Journey through the New TestamentBook of Acts with me. The plan is simple. Read ONE chapter a day. Blog or journal 5* things you learned that you previously didn't know and ask 5* questions about the chapter that you'll ponder all week. Let's go!
** You'll probably learn way more than 5 things and have more than 5 questions about each chapter. That's totally fine. The more the merrier!
QUESTION 1: Out of all the citizens, and no doubt, pagans in Mesopotamia, why was Abraham the one called by God?
QUESTION 2: Why was it so easy for Abraham to pack up, “get out of [his] country and from his relatives” and leave for a land that he’d never been to and wouldn’t know of till he set out on his journey? Or was it more difficult for him than the scriptures let on?
QUESTION 3: How is it that Moses describes himself in Exodus 4:10 as a man who had “never been eloquent… [and was] slow of speech and tongue.”, yet, in Stephen’s reciting of Jewish history, Moses is remembered as, “mighty in words and deeds.”?
QUESTION 4: Thrice in Stephen’s sermon, he makes reference to the/an “Angel of the Lord” (verse 30, 35, 38). Who did the early Church believe this Angel to be? Today, we believe that appearances of the angel of the Lord were manifestations of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament before His incarnation/birth at the beginning the New Testament. This so because the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament speaks as God, identifies Himself with God, and exercises the responsibilities of God (Genesis 16:7-12; 21:17-18; 22:11-18; Exodus 3:2; Judges 2:1-4; 5:23; 6:11-24; 13:3-22; 2 Samuel 24:16; Zechariah 1:12; 3:1; 12:8). But, did the apostles understand this character to be Christ in the Old Testament?
QUESTION 5: What impact did Stephen’s death have on Saul as he witnessed him die with his eyes “gazed into heaven”? (Acts 22:20)
WHAT I LEARNED:
INSIGHT 1: The history of Christianity, the Church itself, starts with Abraham. (verse 2)
INSIGHT 2: Abraham was truly a man of faith because much of what God promised him was future-based. He had no possession in the Promised land God promised to give him, “…not even enough to set his foot on”, and the descendants would come centuries after his passing; yet, through it all, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend” (James 2:23)
INSIGHT 3: Steven was well versed in the scriptures and was empowered by the Holy Spirit in highlighting the central truths of Israel’s history.
INSIGHT 4: In spite of Moses’ excuse to God in Exodus 4:10 that he was as a man who had “never been eloquent… [and was] slow of speech and tongue.”; and the fact that God offers to use his brother Aaron as his megaphone, Stephen recounts Moses as being one who was “mighty in words and deeds” in Acts 7:22. These seemingly conflicting truths is easily resolved when God’s words in Exodus 4:11 is taken into account, “The Lord said to [Moses], “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
INSIGHT 5: The truths of Stephen’s sermon, especially in verse 41, still hold true today. We humans are prone to worship and often create idols of the things and people in our lives. Eve worse is the fact that, like the Israelites in the wilderness, we too rejoice in the works of our hands, our idol creations!
INSIGHT 6: Stephen’s statement in verse 42, “Then God turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven…” is the same truth that the apostle Paul (who, ironically was part of the murder of Stephen) would later preach in Romans 1.
- Romans 1:24 – “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.”
- Romans 1:26 – “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.”
- Romans 1:28 – “Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.”
INSIGHT 7: Stephen’s citing of Isaiah 66:1-2, “‘Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the Lord, Or what is the place of My rest? Has My hand not made all these things?”, is a stark reminder that God is not looking for us to “do” more things for Him or accomplish great feats on His behalf, rather, He is more pleased with us when we devote our lives to walking in obedience to His word and walking by faith in Him. (1 Samuel 15:22)
INSIGHT 8: Stephen took the gloves off in his sermon summary by attacking the religious council for committing the same sin that had brought judgment on the nation of Israel. He doesn’t appear to even be trying to win them over at this point, but was laying on them condemnation for their actions. When one considers that Stephen is described as being filled with/full of the Spirit at the beginning (Acts 6:15) and at the end of this sermon (Acts 6:55) , one can surmise that this was God’s pronouncement of judgment on the religious counsel coming through Stephen.
INSIGHT 9: Jesus met with Stephen at the moment of his death so that Stephen very possibly never actually walked the path of “the valley of the shadow of death.” Even if he did, it would have been a valley filled with the glory of God’s light! It makes me wonder how many brothers and sisters in Christ throughout history also saw “…the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” at the last moment of their death?
INSIGHT 10: For all who have trusted in Christ, Jesus strips death of its power over us so that when we come face to face with death at the last moment of our lives, we’ll never need to fear because it that moment, we’ll actually awaken to be received by the author of life who journeys with us into eternal bliss.
INSIGHT 11: Stephen’s last words were, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” (v.60). It’s no coincidence that while Stephen is dying and staring at Jesus at the right hand of God, he repeats the exact words of Jesus on the cross in Luke 23:34, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
Husband. Dad. Pastor. Nigerian American. Storyteller. Aspiring Prayer Warrior. Steak Lover. Follower of Jesus Christ reminding you that God the Father still loves you.