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Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 2001
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Chapter 2 – The Earthly Origin of the Church
Lesson 183 – Early Diversity Develops Among Jewish Believers—Palestinian vs. Hellenic Jews
20 Dec 2001
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
Tonight we’re going to continue with the address of Stephen in Jerusalem. Again to get back into the text of Acts 7, let’s review a little bit of what we did last week. The first thing to remember in the overall Book of Acts, chapter 7 is just one chapter in a big book. So remember what happened before Acts 7 and what happens after Acts 7 is a movement; a flow. It’s a description of how the Holy Spirit built the church and how that church was separated from the nation Israel. The result would be that the gospel would go out, not just from Jerusalem and not just from Judea, but into the uttermost parts of the world in fulfillment of what Jesus predicted in Acts 1:8.
Now also remember, and I think we mentioned this last week, that it wasn’t because the Christians overtly heard Acts 1:8 and then proceeded to do it in the spirit of obedience and expand outward into the world. The Book of Acts gives a far more sobering, realistic picture of what actually happened. What happened was that the church was forced out of Jerusalem by persecution and the gospel then spread out from Jerusalem, not because the Christians were all obedient, it was just because the Holy Spirit as the sovereign One in history pushed them out.
It’s a picture so often of our own sanctification; that it’s not always because we chose to obey the Lord every day, it’s rather that because He is grooming us to live with Him for eternity; that He is as a parent is to a child; He is training us for the future. We have no idea of that future, but He does, and He’s allowing things to happen in our lives, some of them evil, to prod us into sanctification and maturing.
So that’s the picture of the Book of Acts and what we find in this chapter of Acts (seven), is what we call an apologetic. Now apologetics is not a study of apologizing for the faith. The word apologetic, I think we’ve already gone over this before but I want to review it. The word apologetic means to “present a reasonable defense” of the Christian faith. It was used in court cases in Greece; Socrates was to give an apologetic when he was on trial.
So the way to understand the word “apologetic” in these kinds of contexts is to think of yourself defending yourself either in a court or defending yourself in a panel discussion involving something you confessed about the Christian faith and now you’re having a group of people basically trying to attack you in public.
So that’s the situation Stephen faces and last week I gave you some of the background of why Stephen, who came from an Hellenistic background, was sovereignly chosen by God to pull this thing off.
Remember what I said is that when the Jews were exiled they went into all the world. Jewish businessmen probably went into business all through Europe and Southeast Asia and other places; Japan, and so forth. Remember even prior to the Exile Solomon had two completely separate navies largely for commercial enterprises and trade. Jewish businessmen went out into the world and because they were businessmen they had to interact with the local communities and so they were experts in various languages. So at the time of Christ some of the Hellenistic Jews had come back to Jerusalem either for business purposes or just in retirement, maybe to have their families come back and spend their last days in Palestine, Israel.
In any case, Stephen is specifically said, in the Book of Acts, to have come from a Hellenistic background; that’s Acts 6. I mentioned that this created a culture difference that was very significant. The Jews that had lived outside of the land and learned other languages were really culturally apart from the Palestinian Jews who had just stayed in the land all this time.
The situation here in Acts 7 is Stephen comes out of a synagogue that was made up of Hellenistic Jews. That’s why in Acts 6:9, you see it says: “There arose some from what is called the synagogue of the Freedmen, Cyrenians, Alexandrians and those of Cilicia and Asia, are disputing with Stephen.” This is a controversy that occurred within the Hellenistic community, and you’ll notice that the last two places mentioned in Acts 6:9, Cilicia and Asia, are the areas where later the Apostle Paul, after his conversion, which resulted largely from this incident in Acts 7 since Paul was here listening to Stephen. When Paul was finally converted on the Damascus Road where did he go? He was a missionary into these areas, which is now Turkey, and so the deal here is that Paul himself had a Hellenistic background.
It’s very interesting that in spite of the details of this particular martyrdom, there is a whole bunch of historical background when you zoom out and look at the big picture what’s going on in Acts. This is a crucial event because it shows a gradual beginning of the separation of the church from the nation Israel. You have Hellenistic Jews who are going to accept the gospel, some of them are not, there’s going to be a controversy, but it’s the first time we see in the Book of Acts where there is actually a community that is different.
You’ll remember I mentioned how one of the problems in Acts 6 was the poverty program for the people that were in that synagogue, and the point is, I mentioned this before, that Jews had poverty programs for orphans and widows particularly, but the very fact that it’s in Acts 6, you see, it’s the Hellenic Jews having a poverty program for Hellenic widows and Hellenic orphans.
Again you see the cultural shift that’s beginning to take place here, and Luke is sensitive to this. He did a lot of research, as he says in Acts 1 and Luke 1, so he reports Stephen’s sermon in very clear terms. Of course Paul was his traveling companion, so you can well imagine Luke and Paul had a long discussion about this whole incident of Stephen because the Holy Spirit used this incident with Stephen to pierce to the heart of Paul and set him up for his later conversion on the Damascus Road.
Now the problem that Stephen faced in Acts 7 is analogous to what you see on the political climate in our country. You have in Acts 6:11 notice what these people that disputed with Stephen were doing. Notice in Acts 6:10: They were not able to resist the wisdom in the Spirit by which he spoke. In other words, they weren’t able to refute what Stephen was saying, so they managed to do subterfuge which you see going on in our society today.
The first thing you see is in Acts 6:11: He secretly induced men to say we have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God. Totally false, total fabrication, but they’re using lies and rhetoric that’s false to try to create a scene here, and again you see that in the media today. If you dislike somebody and you can’t answer their arguments you start creating a rhetorical campaign against them, reporting facts that aren’t facts, and taking things out of context.
Notice in Acts 6:12: They stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes, and they came upon Stephen and they seized him and brought them to the Council. So it’s a deliberate campaign to create a scene; trying to intimidate and suppress Stephen in what he is doing in articulating the gospel. And you notice what it says in verses 13 and 14: They set up false witnesses. Well remember the Ten Commandments? False witnesses are violating the Ninth Commandment that respects language.
So here you have the illegitimate assaults on Stephen along with the Holy Spirit testifying that Stephen in all of it was speaking the truth, but they were unable to respond to it in an adult fashion so they had to resort to lies; they had a campaign of violence; they had a campaign of gossip and maligning and that was what precipitated this need for Stephen to give an apologetic.
In Acts 7 now we see his argument and I wanted to add here an interesting point about the Framework. I was reading Acts 7 many, many, many years ago that I came across the Framework idea because I looked at what we’re reading in Acts 7. I started analyzing Stephen’s apologetic to these unbelievers and to the civil authorities, and I noticed, as we will, that he gives a series of historic events, one event after another, and he does so to show certain doctrinal truths of God’s sovereign mission for Israel.
This got me to thinking and out of that I began to study how Joshua, in the latter chapters of the Book of Joshua, that the Covenant renewal he does much the same thing, reviewing it, and you study the prophets, they do the same thing, they review event after event. So anyway interesting for those of you who are interested in the Framework, this is how that idea started to gel in my thinking.
Well let’s follow Stephen’s argument. In Acts 7 he begins, after he is challenged to give an answer, and again, same kind of concept. Verse 1: The high priest said of these things. So the answer is yes, they are, but he’s going to give a detailed reasoning why the claims that he was making are true and that the false claims that he was blaspheming Moses are false.
So, let’s watch his argument: in verses 1 to 5, what does he say? He says, “Brethren and fathers listen, the God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia before he dwelt in Haran and He said to him, ‘Get out of the country from your relatives and come to a land I will show you.’ ” I think I mentioned this last week, and that is that it shows first of all Judaism did not start in Palestine or Israel. The land of Israel was not the location where Judaism started. Judaism started with the call of Abraham out of what is now Iraq.
Then I also mentioned that there was a gentleman who had written an editorial or op-ed in the Jerusalem newspaper and he pointed out that Islam did not start either in Israel. You see Israel is always the cauldron where Christianity, Islam, and Judaism sort of collide, and they all claim to have a claim on that. Well yes, the Jews do, the Muslims don’t, but the point is that neither Islam nor Judaism began or originated in Israel. The only religion of the three that started in Israel is Christianity. So there’s a kind of interesting historical fact that you might throw out in a conversation someday if you wanted to start an interesting conversation with somebody.
So Judaism began in Iraq: He came out of the land of the Chaldeans, and dwelt in Charran, which is up in near what is now Syria today, and then he came down into the land. And then it says in verse five that: God gave him no inheritance, not even enough to set his foot on. Remember he had to buy some land for burying his wife. And then it said he had no child.
So two things that were not true of Abraham from the human point of view in spite of the promises of God: he did not own the land in his lifetime, and he did not have any natural son. Into that we have the Abrahamic Covenant as a background, and that’s why in verse five we see the way Stephen is constructing this because every well-educated Jew knows the Abrahamic Covenant; Genesis 12; Genesis 15, and so he says, “… not even enough to set his foot on even when Abraham had no child, God promised to give it to him for a possession and to his descendants after him.”
The promise was the land and the seed, but at this point in history he didn’t have any land and he didn’t have any seed. Stephen again points this out so they’ll realize it’s a supernatural, sovereign work of God. Then Stephen is going to argue against the Jewish critics of his ministry. He’s going to argue basically this: if you look at the pattern of God’s sovereign development of our nation Israel in the early centuries; if you look at the pattern; if you look at the record of the Old Testament, you’ll see certain things that I say, that is Stephen, that I say have paralleled the Lord Jesus. You are doing the same thing to the Lord Jesus that this nation did to past deliverers.
He’s going to start doing this and we want to develop that. Notice in verses 6 to 8; now in 6 to 8 what does he do? God spoke this way: That his descendants would dwell in a foreign land; that they would bring them into bondage and oppress them for 400 years and the nation to whom they will be in bondage I will judge and after that they shall come out and serve Me in this place.
So there’s the three generations; the history of what was going on with Abraham. First Abraham; he had the second generation, which is Isaac, and the third generation, Yakov or Jacob, and Jacob’s sons. There’s a whole period of time there where this family, remember, it’s just a family here, there is no nation yet, just the family, and the record of that family, spiritually, isn’t too great. You have attempted murder, you have a collapse of their culture; Judah, one of the sons of Jacob, that’s going to be the ancestor of the Messiah, and Judah goes out and he fornicates with a Canaanite priestess.
The whole point is that the family is going downhill and we studied that, if you remember, back years ago when we were working at the time of the call of Abraham. God had to put them down into Egypt to keep them from assimilating and being perverted by the Canaanite culture in the land. So they went down to Egypt, and I pointed out back in those days when we dealt with the call of Abraham, remember I said if you look at the later chapters of Genesis you see that the Egyptians discriminated against the Jews; they wouldn’t even eat with them.
The point that is very important is that they were going from a syncretistic society that could’ve absorbed them, into a segregationist society which would keep them separate. God knew that during their development if they couldn’t get with the program in three generations they weren’t going to get with the program over four centuries, so God changed their environment; He changed their circumstances to prevent the decay that was already going on.
Now here’s where Stephen is really slick and he has an argument here and obviously the people that he’s talking to, remember these guys are the theological experts of the time, these guys know exactly the Old Testament scripts. Unfortunately, they have rejoined the commentaries or something and they haven’t really understood the foundational documents of the Judaic faith. And here Stephen is, who really from all we know, isn’t a member of the Sanhedrin, he’s not a Pharisee, he’s not in any government position, but he’s lecturing these people in the Council and it takes great courage; he’s walking into a room filled with PhD theologians and he doesn’t have a PhD, but he’s going back to the original source material of the faith.
Now watch what he says. He’s going to start talking about Joseph. In verses 11 and following, I want to point out something in the text here: if you look at verses 11 to 16, see what it says? In verse 11; now this is the Joseph story, you know the Joseph story, we’ve already gone through that, but I want you to see how Stephen, throughout this whole thing, is using the Old Testament; it’s 60–70% Old Testament text here, but notice the nuances that Stephen sows into his apologia; his apologetic.
He says in verse 11: Now a famine and great trouble came over all the land in Egypt and Canaan our fathers found no sustenance. But when Yakov, or Jacob, heard that there was grain in Egypt, he set out our fathers first; father’s there being the sons of Jacob who became the fathers of the 12 tribes. So he sent out our fathers, and the second time Joseph was made known to his brothers and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh; we know the story. Now if you look at verse 13 and you compare it with what he’s saying in verse 8: the first mention of Joseph in this text; Chapter 7. In verse 8 the patriarchs became envious and sold Joseph into Egypt, but God was with him. So verses 8 and 9 show the first advent, or the first mention of Joseph; Joseph was rejected.
It’s interesting that in verse 13, after Joseph is down there, the brothers come down and get the grain. And then they bring Jacob down. Notice how Stephen calls Joseph; he says in verse 13: Now the second time Joseph was made known to his brothers. Do you see a pattern here? The first time the brothers, which represent the ancestors of the nation; the first time they reject Joseph. The second time they recognize who he is and accept him. What kind of a pattern do you observe here?
This is a pattern that fits the career of Jesus, and you see what Stephen is doing. He is setting up the Council to understand that yes, the Lord Jesus has just been crucified; He was rejected by you people. Now just understand that we, Christians; we Messianic Jews, believe that He is going to come back the second time and when He comes back the second time you guys are going to recognize what happened.
Just watch this now; Stephen is going to pull this stunt again, but if you pay attention to the details of the text, this is a great address and you can really appreciate the kind of thinking that went into this. This is not an emotional-based argument, this is a carefully reasoned argument, and it’s a very scriptural argument. It’s all grounded on the text of the Word of God and it’s reasoning, just like Jesus taught from the Old Testament, with reasoning; thinking. You can’t believe if you can’t think! Thinking is required to appreciate the Word of God.
Remember the Word of God is the word of God and God is omniscient and God is fully, rationally coherent. So if we’re going to receive His revelation, His verbal revelation, we’d better be prepared to think a little bit and not just emote. The gospel is not based on feelings. The gospel truth is based on fact and reasoning about those facts and the correct interpretation of those facts.
So the pattern of Joseph is: he’s rejected by his brethren, he goes away, leaves the brethren to provide salvation, and then when he provides salvation to the brothers he’s known to them. That’s a perfect profile of the Lord Jesus Christ’s career, and where you see this, and you kinda have to learn to watch this, is in the Gospel of Matthew.
Matthew uses the word, and this confuses some people sometimes, Matthew will pick on something, and it’s in his delivery of writing that Gospel, and he’ll say something like this: “And thus it was fulfilled.” So people see that verb “fulfill” and they think when Matthew quotes a passage that is fulfilled by Jesus’ actions; that Matthew is saying it was a prophecy in the Old Testament. There are prophecies in the Old Testament that were indeed fulfilled by Jesus, but there were also patterns that were fulfilled by Jesus and Matthew uses the same verb “fulfill.”
For example, there is a passage in the Gospel of Matthew where it is talking about Jesus and the Herodian genocide, and so on, when He was a child. He talks about “it” thus was fulfilled. The pattern of Rachel, in the Old Testament, weeping over the exiles at the fall of the kingdoms; Rachel being a stand-in of the mothers; Jewish mothers at the time when they saw their sons and their husbands taken away into the exile.
That’s an Old Testament passage, but it’s not a messianic prophecy, it’s just a historic description of something that happened. But Matthew sees that as parallel to Joseph and Mary carrying Jesus down into Egypt and the weeping at Bethlehem. So you’ll see fulfilled in Matthew’s usage, and that same hermeneutic, the same kind of argument, is what Stephen is using here to say that Joseph’s life, and Stephen is not like Matthew, he doesn’t say fulfilled, it’s more subtle than that.
Stephen says, I’m just telling you your own history, people. Go back to your original source material and consider Joseph; Joseph was a savior to our nation. The first time you rejected him, yet he went away and while he was away from you, you didn’t know what he was doing, like we don’t know what Jesus is doing in Heaven at the Father’s right hand, and although we have hints, like in Hebrews and other passages that He is making intercession for us and other things, but we don’t know everything that He’s doing there.
So Joseph goes to Egypt. He gets in a position where he can provide for his family and finally the brothers come down to Egypt and they recognize him. The pattern again: the first time Joseph is rejected he leaves the nation, he sets up provision for the nation, acting like a savior, and then when the need is felt and Jacob and the remaining sons decide they’re hungry, they got a problem with food. So they have a need to be saved nutritionally, to be saved healthwise; they recognize they have a need. And so they go down to Egypt and they meet Joseph and they know him.
Keep that in mind because now we going to start another section. And by the way, the sections are in the notes of the lectures, and what we’ve gone through in the first section, section 1 on page 60 in the notes, and section I that’s Acts 7:2–16: the Origin of Israel.
Now we’re going to go to Roman numeral II: the Origin of the Torah. Because behind all the arguments the false witnesses that have come in to accuse Stephen are basically saying is he’s attacked the Torah, that is the Bible, and he’s attacked the Temple.
So Stephen in this apologetic, he’s defending the fact that he has not attacked the Torah, in fact, he’s challenging the Council to say, why don’t you just read the original Torah? Forget your commentaries and understand your basic Jewish history, which you say you know, but you evidently don’t know, because you have not been careful observers of your own history. So all of this background is Stephen defending the fact that he has not attacked the Torah like his critics argue.
Now in Acts 7:17 we start that second section that I discuss in the notes on page 60. Let’s see what Stephen is doing here. In verse 17, and probably with our limited time tonight we’ll probably only get down to somewhere in the 20s. The whole section goes to verse 43, but we’re not going to get there tonight.
We’ll start in Acts 7:17 and see how far we get. “When the time of the promise drew near which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied.” So verse 17 reports: Now we are not dealing with a Jewish family, we are dealing with a Jewish nation because they’ve multiplied.
And verse 18: “Until another King or Pharaoh arose who did not know Joseph.” So there’s the historical set up. Now we’re transitioning from watching the pattern of Joseph to watching the pattern of Moses. Moses now comes into Stephen’s attention, and look what he does with Moses’ life. Let’s watch: the Pharaoh arises that didn’t know the earlier Pharaoh and therefore did not really realize this issue of Joseph and therefore did not understand all these Semitic Jews that were in his land.
Acts 7:19: “The man dealt treacherously with our people, oppressed our forefathers, making them expose their babies so they might not live.” Remember that was the story of the beginning of the Book of Exodus. There was population control, sort of like a Margaret Sanger with her eugenics—Planned Parenthood—and so on. Planned Parenthood was not just for women’s health; Planned Parenthood was to destroy the African-American community basically. And so we have the attack on the Jewish population by killing their babies. It’s an early form of eugenics.
Then we go to Acts 7:20–21: “At this time Moses was born and was well pleasing to God and He was brought up in his father’s house for three months but when he was set out, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son.” So there’s the historical incident. See how God sovereignly works? Moses didn’t put himself in Pharaoh’s household; God arranged circumstances that brought him into Pharaoh’s house.
So Acts 7:22: “Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was mighty in words and deeds.” It’s kind of amusing to watch some of the earlier Bible critics that seem to think there was no literacy involved in the Bible, it was just all oral tradition that would piece together, and way later, centuries after Moses, somebody decided to write it all down. Here, it explicitly says Moses “knew the wisdom of Egypt.” Moses was educated in Egypt; Moses knew the Egyptian language, he knew the Egyptian hieroglyphics, that’s his background.
As conservative Old Testament scholars point out, there are Egyptian words that you see, not in ultra-high frequency, but you see more Egyptian words embedded in the Pentateuch than you do elsewhere in the Bible. Isn’t that kind of a sign that whoever compiled this book, whoever wrote it, had some Egyptian background?
So anyway, what you want to look at here is some of the ways Stephen goes about this. In verse 22: Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was mighty in, watch this phrase, he was mighty “in words and deeds.” You see that the phrase there, “mighty in words and deeds.” Now what’s striking about this is these mighty in words and deeds were apparently used by the Christian community to describe Jesus as mighty in words and deeds.
In fact, you can see the very same expression in the Gospel of Luke 24:19. In Luke 24:19 that phrase “mighty in words and deeds” is used of Jesus. Now apparently it was already being used, maybe Stephen himself was using this in the Christian community prior to this episode in Acts 7. In any case, I think it’s interesting how in Acts 7:22 Stephen brings into this review of Exodus the exact terminology that was being used in contemporary history then, of the Lord Jesus.
Think back what we’ve done now: Stephen describes the life of Joseph and stresses the first manifestation of Joseph to the brothers as rejection and he describes the second appearance of Joseph as acceptance. Now don’t you suppose he might do this again, this time to Moses? Let’s watch. He says, “Moses was mighty in words and deeds.” Now he records an event from the book of Exodus.
Let’s look at what happened here. This is not just an interesting bedtime story disconnected from everything else. When you read the Bible, you’re not reading a bunch of marbles that are rolling around the table, totally disjointed from everything else. The Bible is a necklace, and the marbles have places on the necklace, and when you read the Bible carefully, and in the Framework we stress the linkage that goes on from chapter to chapter, from historical era to historical era. That fortifies your faith; you’re not dealing with a collection of random Bible stories. What you’re dealing with is a coherent revelation of God’s program in history.
This incident that we’re going to look at now in chapter 7 is repeated by Stephen from the Book of Exodus. Let’s watch. It says in verse 23: “When he was 40 years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel, so he knows his Jewish identity; and seeing one of them suffering wrong, he defended and avenged him who was oppressed and struck down the Egyptian.
Let’s look at Moses—this is kind of his first public appearance. Let’s see if he’s accepted or whether he’s rejected on his first public appearance. “And he saw one of them suffering, he defended him and he avenged him who was oppressed and struck down the Egyptian. For he supposed,” now notice this, in verse 25: “For he supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand,” and notice the last clause of verse 25, understanding again, thinking of Stephen’s apologia, his apologetic before this counsel of theologians.
Verse 25: “He supposed that his brethren,” this is Stephen’s commentary on the Exodus story, “for he supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand, but they did not understand. The next day he appeared to two of them as they were fighting and tried to reconcile them saying, ‘Men, you are brethren.’ ”
See, this isn’t the case of a Jew versus an Egyptian. This is the case of a Jew versus a Jew, and so he’s not going to go after him like he did before. “Men, you are brethren, why do you wrong one another? But he who did his neighbor wrong pushed him away.” Now see this is Moses’ first appearance, and what’s happening? He is pushed away, saying, who made you a ruler and judge over us? See this pattern?
This is Moses’ first appearance, he’s being rejected by his brethren even though according to verse 25 he understood that God was going to deliver them, the Jewish nation, by His hand, but they did not understand. Just like Jesus came to Israel in Stephen’s day, and He was trying to deliver them but they did not understand; just as parallel as can be.
So verse 27: “He who did his neighbor wrong pushed him away, saying, who made you a ruler and a judge over us?” That’s exactly the treatment that the Lord Jesus had just prior to this time of Acts 7. “Do you want to kill me as you did the Egyptian yesterday?” So word had gotten around the community that Moses had murdered, and had not murdered a Jew, of all things, he murdered an Egyptian, so now he’s in deep doo doo with the Egyptian authorities, and what does he do?
“Then, at the saying Moses fled. He became a dweller in the land of Midian, where he had two sons.” So he’s going to be away from the nation. This is the end of Moses’ first advent as it were, so he goes away, just like Joseph was separated from his brothers and went away to prepare the way for the delivery of the Jewish family; the 12 tribal sons.
Now Moses, he’s going to go away, and while he goes away he’s going to be led by the Lord to be commissioned and provide salvation for the Jewish nation. See Stephen knows his history; Stephen is going back to original source material and that’s why I think the reaction was so violent against him. They’re just plain emotionally angry at Stephen for challenging their little operation; their cultural processes and prejudices; Stephen’s trying to break through that.
Now verse 30: “When 40 more years had passed away an Angel of the Lord appeared to him;” that’s the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son prior to the incarnation, appeared to him in a flame of fire in the bush in the wilderness of Sinai. We studied that along with the Exodus event and the Mount Sinai event. When Moses saw it he marveled at the site and he drew to observe, and the voice of the Lord came to him, saying, and this is important because Stephen repeats exactly what the text in the Old Testament is saying. Stephen is not making this up.
Remember again the accusation against Stephen is that he’s attacking the Torah, and he’s not. This whole address he’s using the Torah to show that the very document you say I’m demeaning is the document that undercuts your position. Sort of like today, you could almost argue that when you get some of the progressives that don’t care about America and they want to transform it, supposedly so we can perfect mankind into a great millennial kingdom brought in by man’s works, you have conservatives calling them back to the Constitution. Well apparently it’s the same kind of thing back here; Stephen is calling these people back to their founding document.
In verse 32 he makes it very clear by direct quotation, this is not Stephen’s commentary, this is a quote: “I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and Moses trembled and dared not look.” It’s a very clear theophany. So this isn’t some group of guys getting together and inventing this. This is Moses face-to-face with God as probably no other human being apart from Jesus had ever done this and has ever done it.
You’ll notice in verse 32 something that we mentioned back when we studied the Exodus and Sinai: look at how God entitles himself. See what it says? “I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” That’s a reference to the Abrahamic Covenant, and remember what did the Abrahamic Covenant promise? There were three great promises we studied back at the call of Abraham.
The Abrahamic Contract gave the land to the Jews, the believing descendants of Abraham. He promised them a Seed, a supernatural Seed, the promise to Eve back at the Fall of man; the promise that the woman would bring forth a Child from the Lord would come through the descendants of Abraham; that’s the second thing. Land, seed, and the third thing promised in the Abrahamic Covenant was a worldwide blessing, which is the future of Israel. There will not be world peace until the Millennial Kingdom comes and you have an incorruptible global administration. You won’t have a group of half competent accountants like we have in the UN. You won’t have people like the European Parliament who deliberately hired an architect to build their building so it would look like the Tower of Babel, none of that’s going to happen.
In the Millennial Kingdom you’re going to have the Lord Jesus Christ as the resurrected One accompanied by resurrected saints and believers who will be the administration globally and incorruptibly. Mortal flesh as a sin nature, it’s always corruptible. That’s why the Bible is arguing for limited government for mortal history. You will not have a global government authorized until you have resurrection personnel available to administer it. You can’t trust mortals with global power—the political implication of the whole Old Testament.
So verse 32: “I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” “And the Lord said, take your sandals off for the place you stand is holy ground. I have surely seen the oppression of my people who are in Egypt; I’ve heard their groanings and come down to deliver them. Now come, I will send you to Egypt.”
Now I’ve stressed over and over Stephen’s mode of argument, and tonight we’re not going to get off verse 43, but we can at least get here and think about what we’re looking at as far as Stephen’s argument. Remember the parallel? Joseph’s first advent—the first manifestation: he was rejected. The second: goes away. Third: he’s recognized when he saves his brothers.
Now Moses. Moses is rejected, he goes away, God calls him after 40 years of preparation and He commissions Moses to go and to deliver the nation. Watch how Stephen describes this. Verse 35, this is Stephen’s commentary on the text of the Old Testament. What do you notice about the first clause in verse 35? It says: This Moses whom they what? It’s this Moses whom they rejected saying, who will make you a ruler and a judge? See he’s quoting that passage in Exodus. “This Moses whom they rejected, saying, who made you a ruler and judge? Is the one God sent to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush. And God brought them out after He had shown wonders and signs” and so forth.
There’s the deliverance. So now is the second parallel: not only is Joseph’s life a profile of Jesus’ life, but so is Moses’. On his first manifestation to the nation Israel he is rejected; he goes away, and he is now set up to come and be their deliverer. And as he is set up as deliverer he comes back and he’s going to be recognized after a struggle. By the way, he’s going to be recognized and is going to lead the nation and save the nation just as Joseph saved his brothers.
So Stephen is very, very clear that he’s arguing typologically. He’s arguing that you guys that are fussing about our claims as Christian believers that what we’re preaching about Jesus collides with the Torah, is completely wrong. I’ve just taken you to the original source material and if you’d been listening to me instead of emoting and fussing and grinding your teeth, you would see that the pattern of Jesus that we are preaching, we Messianic Jews are preaching, that pattern is embedded in the Torah that you say we are attacking.
We’re going to continue next week with how this develops and how Stephen is going to further his apologetic and the reaction to it, and keep in mind if you zoom out from the text now in the big idea, what we’re seeing here as a result of Stephen’s address. Stephen is rejected, but the text very carefully, and of course, Luke, who wrote the text, was traveling companion with Paul, so Paul told them all about the details. Paul is seen telling Luke, “Look, I know about what happened at Stephen’s death because I was right there participating in it. In fact they threw his clothes at my feet.”
So see how God circumstantially works? We have to learn as believers to be alert enough so when incidents come our way, when circumstances change, instead of fussing at them we ought to say, “You know, Lord open my eyes to what You’re doing. You brought this person, he’s interrupted me, but you brought this particular person to me at this particular time, now what should I do? What is it that You’re trying to tell me through this so-called chance meeting with this person?”
Or it may be a circumstance in your life that’s very frustrating because you wanted to do something and all of a sudden you get interrupted. Now we have to reduce our blood pressure, calm down, take a deep breath and say, “Lord, what are You doing in my life at this point with this particular incident? What kind of a test is this to my faith? And I’ve got to look to You because right now I’m upset and I want to know what You’re doing in my life.”
This is what Stephen is doing, he’s saying, “Jews, understand your history. Understand the circumstances that God has arranged in your basic history.” And all of this, again, zooming out from the details of Joseph and the details of Moses, in the large picture this whole incident is to set up the building of the body of Christ in history, because the man who is sitting here watching this whole episode, listening to Stephen, listening to Stephen’s argument, listening to how Stephen exegeted the Old Testament text, is going to go out still in unbelief. He’s going to travel Damascus, what is now Syria, and he is going to be converted.
God is going to call him in a dramatic way, and here we will have a conversion of a terrorist. Paul is an example of how God can reach down into the heart of the most hardened terrorists, and we need to remember that today as we deal with the whole Muslim situation. That ISIS or some of these other people that are going around killing people, this is the kind of a situation that God can easily reach down and into the hearts of these people. Muslims have been doing this since the 1400s, this is not new material.
So that’s about all we have time for tonight and next week were going to continue with the history of how the church, one act after another, is gradually separated from the nation Israel.