Tod Kennedy, September 19, 1999
Applications or “So what?” from Acts 7
- We learn from Stephen to take into account the listener’s frame of reference when we teach and witness.
- Each Bible doctrine has a biblical and historical context. We ought to learn the Bible in its context—its historical and doctrinal circumstances and setting. This kind of learning will solve many of our doctrinal and applicational difficulties.
- We need to think about Jesus Christ and his graciousness when others mistreat us. This will prevent us from seeking revenge, from complaining, from becoming bitter, disillusioned, and unhappy.
- We, and all church age believers, will immediately go into the presence of the Lord Jesus at the moment we die.
- We are commanded to forgive others “just as God in Christ has forgiven” us (Ephesians 4.32).
- Stephen was on trial for his faith in Jesus the Messiah; he made his defense by taking the Sanhedrin on a “talk-through” the Old Testament. He began with Abraham, the father of the Hebrew nation, and ended with Solomon (Acts 7.1-50).
- He made four main points: First, God had graciously created, cared for and guided the nation, and revealed himself to it (Acts 7.1-19). Second, the people had repeatedly scorned Moses as he attempted to lead the nation (Acts 7.20-40). Third, God had judged his people on several occasions because they scorned him, but only after repeated gracious warnings (Acts 7.41-45). The fourth point of his “talk-through” was that God had Solomon build the temple, a physical structure—something that the Sanhedrin was very proud of—that was a center for Israel’s earthly life. However, the LORD God is not confined to a building that man has constructed; heaven is his throne and earth is his footstool. This, of course, cuts deeply into Jewish legalism, pride, and self-righteousness. God is not confined to their physical temple (Acts 7.46-50).
- Stephen then made two indictments, applications, or “so whats.” The first was that the present generation was just like the preceding rebellious generations: both had resisted the Holy Spirit; both had killed the prophets. This generation had killed Jesus the Messiah just as the previous generation had killed the prophets who had predicted his coming (Acts 7.51-52). Stephen’s second and final indictment was very telling; the Hebrew nation was the recipient of God’s word, the law of Moses, and they had scorned it and disobeyed it (Acts 7.53).
- The Sanhedrin’s response was predictable: quick, emotional, and vicious. They did not discuss what Stephen had said or attempt to prove Stephen wrong—he was not wrong. Stephen was sure of his message; he was calm; he was gracious; he was occupied with Jesus the Messiah; he lived by faith and so had inner rest. The Sanhedrin, on the other hand, violently rushed him and chased him out of the city where they stoned him to death (Acts 7.53-59).
- Stephen’s response was also predictable; he believed that he was about to enter Jesus’ presence so he committed his life to the Lord Jesus; he also prayed that the Lord Jesus would not hold his stoning against the guilty ones—Stephen forgave them (Acts 7.59-60).
Doctrine Summaries, Definitions, and Descriptions
- Teach and witness within a biblical context and take into account the listener’s frame of reference. Stephen, in Acts 7, teaches us the value of presenting the biblical message within the listeners’ frame of reference and within an historical context. He began with the origin of the Hebrew nation, God’s choosing of Abraham. By the time Stephen had finished, the audience could not argue with him; the well-known history had convicted them. We often assume too much on the part of our audience. We need to make sure they understand the context or flow of history and doctrine so that they become convinced of the truth of the message.
- Christology is the biblical study of Christ. Christ (Cristov” christos) is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word for “anointed one,” “ Messiah” (j’yvim; massiah). Jesus Christ is God (John 1.1-14; Heb 1.1-4,8 ), the Son of God (Luke 22.70; Hebrews 1.4), man (Luke 2; 1 Tim 2.5 ), prophet ( Luke 24.19; Jn 6.14), priest (Hebrews 4.14; 5.5-10 ), king of Israel (Matthew 27.11; John 1.49 ), Savior (John 4.42; 1 Timothy 4.10), and world ruler ( Zechariah 14.9; 1 Corinthians 15.24-28). Jesus, his human name, means savior (Matthew 1.21); Christ or Messiah is his title; LORD is the personal name of the revealed covenant God of Israel; Lord is a title for deity; Immanuel comes from Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 7.14 and means in the Hebrew “God with us” (lae WnM;[; lae el means God, Wn nu means us, M;[I im means with ). Jesus was virgin-conceived (Isaiah 7.14; Matthew 1.20-23) so that he would be undiminished deity and true humanity without a sinful human nature (Luke 1.35; Hebrews 4.15). This means that he had no human father; God caused Mary to become pregnant—a miracle. Christ became man when he was born of Mary in order to die for the sins of the world—to reconcile mankind (2 Corinthians 5.18-21; 1 Timothy 1.15); he was the lamb of God (John 1.29). Besides not having a sin nature, he never sinned (2 Corinthians 5.21; Hebrews 4.15). Christ is undimished deity and true humanity in one person forever (John 1.1-14; Hebrews 1.1-13; 2.14); the theological name for this is hypostatic union. When he came to earth he voluntarily restricted the independent use of certain divine attributes, though from his birth on he always is undiminished deity and true humanity; the theological name for this truth is kenosis (Philippians 2.6-8). During his time on earth, in his humanity, he relied on the Holy Spirit (Luke 4.14,18). His purpose for coming to earth was to die in our place for our sins; he was our substitute, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. During the three hours of darkness, while he was on the cross, God the Father judged Christ, his son, for all the sins of all mankind (1 Timothy 1.15; 2 Corinthians 5.18-21; John 1.29; John 19.30; 1 John 2.1-2). He arose from the dead on the third day (Luke 24; 1 Corinthians 15.4 ); he ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of the Father forty days after he arose (Acts 1.3-9 ); he now intercedes for believers (Hebrews 4.14; 1 John 2.1-2); he will return for the church to take church believers back to heaven (1 Thessalonians 4.16-18; Titus 2.13), then after the seven years of tribulation on earth, he will come to earth to set up and rule his millennial kingdom (Matthew 24.27-31; Acts 1.10-11; 2 Thessalonians1.7-10 ); at the end of the millennium, after one last Satan-led rebellion which will be followed by the Great White Throne Judgment, Christ will turn over the kingdom of God to the Father and the Father will have him continue to will rule the eternal kingdom, which will reside in a new heaven and a new earth, forever (Revelation 20; 1 Corinthians 15.24-28).
- Forgiveness is the release from guilt, punishment, and penalty. The biblical words “ to forgive” and “forgiveness” denote pardon, to cancel, to lift up and send away, and to let go. Forgiveness is necessary because God is absolute righteousness and man is sinful. All sin is ultimately against God (Ps 51.4; Rom 3.23). God is free to forgive human sin because Jesus Christ paid the penalty for every sin (1 Timothy 1.15; 1 John 2.1-2; John 1.29). God will forgive man (Isaiah 43.25; Psalm 130.3-4; Acts 13.38-39; Ephesians 4.32; 1 John 1.9). God commands believers to forgive other believers (Colossians 3.13; Ephesians 4.32) as many times as is necessary (Matthew 18.21-22); we are to forgive just in the same way that God forgives us—freely and as many times as necessary. We are also to forgive ourselves (Philippians 4.13; 1 Corinthians 4.4). When we have a guilt complex and will not forgive ourselves even though God has forgiven us, we are placing ourselves above God. In practical terms, forgiveness is giving up the right to hurt someone else when they hurt you.