The Church's appointment of these seven men had far-reaching consequences. Perhaps the Church had reached that number of adherents which the authorities perceived as a serious threat: no longer could they heed Gamaliel's words and wait and see! It was also the thin edge of the wedge, because it could no longer be taken that these Christians were some offshoot of Judaism which complimented the religion. In Judaism, God-believing Gentiles and even Greek-speaking Jews were treated as second class citizens. However, the news was that in the Christian Church, everyone was treated as equal and the actions of the apostles in appointing these men supported those claims. Not one of the seven had a Jewish name and Stephen will speak before the Sanhedrin, proclaiming that God wanted both Jews and Gentiles in His family! We have a very long chapter dealing with Stephen's words for his defence and we are looking at part today. He took a panoramic view of Jewish history and begins with Abraham, the father of all Jews. He notes three things: 1. Abraham was a man who answered God's summons. He had no idea where he would end up, but he travelled trusting in Yahweh. 2. Abraham was a man of faith. He believed that the best was yet to come, because the God of all was guiding him. God had promised him a lasting and multitudinous inheritance and he trusted Him even though he had no children. 3. Abraham was a man of hope. He never saw the promise entirely fulfilled, but he never doubted that it would be. The Jews wanted to hang on to their past: Stephen contrasted their desire to cling on to the big events of the olden days by presenting their patriarch as a man of adventure, faith and hope. Stephen goes on to present Joseph's life as similar to Abraham's. He did much of his travelling as a slave, but still he was eager to accept each new episode positively, because He saw the hand of God in it. We cannot go back, we have to go on. Yes, we can hark back to Billy Graham and to the days that the majority of English people attended church, but the Holy Spirit is doing a new thing and we must ask ourselves the question: Are our minds so taken up with what has gone that we are no longer sensitive to the Spirit or willing to move where He guides?
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