God Establishes His Church in the World
Defend to the Death
Jerry A Collins
What happens when we rebel against God?
Does our sin effect the lives of others around us?
How does God respond to a repentant heart?
In our generation we have a significant need to defend the faith. There are so many alternative viewpoints and growing animosity toward Christianity. Stefan, a person I met in India who was from the Netherlands and openly Hindu, told me that after investigating religions he opted for Hinduism since it was the closest to his view of God. Christianity was unacceptable because it was so narrow and close-minded to alternatives. That is how it is today. We must not only present the gospel, we must defend it as well. Stephen had to defend the faith in his day too. He does so in the form of a sermon in response to an accusation that his message, the gospel, was blasphemy, slanderous, bigoted. He defends the faith with 3 basic concepts climaxing with the last one. There is a progression and change in Godís program.
(1) Promise to Abraham 2-7† First in 1-4 the resistance of their fathers to the HS traced to very beginning of their history. Abeís call came before Haran. He departed from Ur but God removed him to Canaan. Abe obeyed the 1st part of the command but failed to go into the land God was going to show him. Second in 5-8 they speak of delay. No inheritance yet, only a promise. Even the son must be waited for. There is also delay for his seed--400 yrs--with affliction, bondage until God judges the nation afflicting them and bring Abeís seed into the land again. So we see that the man who keeps God waiting, vs. 4, must learn to wait himself. This combination of delayed obedience and delayed promise is lesson for these rulers who delayed obedience to John Baptist, Christ and apostles ministry so far. Time running out and the kingdom tho still near Acts 3 about to be withdrawn. They too will be removed from the land and become sojourners among the nations of the world, afflicted and only after long delay would return and serve God. Delayed obedience to God is incalculably costly both to ourselves and others.
(2) Sojourn of Joseph 8-16 Even tho the 12 were circumcised and identified by this as covenant people was no guarantee of inner commitment to it. The envy of Joseph unwilling to recognize Godís favor upon him was resisting Godís work amongst them. The famine and affliction of the family designed by God to drive his people into the presence of and dependence upon, Joseph, the one they spurned but the one God had chosen. Note Jacob heard simply there was grain in Egypt not that Joseph was there. Had Joseph not been there, however, there would have been no grain. Because of that presence the whole clan is spared and enjoys the favor of Josephís presence, authority and power in this foreign land. For us, we live as strangers in the world and we have in Christ our provider thru the affliction associated with it. At death, vs. 16, we too will be carried to our true possession. In the meantime we must be careful not to spurn the Word of God from an inner commitment to it so we can remain in His favor.
(3) Deliverance under Moses 17-37 First we see Mosesí childhood 17-22† He was born as Abe promises drew near and hatred by Pharaoh jeopardized his life 17-19. So Christ was born as time of blessings of Abe on gentiles approached and hatred of Herod jeopardized his life. Mosesí life was miraculously spared and in Pharaohs household he learned wisdom, leadership and reputation. Second we see Mosesí rejection 23-28† Altho raised in Egypt he never forgot his people. His purpose of visiting his people was to deliver them from their oppressors. They, however, did not understand even tho his commitment to this was shown by killing an Egyptian. Once again, a foolish rejection of Moses lengthened their stay in Egypt another 40 yrs. This blindness evident with Christ and will lengthen their forfeiting the blessing promised† to them in Him. Third is Moses flight 29--37† While living amongst Midianites† God was In the burning bush appeared after 40 yrs and altho Godís people were unfaithful to Him God remained faithful to his covenant. This was the same Moses rejected 40 yrs previous. The pattern has been spiritual pride coupled with spiritual ignorance causing rejection of deliverers God sends to them vs. 35. Once again God intervenes and takes initiative as with Abe, Joseph, Moses, Christ. Not only a promised deliverer but also a prophet, one doing miracles in 3 phases, Egypt, Red Sea, Wilderness they had rejected the greatest of all OT prophets! They very one they claimed to have accepted. They had done exactly the same with Christ, the greatest of all prophets! (4) Mirage in the wilderness 38-45 In the desert Israel afflicted by a Ďmirageí. Egypt scene of bondage and misery appears attractive. Israel wants a little Egypt out in the desert. He golden calf symbolizes materialism of Egypt where wealth depended upon productive herds and gold gained by this. They lusted after their vision of Egypt because they could not now see Moses who was on Mt Sinai receiving revelation from God. The world is a moral and spiritual wilderness where it is hard to spiritually strive. This wilderness pressure can allure our soul to see the Ďmirageí of the world as alluring and attractive. We easily forget the bondage and misery of it all. While Christ is yet unseen we must live by faith as only antidote else a worldly mirage may blind us to heavenly truth. God may let us have what we want along with itís consequences 42 (Rom 1). In their case it was idolatry sacrificing even their children which was with them from wilderness to captivity. This wilderness defection dogged their entire existence as a† nation. Idols of the heart are derived from the world of which Satan rules. Alongside of Godís tents was Molochs vs. 44. Lies and evil attach itself to truth and good. Externally may appear resemblance between true worship of God and false worship of Moloch. Today, ecumenism, stressing similarities to achieve union. But true faith and false are like these 2 tents unthinkable and unimaginable. (5) Construction of Temple 46-50 From the tent to temple a progression of less obvious to more obvious glory. However, God was not confined to it. It was symbol of his presence not a container of it vs. 49-50. Just like we say our body is temple of God we also know that God is not contained within us but is everywhere present. So Godís blessing not limited to the land of Israel and the Temple. Abe called in Ur; Joseph found favor in Egypt; Moses called out of Midian; Law given on Sinai; Tabernacle constructed in wilderness. (6) You marked by pattern of opposition to Godís man and Godís plan 51-53 1. Neck trouble; stubborn refusing to bow head in humble submission. 2. Heart and ear trouble: Stubbornness permits thots & attitudes from obeying. 3. Balance trouble: Their inner ear resisting instead of walking in HS. 4. Disease hereditary: as your fathers so do you and it was getting worse! Without repentance and submission to God becomes fatal!† (7) Revelation of hardened hearts 54-8:1 If Stephan was rite the judaistic system was wrong and Paul knew immediately so consented to kill him. So the effect of truth (1) Testimony. Stephen sees heavens open and makes him speak. (2) Transformed life prayer answered in Paul.