ears..." That is very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very important. Who is stopping their ears? The supreme court. How would you feel if you're pleading for your life and the Judges plugged their ears? Is that a good sign? They're not wanting to hear anymore. They stopped their ears, they grind their teeth, they cried out with a loud voice, "no, stop, stop." They couldn't take it anymore. We don't want to hear any more.

They ran on him with one accord. This is the court, it's not very dignified. "They cast him out of the city." They carried him up over their heads. "They cast them out of the city and they stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

" Now Luke introduces that in the story because he's going to have a lot more to say about Saul later, doesn't he? Says, I don't want you to miss this point that the chief bailiff in this proceeding, the one who oversaw the execution of stephen was a young man, very zealous young man, a pharisee named Saul. He's later… his name is known as what? Paul, the apostle. And notice, there is clothes here. They laid down their clothes because when you're getting ready to stone someone, you take off your outer garments because you're going to be hurling stones. And they stone stephen as he was calling on God.

They also did not want to splatter their clothes with the blood of the victim. He's saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' Then he knelt down and he cried out with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not charge them with this sin.'" He prays for their forgiveness. "When he said this, he gave up the Spirit, he fell asleep." It wasn't any particular rock that killed him. He laid down his life. Now everything stephen does here happens by Jesus on the cross.

Have you noticed that? Was Jesus accused of blasphemy? Are you with me? Yes. Was Jesus accused of speaking against the temple? Yes. Were there false witnesses against Jesus? Yes. Was Jesus tried by the sanhedrin? Yes. Was it an illegal trial? Yes.

There was no appeal time here, this was a hastily called an executed trial. Was Jesus taken out of the city? He was. Were their clothes mentioned? Yes. At the cross, again removed his clothes. Does Jesus pray for the forgiveness of his accusers? Yes.

Does he cry out with a loud voice, and he says it is finished? And then he breathes his last. It isn't crucifixion that kills him, it's a broken heart. Now the reason I've made such a big deal about pointing this out is stephen is the first martyr, he is executed exactly three and a half years after Jesus. Stephen's being executed, the Jewish supreme court plugging their ears Marks the end of the prophecy. It's the end of the 490 year prophecy you find in Daniel 9.

Remember it says, in the midst of this last week, three and a half years, it's half a week, he, Jesus calls us to sacrifice to cease. Jesus dies on the cross, Jesus starts to preach in ad 27. Jesus preaches three and a half years. Jesus confirms the covenant with God's people for one week, seven years. A day is a year, right? Three and a half years Jesus in person confirms the covenant.

At the end of three and a half years, he dies on the cross. False witnesses. Prays for their forgiveness. Supreme court rejects him. But God in his mercy gives him another three and a half years.

Not only was a covenant confirmed through Jesus, it says in Hebrews, he confirmed the covenant through those that heard him. So through people like Peter, James, John and stephen, they preached for another three and a half years exclusively to the Jewish nation. Had the Gospel gone to the gentiles yet? Have they preached to samaritans yet? That happens in chapter 8, the next chapter. Have they gone to cornelius yet? No, that's chapter 10. You realize for those first three and a half years after Christ, they're only preaching to the jews.

All those who are baptized are jews. Isn't that right? And exactly three and a half years later, the same thing that happened to Jesus, happens to stephen. It Marks the end of that incredible prophecy in Daniel 9, where he says, for seventy weeks, I will confirm the covenant with my people. And in the midst of that last week, the Messiah comes, he teaches, he calls us to sacrifice to cease. He ascends to heaven and he then confirms the covenant for another three and a half years through the apostles.

But when the supreme court, when the leaders of the Jewish nation plug their ears, what did that mean. They don't want to hear about Jesus anymore. What does Paul say when he go to preach in a synagogue? He go to the synagogue first because God salvation, jew first, then the gentile. He said, since you judge yourselves unworthy of the Kingdom of God, lo we turned to the gentiles. And so this is what happened at that point.

Now is that saying, God still doesn't have a place and a work for the Jewish nation? No. Even after ad... All right, I didn't finish, 27 Jesus teaches, ad 31, he dies on the cross, ad 34, stephen is stoned, exactly seven years after Jesus began his ministry. Okay. So that's the end of 490 years, but is it the end of God's work among jews? The nation, as a nation, the leaders then had plugged their ears.

But I still think he's got a special work that he's going to do and there will be a great revival among the Jewish people. Anyway, I don't have time to go into all that. I just got a few minutes left. What happens next? It tells us, the Gospel begins to spread like wildfire. Immediately after the stoning of stephen, it says the Gospel begins to go to samaria.

You can read in acts… someone's going to read for me acts 1:8. John, you got that, go ahead. Acts 1:8, "but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. And you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and samaria, and to the end of the earth." Now many of us have memorized acts 1:8. Have you memorized acts 8:1? That's a verse we're looking at now.

"At that time a great persecution arose against the church that was at Jerusalem…" where were they supposed to start preaching in acts 1:8? Jerusalem. "And they were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and samaria, except the apostles." Notice, Jesus said, "Jerusalem, Judea, samaria" in acts 1:8. Now you go to acts 8:1, it starts with Jerusalem, Judea, samaria and then it says, they were scattered everywhere. They go to the ultimate ends of the earth. The very things that Jesus foretold would happen begin to happen.

So what happens in samaria? Holy Spirit is poured out, they start preaching. Now you might say, "Pastor Doug, they haven't gone to the gentiles yet. Why would they go to the samaritans?" I mean, remember, Peter said, I don't want to go into cornelius' house, he is a gentile. Why would they go to the samaritans? Did Jesus preached to samaritans? Yeah, Jesus did not go, preach to gentiles. Why samaritans? Because samaritans were sort of half Jewish.

What I mean by that is they were a monotheistic, they believed in jehovah, they believed in the five books of Moses. They practiced many of the same religious rights. They had been instructed, the people in samaria had been instructed by Jewish priests way back when 10 of the tribes came back from assyria, or some of the people from the tribes came back, so they were kind of half and half. And so you notice the transition, God is preparing them to be able to say, you mean, the Gospel is not just for jews, it's for gentiles. They started to preach in samaria.

They went, wow, look at that, the Holy Spirit's come on the samaritans. They weren't sure they should do it. And so as they're preaching to the samaritans, they say, maybe we ought to send Peter and John out there, make sure this is "kosher", pardon the pun. And so remember, there was a samaritan wizard up there named Simon, a magician. And he said, I'll give you money for the Holy Spirit.

And that didn't settle well with Peter, but when they laid hands on the other samaritan believers, men and women were baptized, they were filled with the Holy Spirit. And so they said, I guess we're supposed to be preaching among the samaritans after all Jesus did it. You remember, the woman at the well. After she believed, she went told the town. Jesus went and he preached in that town for several days.

And so they said, "well, it must be okay because Jesus did it." And so it still took another leap of faith for them to get to the gentiles. And then after that, I got one minute left to talk about. Then Philip is told to go to preach to… Philip becomes a hitchhiker, he gets a ride in chariot, he preaches to a leader in the court of candace of Ethiopia who is the treasurer there, he is a jew but he's an Ethiopian jew, he's a convert to judaism from another country that is not Jewish. So now the Gospel is going to other country, see what's happening. And you know the Ethiopian believes and he is baptized.

So we've tried our best to cover acts 6 through 8, hope you learned something today about how God prepared for the outpouring of the Spirit in the church group. I want to thank you for joining us, friends. We have a free offer and it is "help wanted, workers in the vineyard". All of us need to do our various jobs. If you like to get that free offer, you can ask for offer number 852 when you call 788-3966.

That's 866-788-3966. Thank you very much for studying with us. God willing, we'll study His Word with you again next week. So what is the brightest light in the world? Well, naturally, you would say the sun. But we're talking about the brightest man-made light in the world.

It's the light that shines out of the roof of that pyramid shaped hotel in las vegas called the luxor. There in the cap of that hotel, there is a room that contains 39 washing machines size xenon bulbs, and each of those bulbs requires about 7000 watts, altogether they produce about 40 billion candlepower of light. Can you imagine getting that electric bill of the luxor hotel every month? That light is so bright that planes can see it 250 miles away. They are shooting light 10 miles up into space, meaning if you happen to be floating by, you can read a newspaper up there. And as you might have guessed that bright light has become the world's best bug attractor.

Bringing in moths, bats and owls creating its own ecosystem there at night above the hotel. But the sad thing about the brightest light in the world is especially when the night air is clear without any particles, the light doesn't hit anything and it's invisible, it shoots up into empty space. The brightest light in the world illuminates nothing. You know, the Bible tells us that there's another great wasted light, and that's the light of God's Word. It says in psalm 119:105, "thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light onto my path.

" And yet so many people are walking in darkness. Furthermore, Jesus said, "if you do have that light, make sure you don't put it under a bushel, but you let it shine and illuminate the lives of others. Jesus said in Matthew 5, "set your light up on a hill like a city so that all might see it." Light only benefits others when it reflects off of something. God wants our lights to illuminate the lives of others. So are you glowing for God? Remember, Jesus said, "let there be light."

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