Dr. Ed Young - Stephen, Unshakable Courage
God created time. Let that soak a while, okay. That answered so many things. God created time. And from the first nanosecond of creation in the beginning, God, from that first moment when He spoke time into existence all the way through history, there's a little slice of time that encompasses 30 years, 30 years. AD 33, AD 64, 30 Years. That little slice of history is the most important slice in all Of history. The birth, the formation of the church, the body of Christ. We hear the story in the Book of Acts. It all began with Jesus birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, 12 men, handful of women, Jesus before he was ascended gave us the Great Commission, Acts 1. He said, "When the power comes, you wait, the power will come, the Holy Spirit will come". And you will be what?
Witnesses, Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, all over the world. The call, the commission, the mandate, the assignment of the church, the church, the body of Christ. We know that when the Holy Spirit came to those 120, who were waiting for the Holy Spirit to come in the upper room, that Peter went out subsequently and he delivered that message on the Day of Pentecost when literally, the church came into being and 3000 responded to the truth of the resurrection of Jesus. Few weeks later, 5,000 came, the was born and thriving, but you have an interesting thing. The church was still enmeshed in Judaism. Those who received Jesus as Lord in Savior, they were still in the synagogues, all around Jerusalem, all around the Holy Land. And they were captured there for 10 years. The church didn't go anywhere, it didn't move out.
Primarily, it was made up 99% of the body of Jews who came to believe that this Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the fulfillment of prophecy and was the promised Messiah, God in flesh in this world. Still a little sect in the synagogues, primarily in Jerusalem. And then in the church, they appointed deacons. And one of them was named Stephen. And we're gonna look at Steve a little bit today. Chapter number six of Acts, verse number five. The statement found approval with a whole congregation and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit. Look down in verse eight. "It says, and Stephen full of grace and power".
Stephen, a man of faith, led him to be full of the Holy Spirit, led him to have grace operating in his life, led him to have power. Acts of the Apostles, the book, in some translation is called Acts of the Holy Spirit because the Book of Acts is the biography of the Holy Spirit forming the body of Christ, the church, there in its earliest of beginnings. In my life, when I was about 11 years old, I came to understand, I knew the facts that Jesus could come in your life and I became a Christian and it was like the Holy Spirit was like the drumbeat in my life. The Holy Spirit was just like a drum beat in my life. Steady like the beat of your heart, a drum beat.
When I was 18, University of Alabama, an atheist challenged me at whether or not there was God or not and then I sought that out and found the reality of God and the Holy Spirits beat in my heart got stronger in my life. And all the way through the process sometimes as I have moved away from God, his plan, his purpose, the beat is there but it's going for faint, always present but faint. But in times of extremity, when I went before him broken and open, the beat got louder and louder. So in my life that Holy Spirit, like the beat of a drum has been loud and assuring and comforting. And it's been weak, still there, when I move away from God's plan to my plan.
The Book of Acts is about the Holy Spirit. It's like the drum beat, the cadence, because it introduces us to the drummer who is Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the beat. The drummer, that is Jesus. And this is what happened in that Early Church. Stephen, full of faith, full of the Holy Spirit, 'cause the Holy Spirit had come. Stephen, now full of grace, giftedness. Stephen now full of power. Power, what is that power for? Paul says, "You can have a form of godliness". The ritual, the words, the song, the vocabulary, a little smattering of the... "Have a form of godliness but you can deny the power that comes with it".
The power thereof. That what was true in Judaism at this moment in history. And so Stephen stood up and he became a witness. And the first place he witnessed it to your surprise is in the synagogue. Look at Acts 6. It says, "But some of the men, including in the synagogues, Cyrenians, Alexandrians, some from Celicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen". Verse 10, "But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit which he was speaking. Then they secretly induced men to say, we have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God Himself".
Now what's going on here? Understand this, it'll help you understand if you're reading through the Bible when you get to Acts. Many of the Jews have received Christ but they were still worshiping in the cradle of Judaism in all the synagogues. A little remit here, they were Jesus followers, they believe it, they understood it, but the mass and the synagogue did not believe it. And in this particular synagogue, you see all the areas that were represented. And we know these were Hellenistic Jews. Understand that big word but it means they were Jews who had been scattered to diaspora, times of persecution taken into captivity. And now many of them had come back home to Jerusalem and they could speak Greek, they could not speak Aramaic, knew a little bit of Hebrew and they formed their own synagogues.
And so here, Dr. Luke writing Acts, names the areas in which they'd come around the world at, Alexandria, Cyprus, et cetera. And they were Hellenistic Jews who'd come back home. Among them was Stephen. And Stephen here, he'd receive Christ, stands up before all the synagogue there, he begins to speak and to tell them that, "This Jesus is the promise Messiah, He'll change your life, He's changed my life". They begin to debate with him and they lost every debate. Is it any wonder? Here's a man full of faith, full of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. He has all the gifts, the cares of working in his life. And he has power, could anybody debate a guy like that?
That kinda wisdom, that kind of insight, that kind brilliance that he had because of what he received from Christ. And then look what happens, when you can't match an argument with someone and they win, only thing you can do, there is fight, right? If you out debating being what you're saying is true, all I can do is get mad, walk off and fight instead of being civil and let's see where the truth really is located. And look what happened, verse 12. And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came up to him and dragged Stephen away and brought him before the Council. Ladies and gentlemen, that's the Sanhedrin, that's the Supreme Court of all of Israel, I'm telling you.
And they put forward false witnesses who said, "This man, Stephen, incessantly speaks against this holy place". Stephen, you're talking against the temple of God. What a charge! And the law, my goodness, the principles we live on. for we have heard him say that, "This Nazarene, Jesus will destroy this place of temple. And alter the customs which Moses handed down to us". What charges they issued against him? And then it says, I love this verse. Verse 15, "And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council the Supreme Court saw his face, like the face of an angel". Can you imagine it? Shekhinah, Stephen's face, they charged him and his face was like the face of an angel. And you can see the Supreme Court, they couldn't take their eyes off of him.
Here, they accuse him of attacking the law of Moses. When was the last time Israel heard of a face shining with Shekhinah glory, you wanna make a wild guess? Moses coming down for Sinai. And here we have this heretic, they believe, standing off his face shining like an angel's face. And they accused him of two things, blasphemy. Then that word sound nasty when you say it, blasphemy. It's like the word, iniquity. Like the word, hippopotamus sounds like a hippopotamus, doesn't it? And so they accused him blasphemy. Taking things that were holy and relevant and reverend and teaching them as if they were not of God. And then we have Stephen defend himself because the Supreme Court asked him.
The high priest, verse one chapter seven, "Are these things true"? Other words here are two charges against you, Stephen, are they true? In one sense, the charges against Stephen were true because with the coming of Jesus all the pillows of Judaism, as one scholar said, "All the sacred cows of Judaism were being eliminated". And there are three of them. He puts forward two charges, a charge against the law, a charge against the temple, but there's a third one there that Phillip addresses, and that's a charge of the land. The land, in other words, the Jews thought we live in the Holy Land, therefore, this is a gift from God. And we must be right with God because we live in His property that He is given to us.
And certainly we must be right with God because the law came through Moses on Sinai and we believe the law in all the mission I interpret law. Therefore, we must be right with God. And we worship in the temple and everybody knows that God lives the temple. And here we have Stephen standing up saying, "Time out". And here we have in that Scripture the longest sermon in the Bok of Acts delivered by Stephen. I'm gonna go over every word of it. No, no, no. But I want you to see how he address these charges. And he adds one in the land. Look at chapter seven, verse one. The high priest said, "Are these charges true"? And he said, "Hear me, brethren and fathers". Respect toward the Sanhedrin. "The God of glory appeared to our father, Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia before he lived in Haran".
Where is Mesopotamia? Is it in the holy land? No, Tigris-Euphrates right in between, Haran is in Holy Land, no. And he goes on and traces to Joseph. God spoke to Joseph. Where was he? He was in Egypt. And he spoke about Moses and dealt with... Where was Moses? He was in Egypt. Moses went on Mount Sinai before Holy Land, the commandments were given. Moses by the burning bush. Man, this is holy ground. Was that in the holy land? No. So he goes on and explains this saying, "Look you are not right with God. Just can you live on this property, this geographical location". And that was explosive to the Jewish mind. And then he goes on, he deals with another charge that was brought against him. He talks about the law.
Look at verse 37, same chapter. This is the Moses who said the sons of Israel will rise up from you, a prophet like me from your brethren. What is he saying? He's saying, "Moses is said the law was not the answer, there will come one from among us, the Messiah, the Saint Jesus, who will rise up and He will liberate us from the law". And he went on to say, "How's this law working for all of you Jews? And if you're keeping the law, you got it down path, no, no, no, no, no". And he say, "Even Moses predicted there'd be coming of one from among us who would set the records straight, would handle all the sin and make us write with God".
That's how he answer that. And then look about the temple. He says, same chapter, verse 48. "How the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands as a prophet says, 'Heaven is my throne, the Earth is my footstool of my feet. What kinda house would you build for me?' Says the Lord. oh, what place is there for my repose"? He's saying, "God doesn't live exclusively in the temple". So he answers their charges and then he offers a counter charge. Listen to what he says, "By the way you preach like a prophet, you're gonna die like a prophet. You tell the truth and you're criticized".
Well, hello, and look what he says to the Supreme Court. He said, "You men are stiff-necked, prideful, uncircumcised in the heart, you out a hard heart. Your ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit. And you are doing just as your fathers did, which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute"? My, my, my! He's saying, "You have refused the Holy Spirit". Now listen, three things as far as the Holy Spirit is concerned, three things, Ae can come along and we can grieve the Holy Spirit. Only a Christian can do that. You and I who are in Christ, we can only grieve the Holy Spirit. When love is offered and that love is returned, there is grief.
The Holy Spirit offers love to us to lead our lives and when we go and do not follow that love, the Holy Spirit weeks grieves over that. So we can grieve the Holy Spirit. But only non-Christians can refuse the Holy Spirit. They refused the Holy Spirit. This is what happened here. There was a refusal to follow the truth that the Holy Spirit had laid down before the Jews, and they refused it. And then look what happened. And now when they heard this, the response, verse 51, the Sanhedrin, they were quick, they were cut to the quick and began gnashing their teeth at him and being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
And he said, "Behold, I see the heavens open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God". We can grieve the Holy Spirit, we can quench the Holy Spirit and we can fall into foolish doctrine. But there, now they have refused the Holy Spirit, and then what happened? Here is Stephen, he says, "Heavens have opened". And he said, "I see the Father and I see Jesus, standing at the right hand of God". Wait a minute, have you ever read that before in the Bible? "Jesus is seated at the right hand of God".
That's what Hebrew tells us. All through the Bible Jesus is positioned and seated at the right hand of God. And that indicates that His work is done, He's seated. But here we see He's standing. What is that about? Only time the Bible, we see Jesus standing in heaven at the right hand of God, is because he's standing to receive Stephen, who was the first martyr, seeing Stephen who changed the whole thrust of the church and Jesus stands to receive him by the Father.
Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that all are in Christ when we leave this Earth will have the same kind of vision and the heavens will open, and we'll see the Father and we'll see Jesus standing to receive His sons and His daughters. What a moment! Stephen testified in the synagogue. Stephen testified in the Supreme Court and now we see Stephen witnessing, testifying at his own stoning. Look at it, verse 57. And they cried out with a loud voice to Sanhedrin. They covered their ears and they rushed at him with one impulse. And when they driven him outta the city they began stoning him. And the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
And they went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, "Lord Jesus receive my spirit". Sounded like Jesus into the hands I was give my spirit. Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord do not hold this sin against them". And having that he graduated to be with heaven. Notice something, in the Greek, the word martyr and the word witness of the same word. And because of the death, the stoning of Stephen, look what happened, read the rest of the story in the heartbeat of the Holy Spirit, in the Book of Acts.
All of a sudden, the church exploded out of Judaism. It had been captured there for 10 years in the synagogues as a little sect of Judaism. And now all of a sudden, the Christians were scattered, some went to Antioch and a revival explode to Antioch, not a Jewish city. All of a sudden Cornelius, who was a Centurion, went to Peter and said, "I wanna know about this Jesus," and his whole family, a non Jew. That all of a sudden, an Ethiopian Eunuch came, and he said, "I wanna know about this Jesus". And he was baptized. Then all of a sudden there is this Saul. He's jerking Christians outta their home to persecute them, and he's going on the road to Damascus, and bang, all of a sudden, he sees a resurrected Christ, and he is converted.
And look what happens now, Saul becomes Paul. He goes to Antioch. And then the story of what God has done for man in Jesus Christ, just leaves Jerusalem, leaves Judea, leaves Galilee, it goes to Samaria, to Philip who was running. And it goes to Saul who became Paul, to Europe and all over the world. It was the death of Stephen as a witness in these arenas that the Gospel of Jesus Christ goes all over the world. And that is the background of all of us here today in the 21st century who have received Jesus as Lord and Savior, the death of Stephen.