AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH – July 26, 2009
A CONTINUATION OF THE
ORIGINAL THRUST AND BASE OF
THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA, ON CHANGELESS BIBLICAL LINES
STEPHEN : CENTRIFUGAL FROM HIMSELF, CENTRED IN CHRIST - Part IV
REVIEW: THE RABBLE OF THE IMPEACHMENT
Stephen we have followed in his meteoric course. Notable were his life of faith and nobility, his serviceability, closeness to the people, signs and wonders wrought by the power of God, testimony to the Messiah whom they had so recently killed, irresistible arguments from the Bible as it then was, the Old Testament, concerning the point: Jesus is the Messiah and in Him is the fulfilment.
SO notable were they that false accusers were induced to testify against him. It is always deplorable when a body daring and caring to use the name of Jesus Christ, resorts to lies, truth squashing episodes, closed eye techniques, abortions of due enquiry and intemperate hypocrisies, as if truth were near, so near that they could do a Judas on it. Often have I found this as I have testified of this same Jesus, and this, it merely fulfils the great turning aside forecast in II Peter 2, II Thessalonians 2, Matthew 24:24, so that if it had not been thus, in due course the unthinkable would occur: the Bible would be wrong. But right it is! It HAS occurred, I myself have repeatedly experienced it in nation after nation. The time is ripe.
With Stephen it meant death by stoning. But what a carriage way to heaven was his, as amidst the falling stones, crushing the magnificent equipment which God has given to each one of us, a veritable orchestra of sound-sight-touch-vision-feel instruments, not only with conducting facilities from a logical apparatus, but a capacity to love people, ideas and values at the touch of the key of desire! How people can be so valiant for evil as to so attack what the Creator has made is always a question! To do so wickedly, corruptly, while speaking of righteousness, this is hypocrisy so great as to make one almost wince, as if seeing a baby lamb being minced, bit by bit.
However, they did it.
There is a line, a code of conduct, a marred and murderous mode of relationship with the word of God which has been all too apparent for all too long!
Let us review first, just a little, the precise position which Stephen had before them.
Perhaps Stephen was saying, As for the destroying of the Temple, as a result of their sin in killing the One for whom it stood, they would indeed lose it. Thus those who mock with proud, stubborn and restless hearts, might find their mockery return like an echo to themselves with a mimicry all to close to their own mockery and to their misjudging malady of the tongue, with which they attacked the very servants of God. However any thought of some sort of assault and attack to be wrought by the Jesus who made it clear that if they killed Him, the temple of truth, then in three days He would raise it up, was mere vapour, ludicrous, an atrocity with words (John 2:19-21).
Further, what Jesus said was not I WILL DESTROY THE TEMPLE, but rather as we read in John: DESTROY THIS TEMPLE AND I WILL RAISE IT UP. How does slander raise its sickly head. How does it go ? the word 'destroy' is used, and the word 'temple' so He must have said something about destroying the temple: just the sort of thing he would say! Thus might it go through the imaginative mind of the story weaver. But it was YOU DESTROY it and I WILL RAISE IT UP. This is the direct opposite! Their testimony was vile and in vain; and it was deliberate false witness, INDUCED (Acts 6:11) by those seeking to exterminate a witness to a truth whose words THEY COULD NOT RESIST! Here then is argument set in stone: he argues, they stone!
To be sure, the inducement was to 'witnesses' to state that he had blasphemed against God and in his speech about Moses; but we also read in Acts 6:13, that they "set up" false witnesses to make this false word about destroying the temple, so the coverage is correct, just as theirs was obtained in order to bash truth before they stoned Stephen. A worthy operation!
THE HIGH PRODUCTIVITY OF THE SPEECH, LIFE AND DEATH OF STEPHEN
At the trial, as we saw last week, Stephen gave a speech of clarity and impact.
Notably there was one there to hear Stephen's speech, and that ? it was the Saul, the apostle to be, newly to be named Paul. His words was registered there. Thus, if Stephen was cut off in a prodigious ministry, yet from the seed of his death there arose a vast forest of firs, as it were, a whole European and Middle Eastern ministry through the Saul who saw it, who heard it, who would find that same Lord to whom Stephen gave attestation in miracle, in word, in deed and in death. Paul too, he would carry it on with miracle, speech, in deed and in death...
Thus words of that witness would be given to Paul the apostle, from that same divine and dynamic source, just as Moses was given a significant part of the Old Testament, as scribe for God. Accordingly, through this same witness of Stephen's death, would be given much of the NEW Testament by the inspiration of God. How ample is the divine wisdom, how sure and true it is, that while the devil seeks to close in and conquer the people of God, imprison a Bunyan, burn a Cranmer, cook a Huss, kill a Tyndale, deride sound teachers and seek lustily, drunken with self-conceit, for false teachers as now. Yet God acts to preserve truth, in His own inimitable way. What does II Timothy 4 tell us ?
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers, and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turn aside to fables."
Yet God has His answer. He is not mocked. The mockery accrues to the mockers, as in Proverbs 1.
calls aloud outside;
She raises her voice in the open squares.
She cries out in the chief concourses,
At the openings of the gates in the city
She speaks her words:
long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?
For scorners delight in their scorning,
And fools hate knowledge.
Surely I will pour out my spirit on you;
I will make my words known to you.
'Because I have called and you refused,
I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded,
Because you disdained all my counsel,
And would have none of my rebuke,
I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when your terror comes,
When your terror comes like a storm,
And your destruction comes like a whirlwind,
When distress and anguish come upon you.
they will call on me, but I will not answer;
They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me.
Because they hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the Lord,
They would have none of my counsel
And despised my every rebuke.
'Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way,
And be filled to the full with their own fancies.
For the turning away of the simple will slay them,
And the complacency of fools will destroy them;
But whoever listens to me will dwell safely,
And will be secure, without fear of evil.' "
Unsubdued in his day, Stephen gives us a lead in rebuttal , as in non-conformity to the misconduct of spiritual mischief, the delinquencies of deceit. Such was the wisdom given to the lips of Stephen, who seeing Christ at the right hand of God, declaimed that fact, while moving on to seek from God forgiveness for his tormentors as he died. His last energies were for his enemies (Acts 7:60). In their onrush to kill, the spirit livid, the mind obsessed, wrath excited, death sentence drooling from slavering lips - such is the appearance of the tableau as presented in Acts 7, they spatter stones like a wild cement mixer, their sin cast in stones that flew with hatred from their vehement source. Stephen their target, extinction their aim, the religious mob acted.
Do they not do so even now, in this religion and that; for as Orissa shows, while it is a speciality of Islam revived strenuously in its militant masses, as a very active ingredient in our generation, yet that is by no means the start of it; nor is it the only religion with exponents practising such atrocities and horrors. It would be good to learn from this.
Stoning! that simple but slowly effective mode of securing a departure of the human spirit from the bones for structure and the flesh for complex functions enabling man as one whole to be a person of this kind or that, as he goes this way or that: this was their choice. They battered his body but not his spirit. "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" he cried as he was yielding it. Yet he was not done, as forgiveness in a mighty surge seized his flying spirit: "Lord, do not charge them with this sin!" came the word of the dying patriot, lover of God, true son of Israel.
THE CHARGE OF THE DARK BRIGADE: THEN AND TO COME
A false prophet was the name falsely assigned for the true one, just as a false Messiah was the name for the true one. What a testimony and what a cost! When will man learn the high cost of untruthful living!
How often does humanity seethe in spirit at the very ornament of spirit, hate the hallowed and fall at the same time, in feckless witlessness for the most brazen of real deceits. It is as if reeling from passion in the rejection of what is true, it then becomes so drunk with power, with blurring of vision, that it accepts what is disastrously false. It even does it willingly! Hitler was one such case, and more and more world leaders seem increasingly to be cast in much the same mould. Far from what was thought when they were elected, they yet pander to corruption and please dissidence from the Lord, as they wallow without wisdom, with the effrontery of delusion.
The folly of hatred, incandescent self-belief and cultural conditioning, it is lethal indeed. Its wounds can be mortal, as in a sword fight, for in a moment, the blade pierces the heart. Blessed is the one who using the shield of faith, is invulnerable to the lusts of devil, world and flesh; and even if he fall, yet being the Lord's, is raised up!
The sheer, callow, culturally dominated misconceptions and mischiefs in the hearts of Stephen's slayers are but a prelude. The main symphony is to come, perhaps not today or tomorrow; but remember this, the restoration of Jerusalem to Israel, a thing hated by many nations and by those with much power of purse and propaganda, such as appears to come from the UN, and many in it, definitively determines one thing.
It did not do it in 1947, for then it had not happened. It was completely so only in 1980 - though it started in 1967 - when the formal announcement was put through the Knesset concerning their eternal capital, Israel's Jerusalem. Christ, whose errors number zero, made it simple and clear even for babes: WHEN Jerusalem is back in their hands, THEN the time of His return is near.
It is useless to pretend. It has happened once in some 1900 years. The new Stephens, on your marks! for as Jesus declared, people would even KILL, imagining that in this death to Christians, they would be doing God service! (John 16:2). In Orissa in India, in the past few weeks, this is precisely what has been happening, as formerly in the USSR, just as in China so many have long been assaulted, imprisoned, sought out, in order to be put under squalid supervision, morally impaled with false charges. This has long been the testimony, and Harry Wu of fame for it in the US in particular, is only one voice to be heard.
The confluence of iniquity, of various mounting charges against the Christians, various streams of effluent waters from the lakes of philosophy and militant desire, yes and greed, this is to come. Revelation 13 indicates some of the methods of financial control, Revelation 17 some of the religious attendants; for THIS TIME, they will not try to REMOVE religion, as in reckless Marxism, but instead to USE and ABUSE it. They will even specialise, having a 'dedicated' false prophet for the purpose, and a second BEAST to come with this ... shall we call it, his ministerial field... (Revelation 13:11-15, 16:13, 19:20).
What political name might the 'beast' - that politico-social-military-religious potency of power - give to this operation ? "State security worship" as if in China, or Prostrations of Piety ? As to the false prophet ? perhaps he could be called, The Minister for Religious Works … perhaps ? As the end comes for this Age, he not only stands behind the elevation of an image of the beast, some signal, sign, monument, exhibit or other, but seeks to induce, nay command all to worship it!
Therefore rejoice, for the time of meeting the Lord is near; and if the end of the academic 'year' brings examination, then in this more, for then the Age moves to the return of Christ! Being prepared, wait for it! Wait with expectation, for it will surely come. Yet nothing is too hard for the Lord: to serve Him, this is delight, and to endure, it is privilege. Rest also in Him, as you trust Him, delight yourself also in Him, and He who comes, it is HE who will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37).