“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.)
The Son of God Himself came to His own, but they did not receive Him. The Jewish people rejected their Messiah three times: #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 after chance. Had they accepted Him at any one of those points, He set up His VISIBLE KINGDOM. He would have turned right around and the second coming would have happened back then! But, as you know, that didn’t happen. They began to persecute the people of “The Way.
This 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 he preached to the Jewish leadership, his face shone like an angel. But then he called them “rebellious.” They didn’t like that very much. It was the last straw. Look what happened:
Acts 7:54-57 “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….”
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 and Peter before him, he also placed them under the Leviticus trespass offering, which we discussed in part 6. 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!!
WOW!!! That’s the goodness of our God! That just boggles my 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, literally raptured him, 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. Then The Holy Spirit raptured Phillip again and whisked him away to another place. Amazing!
The meeting of these two men is the first time GOD BEGAN TO MOVE OUTSIDE ISRAEL. He is reaching out and saving Gentiles! HALLELUJAH!
The Three Sons Of Noah.
Noah had three sons: Ham, Shem, and Japheth. Ethiopians are descendants of Ham, who was the forerunner of the Black races of Africa. This occurred in chapter 8.
In chapter 9 Saul, who became the Apostle Paul, got saved after being knocked off his horse on the way to Damascus. He is from the line of Shem. All Middle Eastern peoples are descended from him.
In the very next chapter, 10, Peter was sent by the Holy Spirit to the home of the Roman centurion, Cornelius, to preach to the Gentiles gathered for Bible study in his house. Before he finished his sermon, as he was speaking, 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, the. Jews still didn’t quite understand God’s plan. He wanted to save the whole world! Cornelius was an Italian, a descendant of Japheth. All the Caucasian races descended from him.
To read more about this amazing centurion and what happened at his house, you may follow the link below:
WOW!!! In these three chapters right in a row we see God beginning to moving OUTSIDE ISRAEL. Now He is reaching out to ALL of Noah’s descendants, not just Israel.
Saul, who became Paul, would make three missionary journeys and continue to preach the gospel first to his fellow Jews, then to the Gentiles wherever he went. Though God was no longer dealing only with Israel, He never turned His back on them.
Please join me for Part 11. We’ll begin looking at the rest of the book of Acts in our series of Rightly Dividing The Word Of God: