A Journey Thru Acts 21: Blaspheming The Culture (6:8-15)…
Acts 6:8-15:8Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace & power,
performed great wonders & signs among the people.
9 Opposition arose, however,
This is what we will spend the next two or three posts on. “Opposition arose, however…” Why? The early Christians from Acts 1-5 were PHENOMENALLY blessed by God to be joyful, generous, kind, devoted, humble, having powerful closeness with the LORD & with each other. They fed widows, sold properties so that there were no impoverished disciples of the Lord Jesus, were genuinely joyful, God worked miracles through them, etc. Who in the world would oppose THAT?
We will see throughout these next few posts. The opposition the early church faced in Acts 6 helps us understand the even more widespread and intense opposition they faced from “the world” throughout the rest of Acts, throughout the New Testament, and to this very day in places around the world. Intense opposition will always arise where the true Gospel is proclaimed & lived out—it is in direct opposition to the sinful nature of the world.
from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene & Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia & Asia—who began to argue with Stephen.
10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.
11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”
[They weren’t opposing Stephen’s & the Christians’ good deeds, but their teaching. Same today. As one pastor said over 125 years ago (Charles Spurgeon), the world loves a lukewarm church that only does good deeds and never opens their mouth about King Jesus, the Gospel, the cross, sin, repentance, etc. Unfortunately, too many Christians treat St. Francis’ phrase as if it is from the Bible (though it is not): “Preach the Gospel always, use words when necessary.” Words are always necessary (Romans 10:13-15). Our teaching, what we believe, what we say, is what eventually takes off our camouflage and reveals whether we are Christians or not.
12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law.
They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin.
13 They produced false witnesses, who testified,
“This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law.
14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth
will destroy this place & change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
[“This JESUS is going to get rid of our idols/beliefs & change our way of knowing God!”]
15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen,
and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.”
[Calm in the face of threats, opposition, lies—Stephen is no longer attached to this world but to Christ; thus the fiercest waves don’t change his peace in the Lord.]
Cornerstone/foundational beliefs of the Bible & Christianity—
which must not be altered/moved/changed…
…go directly against cornerstone/foundational beliefs of culture/”the world”—
which the world culture also says must not be altered/moved/changed!
(everyone has dogma/doctrine that drives their lives/actions/decisions;
no one avoids this.)
No way to get around this (though people try to make Christianity pleasing both to God and non-Christians)…we will either honor & please the LORD or honor & please the world—we cannot do both.
What Does The Bible Mean By “The World”?
Genesis 3:1-5: Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
[What does the Bible mean by “the world”? Antagonism against the Word of God, what He has said. Thus the devil’s temptation of Adam & Eve began with an attempt to undermine the Truthfulness & clarity & importance of Scripture.]
2The woman said to the serpent,“We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,3but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, &you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
[What’s the big deal here? The devil has just called God a liar, attacked both His Word and His character (the LORD’s trustworthiness) and given Adam & Eve a different idol to worship instead of Him:
- Explore new horizons,
- break thru God’s boundaries,
- be like God,
- make your own decisions,
- knowledge is key,
- know everything,
- discover what awaits outside of the confines of God’s rules,
- take control of your life, etc.
Sound familiar? That was about 4,000 B.C.; might as well be 2017 A.D. THAT is what the Bible means by “the world”—the flow, the current, the nature of sin.]
Let’s look at another passage to understand what the Bible means by “the world”…
Genesis 11:1-4: Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.
2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
What’s the big deal?
- Common language,
- common culture,
- common values,
- common plan,
- common way of looking at things,
- common goals:
ALL separate from God,
- all to elevate themselves,
- reach heaven on their own terms,
- and make a name for themselves.
Idolatry…bold & arrogant & proud.
What’s the big deal of the tower of Babel? It was a declaration of united independence from God: God is not God. We are—together, united, one, unstoppable. All we need is each other, certainly not HIM, Whoever He is…
Sound familiar? That was about 2,200 B.C.; might as well be 2017 A.D. THAT is what the Bible means by “the world”—the flow, the current, the nature of sin.
Let’s look at another passage…
Judges 21:25: In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit
[everyone did what was right in their own eyes].
What’s the big deal? God had spoken clearly/powerfully up to that time, gave many convincing proofs of His existence & power as the only True God. His people said,
- “Whatever. Truth is relative.
- Figure it out on your own,
- blaze your own trail,
- make it up as you go—
- you’re in charge,
- you have no king/you NEED no king.
- YOU sit on the throne of your life—LIVE IT!
- Whatever makes you happy—start living as you see fit.”
Sound familiar? That was about 1,100 B.C.; might as well be 2017 A.D. THAT is what the Bible means by “the world”—the flow, the current, the nature of sin.
One last passage…
Luke 19:11-15a: Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man [Zacchaeus], too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem & the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king & then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’
14 “But his subjects hated him & sent a delegation after him to say,
‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’
15 “He was made king, however, and returned home.”
What’s the big deal here? Jesus is King, Lord—not just teacher, wise man, kind person. But we don’t want Him to be our King because that means we are NOT King/Queen of ourselves. We might take a few of Jesus’ sayings as suggestions to help us in OUR role as King/Queen of our lives–we might “allow” Him to be our consultant as we pursue our dreams and act as CEO, CFO, and COO of Me, Inc., but our sinful nature does not want to surrender to Him & bow & give Him control, cry out for His mercy & forgiveness, admit we are bankrupt & utterly helpless and deserving of wrath/judgment without the Lord Jesus. Our sinful nature hates the idea of the Lord Jesus as King, at best we will accept Him as mascot/pet/genie in a bottle to get us what we want, but not King.
He is King, though, whether we vote for Him or not. He does & will reign forever.
Sound familiar? That was 30 A.D.; might as well be 2017A.D. THAT is what the Bible means by “the world”—the flow, the current, the nature of sin.
That describes all humanity, loved ones—all of us, without receiving the Lord Jesus as our Savior & King, we are all flowing in the world’s river, we all think like those four passages above. Oh how we all desperately need Him…
What are some of the Bible’s/Christianity’s cornerstone & foundational beliefs
that oppose the World’s values?
Bible: The Lord Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven…
World: There are many roads to heaven (if it exists!);
Bible: People are born sinners—rebels against God—
in their nature (not just behavior)…
World: People are basically good, people are mistakers, not sinners.
Bible: Hell is real…
World: Hell is not real (or is reserved only for people who believe in hell!);
Bible: Certain behaviors/feelings/desires are utterly sinful…
World: In many cases, if your heart desires something it is ok–pursue & celebrate it.
Bible: The Son of God had to die in our place in order to forgive us…
World: Humans simply need more education & understanding to improve & evolve.
Bible: What God says is True Absolutely—for all time & all peoples/cultures)…
World: Only what we see is true (e.g. science–but even that will change over time; even more, each person gets to decide what is true, what is real—truth is relative, built by us/for us–“employee owned”).
Loved ones, the various religions and belief systems of the world are not basically the same as Christianity, are not inherently similar. At their foundations, the attitudes & values & goals of the world are different from and opposed to Biblical Truth, and vice versa. They are acid & base–they cannot be mixed. Light can have no harmony or partnership or fellowship with darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14, 1 Thessalonians 5:5, Ephesians 5:8).
Today Christians cause trouble by defying the world’s decrees
& declaring not that truth is relative
but that our Relative is the Truth—Hebrews 2:11; John 14:6.
And this is what is so offensive to the flow/current of the world, loved ones—as we are reborn through faith in Christ, as He makes us new and matures us to be more & more like Him, as His light shines brighter in us it shows the world how dark it is without Him. Our new life & maturing automatically produces antagonism and opposition from the sinfulness of the world as people see what they don’t have (but could have!).
More on this next post, but it’s like those movies where one student in the class wants to study and work hard and get A’s so they can go to college and get a great job. Some other students are offended by the student simply trying their best, because as the student increases in knowledge & academic success, as the student shows that they will eventually get out of the neighborhood and move on to a better life, it indirectly shows the other students what they are not, where they will stay, what they won’t have if they continue constantly goofing off.
And so the offended students resent the hard working student, the students who want nothing to do with studying do what they can to discourage the devotion and maturity and eventual promotion/graduation of the hard-working student.
Our growth in Christ has this affect on the culture of the world, and no matter how kind/respectful we are, our belief in Christ as the only Savior & King, our joy that He has ransomed us from sin & hell & death (a ransom which we didn’t and don’t deserve!), implicitly reveals to others that they are in eternal danger, in bondage, in darkness, without repentance & faith in Christ. Even on our best day (by God’s grace!) as a compassionate & tenderhearted Christian, opposition will arise simply from our beliefs and maturity as the Holy Spirit grows us. There is no way to completely avoid this antagonism with the world at its foundational level.
Communion/The Lord’s Supper
Don’t be depressed by this post! THERE IS HOPE! We are helpless by ourselves, but we aren’t hopeless thru the Lord Jesus Christ! The cross! The empty tomb!
For any who are currently in the current of the world and who like it, who agreed with most of the statements in the second column above (world) and not the first (Bible), there is hope for you in Christ Jesus! He is willing & able to be your Savior & King & to forgive & adopt you into His family as a free, undeserved gift of eternal life! You don’t need Him MORE than I do, and I don’t need Christ less than you! Tap out in submission to Him through repentance & faith…let Him be victorious over you so that you can be victorious in Him!
This is the utter importance of the cross & the empty tomb—
only because of them both
can any of us be freed from the raging rapids of the world
and be reborn into the reigning rule of the Lord Jesus Christ…
What’s so offensive about the Cross? It gets “all up in our grill”
with this sobering Truth:
- We are not and never will be “good enough” to deserve heaven.
- We’re rebels who need to surrender to God, not smudges that need to be polished.
- We cannot be improved—we must be made entirely new.
- We can’t be made better in our current condition—
we must die thru repentance (taking responsibility for our sinfulness!)
at Jesus’ feet & be raised to life by faith in His death & resurrection.
- The Cross melts down the golden calf idol of our supposed “good deeds”—
earning forgiveness thru good deeds = washing dirty white clothes in spaghetti sauce. Good deeds are a detriment—not detergent—for deserving heaven.
- We must be born-again thru repentance & faith in the Lord Jesus Christ only.
What’s so amazing about the Cross? That it happened. Period. That God the Father poured out His just wrath on God the Son so He would pay the penalty we deserve so we could be forgiven, reborn, made new, adopted & have true peace with God. Free for us! Expensive for Him…
What’s so amazing about the Cross? To ransom us—free us—from sin & hell,
- the Lord Jesus emptied Himself not His wallet;
- God didn’t pay our sin-debt with cash but with Christ,
- the cost of our adoption was not gold bullion but red blood.
No wonder Paul said to the local church at Corinth: “While I was with you I resolved to know nothing except Jesus Christ & Him crucified.” There is nothing more amazing in this world—not even a close second.
1 Peter 1:18-19: For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold
that you were redeemed from the empty way of life [darkness of the sinful world flow!]
handed down to you from your ancestors,
19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
Hebrews 13:11-15: 11The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp.12And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy thru his own blood.13Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.14For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
[Neither this physical world nor the values/beliefs of this world is our home! We are foreigners here, exiles, aliens, outcasts because of our beliefs & behavior–we don’t fit in, we don’t (should’t!) march to the same beat as the world! We should be constantly out of tune with the world, our notes (beliefs, attitudes & actions) should sound stridently sharp and flat compared to the world’s shrill song of independence from the LORD.]
15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—
the fruit of lips that openly profess his name”—
professing His Name, His beliefs, His teaching, His Word—ALL of it.
Gently, respectfully, BOLDLY, fearlessly, just like Stephen and the early Christians…
That’s exactly what these verses are talking about! We are either members of the camp of the world culture or members of body of Christ—we cannot have dual citizenship! In the eyes of the beliefs/values of this sinful world, there is a blasphemous disgrace in associating ourselves with the Biblical Jesus & with ALL of His teaching in the Bible.
“You believe THAT? Horrific! Offensive! Narrow-minded! You’re one of THEM.” No wonder the world creates a false/safer jesus. “We are the culture, and we approve this jesus…”
This was the root of Peter’s temptation & sin—he got so close to the Lord Jesus, closer than any other disciple when Christ was on trial. But Peter was “warming himself by the fire” of the world, Peter couldn’t/wouldn’t break free from the world’s grip yet.
Non-Christians came up to him & said, “You’re ‘one of them,’ aren’t you? You’re attached to Jesus, right?” The non-Christians were saying, “If you really are with Him & agree with His teaching, you’re clearly not with us.”
And Peter denied the Lord Jesus three times, at that time Peter couldn’t & wouldn’t associate with the Lord Jesus in a way that cost Peter everything, that told the world culture, “I am no longer with you, I am with Him, the real Jesus.”
Peter stayed in the camp of the world at that time & outside the camp of Christ. No wonder Peter wept bitterly afterwards—it was nothing less than betrayal of the Lord Jesus. And yet there was grace for Peter & for us! IF we repent and apologize…if we go to Him outside the camp, by faith, as Hebrews says…
Our temptation is the SAME TODAY as Peter faced. If we stop comfortably warming ourselves by the fire of the world it will try to throw us into that same fire (like Nebuchadnezzar and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3). Thru social media & face-to-face relationships/friendships, we are constantly being asked/tested:
“Are you really one of THEM? Are you with US or HIM?
Are you one of THOSE Christians, or are you one we accept and agree with?”
There are earthly and eternal consequences
for our answer to those questions, loved ones…
Luke 6:26: “Woe to you [beware] when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.”
The world/non-Christians should not generally approve/support
your foundational/cornerstone belief, dear Christian.
They didn’t approve of the Lord Jesus’ teaching,
and they shouldn’t approve of ours…
Let’s not be afraid to humbly & gently but boldly & Biblically
blaspheme the beliefs & values & actions of the world culture…
the heat you’ll face is only temporary
& is nowhere near the terribleness of betraying the Lord Jesus Christ,
of blaspheming Him…