Friday, February 10, 2012

The Sovereignty of God on the Damascus Road: Saul's Prey Part 2

Previous Series Links:
The Sovereignty of God on the Damascus Road: Introduction
The Sovereignty of God on the Damascus Road: Saul's Past
The Sovereignty of God on the Damascus Road: Saul's Prey Part 1

The Martyr Stephen

Previously in this series, we found out who Saul hated so much that he woke up every morning breathing threats and murder. Saul hated Christians. To answer why anyone could hate a Christian so much I thought we should look at the Christian who set Saul off in the first place. The threats and murderous intentions Saul was intending to unleash on the Christians of Damascus was nothing new. He had taken part in the murder of Christians before; there was of course the martyr Stephen.

This is establishing your own righteousness in action.
And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ ~Acts 22:19,20

Stephen was a faithful man of God and one of the original seven chosen to serve as a deacon to the fledgling church in Jerusalem. During the course of his ministry, there were some Jews who accused him of blaspheming God and Moses (Acts 6:11,12) as well as speaking against the temple and the Law (Acts 6:13). When given the opportunity to answer the accusation of blasphemy, Stephen gave a defense which recounted the history of the Hebrew people beginning with Abraham (Acts 7:1-8).

He spoke also of Isaac and Jacob, and of Joseph’s sojourn in Egypt which ultimately led to 430 years of slavery for the Hebrew people (Acts 7:9-16). Stephen explained how God called Moses and through him delivered the Israelites from bondage, but the people were stiff-necked and rebelled against God. Stephen would then draw a parallel between their rebellious ancestors and their own stiff necks in rejecting God’s Messiah, Jesus...

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” ~Acts 7:51-53

When Stephen unmasked their self righteousness they responded by stoning him to death (Acts 7:54-60) and Saul, after consenting to the murder, watched over the coats and robes of those who would take up the stones so they would not be bloodied. This ferocious and vicious murder is the result of self righteousness being revealed. That is why Saul and others hated Christians so. The disciples of the Lord represent the One who exposed the dark and futile hope of a form of righteousness apart from God’s own righteousness. Saul would later write a letter to the Christians in Rome explaining the plight of these Jews.

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. ~Romans 10:1-4

A true disciple of the Lord Jesus is one who exposes the false hope of self righteousness by correctly and lovingly using the Word of God to reveal the total inability of man to do anything to earn, or warrant salvation. Are we as faithful to the Great Commission as Stephen was? Are we willing to risk even our lives to share the Gospel? The next installment we will see how the fragile and damning facade of self righteousness must be propped up with religious legitimacy.

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.  ~Acts 9:1,2

No comments:

Post a Comment