Acts 7 Exhortation Reading: Acts 7 Bro Sam Mansfield
2007年4月29日讲道词 读经：使徒行传第7章 山姆 曼斯菲尔德弟兄
The chapter we have read to introduce this mornings exhortation contains one of the most important speeches in the book of Acts.
It was delivered by a man named Stephen. Stephen is first mentioned in Acts 6. He was one of seven brethren appointed by the apostles to ensure that the welfare delivered by the ecclesia in Jerusalem was distributed fairly. These brethren are described in Acts 6:3 : men of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. So Stephen had a reputation as an honest man, he was full of the power of the Holy Spirit and he was recognized as being a wise man. In addition to this he is described in Acts 6:8 as being ‘full of faith and power’. So in the eyes of his brethren and sisters in Jerusalem he was recognized as being both faithful and wise. Even his enemies were forced to recognize the wisdom of Stephen, as Acts 6:10 states, they were not able to ‘resist the wisdom and spirit by which he spake’. So the speech we have read in Acts 7 is not delivered by any ordinary man. It was delivered by a man who was wise and faithful, and a man who was guided in what he spoke by the holy spirit.
What is the speech about? Stephen had been brought before the Jewish religious authorities to answer accusations that had been leveled at him. These accusations are found in Acts 6:11 – that he had spoken ‘blasphemous words against Moses and against God’. These accusations were of course untrue, but they were further expanded in Acts 6:13-14 where it was said of Stephen : ‘This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.’ Now these were a different set of accusations to speaking blasphemy, but in the mind of the Jewish elders they amounted to the same thing.
The Jews believed that God had placed his name in Jerusalem, at the temple and that he would always preserve both the temple and their traditional way of worship which they thought came straight from the law of Moses. In addition to this they assumed that there was no other way to serve God, except through the rituals of the law; and that there was no other place in which God could be served other than in the temple in Jerusalem. Stephen’s speech in Acts 7 set out to show from examples from the Jews’ own history that firstly, God had appeared to people outside of Jerusalem, even outside the borders of the holy land and secondly that many people had successfully established a relationship with God without using the rituals and offerings established by the Law of Moses.
犹太人认为 神将他的名建在耶路撒冷的圣殿里，相信 神会一直保护他的殿并保存犹太人传统的由摩西律法而来的敬拜方式。不单如此，他们还认为除律法的仪式之外，没有其他侍奉神的方式；除耶路撒冷的神殿以外，没有其他侍奉神的地方。而司提反在使徒行传：7中的申述就从犹太民自己的历史中找到例子来证明以下问题：首先，神曾对耶路撒冷之外，甚至是对圣地之外的人显现；其次，有很多人并没有通过摩西律法的仪式和献祭来建立与神的联系。
Let’s have a look at a couple of examples that Stephen uses in his speech to prove his points.
Stephen opens his argument with the example of Abraham. All of the Jews were proud to be descendents of Abraham. Christ himself had revealed how proud the Jews were of their ancestor Abraham in Luke 3:8: Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. The Jews thought that mere descent from Abraham would guarantee their salvation. So there was no better example for Stephen to begin with than their own patriarch. What does Stephen show from Abraham? Acts 7:2 : And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran. The most obvious point about Abraham, as Stephen states was that when God first called him, he was living no where near the promised land, no where near Jerusalem, and of course hundreds of years before the first temple was built. The Jew’s patriarch, in whom they placed so much faith and pride, was not saved because he worshipped God in Jerusalem. God appeared to him when he was still living on the other side of the Euphrates river.
他最先提到了亚伯拉罕的例子。所有的犹太人都以自己是亚伯拉罕的后裔为荣。在路加福音3：8中，基督自己也表现了犹太人的这种骄傲：你们要结出果子来，与悔改的心相称，不要自己心里说：‘有亚伯拉罕为我们的祖宗。’我告诉你们： 神能从这些石头中给亚伯拉罕兴起子孙来。而犹太人认为只要是亚伯拉罕的子孙就可以保证他们得拯救。所以司提反从他们自己的先祖亚伯拉罕开始做申诉是再好不过的。那么司提反通过亚伯拉罕的例子想说明什么呢？使徒行传7：2：司提反说：“诸位父兄请听！当日我们的祖宗亚伯拉罕在美索不达米亚还未住哈兰的时候，荣耀的 神向他显现。”司提反这里提到亚伯拉罕最主要的一点是 神最早呼召他的时候，他并没有住在应许之地，也没有住在耶路撒冷，当然距离第一所圣殿建立的时间还有几百年。这位犹太人如此信靠的并引以为傲的先祖，并不是因为他在耶路撒冷敬拜神而得救。神最初向他显现的时候，他还住在幼发拉底河的另一边。
Not only that, but Stephen goes on to show that even when Abraham did finally come to the promised land, he didn’t actually own any of it. Read Acts 7:5 : And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child. Even when Abraham did live in the promised land, he lived there as a foreigner, he didn’t own even enough land to put his foot down. Yet we know that God promised it to him and to his seed. Abraham will inherit the land one day, but that is yet to come – when Christ returns to the earth. The Jews that Stephen was speaking to thought that they owned the land, that that was what made them special. Well, says Stephen, you may have temporary ownership of the land now, but don’t forget that Abraham didn’t own any of it, yet God has guaranteed his salvation. So present ownership of the land has nothing to do with salvation, in the eyes of God.
The next personal example that Stephen bring up is that of Joseph – Abraham’s great grandson and again a man that all the Jews held in great respect as one of the twelve sons of Jacob. Stephen begins speaking about Joseph in Acts 7:9: And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him, And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house. Firstly, Stephen shows that sometimes the men the Jews revered (the patriarchs) were not always holy or good men. They sold Joseph because they were envious of him. But despite his brothers selling him into Egypt, God continued to be with Joseph. This is even though Egypt was hundreds of kilometres from Jerusalem and the holy land. God did not abandon Joseph just because he could not worship him at Jerusalem, God was there, with Joseph in Egypt.
Not only was God working with Joseph, in Egypt – but in the promised land where there was a drought. Stephen shows in Acts 7:11: Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance. But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first. Jacob, who was in the promised land, was forced to look to Egypt to find food. So God provided food for the patriarchs, but they had to travel away from the promised land to get it. Again Stephen is showing that God is prepared to work in all nations to save those he has called. Salvation is not dependent on a connection to the promised land.
Another example that Stephen uses is that of Moses. He points out that when God first appeared to Moses, in the burning bush, that he was in the wilderness near Sinai – hundreds of kilometres from Jerusalem. Yet God tells him to remove his shoes for the place where thou standest is holy ground (Acts 7:33). Again Stephen was showing that God is prepared to work with his people wherever they were – even in the desert in Sinai; and that wherever God’s presence is, there is holy ground. This is not limited to the temple or the city of Jerusalem.
Stephen also points out that Moses was rejected by his own nation – the people that he came to save. Acts 7:35 : this Moses they refused, 7:39 to whom our fathers would not obey. Stephen was showing that just like their fathers had rejected Moses, who God had sent to save them, so the Jews had also rejected Christ who would have been their saviour. Not only that, but Moses prophesied that God would send a prophet like himself : A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear. (Acts 7:37). This was a prophecy by Moses of the coming of Christ, yet they rejected Christ in the same way their fathers had rejected Moses.
Stephen draws on many examples in Israel’s history throughout his speech to show that the Jew’s reliance on their connection with the land and the temple was wrongly founded, and that God could in fact work anywhere. It is worth going through Acts 7 slowly and working out how Stephen makes his point though the many other examples he selects.
What lessons can we learn from Stephen’s speech in Acts 7 that are suitable for us as we prepare to eat and drink the bread and wine today? One clear lesson is that God is prepared to work with us no matter what our circumstances are. It doesn’t matter that we are not descendents of Abraham, or that we do not live in the holy land, or that we cannot worship in a temple in Jerusalem. Paul’s words in Galatians reinforce this point for us. Gal 3:26-29: For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. God has called people of all nationalities and all social standings to be saved. What matters is not our nationality or occupation but the faith that we have in Christ Jesus. It is our faith that makes us children of faithful Abraham.
Stephen himself was a man full of faith – as we saw from Acts 6:8. It was this faith that enabled him to speak clearly and boldly to his accusers. It was this faith that enabled him to face death for Christ’s sake, and will ensure him a place in God’s kingdom. There is only one way that we can develop a similar faith and that is by continually reading God’s word. Romans 10:17 tells us that faith cometh by hearing – and hearing by the word of God. If we apply ourselves to the reading and meditation on the Bible, then our faith will develop and grow and we, like Stephen, will be confident of our place in God’s kingdom when his son returns to this earth.
Background to Acts 7
The Example of Abraham
The Example of Joseph
The Example of Moses
Lessons for Us