Monthly Archives: September 2015

He Prayed For All

John 17:20 ” Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their words;”

Here we have Jesus praying for future believers, those who will believe the message of the early disciples. This is very precious, as Jesus prays for you, and me, He prays for us for all who believe the truth of His message this day and the days to come. Just think for a moment, who is the weakest believer on earth today? Who is the strongest? Only God knows, but think of the fact that Jesus prayed for each and everyone of us.

He prayed that we be one, there must be unity among all believers, for we are one body having one head, lead in one mission, to proclaim only one message; Christ and Him crucified. The standard for unity is the oneness between Jesus and His Father. We are to be one as the Father and the Son are one. We are to have the very same unity one to another. Having one mind, one heart and of one spirit “One Lord, one Faith and one Baptism”. God has one request of man, to believe on the only begotten of the Father, and he prays that we be unified in this message and the request. Jesus doesn’t just pray that we be unified, but that we be perfected in unity, perfected as one body. Many have been lost, because the believers have not been unified enough to penetrate the world with the gospel. God is willing that all be saved, Jesus died that all have a right to the tree of life, but we the believer have failed to carry a unified message into a non-believing world, so Jesus prays that we be perfected as one body.

 

The purpose of a perfected unity is so that the world may know that God sent Jesus into the world to save it. But we the believer most be one with one message, that we might save a lost world.

Jesus Christ Is The Way

1 Corinthians 9:16b “Woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel”!

The gospel of Jesus Christ , the power of God unto salvation. But did you know it is the power of God for everything that man needs. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the message that will save man. In it lies the truth that will lead one in darkness into God’s marvelous light. The gospel of Jesus Christ, from His birth, how He was born of a virgin, to His death, the perfect sacrifice for imperfect people, this is the power of God unto salvation.

 

He who knew no sin was made sin so we who was born of sin might be made free of sin. His death and shed blood as He died on a cross for the sin of the world. God’s love given to man while we were yet without strength, ungodly, unholy, while we were sinners Christ died for us. Jesus was made a curse to free us from the curse. His resurrection, The new life we are given to live. How He rose on the third day morning with all power in His hands. The power for us to live a life pleasing unto God. The power for us to live a life that will lead others to the salvation of the Lord. Jesus the Christ and Him crucified the message that will convict and change a lost world.

 

With all the choices of religion before us, there is only one God; There are many bibles printed, but there is only one truth. We have the freedom to live any life, but there is only one life. And with the many roads we can travel there is only one way. Jesus Christ, the truth of Gods word, our eternal life and the only way to our heavenly Father. Jesus Christ is the way.

Remembering God’s Faithfulness

Sunday School Lesson

                                            

Lesson: Acts 7:2-4, 8-10, 17, 33-34, 45-47, 52-53, 55

                                                                                                 

Golden Text: But he (Stephen), being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God (Acts 7:55).

  1. INTRODUCTION. Many churches today still have testimony times during their church services. Very often in these services, believers give testimony of how God has been faithful to them in answering their prayers and meeting their needs.  One reason why we enjoy testimony services is because hearing how God has worked in someone else’s life reminds us that God will be faithful in our lives too.  In this week’s lesson we find Stephen testifying to God’s faithfulness to the people of Israel.  Even though his listeners weren’t receptive to his message, his testimony still reminds us of God’s faithfulness in our lives.
  2. BACKGROUND FOR THE LESSON. After the second persecution suffered by the apostles which concluded with them being beaten and commanded not to preach anymore in the name of Jesus (see Acts 4:27-28,34-35, 38-40), the number of believers grew too large for the apostles to minister to all of them effectively. They instructed the believers to choose men to help them in their work, which we call deacons (see Acts 6:1-7).  Stephen was one of those chosen being “full of faith and power” (see Acts 6:8).  He was totally committed to Christ and therefore a vessel through whom the power of God could flow.  We find him doing “great wonders and miracles among the people (see Acts 6:8).  Since he was faithful in the modest task of food distribution, Stephen was now entrusted with a wider ministry.  God was enabling him to perform works like those of the apostles and of Jesus as well.  The miracles Stephen performed gave accreditation to his message.  On one occasion he disputed with other Hellenistic Jews in the synagogue (see Acts 6:9).  These were Greek speaking Jews who had lived elsewhere in the Roman world but had now returned to Jerusalem.  These Jews debated Stephen, but “they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake” (see Acts 6:10).  Since they couldn’t get the best of Stephen in honest debate, his opponents resorted to underhanded methods.  They found men willing to make false statements and accusations against Stephen, bringing him before the Sanhedrin Council accusing him of blasphemy against Moses and God (see Acts 6:11-14).  Therefore, Stephen had to defend himself against the charge that “this man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place (a reference to either the temple or Jerusalem, but most likely the temple) and the law” (see Acts 6:13).  While he stood before the Council, Luke tells us that when all of the council members looked at Stephen, his face looked as if it was the face of an angel (see Acts 6:15).  At this point, the high priest asked him if the things that he was accused of were true (see Acts 7:1).  What follows including our lesson text is Stephen’s defense, the longest of seven recorded speeches or sermons in the book of Acts.  Our lesson begins with Acts 7:2.

III. THE CALL OF ABRAHAM (Acts 7:2-4, 8).  As Stephen defended himself against the false charges of blasphemy, his address was not really a defense of himself or an argument against the charges.  It was more a declaration of God’s historical dealings with Israel proving His faithfulnes.  First, he wanted to show that God had dealt with Israel in different ways and therefore He shouldn’t be limited to only what they were familiar with.  Second Stephen wanted to show that it wasn’t necessary to worship God in the temple or Jerusalem in order to receive His blessings.  Third, his defense would reveal the hypocrisy of the Jewish nation—a nation that always resisted God-sent leaders and prophets.  Stephen hoped that as he defended himself, his words would awaken these current spiritual leaders to their sin of rejecting the prophets, especially the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  

  1. God reveals Himself to Abraham (Acts 7:2). Our first verse says “And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran.” Stephen began his defense by answering in a formal yet respectful fashion.  He said to the Council “Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken.”  With the words “Men, brethren, and fathers,” Stephen was giving due respect to the national leaders on the Council.  These were not flattering titles, but civil and respectful ones, indicating that he expected them to treat him fairly, with humanity, and in a brotherly fatherly way.  But they are ready to see him as both an enemy of Judaism, and an enemy to the Sanhedrin Council, the Jewish leaders.  But he addresses them as “Men, brethren, and fathers” hoping that they will look on him as one of them.  He called on the council members to “harken” which was an appeal for them to listen carefully to what he was about to say.  They might not agree with some of his words, but he pleaded with them to hear him out.  Stephen continued to say “The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran.”  Stephen began his historical defense with the call of Abraham, who was the father of the Jewish nation.  He reminded the Council that God “appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran.”  In other words, God first appeared to Abraham in his idolatrous native land of “Mesopotamia” also known as Babylonia and Chaldea (see Genesis 11:27-30).   “Mesopotamia” was the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and God spoke to Abraham there “before he dwelt in Charran.”  God was leading Abraham to Canaan, the land of promise.  However, on his way to Canaan, Abraham and his small family stopped in “Charran” or Haran (see Genesis 11:31).
  2. God relocates Abraham (Acts 7:3-4).
  3. (vs. 3).Still referring to God’s call of Abraham, in this verse Stephen said And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.” The words “thy country” refers to “Charran” or Haran which was also in Mesopotamia about 600 miles from Ur of the Chaldees.  God told Abraham to leave “thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.”   He was to leave his “kindred” or family and continue on with his small immediate family to Canaan, “the land which I (God) shall shew thee.”
  4. (vs. 4). This verse says “Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell.” After Terah, Abraham’s father moved his family from Ur of the Chaldees, they travelled about 600 miles and “dwelt in Charran” or Haran.  Stephen also told the Council that after Abraham’s father died, God “removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell.”   In other words, Stephen told them that Abraham moved his small family from Haran to Israel where “ye (the Jews) now dwell.”
  5. God makes a covenant with Abraham (Acts 7:8). In this verse, Stephen continued to say And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs.” After Abraham had been in Canaan for about 25 years (see Genesis 12:4-5; 17:1-3), God “gave him (Abraham) the covenant of circumcision” that is, the covenant of which circumcision was the sign (see Genesis 17:1-14); and accordingly, when Abraham “begat Isaac” or had a son named Isaac, he “circumcised him the eighth day.”Stephen went on to give the names of Abraham’s descendents who became the forefathers of the nation of Israel.  First, he said so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day.”  Abraham obeyed God’s covenant and circumcised Isaac eight days after his birth.  Then Stephen said “and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs.”  Isaac was Jacob’s son and Jacob was the father of the “twelve patriarchs” who became heads of the twelve tribes of Israel.       
  6. THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST JOSEPH (Acts 7:9-10)
  7. Joseph’s brothers motivated by jealousy (Acts 7:9). In this verse, Stephen reminds the Council of what happened to Joseph. He said And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him.”  Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son as seen in the coat of many colors he was given by his father (see Genesis 37:3).  The word “patriarchs” refers to Joseph’s brothers.   As so often is the case, Joseph’s brothers were “moved with envy” meaning they became jealous and began to hate Joseph (see Genesis 37:4).  “Envy” or jealousy is sin and can make us do some evil an unrighteous things (see Proverbs 6:34; Song of Solomon 8:6; Mark 15:10; Acts 13:45; 17:5; Romans 1:29; Philippians 1:15; Titus 3:3).  As a result of their “envy” or jealousy, these brothers “sold Joseph into Egypt.”  At first, they wanted to kill him, but his brother Reuben talked them out it (see Genesis 37:20-21).  They agreed to sell him to some travelling merchants from Midian who in turn brought Joseph into Egypt (see Genesis 37:23-28).  But though all of this, Stephen said “God was with him.”  Of course the record shows that in Egypt Joseph was falsely accused of rape by Potiphar’s wife, unjustly put in prison, and forgotten by Pharaoh’s butler (see Genesis chapters 39 and 40).  But Joseph was delivered from these trials as well because “God was with him.” It appears that the point Stephen was trying to make here is the same as with Abraham: God was with Joseph everywhere he went and most of the time it was outside of the land of Israel.
  8. God delivers Joseph (Acts 7:10). Still talking about Joseph and his troubles, Stephen said in this verse And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.” Not only did God deliver Joseph “out of all his afflictions,” He also “gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”  God owned Joseph in his troubles.  He was with him (see Genesis 39:2, 21) by the influence of his Spirit, both on his mind, and on the minds of those Joseph was concerned with.  God gave him “favour and wisdom” in their eyes.   In addition, the Lord “made him governor over Egypt and all his house.”   Since God was with Joseph through all of his afflictions or troubles, Pharaoh made him the second man in authority in his kingdom (see Psalms 105:17-22).
  9. THE COMMISSION OF MOSES (Acts 7:17, 33-34)
  10. God’s promise (Acts 7:17). This verse says But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt.” In this verse Stephen reminds his listeners of the time when God was preparing to call His people out of Egyptian bondage.  This happened “when the time of the promise drew nigh” meaning when God had determined that it was time to keep His covenant promise to Abraham and set His people free so that they could go to Canaan.  It was during this time that God’s “people grew and multiplied in Egypt.”
  11. God’s proposal to Moses (Acts 7:33-34).
  12. (vs. 33).In this verse Stephen still talking about Moses (see Acts 7:20-32) said Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground.” The Lord spoke to Moses from a burning bush while he was tending his father-in-law’s sheep (see Exodus 3:1-6).  Once again, Stephan was showing that God was working outside of Israel.  The Lord told Moses to “Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground.”  The Sanhedrin Council was charging Stephen with blaspheming, or speaking against the temple which they described as “this holy place” (see Acts 6:13) as if the temple was the only holy place.  When Stephen repeated God’s words to Moses, he was showing that any place where God reveals Himself is holy.
  13. (vs. 34). In this verse Stephen said God continued to say to Moses “I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt.” God’s people had been in Egypt for 432 years (see Exodus 12:40), and finally after all this time God told Moses that He had seen their “affliction” or bondage, and “heard their groaning” or their cries for deliverance.  Now God said that it was time for Him to deliver them.  The phrase “am come down” is an anthropomorphism which means to use human terms to describe God.  Of course, God is all powerful and doesn’t have to come down from heaven to do anything.  For the purpose of man’s understanding, this is how God described what He would do in delivering His people.  Moses was God’s choice to deliver His people and He commissioned Moses for the job saying “And now come, I will send thee into Egypt.”  Of course, after making excuses for why he couldn’t go to Egypt and speak for God (see Exodus 4:1-17), Moses went.  After God brought ten plagues upon Egypt (see Exodus 7:14-25; 8:1-15, 16-32; 9:1-26; 10:1-29; 11:1-12:30), Pharaoh allowed the Hebrews to leave (see Exodus 12:31).
  14. THE COMMAND TO WORSHIP (Acts 7:45-47)
  15. The tabernacle (Acts 7:45-46).
  16. (vs. 45). In this verse Stephen says “Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David.” Stephen was accused of speaking blasphemous words against the temple (see Acts 6:13).  Therefore he turned his attention to that charge as he spoke of the tabernacle that Israel had in the wilderness.  He must convince his accusers that he believed that tabernacle worship was ordained by God

because He had “appointed” Moses to make the tabernacle (see Acts 7:44).  The tabernacle was the visible evidence of God’s presence with His people.  Stephen pointed out in verse 44 which is not part of our printed text, that the tabernacle was not brought into the Promised Land by the same generation that had received it in the wilderness because of unbelief (see Numbers 14:22-25; 32:11-12).  A new generation crossed the Jordan and entered the Promised Land with that tabernacle.  Stephen was referring to this new generation when he said “our fathers that came after.”  They were the ones who “brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers.”  The words “brought in” refer to the tabernacle.  Stephen said it was “brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles.”  Before the Hebrews entered the Promised Land, it was occupied by “Gentiles” meaning people that were non-Jews.  The phrase “brought in with Jesus” should actually say “brought in with Joshua” who led the Jews into the Promised Land that was occupied by non-Jews.  As a Greek speaking Jew, Stephen used “Jesus” here which is the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua.  However, the Hebrew name Joshua should have also been used in place of the name “Jesus” in Hebrews 4:8.  In the last part of this verse, Stephen said that the Gentiles who occupied Canaan when Joshua led them in were those “whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David.”  This phrase may be understood in one of two ways.  It may mean that God continued to drive out Israel’s enemies, the Gentile nations, until the time of David.  However, this phrase more likely means that Israel possessed the tabernacle as its place of worship until David’s time, when he desired to build God a permanent structure.  A clearer translation of this verse is: “the tabernacle, under Joshua’s leadership was brought by a new generation of our ancestors, into the Promised Land that was occupied by Gentiles whom God drove out.  That same tabernacle was used by Israel until the time of David.”

  1. (vs. 46). In this verse, Stephen still referring to David said Who (David) found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.” David is the subject of this verse.  Stephen first stated that David “found favour before God.”  In other words, God blessed David abundantly and delivered him from his enemies.  It was during David’s reign that Israel enjoyed a period of peace and prosperity unlike any they had ever experienced before.  Second, Stephen said that David desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.”  Because of David’s relationship with God, he wanted to “find” or build a permanent dwelling place for “the God of Jacob” meaning the God of Israel.  “Jacob” is another name for Israel.
  2. The temple (Acts 7:47). In this verse, Stephen continued to say But Solomon built him an house.” As much as David wanted to build God a permanent dwelling place, it was not God’s will that he do it.  For sure, a temple would be built, but David’s son, Solomon would be God’s choice to build it.  This experience of David is recorded in II Samuel chapter 7 and I Chronicles 17:1-15.  As David sat in his own house after God had given him rest from his enemies and Israel enjoyed peace, he determined to build a house for God.  When David told Nathan, the prophet what he wanted to do, at first Nathan encouraged him to do it.  However, later God told Nathan to tell David that he couldn’t build the temple, but his son would (see II Kings 7:1-14).  That’s exactly what happened.  Solomon’s sermon, prayer of dedication and benediction upon the completion of the beautiful temple are all recorded in I Kings chapter 8.  David had been a man of war and had “shed blood abundantly” and therefore was not allowed to build the temple (see I Chronicles 22:8).  However, David did make preparations in advance for Solomon to build the temple (see I Chronicles 22:1-7).

VII. THE COMING OF CHRIST (Acts 7:52-53, 55)

  1. Stephens verdict against the Sanhedrin Council (Acts 7:52-53). Verse 51 is not part of our printed text, but in that verse, Stephen echoing the words of Jeremiah 6:10; 9:26, charged these Jewish leaders with being “stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears.” Stephen was pronouncing his verdict against the Jewish leaders.  They were guilty of resisting the Spirit of God.  Stephen’s accusers had been circumcised physically, but spiritually they were uncircumcised meaning that their hearts were hardened as with a thick covering.
  2. (vs. 52). In this verse, Stephen asked the members of the Council a question: Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers.” The question was a rhetorical one.  With it, Stephen clearly implied that all the prophets had been persecuted by your fathers.”  It’s interesting that now Stephen changed from saying “our fathers” in verses 44-45 to your fathers” in this verse, linking the Sanhedrin Council to those who killed the prophets.  The “prophets,” the very ones who announced “the coming of the Just One” meaning the Messiah, were “slain” or killed by the “fathers” or ancestors of Stephen’s accusers.  Those who announced the greatest blessing upon the nation were killed by the leaders of that nation.  With the phrase “of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers,” Stephen was charging the Sanhedrin with betraying and murdering “the Just One,” Jesus Christ.  The “fathers” or ancestors of the members of the Sanhedrin Council had killed the prophets who announced Christ’s coming; now they were guilty of slaying Christ when He came.
  3. (vs. 53). Still talking to and about the Sanhedrin Council, in this verse Stephen continued to say “Who (the Council) have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.” The pronoun “Who” could refer to the whole nation of Israel, but Stephen was speaking directly to the members of the Council.  He said that they had received “the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.”  This means that the members of the Council had not kept or obeyed the very law of God that was given to Moses by the angels.  The phrase “the law by the disposition of angels” refers to the Jewish teaching that angels, as messengers for God, brought the law to Moses (see Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2).  Verse 54 is not part of our printed text, but it says that after hearing Stephen’s defense, the Council members “were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.”  In essence, Stephen the defendant, had become the prosecutor for the Sanhedrin Council, and they became furious with him.  This anger would soon lead to Stephen’s stoning and death (see Acts 7:57-59).
  4. Stephen’s vision (Acts 7:55). Stephen was not left to look at the angry faces before him, for our final verse says “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.” Luke writes that Stephen was “full of the Holy Spirit.”  Being “full of the Holy Spirit” is different from being “filled with the Spirit.”  All genuine believers are permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but the Bible also speaks of many fillings of the Spirit.  The phrase “full of the Holy Spirit” describes a normal, everyday demonstration of the presence of the Holy Ghost in our lives.  Therefore, it means that Stephen was a spiritual man, a mature believer, whose life was characterized by obedience and submission to the Holy Spirit.  This caused him to walk and act in the power of the Spirit consistently.Through the Spirit, Stephen was able to gaze into heaven where he “saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”  This vision encouraged him in this moment of need, and assured him of the bliss that was awaiting him.  The phrase “glory of God” speaks of how God reveals Himself which at one time had been in the shining cloud that filled the tabernacle and later the temple (see Exodus 40:34-35; I Kings 8:10-11).  Stephen said that he saw “Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”  In all other passages of Scripture showing Jesus’ exaltation, He is pictured “sitting” at God’s right hand (see Psalms 110:1; Hebrews 1:3; 12:2).  But why then is Jesus seen standing in Stephen’s vision?  Most, if not all scholars agree that Jesus was standing to receive Stephen into His presence.

            

VIII. Conclusion.  Our God does not change.  As He was in the past, He is still faithful to all generations and His mercy endures forever.  If we want to know whether God will deliver us today, all we need to do is look back and see how He delivered us yesterday.  Let’s constantly recall God’s goodness over the years—to our individual families and to the church as a whole.  Doing so helps us stay strong through those times when it feels like God is not moving.  Stories of God’s faithfulness give us instruction, and they give us hope.  Let’s get back to telling them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scapegoat

Isaiah 53:5 “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

When Jesus suffered and died on Calvary’s cross, the sin of the entire world hung on his shoulders. This weight He carried, we are not designed to carry. Jesus suffered enormously so that we might be saved from “the sin that so easily entangles us” and be able to run the race he has set before us easier each day, that one day we might be with him in  all his Glory.

Jesus allowed his flesh to be crushed, ripped, and torn. He suffered and died a gruesome death. He was the substitute who took our punishment, who paid for our crimes, that we might be made whole, that we might be made the righteousness of God. Through his suffering, we are blessed, through His death we have abundant life. It was our sins that pressed the crown of thorns on his head, our hatred that slapped him, and spit on him, our disobedience which mocks him. He was wounded for our transgressions, and  died for our sins. It was by His bruises that healing was made available to all who will surrender their lives into the Masters hands. Jesus looked beyond all of our faults and he saw our need, and he supplied our every need.

 

Because of Jesus death, lost sinners can find their way back to the Heavenly Father again. Jesus, our mighty hero who poured out his life and his blood for us, and hung on a cross between two criminals, was no criminal himself. He was just our gentle Savior, who died for us, and now intercedes for us in Heaven. God now looks upon all who have truly committed their lives to Him, through lenses stained with the blood of Jesus Christ, and where there once stood a sinner, there now stands one washed in the blood of the Lamb