I've been studying the book of Acts for the past few weeks. It's truly an amazing account of not only the work of the early church but, more importantly, the acts of Christ through the Spirit. There are many parts of this book that are helpful to our growth as believers and as the church. But one specific part that stands out is Stephen's speech to the high priest, which occurs in Acts 7.
I encourage you all to read the entirety of Acts 7 as Stephen recounts the entire story of the Old Testament for the High Priest, leading up to Christ, but this week we'll focus on the last few verses of his speech.
Acts 7:49 (Quoting Isaiah 66)
"Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all of these things"
Here Stephen reminds the High Priest that God is the creator of all and is not confined to any house or temple. God now dwells on earth through the spirit, in the heart of all believers. He goes on to harshly condemn the High Priest:
"You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit as your fathers did"
Its easy to think about the pharisees as people who are a special breed of selfish and unjust: but Stephen's accusation could just as easily be made towards us. We are all guilty of rejecting the Spirit. In fact: Stephen himself was no doubt guilty of Ignoring the Spirit. We are all broken and sinful people, which is what makes the next section such a hopeful reminder.
The High Priest and Pharisees are not pleased with Stephen and prepare to kill him. But as he goes to his death it says this:
"But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the Glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God"
As he dies Stephen cries out for God to not hold the sins of the people stoning him against them. In the spirit we are no longer slaves to our flesh, but instead are creatures of the future kingdom. We go to where God and Glory shine: so we no longer have to fear rejection, anger, or even death as we seek to proclaim the Gospel.
This Sunday we'll be singing and studying the word as Christ's bride, but not so that we can glorify ourselves. Rather: our service is an opportunity for us to be reminded of the promises of God as we continue to our homes and workplaces to carry out his mission. Therefore, our liturgies will be taken from Acts 7:49, 51, and 56. Wrestle with those texts for the next few days.
Take some time to listen to the following songs before Sunday to prepare your heart:
Come People of the Risen King
Let Justice Roll
Absent from Flesh
Your Love is Strong
Shine Into Our Night
Man of Sorrows
Finally, pastor John will be preaching from Ezra 8:21-36, so be sure to pray and meditate over that text this week.