A Journey Thru Acts 25: The Bible As One Event (7:1-53)…
Significant shift/understanding occurred when the first images of earth were sent back by the Apollo astronauts in the 1960s. People began to see the earth in the “big picture” and not just a bunch of smaller details. Both are important & worth studying—the leaf AND the forest, the pebble AND the mountain, the cell AND the person.
Likewise, in this & the following post, we will step back and dig into the Bible to see the “big picture” of God’s character and actions and plan from the beginning–the Gospel…it is not random that Stephen uses his last minutes on earth to give this big-picture overview of God’s actions to his accusers…
But why will we invest time reading about the history of God’s people in the Old Testament? Because if you have received the Lord Jesus as Savior & King by repentance & faith, by grace we too are part of God’s people, His family—this is like studying our family tree! God has blessed all of His people today through the ways that He blessed & preserved & rescued & delivered & set free His people thousands of years ago. We will be encouraged, instructed & humbled to know & remember what the LORD has done to bring all of us to this point, to this day…
7 Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these charges true?”
2 To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me!…”
[For the rest of Acts 7, please click HERE]
[And then Stephen, in his last minutes on earth, doesn’t beg for his life when falsely accused, doesn’t try to stop the injustice about to happen to him. Stephen uses his last minutes on earth to evangelize his fellow Israelites, and he does it by going back to the beginning & reminding them of Who God is, what He has done, what He has promised to do, & what humans’ real root problem is, all to show them that the Lord Jesus truly is the Messiah, the promised Savior. Then he ends his statement with this piercing phrase:]
…51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts &ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!52Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. & now you have betrayed & murdered him—53you who have received the law that was given thru angels but have not obeyed it.”
[Not exactly a seeker-friendly message! But the LORD inspired him to say that to humble & convict his fellow Israelites. They don’t respond in repentance, at least not right away—they rush him in a rage & stone him to death for delivering God’s message/Truth.
Please read Acts chapter 7 on your own. We will invest our time this post doing together what Stephen did at his trial—we will go back to the beginning & look to God’s Word, the Bible, as One Event, to see a record of Who He is, what He has done, what our real root problem is, & what He promises to do for anyone who cries out to Him in repentance & faith. We will look at the Gospel as a whole, like looking at earth from the moon, seeing the entire globe in all it’s beauty. May God bless us to see the ever more amazing beauty of the entire Gospel…]
Overview of the Bible
1. God Makes, God Sees:
Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God…”
Mic drop. Nuff said. In the beginning, God…Boom. Truth.
Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created…”
Another mic drop. Nuff said. God created…everything. Boom. Truth. Don’t overthink this, regardless of what others may say. The LORD is the only One Who was there–He knows, & He has revealed, that He created the universe. Glorious!
Genesis 1:26-27: “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image, [we are not just mammals!]
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.”
Genesis 1:31: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”
2. God Is Assaulted:
Genesis 3:1-24: 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’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and 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.”
[“knowledge is POWER, Eve, everyone knows that…
and He doesn’t want YOU to have it. Take it anyway for yourself!”]
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food & pleasing to the eye,
[trusting what we see instead of what God has said—
this continues to be one of humanity’s fundamental sins to this very day…]
& also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took
[instead of receiving from the LORD, she took for herself;
asserting her independence from God, the root of all sin…]
some & ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, & he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, & they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together & made coverings for themselves.
[again, doing what they think is best, independently from the LORD, trying to solve our problems in our own ways; for us sinful humans, pragmatism begins its tyrannical rule from this verse all the way until the present day (and until the Lord Jesus returns)…]
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
[hiding from God out of fear (instead of going to Him in repentance), knowing deep down that He is there but running away. Again, the LORD gives us, in Genesis, a perfect explanation/diagnosis of humanity in 2017…]
11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked?
Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—
she gave me some fruit from the tree, & I ate it.”
[Ah, the opening episode of “The Blame Game,”
which is still on the air, day & night, around the world today.]
13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
[To sinful humans like us, our sin is always someone else’s fault
(or we celebrate it & deny that it is actually a sin)…]
14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity [hatred] between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
[This verse is fulfilled in the Cross,
where satan & death were defeated
as the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified.
The LORD already has set in motion His plan of redemption
through the Cross & empty tomb–oh the glorious Gospel!!!]
16 To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken;
for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
[I would imagine just about every farmer in the world, Christian or not,
would wholeheartedly agree with verses 17–19…]
20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.
21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
[God CONTINUES to look after & care for Adam & Eve and continues to point ahead to the salvation He will provide through the birth, death & resurrection of His only Son the Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him, the Father will provide–as a free gift to be received through repentance & faith–the true & everlasting robes of righteousness to cover the spiritual nakedness of all who will cry out to Christ!!!]
22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side[e] of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”
Separation from intimate relationship with God is the ultimate consequence of sin.
But some might think: “Goodness, so they ate some fruit. What’s the big deal?!”
That is exactly how sin wants us to look at sin–“what’s the big deal?” is the unofficial anthem of the world, [sadly] even of many who attend church…
Psalm 2:1-4: “Why do the nations conspire/rage and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together
against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
3 “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.”
4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs…”
That’s sin without all the make-up: rebellion against God, attacking God’s right to rule & reign. When we commit ANY sin, we are living out the thought: “We’re the boss, we’re in charge, God’s ways are shackles, our ways are freedom. We don’t need HIM! Let’s declare our independence & blaze our own path…[even if that path is a bunch of good deeds].”
Rebellion against God—that is sin. Not just “coloring outside the lines”, but attacking the LORD with our crayon.
- If an astronaut were to cut his/her connection to the space shuttle in space because the astronaut wanted to be “free” to go his/her own way, the astronaut would float off into space & die—that’s the only thing they are “free” to do after such a decision. That isn’t freedom, but prison—they are trapped. Same with us being separated from joyful submission to the LORD…
3. God Is Deeply Troubled, God Regrets, God Judges:
Genesis 6:3,5-8: “Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with[a] humans forever,
for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”
5 The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6 The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.
7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”
[Our sinfulness is so serious–it caused the LORD both deep grief and regret, deep pain. Our sin to God is not the equivalent of a pesky/annoying fly during a summer picnic,
but the deep pain of us betraying & rejecting the God Who made us in His image…]
4. God Scatters: United Pride Of Sinful Humanity:
[Yet even after the do-over of the Flood, within a few generations from Genesis 6—11, humanity is back to our old ways of trying to be our own gods.]
Genesis 11:1-4, 8: Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward,[a] they found a plain in Shinar[b] 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…
So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth,
and they stopped building the city.”
[We sinful humans try to unite to “build ourselves” a city, a city where we are in charge/control–we work hard and work together for our own goals, instead of the LORD’s goals;
If we even want heaven, we sinful humans want to get there on our own in our own way by our own effort–we build, we climb, we arrive there, we continue to be in our charge of our lives/destinies;
We sinful humans work to make our name great, instead of joyful humbling ourselves & submitting under the Name that is above all names (Philippians 2:9-11):
Psalm 148:13: “Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.”
Genesis chapters 3, 6 and 11, through inspired by the LORD thousands of years ago in a different language, continent and culture, perfectly diagnose the soul-condition of all humanity–across all languages, continents and cultures–in the 21st century. Amazing…
5. God Chooses, Calls & Promises:
Genesis 12:1-4, 8: “The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country,
your people and your father’s household
to the land I will show you.
2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
[God does the greatness-making, not Abram]
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
[God makes Abram’s name great, Abram doesn’t do this for himself]
3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
[Again, the LORD points ahead to the Savior Jesus in the future!]
4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him…
From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel & pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west & Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord & called on the name of the Lord.”
[Foreshadowing Romans 10:12-13 thousands of years later:
“For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (quoting Joel 2:32). Oh the glorious Gospel!!!]
Genesis 15:1, 5-6: After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward”…
5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—
if indeed you can count them.”
Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
[Again pointing ahead to those who will call on the name of the Savior Jesus!]
6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”
[Righteousness by faith!!!]
Rest of the Bible: God Finishes What He Started, God Fulfills His Call & Promise…
6. God Points Ahead To The Rescuer, The Deliverer, The Messiah:
Genesis 22:1-14: Some time later God tested Abraham.
He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.
2Then God said,“Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—& go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together,7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him.
Now I know that you fear God,
because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram[a] caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
Over 2,000 years later, God the Father would pour out His wrath against sin on HIS only Son the Lord Jesus Christ—He would be crucified–not spared–on this same mountain where Isaac was spared…
Oh loved ones, do you know the Gospel?
I didn’t ask if you have attended church for a long time—
do you know the Gospel as One Event?
Do you understand the situation of humans apart from repentance & faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?
Do you know God’s diagnosis of us humans?
Do you know His cure for our disease,
His solution to our problem,
His key to free us from our prison,
His way of making alive we who are dead in sins?
Ezekiel 18:23: 23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?
Ezekiel 33:10-11: “Son of man, say to the Israelites, ‘This is what you are saying: “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of[a] them. How then can we live?”’ 11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’
Isaiah 55:1-3, 6-7: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live…
…Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
John 11:25-26: 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
The story of Stephen’s stoning is indeed an inspiring one. Its as if the early church was able to harness its persecution into a platform from which they could preach the Word. Blessings.
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