“Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him (Stephen) with one accord; 58 and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
(The Stoning of Stephen.)
Ok. Let’s recap what we’ve discussed so far. The Jews have rejected their Messiah, #1) IN PERSON during the time He was ministering to Israel, going about doing nothing but good and healing ALL who came to Him. #2) They rejected Him after He rose from the dead during the 40 days he walked among them in His resurrected form, and #3) They rejected Him in the preaching of Peter.
Chance After Chance.
God gave them chance after chance. Had they accepted Him at any one of those points, HE WOULD HAVE RETURNED and set up His VISIBLE KINGDOM. Yep; you read right: The second coming would have happened back then! He would have returned! The persecution of the church, which began with Peter, went on all the way until Stephen was stoned, as you just read in the opening passage from chapter 7 of the book of Acts.
As Stephen preached to the Jewish leadership, his face shone like an angel. But when he called them “rebellious,” well, that was the last straw. They couldn’t take it anymore.
“When they heard these things THEY WERE CUT TO THE HEART, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, GAZED INTO HEAVEN AND SAW THE GLORY OF GOD, AND JESUS STANDING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and THE SON OF MAN STANDING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD!” Then they cried out with a loud voice, STOPPED THEIR EARS, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him….” (Acts 7:54-57)
Why Was Jesus Standing?
Wait, what?! Jesus was standing? I thought He was SEATED at the right hand of the Father. Why was He standing? HE WAS STANDING READY TO RETURN! If the Jewish leaders had repented at Stephen’s preaching, He would have split the clouds and come back right then and there!
“But as they stoned him he prayed, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” Did you catch that? Stephen, in so saying, just like Jesus , also put them under the Leviticus trespass offering, which we discussed in part 6. And look who was there as a witness to their evil deed: “The witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named SAUL.”
God Begins To Move Outside Israel.
In the midst of this great wickedness, God would raise that young man, a Pharisee of Pharisees, an ultra legalist, and turn him into THE GREATEST GOSPEL PREACHER OF ALL TIME: The Apostle Paul!! That’s the goodness of our God! It boggles the mind!
In the wake of Israel’s rejection, God wasted no time in shifting gears. The very next chapter, Acts 8, records that the Holy Spirit brought Phillip to a man from Ethiopia. He was a eunuch who was reading from the scroll of Isaiah, but he didn’t understand what he was reading. Philip used this passage to preach the gospel to him, the man got saved, and Phillip water baptized him
For the first time GOD BEGAN TO MOVE OUTSIDE ISRAEL, saving Gentiles! HALLELUJAH!
The Three Sons Of Noah.
Ethiopians are descendants of Noah’s son, Ham. He was the forerunner of the Black races of Africa. Then in chapter 9 Saul, who became the Apostle Paul, was saved. He is from the line of Shem. Middle Eastern peoples are descended from him. In chapter 10, Peter was sent to the home of the Roman centurion, Cornelius. He preached to the Gentiles gathered in his house. Even though he didn’t give an “altar call,” so to speak, nevertheless, the Holy Spirit fell on them and they spoke in tongues. Peter was flabbergasted! NEVER in his entire life did he expect Gentiles to get saved! You see, he still didn’t quite understand God’s ultimate plan: to save the whole world! Aren’t you glad God had the whole world in mind?
Yep. You guessed it: Cornelius was an Italian, a descendant of Noah’s son, Japheth. All the Caucasian races descended from him. Three chapters in a row we see God beginning to moving outside Israel, saving ALL of Noah’s descendants! That includes you and I!
Please join me for Part 11. We’ll begin looking at the rest of Acts in our series of Rightly Dividing The Word Of God: