Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 2 * BOOK 18
ACTS CHAPTERS 6,7 & 8
I trust you will see what The Book says, but also what it doesn’t say. We hope you learn to enjoy this Book. Someday we will stand before The Lord and be judged on this Book, and nothing else. So that is why it behooves us to know what The Book says, and know where to find the places pertaining to your Salvation. Now Acts 7:
“The same (the new Pharaoh) dealt subtilly with our kindred (the Children of Israel), and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live.”
Again I’m going to hammer home what I’ve been trying to teach for the last 6 or 7 Chapters – that it is all Jewish. Nothing in these chapters deals with the Gentiles except, of course, Egypt, and you certainly don’t won’t to align yourself with Egypt. But here Stephen is addressing the Nation of Israel. Now verse 20:
“In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair (that doesn’t mean that Moses was a pretty baby, although he may have been. Moses was a special child in God’s line of service. His parents took special steps to save his life), and nourished up in his father’s house three months:” In Acts Chapter 7, we pick up details that are left out in the Genesis and Exodus account. There are many in just this one Chapter.
“And when he was cast out (upon the river), Pharaoh’s daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son.” The next verse gives us some things that the Old Testament does not.
“And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians (that stands to reason, being raised in the palace of the king. But Scripture gives us knowledge that Moses was the top man in Egypt under the King. He was highly educated and he had a lot of power), and was mighty in words and in deeds.”
Then we have the breakdown in Moses’ life that is not in the Old Testament. It was in periods of forty: forty years in Pharaoh’s palace; forty years on the back side of the desert herding sheep; and forty years leading the Children of Israel.
“And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.”
This is the first time Moses will approach the Children of Israel as their deliverer. God did not specifically instruct him here, but Moses, using his own position and power, by faith, knew that Israel had to be taken out of Egypt.
“And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian: For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them:…”
When Moses went out as the second man in Egypt, with all the power and wisdom that he had, he honestly thought he was going to lead the Children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. He supposed they would have understood that God, by using him, would deliver them. What’s the rest of the verse say? “…but they understood not.”
Now do you see what a parallel you have when Christ came to the Nation of Israel the first time? He came and presented Himself as their Messiah and King, but they never comprehended Who He was. Only a few did. Remember, Stephen’s whole purpose of this sermon is to bring the Nation of Israel to the knowledge that the One they had killed was The King. This is the whole premise of the early Chapters of Acts. Yes, they killed Him, but God raised Him from the dead, and He can still be their King if they will just believe it and repent of that awful deed. Peter, in Chapters 2 and 3, states it plainly. “You killed Him! You murdered Him!” And Stephen is going to make the same accusation. Stephen is laying the groundwork for this conclusion: “Why do you always have to have the second offer.” Joseph showed it. Moses is showing it. Christ has already accomplished it. Now you’ll to have to wait until He comes the second time. Remember Moses had hoped the children of Israel would have understood in verse 25, but they didn’t.
“And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, `Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another?'”
“But he that did his neighbor wrong thrust him away, saying (this is exactly what they said to Christ), `Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?'” And Stephen is driving this point home. Over the years I’ve said Stephen is sort of putting the dagger into the heart of the nation, twisting it and making them squirm.
“Wilt thou kill me, as thou diddest the Egyptian yesterday? Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons (here is another time element), And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush.”
You all know the story of Moses and the burning bush. How God sent him back to Egypt and his confrontations with Pharaoh. Stephen is rehearsing it with the Nation of Israel’s religious leaders. Let’s go to the end of Stephen’s sermon. Verse 47:
“But Solomon built him (The Lord) an house (the first Temple),” See how Stephen is coming up through Israel’s history.
“Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in Temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, `Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?'”
Stephen is emphasizing the fact that this Messiah that they crucified was the promised Son of God, The King of Israel, The Son of David. All of these terms filled the Old Testament promises.
“Ye stiffnecked (stubborn) and uncircumcised (not in the flesh, they certainly kept that. But what were they lacking?) in heart…” Which is that part of Salvation in any dispensation. That when a person came to believe, then God exercises a spiritual circumcision. And Israel knew nothing of that. They knew the physical, they kept that to the last jot and tittle. Reading again:
“Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye.”
“Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?…”
What’s that in reference to? The Old Testament economy. The prophets would come, even as Jesus put it in the parable of the vineyard and husbandman. The husbandman planted a large vineyard and went into a far country, and as the fruit was about ready for harvest he sent servants back to his vineyard. And what did they do with the servants (Prophets)? They killed them. And then he sent his son, saying surely they won’t kill him. But they killed the son also (Christ). Stephen is showing them the same thing. The prophets came to their forefathers and they killed them. Remember Jeremiah was thrown into one of the dankest, deepest, wettest dungeons in Jerusalem, because the Nation of Israel didn’t like what he was prophesying about them. The same thing may happen here in America. When people don’t like what they hear they get rather nasty. Now finishing the verse:
“Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One (Stephen is speaking mainly to the religious leaders of Israel); of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:” Now that’s not very kind is it? But that’s what Israel was guilty of. They had killed their Messiah.
“Who have received the Law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.” What did they do with it? They didn’t keep it. Now verse 54, Stephen has been building his case against the Nation, and God is convicting their hearts.
“When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.” People never get more vicious than in the name of religion. These are religious Jews, civilized people, but because of their religion, they suddenly lose it all. They went berserk because of their convictions.
“But he (Stephen), being full of the Holy ghost (and here is another place we have all three Persons of the Godhead in one verse), looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.” Usually, we think of Christ seated at the Father’s right hand, after His ascension. And Scripture says so. But here Jesus is standing. Most people never catch that, but these Jewish religious leaders did. Stephen saw Him standing rather than sitting.
“And said, `Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.'” At that statement: “Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord. And cast him out of the city, and stoned him:…”
Now just think. Why was Jesus standing at this point, rather than sitting as all the rest of Scriptures say? In Acts Chapter 3, Israel could still have their King and Kingdom if they would only believe. Christ is alive! God has raised Him from the dead and called Him back to Heaven. But He is ready to return and set up the Kingdom. Of course the Tribulation would have to run its course.
“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord (that’s the fulfilling of the Covenant promises and Kingdom promise); And he (God) shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:”
Israel was aware of what Peter and the rest of the disciples had been preaching, that they killed Him, but God raised Him from the dead, and He can still be our King because He’s alive. Now Acts Chapter 7. In verses 55 and 56 we see Jesus standing on the right hand of God. Turn to Psalms Chapters 67 and 68. I don’t know if this is the exact answer for this, but it’s the one that I’m comfortable with. Something was attracted to the fact of Stephen seeing Jesus standing that aroused the Jews’ anger. The religious leaders knew their Old Testament, And I think this was the cause.
“GOD be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us; Selah. That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations. Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth, Selah.” (what’s this referring to? The Kingdom, when He would come and set up His Kingdom) Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.” Now there is the setting of the promises of the Kingdom, when He would yet be their King.
“LET God (remember God The Son is just as much God The Father, and God The Spirit) arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him.” This struck those Jews Stephen was preaching to. Stephen was saying that He had arisen from His seated position, and He was ready to come.
“As smoke is driven away, so drive them away (His enemies): as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God” Was Israel ready for that? No, and they knew they weren’t. So rather than bring down conviction and a Godly fear, it aroused their anger. Back to Acts 7. They weren’t ready for Christ to return. They were too happy with their own religion.
“And cast him out of the city, and stoned him (under Roman government there was no way a Jew could get away with stoning a Gentile. But this was a Jewish situation and the Romans let the Jews pretty much handle their own religious matters. Jews were permitted to kill their own in the name of religion): and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.”
Now remember as we have come up through the Book of Acts it’s been Jewish, Jewish, Jewish. But here at the stoning of Stephen, Israel has come to the crescendo point of her rejection. We’ll not have this Man rule over us. So as they reach their pinnacle of rejection, we see God introduce Paul to the scene. The man who will now go to the Gentiles, without benefit of Israel. The man who will make all the difference to the rest of the world. A few years ago even one of our news magazines gave the Apostle Paul credit for the influence that he had upon the world. And for being the one that introduced Christianity. Normally everyone will say Jesus The Christ introduced Christianity. Always remember that Jesus is the very foundation and basis of it, but it was the Apostle Paul who took it out to the Gentile world. Now, as Saul is introduced, he’s not in a very good light is he? He is standing there holding the garments of those that are throwing the stones.
“And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, `Lord Jesus receive my spirit.’ And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, `Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
“AND Saul was consenting unto his death….” He was more than consenting, he was driving it. Let’s go to the Book of Galatians to shed some light on that.
“For ye have heard of my conversation (my lifestyle) in time past in the Jews religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it.” That was the Jewish assembly there at Jerusalem. Saul wasn’t just a casual onlooker here at Stephen’s stoning. Rather he was the leader of it. And he hated anything concerning Jesus of Nazareth. Why? Because he was a good religious Pharisee, and thought Jesus was an impostor.