Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost – A brief study in the seventh chapter of Acts.
False accusations have been brought against Stephen and now we find him before the high council of the Jews.
While most would react in anger, especially after being falsely accused, Stephen is just standing there placidly. So much so, that the scene is described as if they all saw the face of an angel as they glared at him.
Interesting, though the men with Daniel did not see the angel they fled in fear. Perhaps we are talking about a size issue. After all the men of Sodom went chasing after the angels that showed themselves there.
When the council finally asked Stephen to respond he gives them a very precise history of God’s hand in the salvation, sins, birth, and bondage of the nation Israel.
2 things have caught my attention as I read the seventh chapter. (I will pursue the second aspect in the near future, as exhaustion is rapidly gaining upon me.)
Acts 7:38 KJV This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and withour fathers: who received the lively oraclesto give unto us:
As I read through the various translations, one might say “living words”, and there should be no doubt that they are, while the other translates it as “life giving words.” Life giving has a completely different meaning.
The phrase lively oracles in Greek is: logia zonta – meaning living doctrines that give life upon obedience to them. Here, in this passage, the term applies to Moses’ law. “In Romans 3:2 it refers to the O.T., in general. In Hebrews 3:12 and 1Peter 4:11 it encompasses all of scripture.”(Vines expository dictionary of Bible words)
Romans 3:2 NIrV There is great value in every way! First of all, the Jews have been given the very words of God.
Hebrews 3:12 KJV Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
1 Peter 4:11 NIV If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Considering that I never thought of the law as anything other than a form of bondage, I have to now re-think my understanding.
One of the things that crossed my mind a couple of years ago, as my bible study group stumbled through Romans, was that Paul taught these concepts that we read in Romans based upon the old testament law and prophets, of which he was very familiar, and a personal/spiritual meeting with the living God.
Conceptually, the idea of living doctrines conveys: teaching or instructions that are alive.
We perceive alive as something that breathes, moves, and has some variable, visible aspect like tree growth.
A tree might be a great example in that it, from a simple, miniscule start, develops into a foundational plant with developing characteristics of what it’s potential can be.
Does the tree change? Not in it’s designed characteristics. Initially it could look no different from any other tree until it leafs out. The changes in the tree are growth enlargements as it gets taller, wider, stronger, and with maturity, produces fruit.
Most trees go through seasons where they leaf out, drop their leaves, go dormant for a time, and then produce leaves again. An irony in our comparison could be the Sasanqua Camellia. For it’s dormant season, a time of presumed bleakness and inactivity, is when it produces it’s spectacular floral displays. Consider that when it comes to our lives in Christ.
If we have grown, allowing God and time to mature us, then when a time of dormancy occurs, all the work involved in that growth may now be producing some fruit or foliage in the life of someone completely out of our field of view.
As a side note: I really enjoy listening to Dr. Chuck Misler, and I heard him teach a bit on Stephen’s discourse a few years ago. I think Chuck says this about every aspect and book of the bible. Dr. Misler speaks as though Stephen’s exposition before the Jewish council is one of the most significant and revealing looks into the history of the Nation Israel.
I opted to read through the books of Acts, as I had not been here for a little while, and I knew that it would be refreshing. Much like the fact that Jesus did more things than the bible could hold, each trip through a book I have not visited for some time, reveals things like I have never seen them before. I had started a paper on an aspect of chapter six, which I will post in the future, but this one verse in chapter seven speaks volumes to me.
If you take the time to meditate upon it. Meditate: to chew upon it as a cow chews cud. (Now there is a visual for you.) It is stunning the things you find. I can now tell you with confidence that God’s word or law will bring life, but then why wouldn’t it, isn’t Jesus the Word, and life himself?
Enjoy the journey while we can. Next stop, heaven.
Hope to see you there.