© Charles A. Clough 2001
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Chapter 3 – The Historical Emergence of the Church
Lesson 184 – Emergence of the Church from Israel – Work of the Holy Spirit & Stephen’s Sermon
03 Jan 2002
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We’re going through the emergence of the Church from Israel. This is a major point in the ongoing revelation after Pentecost and the Holy Spirit came to earth, we have the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, He dispatches the Holy Spirit and we have regeneration, indwelling, baptizing, sealing, intercession, and spiritual gifts. We have these and many other blessings that the Holy Spirit creates in the Church Age. As a result of that, eventually on down in the book of Acts the Church and Israel diverge. The divergence is centered on the person of Jesus Christ. So the Lord Jesus Christ becomes a divider between the Church and Israel. We’re studying that process and Acts 1:8 says that you will be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world.
The thing you want to observe here as we go through Stephen’s speech, which is just one of several points in this separation process, is that here you have in detail how the Holy Spirit historically leads the Church. And it’s not a very flattering picture. People have a very idealized view of what the New Testament church was, we’ve always got to get back to the New Testament church. Actually we shouldn’t say that because the New Testament church was full of warts and was very immature. It was the child stage of the Church. The theology wasn’t developed; the people did not really have a profound vision of what Christ had done. It dawned slowly, it took time, and the thing to notice here as we look at these issues is that the Holy Spirit led through an understanding of the Word of God. There was a combination of how the Holy Spirit worked; if we could personalize the Church as a believer here, the Holy Spirit engineers circumstances so that there are circumstances that impinge upon the Church. As a result of the circumstances putting pressure on the Church, the Church, at the time when that pressure comes, then goes and looks at the Word of God, at least some people do. And in this case Stephen was the one who went to the Word of God to deal with the circumstances.
It’s interesting to watch that the Holy Spirit’s leading isn’t spooky, it isn’t something mystical, it is quite forthright, quite clear and quite rational. It’s when people are faced with adverse circumstances that they go to the Word of God. The unflattering point about all this is it takes strenuous circumstances to force us back into the Word of God. So that’s what I mean when I say it’s not a flattering picture of the Church.
We’ve looked at several steps in this process. We’ve looked in Acts 2, the process started out with this work of the Holy Spirit. This work of the Holy Spirit was done on believers only, not on unregenerate people. So in Acts 2 you have a spiritual separation that happens. Then we went further and in Acts 6 and 7 we’re looking at the Church getting a view of its worldwide mission. We talked about Stephen and we said, on page 61 the outline of Stephen’s sermon, the point that Stephen is making is that he’s answering accusations against the Church.
In doing this he is giving what we call an apology, not in the modern English sense of the everyday meaning of the word, apology sounds like being apologetic, but apology was a legal answer in a public hearing. That’s the context of it. If you really want to see that Greek word and what it means, some of you remember the philosopher Plato and Socrates, the section of Plato’s works that deal with Socrates defense is called the apology. And that’s the use classically in Greek of that word. It wasn’t being apologetic; it was answering an official hearing, a charge.
That’s why, if you look in verse 1 this is a public hearing that’s going on here. It would be analogous to a House Committee hearing in public, with everybody watching. That’s what the context is here. So that’s why, when in verse 1 it says “And the high priest said, ‘Are these things so?’” What are the things the high priest is asking? The high priest is asking the issue that was raised in 6:13, because it says “they put forward false witnesses,” and the fact that they’re called false witnesses implicates the society and the system that was going on at the time. In other words, the false witnesses is a term that you would expect to see of an accusation that’s official, it’s a legal political accusation. The accusation is in verse 13, “This man incessantly speaks against this holy place, and the Law,” the temple and the Torah; that’s the charge. And not only did Stephen do it once, he kept doing it. So whatever Stephen was doing it finally caught up with him politically. Luke has recorded for us, because keep in mind Luke has the Romans on his mind about the history of what this new thing called Christianity is all about.
Stephen now gives his apologetic for the Christian faith. This is answering the false accusations that Christianity was demeaning the temple and the Torah. We have so far studied verses 2-16 in which Stephen gave the basis for his answer. He started out - and notice how he does this. First of all, it’s very obvious that Stephen starts out in verses 2-16 laying the foundation for what he’s going to say in the Word of God, in God’s historic revelation. You notice he doesn’t answer at first the accusation of verse 13. He’s not going to go directly to temple and Torah yet. He’s going to first give background, and that’s something that I have to keep on learning, and many of you have to learn, that you cannot give an answer too fast. You have to sit back and think about the question. Don’t go out there with your tongue way ahead of your brains, because it’s easy to do and that’s how you dig a hole. The tongue is a very good shovel for digging a hole.
Verses 2-16 deal with how Stephen laid the basis for his answer. He goes back to Old Testament history. If you have a study Bible, the thing to notice throughout this speech is look at all the verse references and notice how many times He’s using the Old Testament. Almost 50% of the text is directly cited from the Old Testament. This is an enormous percent of text that goes back directly to the Old Testament. Granted that Luke might have abbreviated some of this sermon, calling out perhaps highlights of the sermon that were important for the old world purpose of the book of Acts, under the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
But the thing that we need to think about is if we were there with a tape recorder and we watched Stephen do his thing, what kind of an impression would you walk away with as far as this guy’s competency in the Old Testament? Do you think you’d be impressed? I think I would. Under the pressure of the moment, in a public hearing, before the high priest - consider the theological authorities of his time, the high priest is the theological authority of his time. And here’s the spiritual leader of the country and this guy is basically telling him he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to the Word of God. So in one way this is very audacious to do this. And this is one of the reasons why the people were largely offended, to think that this deacon in this new little sect is out here telling the high priest what’s so. It reminds you of church history when John Knox went into the Queen with Mary of Scots and called her a whore in the middle of the whole royal court and he meant both the literalness and he also meant spiritually. So the audacity of many of the prophets of God… now these guys aren’t out here to make enemies deliberately. But there’s certain fierceness in the Word of God that brooks no opposition.
Stephen, it says he’s filled with the Holy Spirit, so here is the filling of the Holy Spirit manifested in a public hearing with a rational argument based on Scripture, a massive command of the Scriptures. And what was the point in verses 2-16? The outline on page 61 shows you that God began revelation to the first Jews on Gentile soil. It’s always good to go back to foundations. You know it’s a principle that you see again and again. It’s a principle that’s largely missed in our present society, but if you think about it a lot of the political problems of this country could be solved if people would just carry around a copy of the Constitution, pull it out and read it. I understand Focus on the Family has a copy; I haven’t got one but I know one of my sons carries one around all the time, a little pocket version of the Constitution. He uses it all the time, when people talk about a political issue, out it comes, Article III, boom, bang and there it is. And I think that’s a great discipline.
Most people haven’t even heard of the Constitution. Proof of that is in the last election they thought this was a democracy. It’s not a democracy, America never has been a democracy, it is a Constitutional Republic. That’s why there are limits on the authority of the voter. People can’t vote any way they want. In fact, in the original Constitution Senators were not voted into office, they were appointed by the Governors of the states. Why was that done? State’s rights, because the original Constitution said that there the popular house, that’s the House of Representatives, that’s why they’re called “representatives,” and that was to get feedback from the people. But then, wisely, the colonists realized that there had also to be rights of the colonies that had become states and those colonies had certain rights, and there wasn’t any representative of the rights. The idea was that your representatives are proportionate to your population, but your Senators are not proportional to the population, there’s only two for each state because each state should have an equal say in the Federal government, state’s rights. Of course the whole idea of democracy got in and we’ve washed away that part of the Constitution. But it goes back to foundations, and people really need to get back to see why the fathers put that document together the way they did.
I might put a little plug in here for a good source set of books. I noticed that the Encyclopedia Britannica was selling for only $95.00 the Annals of America. And the Annals of America is a big long book set, the latest one goes up to 1986, and what’s so nice about it is each one of those sets of books is nothing but original source material. Every volume is original source material from a certain set of years. And what is super about that set of books is that the first two volumes are nothing but a sophisticated search engine on the front end of that set. You can look up any subject and it will give you every passage and every one of the source documents all the way from 1490 up to 1986. It’s a massive set of books and for $95.00 to get fifteen volumes of original source material is quite a deal. But that’s the kind of stuff, when you get into that and you understand source material, then you’ll quickly see that a lot of the discussion is quite trivial that’s out there.
What Stephen’s doing is the same principle, he’s going back to original source material, and it’s the Old Testament. It’s the source material that everybody is quoting, “Yeah, we’re Old Testament; we’re the nation that gave the Old Testament.” Well try reading it once in a while. That’s what Stephen had done, he had read it. So the first section of this he’s laying the foundation for the origin of the nation. And if he can show that the nation was founded on certain principles, then he can apply those principles to the present situation.
So that’s why he says “Then he departed from the land of the Chaldeans” in verse 4. In other words, what he’s saying is that the first Jew was a Gentile. There was no Jew, there wasn’t such a thing as a Jew prior to Abraham. So the first Jew was a Gentile; Jews came from the Gentiles. They came from the heartland of the Gentiles, which was in the Babylonian area. It quickly goes on to verse 6 where he introduces the concept that God has a plan for history. Verse 5, “…He promised that He would give it to him as a possession, and to his offspring after him,” the land, seed, and worldwide blessing, Abrahamic Covenant. So the origin of the nation is tied to this Abrahamic Covenant, and properly understood, the Abrahamic Covenant gives the purpose of history. The Abrahamic Covenant is the key to history; it still is the key to history.
It’s amazing that in all the millions and millions of words since September 11 on television, writing in news magazines, there hasn’t been one, including some of the Christian programs and Christian publications, there hasn’t been one exposition (with a few side exceptions) of the whole concept of the Abrahamic Covenant. Here we’ve got a situation in modern history, right smack dab in front of our face that is an outworking of the mechanics of the Abrahamic Covenant, and everyone’s acting like it never happened. Stephen is going to say you cannot think about Israel unless you think in terms of this because God elected the nation to exist and anyone who opposes Israel is opposing the elective purpose of God. That goes for today, when the Arabs want to eliminate the state of Israel, they are anti-God. And anti-Semitism, anti-Israel will always receive the cursing of God. God will curse them that curse His chosen people.
That’s the first section. We started last week in verses 17-43. The other thing, please notice, is that in this foundation document he brings up the Joseph motif. The Joseph motif is analogous to the Jesus motif. We dealt with a couple of things, remember the parallels? Two times Israel saw Joseph, the first time Israel came down, the sons of Jacob came down and they didn’t recognize their brother, so here’s the appearance of the savior but unrecognized. Then the second time they recognized him. He is killed, attempted murder, Israel attempts to murder the guy that’s going to save them, throw him in a pit. The only reason he didn’t get killed was because the Midianites happened to come by and they got more money, they decided instead of killing him they might as well get some money from him. So he wound up in Egypt and he was in a Gentile land.
There’s the pattern. That’s important to understand when you read in the New Testament the word or the verb “fulfill.” Oftentimes people will interpret this verb to mean fulfill prophecy. “Ain’t necessarily so!” The verb, “fulfill,” can mean fulfill a type, fulfill a pattern. I suspect that if you would ask Stephen if he had ever said Jesus fulfills such and such, I think on his mind, although he knew of prophecy of course, the thing that gripped Stephen was that the pattern of Jesus’ ministry fit the pattern of Joseph, fit the pattern of Moses. So the fulfillment was centered on a typological fulfillment as well as a prophetic fulfillment.
I believe we went through the text last week. Again, looking at the verses 20-30 in this chapter, just scan, if you have a study Bible, how much of this text is direct citation out of the Old Testament. Verse 22, “And Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds.” Notice the language, “power in words and deeds.” This phrase, “words and deeds” is used in Luke 24:19 of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here’s the same author, he’s taking Stephen’s material and he’s saying see, here we have “word and deed,” mighty in word and deed. This is not accidental. These are the little fine points in studying Scripture that you want to look for because they really reveal the Holy Spirit’s wordsmithing. So Moses was mighty in word and deed, fulfilling the type that Jesus was mighty in word and deed.
Notice he wanted to visit his brethren after forty years [v, 23]. Here’s his first visit to the sons of Israel, notice again, two visits. In the first visit he came to the sons of Israel, verse 24 “…he saw one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian.  And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him,” the word “deliverance” means saved, which is related to the word “Joshua,” or “Jesus.” So here’s the savior motif emerging in the biography of Moses. He supposes that they would understand, “but they did not understand,” just like the first thing with Joseph, the same pattern.
Verse 26, “And on the following day he appeared to them as they were fighting together, and he tried to reconcile them in peace, saying, ‘Men, you are brethren, why do you injure one another?’  But the one who was injuring his neighbor pushed him away, saying, ‘Who you made you a ruler and judge over us?’” It’s interesting that the word “push away” in verse 27 also occurs in verse 39. When you start seeing words like that recur, what does that tell you? It tells you the Holy Spirit has a purpose for putting those words in there. Why would you suppose Stephen, in describing this thing would use a verb like “thrust away?” He’s setting up the pattern; he’s saying you guys thrust away Jesus Christ.
He goes on and they reject him, Moses becomes an alien in verse 29, and in verse 30 it says for forty years he walked around outside in a Gentile land. It’s striking that it took two thousand years to go from Abraham to Jesus, and so far Jesus has not returned to Israel for two thousand years; the same kind of motif, forty years with him, forty years without him, two thousand years with them, two thousand years without them. Then in verse 30 it says “an angel appeared to him,” and that really is the Lord Jesus Christ, because that’s the angel of Jehovah, Second Person of the Trinity under Old Testament revelation, and the fiery bush appeared. All that’s quotation.
In verse 32, “I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob…”when God appears to Moses you’ll notice that He addresses Himself, his self-proclaimed title reminds you of what? Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So what is implicit in that phraseology? The covenant. It’s the covenant again, so here’s that covenant shaping history. Verse 33, “But the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.  I have certainly seen the oppression of My people in Egypt, and have heard their groans, and I have come down to deliver them; come now, and I will send you to Egypt.’”
In verse 35 Stephen interprets… imagine sitting under these kinds of teachers. What you see in verse 33-34 is a citation directly taken from an Old Testament text. Verse 35 is an interpretation - it’s Stephen’s exegesis, his application of that Old Testament text. So he says I quoted verses 33-34, his quote from Exodus, then in verse 35 he interprets with special application to his situation of the apology in the public hearing. He says “This Moses whom they disowned, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’” The quote there, look at the sentence structure carefully in verse 35, after the verb “saying,” notice he quotes the Old Testament again, “Who made you a ruler and a judge,” that’s a citation from Exodus. So in verse 35 if you read it carefully he says “This Moses whom they disowned, saying…” “whom they disowned,” is Stephen’s summary of the text “saying who made you a ruler and a judge?” He says look carefully at Exodus 3, don’t you guys know, he says, don’t you remember the story of Moses, don’t you remember what happened when Moses went down there the first time, they rejected him, “saying…” etc. And that one he wants us to know because - notice how he uses the word, clever man this Stephen - “‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’ is the one whom God sent to be both a ruler and a deliverer,” he says do you guys ever understand your history, what is the history of this country, he says. What did we do when Moses was there?
We said “Who made you a ruler over us,” do you really want to know who made Moses a ruler over them? So he heightens the contrast in verse 35, it’s an eloquent exposition of the text, because what he does, he brings up the contrast of what God is doing in fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant and what the Jews are doing to resist Him every time… every time God moves forward with the Abraham His own people are the ones who resist. We’re not talking Gentiles here; he’s talking about his own people. So, he has delivered “with the help of the angel who appeared to him in the thorn-bush.”
Notice how in verse 35 he says “This Moses,” and in verse 36 he says “This man,” what he’s doing, he keeps pointing back, this guy, demonstrative pronoun, pointing to Moses, this guy, look at him he says, “This man led them out,” and notice how he describes the leading out, look at the next clause, what’s the language Stephen uses in the next clause to describe Moses’ ministry, “performing wonders and signs,” now does that phrase strike you as something you’ve heard before in the book of Acts? You bet, in Acts 2, Peter’s speech, that’s the phraseology used of the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s the phraseology used of the Holy Spirit’s work in the early church. “This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in the land of Egypt and in the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years.”
Notice verse 37, “This Moses,” again, see how he keeps repeating the demonstrative pronoun for force, to keep pointing to Moses. “This is the Moses who said to the sons of Israel, ‘God shall raise up for you a prophet….” Verse 38, “This is the one” demonstrative use of the pronoun again, “This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking….” Verse 39, “And our fathers” here’s his conclusion to this thing, he’s coming up and wrapping it up, “our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to him, but repudiated him,” there’s the word “thrust away” again, “and in their hearts turned back to Egypt.” So quite clearly by verses 17-43 working with Moses you’re getting a repeat of the same pattern that you had with Joseph. See where Stephen is going with this. It’s very clear where Stephen is going, and they don’t like it. These guys know exactly where Stephen is going. He’s incriminating his incriminators. He’s accusing his accusers. He’s undermining their moral claim is what he’s doing. They’re making a moral and ethical claim against Stephen, and he’s making a moral and ethical counterclaim against them.
He summarizes and concludes and this is tremendously irritating. Look what he accuses them of. Can you imagine a proud high priest, surrounded by the Sanhedrin, and the Pharisees, with all the temple paraphernalia around them, proud of the fact that they have maintained this institution over against the Greeks and the Romans, the Roman soldiers out there, the Fortress of Antonio to the north of the temple, but inside the temple precinct we have our Judaism. And we’ve been able to maintain worship of the true and living God. And now he comes up with this one, verses 40-43.
Verse 40, “Saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us; for this Moses who led us out of the land of Egypt—we do not know what happened to him.” He describes it in detail, verse 41, “And at that time they made a calf and brought a sacrifice to the idol,” so here’s the idolatry, the perversion of the central theology. He says not only do you guys resist the prophets, but when you get a chance to do it you pervert doctrine, you pervert the testimony of the Word of God. This is an incrimination of the whole fallen nature of man here.
Verse 42, “But God turned away and delivered them up to serve the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets,” and verses 42-43 is a citation from Amos toward the end of the kingdom. If you remember your history from the Old Testament, from the time of Solomon to the time of 586 BC you have the king’s discipline until you get to the exile. Amos is writing in that kingdom’s decline period; that’s where this text comes from. So now he’s skipping all the way from Moses down to Amos. This is more of Stephen’s telescopic quotations, in other words, he packs a lot of time and compresses it. Why does he do that? To show cause/effect. Yeah, it took centuries to work out, but the cause was the same sin, the very first day that nation became nation they were sinning, they were rejecting the prophets, they were perverting their theology, and the final end result in 586 was that the nation went into captivity. Not an eloquent statement about the righteousness of God’s people. It’s an indictment of God’s people.
He quotes these emotional statements, verses 42-43, and the meaning of those particular statements is because they all reference the gods of the pagans, it’s a reminder of why God in 586 BC moved the nation into Babylon, which is really Iraq. Why did He send Israel into Iraq? Because Iraq, or Babylon at the time, was filled with these gods, it was paganism galore. What in effect you find the prophet saying to Israel, oh, you like these gods, well I’ll tell you what, I’m going to give you a seventy year vacation; you want gods, I’m going to take you into a land with thousands of gods and I hope you enjoy every single of them. The Jews had never forgotten this, because in Jesus’ day the Jews were so… one lesson they did learn in the captivity was don’t go back to pagan gods. It was awful, it was a horrifying experience in the country, and they may sin in different ways but they are not going to sin that way again.
But the point is, Stephen is reminding them of that sin, and their Jewish heart is sensitive to what they learned in the Diaspora under Babylon. This was a very sore point; this is salt into the wound here. He says you think about it folks, you rejected Moses, you rebelled, you argued with him, you didn’t accept him, you opposed everything he did and you know the historical result. Eight centuries later you people became losers in history, you saw your nation go down, you saw this temple destroyed.
So concluding the second cycle, again following the outline on page 61, the “Origin of the Torah,” this is his answer to the Torah. Now he hasn’t mentioned much of the Torah, but Moses is the Torah-giver. He says, “What does the Torah say? If you obey you will be blessed, if you depart you will be cursed.” Go back to Lev. 26, here’s the blessings and the cursings of the Torah. And embedded in chapter 26 is the history of the nation. Here is what the dispensation of the Torah or the Law gave. It was a command to obey and be blessed, or curse and be cursed. Look at verse 14 and then look back in verse 3. Lev. 26:3, Lev. 26:14, what do you observe different about verse 3 and verse 14. Verse 3 is “If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments….” Verse 14, “But if you do not obey Me and do not carry out these commandments,” so from verse 3 to verse 13 are the blessings, and from verse 14ff are the cursings. And it’s contingent upon Israel’s response to the Word of God.
Verse 4, “I shall give you rains in their season,” notice the blessings are physical blessings, “I shall give you rain in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field of the field will bear their fruit,” that’s the economy. Verse 5, “Indeed, your threshing will last for you until grape gathering, and grape gathering will last until sowing time. You will thus eat your food to the full and live securely in your land.  I shall also grant peace in the land, so that you may lie down with no one making you tremble. I shall also eliminate harmful beasts from the land, and no sword will pass through land.” Military security, economic prosperity, there’s the blessings of a nation. Verse 7, “But you will chase your enemies, and they will fall before you by the sword;  five of you will chase a hundred and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall before you by the sword.”
But now in verse 15, “if, instead, you reject My statutes, and if your soul abhors My ordinances so as not to carry out all My commandments, and so break My covenant,  I, in turn, will do this to you: I will appoint over you a sudden terror, consumption and fever that shall waste away the eyes and cause the soul to pine away;” public health problems, do we see public health problems today? “…also you shall sow your seed uselessly, for your enemies shall eat it up,” trade imbalance. Verse 17, “And I will set My face against you so that you shall be struck down before your enemies; and those who hate you will rule over you, and you shall flee when no one is pursuing you.” In other words, you’re so upset, so nervous, so uptight that you’re jumping when nobody has done anything to you. You live in fear all the time, and I’m going to work it out so that happens God says. Very sobering passages here in the Old Testament.
That’s what Stephen has on his mind when back over in Acts 7 he ties the Torah-giver with the eventual history that worked out. What was the eventual history? Could you accuse Stephen of undermining the Torah? No, he’s affirming the Torah, he’s saying, however, that it is not the merit of the nation Israel, it’s God, not Israel that’s the issue. What he’s doing is wiping out self-righteousness, human merit, the claim that because we’re a bunch of religious people we automatically have an “in” with God. He says nonsense. You religious Jews are as much sinners as the Romans are and you’ve demonstrated it over and over again in history.
So he comes to the last thing in verse 44-50 and he deals with his second accusation, well Stephen is always talking about the temple, he’s undermining the temple. So he’s first proved I’m not undermining the Torah, I’ve shown you that the Torah was fine, it’s just that you folks violated the Torah and reaped the consequences. Now in verses 44-50 he’s going to deal with the tabernacle and the temple because the two are united conceptually. And he’s going to deal with that issue.
So in verse 44 he starts with the tabernacle, “Our fathers had the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness, just as He who spoke to Moses directed him to make it according to the pattern which he had seen.  And having received it in their turn, our fathers brought it in with Joshua upon dispossessing the nations whom God drove out before our fathers, until the time of David.  And David found favor in God’s sight, and asked that he might find a dwelling place….  But it was Solomon who built a house for Him.” Now he just whipped through 400 years of history here in four verses, boom, boom, boom, boom. See him use the framework, see how he uses it? This is where I got the framework from, speeches like this in the New Testament and in the Old Testament. So he summarizes the whole issue from the tabernacle which was a primitive dwelling place, it was moved around, it was out in the wilderness, and then finally you have a temple.
But in verses 48-49 he cites another citation out of the Old Testament, he refers to kings, and he’s talking about the fact that when Solomon blessed that house, then… the prayer was actually in Kings, the reference in verse 49 is in Isaiah, the theology in verse 49, however, is the theology of Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings, “‘Heaven is My throne, and earth is the footstool of My feet; what kind of house will you build for Me’ says the Lord.” Why does he bring that up? Because he says look, that little house down there isn’t My house, that’s a testimony to Me, but I’m not living there, I am omnipresent, I am the sovereign God, I am the Creator, and you think you can make a house for Me? No you’re not; you’re not making any house for Me.
And Solomon, if you study his prayer when he dedicated the temple, Solomon knew that. And the way Solomon is so clever in his prayer, he says Lord, let it be that when the nation prays to this house, that You will hear from heaven. Solomon had no illusions that this temple was like the temple the Egyptians would build, or the temple the Assyrians would build, or the temples that the Babylonians would build, they thought these houses really did house their gods. But when the temple was built Solomon knew very well, and the prophets affirmed him that that physical building was not housing the Lord God of Israel. It was a place for His representation but it wasn’t housing the Lord God of Israel.
So, the conclusion in verses 44-50 that Stephen is making, the point, if you look in the outline on page 61: “God met Israel in a mobile tent (tabernacle) in the wilderness and refused to accept the fixed Temple in Jerusalem as sufficient.” See, the Torah by itself couldn’t save; the temple by itself couldn’t save. The Torah led to the destruction of the nation, and the temple did not house God. So the implication, although in the outline I have “A. B.” then “A.B.” then “A.B.” actually the “B” is an implication of how Stephen’s working because apparently things got a little hairy right here and he probably never finished his message. “Implication: The Jews who mistakenly clung to the Temple in Jesus’ day opposed God’s work in the real Temple (Christ and His body), but the rejected man of God (Jesus) has become the savior of the nation.” The real temple was really being built right then, but they were opposing it.
So Stephen winds up with the challenge in verse 51, and that’s his answer to the trial, that’s his answer to this public hearing. He says when you review the text… they can’t argue with Stephen can they. Was this history or wasn’t it? This is history. Stephen didn’t write it, he’s just narrating it, and he says when you look at history, what you find is that [verse 51] “You men who are stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.” You’re doing to Jesus what your fathers did to Moses, what they did to the temple and what they did to Joseph. Now you can imagine this really ticked them off. This is when they started picking up rocks and that was the end of Stephen. But it wasn’t the end of Stephen’s ministry [blank spot]
… prodding the Church, because here’s the Church, packed into Jerusalem, all wrapped up pushed inside Jerusalem. Out here is Samaria; out here is the pagan world of Rome. We’ve just finished Acts 7, turn to Acts 8 and let’s look what happens, because now we come to the next step. Now we have in Acts 8-11 the inclusion of Gentiles for the first time. You have Saul, verse 1. By the way, notice the connection, see here’s the Stephen Paul connection. [Acts 7:58, “And when they had driven him out of 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 upon the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’  And falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ And having said this, he fell asleep.”] Paul heard all this and that’s why I’ve contended that this was probably the genesis of Pauline theology. He got it from Stephen, under the Holy Spirit. Paul never forgot this.
Acts 8:1: “And Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death.  And on that day a great persecution arose against the church” where? “in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” What did Jesus say in Acts 1:8, you will be witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria.” Do you see the unflattering thing in verse 1? We’ve just got through a whole unflattering thing in chapter 7, that it wasn’t Israel’s righteousness, and now we get in verse 2, which is an unflattering thing about why the Church finally became witnesses in Judea and Samaria. They got kicked out of Jerusalem, that’s why. So God said I want you to be witnesses there and there, if you’re not going to be then I’m going to kick you in the butt and move you out there Myself. And that’s what God did. Acts 8 is the narration of the moving out.
It’s interesting; in Acts 8 it talks about Philip. Who is Philip? Philip was another one of those deacon guys. If you look back in Acts 6 you’ll see that Philip was named along with Stephen. So Philip goes along and there was a man named Simon, it describes the preaching of the good news, etc. We come to verse 14 and it says, “Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the Word of God, they sent them Peter and John.”
What had happened, verse 5, Philip had gone up to Samaria and Samaria was a place that was half Jew and half Gentile. Here’s a map of the way the Old Testament looked at the end of the disciplinary phase, the first phase, when the northern kingdom… remember from the Old Testament you have the southern kingdom, Judah, and the northern kingdom, Israel. And this northern kingdom disappeared in 721 BC because it was overrun by Assyria. Here’s Jerusalem and up here Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim, up in this place is an area called Samaria. That was the place where the Assyrians had a brilliant political idea to suppress the Jews. Their idea was that instead of stationing thousands and thousands of troops in there to reign in the Jews, what they would do is take people from this populated area, they’d take the leaders, the educated people, the merchants, the skilled people, and they’d move them all the way over to the Assyrian cities, so they took captives out. Then what they did is they took the peoples up here, farmers and other people who would not be leaders, and moved them down into this area, so now we have a half-breed population of half Gentiles and half Jews.
This is why you have the parable of the Good Samaritan with the Lord Jesus Christ, because of all people that the Jews couldn’t stand it was the Samaritans because they considered them a dirty people, they’re just dirty, dirty in the sense of spiritually. And for Jesus to talk about a good Samaritan who in the parable did what the priest didn’t do, so Jesus campaigned on that point and that was an early view of what was going to happen in the book of Acts.
So Philip goes into Samaria, he preaches, and they believe. Who’s accepting the gospel now? It’s not the Jews in Jerusalem, it’s the Samaritans. And in verse 14 the apostles hear about it, “they sent Peter and John,  who came down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit.  For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized” by water baptism, not Spirit baptism, “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Verse 17, “Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit.” What that means is that God, in order to make the point clear that Samaritans were now going to be included in the Church, He had the official, so to speak, the officials of the Church come to Samaria and physically be there when the baptism of the Spirit occurred. That’s why you can’t normalize what’s going on in the book of Acts. It happens differently in different places because of the different circumstances. Here God wanted to show the Church leaders that He had accepted the Samaritans because they trusted in Jesus Christ alone. They weren’t circumcised, weren’t doing this, weren’t doing that, weren’t doing something else, they had trusted in Jesus Christ, period, and they were accepted.
This causes ripples, because you see, they had believed in Jesus when they were Jews but they were Jews who believed in Jesus. Now we’ve got these half-breeds, these dirty people, and they can believe in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit comes to indwell them too? Hmm, we’ll have to think about that one.
In Acts 9 and 10 we have the second phase of step three of the Gentiles being included. Now we go to the coast, to a place called Joppa. If you look at the map you’ll see Joppa, it’s still there, by the way, Joppa, Haifa, Tel Aviv is there, close by now, but Joppa is the place that Peter goes, and the story culminates in Act 10 with whom? Who’s the guy that becomes a central guy? He’s a Gentile and of all Gentiles, what kind of Gentile is he? He’s a Roman. And of all the Roman citizens, he’s not just a Roman citizen; he’s also an officer in the Roman army. Not only is he an officer in the Roman army but Luke is very careful to tell you what regiment, what division he was part of, the Italian cohort which meant that he personally came from an outfit, a fighting unit that was coming out of Rome, came directly from Italy. So now you’ve got the gospel coming to an officer of the Roman Empire who was a commander of a fighting unit that originated in the Italian Peninsula, presumably near Rome. It’s not an accident that the Holy Spirit picked this guy out in Acts 9-10.
So we have the Church moving out and beginning to preach the gospel. In Acts 9 and 10 Peter is maneuvered into position and Cornelius is maneuvered into position. We’re skipping Paul’s conversion in Acts 9, we’re skipping all that, in verse 36, “Now in Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity, which she continually did.  And it came about at that time that she fell sick….  And since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, entreating him, ‘Do not delay to come to us.’” See how sneaky God is. Peter hasn’t got a clue that it’s really not the sick woman; the sick woman is there because she’s going to be the bait that brings Peter on the scene to be at the right city at the right time with the gospel. But it’s interesting that God, the way He deals with all of us, He doesn’t confront Peter directly, hey Pete, got an assignment for you, gotta to go talk to a Roman army officer. If He had walked in to Peter and had the direct approach, I don’t think Peter would have responded like that. Peter would say you’d better call John or somebody else; you’re not going to get me talking to a Roman army officer.
So God didn’t do it that way, God was a little sneaky about how He operated. Okay, Pete, come on out here, we’ve got a little first-aid problem, you come on out here, you can’t resist this poor woman, she’s sick, come on out. So she becomes the bait. Obviously God cares for her too. This, by the way, shows you that when God moves He always moves five or six different ways. He’s working in her life, He’s working in Peter’s life, He’s working in the lady’s family’s life, He’s working in the disciples that are watching this whole thing go on, He’s working our lives because now we have the testimony of what He did with her life. So you see how God worked, very efficiently.
Then in chapter 10 you have how God works with the Roman army officer. Verse 3, “About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in to him, and said to him, ‘Cornelius!’” So there’s an example of Luke’s Acts’s theology showing that God can work with godly Gentiles. In this case this guy may well have been saved at this point. He may have been saved, and he was a saved Gentile, but he was going to be integrated into the Church. So here’s this angel calling him, and there’s no reticence, the angel calls this Gentile. Can you imagine what was going on in the minds of Jews to see this whole thing? And it was so important that God communicate all of this clearly.
In verse 9 “And on the next day, as they were on their way, and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour” and he went into a trance. So while the angel is talking to Cornelius you have the Holy Spirit putting Peter in a trance. See all the preparatory work that went through, and that’s kind of comforting, because God just didn’t jerk Peter around, okay Peter, you’re all screwed up, I’m going to straighten you out, boom! God didn’t work that way. God worked, hey Pete, just take a look at this, and let’s work here, and then finally Peter is over here and now he’s working here, while He’s working with Peter like this he’s getting Cornelius over here and finally these two guys intersect. I’m sure you’ve seen that occur, how God will lead people across other people’s pathways.
We’re running out of time but if you have a chance to finish reading this, just skim through chapter 10, but I would like you to see how the Holy Spirit leads. In this case He used a supernatural approach in the sense that He used visions, and today He doesn’t always use visions, but it’s clear, it’s not spooky, it’s not some outlandish thing that’s going on here.
Question asked: Clough replies: The question is, “Does the Holy Spirit lead today with dreams and visions?” You have to be kind of careful how you answer this because there’s nothing that says God can’t do that. I think we have testimony from godly people, particularly on the mission field where this has happened. But the reason you want to be careful about that is that the time these dreams and visions were going on, the New Testament had not been finished. And so the Holy Spirit was in the process of building the New Testament canon, for these dreams and visions, particularly the one that we’re seeing in Acts 9 and 10 with Peter and Cornelius, those visions were designed to cause a change in the Church which would generate the New Testament theology.
So when, therefore, later on you read in later books like in Heb. 2:1-4, which is a case in point where you have a perspective from later on in the Church after the New Testament has started to be written. You’ll have a statement like this, Heb. 2:4, “God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will,” and the picture there is it’s all past, past to the time of this author. You see that again in Eph. 2:20, who laid the foundation on the apostles and prophets, you don’t re-lay the foundation every generation. So yeah, God can work that way, but you have to be careful because there have been those in church history who get hold of that and then use that principle to argue that you have to have dreams and visions or the Holy Spirit isn’t leading you and that is nonsense.
For example, to counter that, think about Stephen. Show me one reference where Stephen had a vision. What we have in Acts 7 apparently is a very good student of the Word of God. And we have absolutely no inference that he had any kind of a spooky experience. What he did have was a fantastic insight, so there’s an example - no Damascus Road experience apparently; it’s not recorded for Stephen, although there was one for Paul. So I think when you look at those, you look at the missionary accounts of what happens on the mission field sometimes, that’s an intensive pagan environment with very serious spiritual warfare going on and I think yeah, I don’t have a problem with that. I like to keep it in theological perspective so it doesn’t take off and diminish the authority of the text. There’s nothing wrong with miracles, nobody is saying that miracles can’t take place; it’s all Protestants who, like us, believe in cessationism, all we’re trying to do is protect the spiritual gifts and the canon of Scripture.
Once the canon of Scripture has been created in history, and put into existence, it eclipses everything else. I mean, what else do you need? If it really were so that we needed dreams and visions, the canon shouldn’t be closed, it should constantly be opened. Where’s Revelation 23, who’s writing it now. And when you do have people who assert dreams and visions to the point where the dreams and visions become replacements for the New Testament text, think of what we’ve had. We’ve got the Book of Mormon now. Are we really serious, do we want to open the door to this kind of stuff? But that’s what happens when you’re not careful how you handle that type of approach.
Question asked: Clough replies: The question is, “What about then, with the canon being completed, and we translate that canonical Scripture into other languages? What do we do, for example, in our country, when we have a translation every week, it seems like, that comes out?” That goes back to the issue when we were talking about the end of the Old Testament, the Old Testament canon was closed, what kind of text types were left. There are variant readings in the manuscripts that go back very early. But if you have a chance to look at the variant readings, they’re variants over very small things. They’re variant over spelling; sometimes the case ending is a little different on a noun. There are clearly cases where they’re transcribable errors that have occurred. The question now is, given the fact that you have manuscripts varying, which ones do you pick; what’s the right reading, and that’s called lower criticism. It’s a whole science by itself. But like all sciences it has its own assumptions. And it’s those assumptions that are in part responsible for a big debate within evangelical circles about what is the best translation.
Let me try to answer this with two principles. There are two questions going on, not one. To the question of what is the best translation there are two sub questions that are involved. The first question is what does translation X take as its source text? What is the chosen set of manuscripts? Obviously translators have to work with a set of manuscripts and have certain ways they handle those transcripts. That’s one thing. The second problem which is created in the 20th century, on top of that problem, is problem number two, and that is, “What is your translation theory?” A lot of the modern translations have a theory of translation called dynamic equivalents, meaning that what they want to do is take a word from the Greek, the Aramaic or the Hebrew and see how it’s used in that culture, and look around in English or American culture for words that are used the same way, dynamic equivalents. The problem is that… see older translators didn’t do that so much, older translators tried to (quote) “reproduce” the original as much as possible.
The modern translator when he holds some theory like dynamic equivalents has to be careful because… to take an example of communion, bread and wine were a staple in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament culture. Now, what are the corresponding elements of bread and wine in our culture? Somebody facetiously said coke and chips. Now dynamically they may not be too far off; the average American looks at coke and chips like if you were at a party, coke and chips; if you were at a party then bread and wine, so there’s a dynamic…maybe! I’m not going to argue that but maybe there’s a dynamic equivalent. But who with sensitivity to the whole motif of wine in the Old Testament or bread in the Old Testament would dare to translate that with coke and chips. See, the dynamic equivalent doesn’t work out because the wine and the bread have morphological meaning, i.e. the grape vine itself, with the grape and the chemistry of the grape, and the aging of the grape, all that is involved in a physical thing, a botanical truth that God created to be a vehicle for His revelation. God didn’t invent coke with all kinds of chemistry to it to reveal the things of His Son. He did, however, invent grapes and the processes of fermentation, etc. So whatever He packed into the grape and into wine we’d better just leave it there.
So I find that you have to be very cautious about these dynamic equivalents. I’ve given you an absurd example but… [someone interrupts and says something] … inerrancy is, but the inerrancy is another issue that came up with another aspect of language, that’s a third issue. We can’t scatter into three or four issues. Let’s just keep to the translation issue. So the one issue is what translation methodology is being used. And you can tell what methodology is used by reading a translation. If you have a King James text at home you know it’s kind of rigid, and it’s not, by the way, the best translation. When the King James translation came out people thought it was the most apostate thing going because King James was a heretic who commissioned it, and he had fifty different committees, and it’s not a uniformed translation, it’s a hodge-podge of different committees that put it together.
But the point is, the King James had a theory of translation of trying to articulate in the language of the time the best rendition of the Greek text, and when they didn’t want to translate a word they would transliterate it. That’s where we get the word “baptize” from, they didn’t even want to mess with that. What was going to be the equivalent? Pouring, effusion, dipping, or immersion, and they had enough problems so it was hands off on that baby, and they said all right, we’ll translate it, “baptize,” so you guys learn Greek, and that’s literally what the word is, everybody had to learn Greek because baptize is not an English word, it’s a Greek word. So that was a tight theory of translation.
The second issue that comes up, you hear the King James, and the New King James, and the King James is the original. Well, not really. The issue is deeper than that; the issue is what are the best manuscripts, and behind the King James, for the reason that when the King James translated there weren’t and (quote) “early manuscripts” available so they used the existing corpus of manuscripts they had, the best ones going. After that, manuscripts began to show up, Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, and they would find these manuscripts that were older, that predated the manuscripts from which the King James was translated. People started looking at that and said, “You know, those manuscripts are older. I’ll bet they’re better, because there was less copying going on.” So the reasoning is those manuscripts ought to be better. In the 19th century you have Greek texts like Westcott and Hort, and these guys came out and they altered the set of manuscripts that had primacy in deciding what the reading should be. They said the earliest manuscripts - we put more weight on those early manuscripts. So translations like the ASV, the RSV in the 50’s, most translations today are taken off the earlier manuscripts. The King James wasn’t, the King James took existing manuscripts. And the New King James has preserved the old King James dedication of the original manuscripts, not that the manuscripts of the King James were altogether perfect, but there’s a whole approach that’s different.
Now here’s the argument. The people who advocate the older manuscripts argue that because they’re older they’re better. The people who argue for the background of the Textus Receptus it’s called, the received text, the people who argue for that over against the early manuscripts says the reason you found those early manuscripts is because they were discards, precisely because they were preserved tells you that they were never used. The manuscripts that were used were all beaten up with finger grease and everything else and they fell apart and were never used. So the fact that these manuscripts stayed on a shelf probably tells you that they were discards that were just left there because nobody wanted to use them. So just because they are early does not mean they are better. That’s the debate that’s been going on.
But to relax everybody, the problem is that you just get into the text or the Word, don’t worry about the spelling in four different places is different. That’s not most people’s problem. Most people’s problem is they can’t even open the Bible. Blow off the dust and open it, that would be a profound act, and then we’ll worry about whether something has a little iota or tittle on it at the end of it. So I really don’t see that all this fussing about translations is too serious, because most people who do it I don’t think read too carefully anyway.
Question asked: Clough replies: Canon, C-a-n-o-n, not c-a-n-n-o-n. Canon is a reference to the body of Scripture that was deemed true and fitting for the Bible. For example, Protestants and Catholics have a different Canon. If you look at a Catholic Bible, it has books in it that the Protestant Bible does not have. You’ll see 1 and 2 Maccabees in the Catholic Bible. You will not see 1 and 2 Maccabees in a Protestant Bible. Protestants and Catholics have two different canons, two different sets. That’s because of arguments about texts actually. But “canon” means that… there were all kinds of books written in the first century. There’s the gospel of Thomas, there’s First Clement, there’s Second Clement, I think there’s Third Clement, something like that, so a lot of these books, the Church finally had to decide which are the genuine ones. And the ones that they decided upon became the canon; so the canon is the authorized recognized apostolic writings.
Question asked: Clough replies: We’re going to get into that as we go further. After we get through the separation of Israel and the Church we’re going to get into the duration of the church and then the end of the Church Age.
Question asked: Clough replies: Well, that gets into a whole other area. There’s no real event on the political horizon that can be said to be a fulfillment of a specific prophecy. What we can say is that the world as an entity is setting up so that the events that do have to take place can take place more easily. For example, before Jesus comes again He has to have a temple to come to. That means that somewhere in Jerusalem Israel must construct a temple and have it there prior to the return of Christ. So all the fight you see over Jerusalem, there’s another scenario operating there with that. The return of the Jews to the land in 1948 was a very significant event because Israel has to be in the land in order for Jesus to come back. Jesus cannot come back to a Gentile land; He’s got to come back to a Jewish land, so there has to be a Jewish land before Jesus comes back. So there are these kinds of things that we can point to and say yeah, we could easily conceive of it.
We can more easily conceive of the return of Christ now than 200 years ago, because 200 years ago there was no Israel, 200 years ago Jerusalem wasn’t the center of attention, and 200 years ago there wasn’t a global consciousness, whereas today we’re rapidly going to a global consciousness and when you see in history God work, He always lets the human race try it on their own first and fail, and then He comes in the last hour and solves the problem. And what we’re trying to solve now is how we coexist on this planet globally, and you’ll see the movement now with the anti-terrorism toward a one-world police interaction, to track these guys all over the planet. So you’re getting the infrastructure built up for a global authority. Well, the question then is who staffs the global authority and economy. Of course our point is that it can’t be staffed by sinful men, it must be staffed by sinless men and that means waiting for Jesus. But had Jesus come back 200-300 years ago, His global ministry would never have been appreciated to people who lived in the 1700’s. His global ministry will be appreciated for anybody that lives in our day. So those are the kind of things we and get into and our time is up.