Pastor David Moore
Old Testament reading: Exodus 19:3-6 (NIV)
Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
New Testament reading: Acts 6:1-15
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the twelve gathered together all the disciples and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called) – Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.
Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God.”
So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Theme: We will look at the first martyr Stephen, we will also explore the priestly spirit exemplified in the early apostles and the life of Stephen.
The word of God spreads rapidly because Christians were ministering to the whole person. The Jewish priests were converting because the whole community were acting like priests. The community of Christians were taking care of the poor and the Jewish priests saw the results of their love. ~D. Moore
Stephen got in trouble with temple authorities because he preached one could meet God anywhere, not just in the temple. Jesus made the temple unnecessary. This changed the main function of a priest as the go-between, a regular man and God. Jesus had become the priest for all during His death and resurrection. ~D. Moore
The priests controlled access to who could go in towards God. Stephen is alluding to the thought that anyone could go to God. Stephen continues speaking boldly “Oh, you stiff-necked people. You talk of the law, but you’ve never kept it. God sent His Righteous One, but you reject Him.” Acts: 7:51, 52
The Old Testament tells the Jews what happened during Moses’ time and Stephen reviews for the priests about what it says in Exodus. What God had done for the Israelites. Stephen continues, to all in the temple, that they had never kept the law, because they keep the letter of the law but they were filled with iniquity, this was the Old Testament scripture, not Stephen’s teaching. ~D. Moore
Stephen put his faith in Jesus, he knew we had nothing to offer God except to accept the Righteous One, who gives us His perfection to be in God’s presence. ~D. Moore
The Christian philosopher Pascal said Christianity is the only religion that deals with human pride and despair. Christianity deals with both (pride and despair) by destroying Jewish pride by showing them a standard (law) they cannot meet, which destroys their pride. Then Jesus shows you a Savior, who destroys your despair. That is why Jesus is the best and final priest. ~D. Moore
Stephen lived like a priest. He had a priestly spirit. Let’s look at those 4 characteristics of a priest:
1. The priests care for the poor. Real followers of Jesus will use their time and energy to care for the needs, feed the hungry, care for the sick and visit folks in prison.
2. Priests are deeply sympathetic. Priests have a heart that revolves around people, they advocate for people. A priest speaks for us to God. Priests lift people up.
3. The priest is bold. In the Old Testament, priests were beautiful to God.
4. Priests pray for people. Stephen died praying for his killers and Jesus prays for his killers as well. 1 Samuel 12:23 says, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.”
This week: Re-read Acts 6 & 7 and see the priests God grew up to speak to the Jewish leadership. See the ultimate high priest Jesus, how He calls us to speak boldly for Him in this world. Challenge yourself in how you would give an account of your faith. God is calling you to be a priest to the world you are in contact with. God has you there to care for those people. God bless. I am blessed to be in the presence of the priests in this church.