God’s Case against the Christ-Rejecting Court
God’s Case against the Christ-Rejecting Court
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - Oct. 6, 2013
*Here in Acts 7, Stephen has been on trial for his strong faith in Jesus Christ. And this was no small matter. This wasn’t a high school debate. Stephen was on trial for his life. The trial was a travesty of justice, because the charges against Stephen were all based on lies from false witnesses.
*Over the last three weeks, we have looked at some of the people Stephen mentioned in his defense: Abraham, Joseph, and Moses. We looked at their lives, because each of these men has so much to tell us about our own relationship with God.
*But tonight, we will look at the case God had been building against the Supreme Court of Israel. We know that God has been making the case, because the Holy Spirit led Stephen to say every word that came out of his mouth.
*Jesus made this truth clear to the Apostles in Matthew 10:17-20, when He said:
17. "But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.
18. And you will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.
19. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak;
20. for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you."
*Stephen was on trial before the Supreme Court of Israel. But they were on trial before the highest court of all! Let’s hear what happened in Acts 7:37-54.
*Stephen was on trial before the Supreme Court of Israel, but they were on trial before the highest court of all! And Church: The Lord will never lose a legal case, so here’s what we should do:
1. First: Put your name on God’s witness list.
 We’ve already looked at three of God’s witnesses: Abraham, Joseph and Moses. And we can learn a lot from these witnesses.
*Abraham shows us that we can be a friend of God. He also shows us that we can have faith in God. We can have faith in the Lord, even when He takes us to new places in life, and even when we have to wait a long time on the Lord.
*Joseph shows us that we must never give up on God, and we must never give up on God’s dreams for our life. Joseph also shows us that we can see God's Hand at work even in the bad things of life. Joseph’s brothers had sold him into slavery. But in Genesis 50:20, Joseph told them: "As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive."
*Moses shows us that God can use us even when we don’t think so. God called Moses when he was 80! And God can use us long after we think our chance is gone. God can use us far beyond our wildest dreams!
*David reminds us that God can forgive our worst sins. David also reminds us that we can come back from terrible failure.
*Solomon reminds us that God will give us wisdom if we ask for it. God can use us to build things for His glory, and God can use us to help other people worship.
 We can learn a lot from these witnesses. -- And we can lead like these witnesses.
*We can be like Stephen in this trial. We can take a bold stand for Jesus Christ. And we should stand up for the Lord, no matter the cost. Christians all around the world are doing that right now.
*A recent newsletter from our IMB included a story about recent persecution of Christians in Sri Lanka. That's the island nation off the southern tip of India, and twenty million people live there.
*Susie Rain wrote: "It was just a normal Sunday. Around 75 people gathered in the house rented as their church building for worship. Praise music drifted out the door. Prayers lifted to heaven. The pastor stood behind the pulpit and asked the congregation to open their Bibles. That’s when 'normal' came to a crashing end. Local Sri Lankan authorities stormed in from every exit, demanding the church service stop.
*Church members sat in shock until a bald man in saffron robes appeared. With the entrance of the village’s head Buddhist monk, people hid in back rooms, jumped out open windows or knocked chairs over to get out the door, only to meet up with an angry mob of nearly 1,000 people with sticks and stones. 'Leave or be killed,' the mob chanted.
*Four months later in August of this year, Sri Lanka's High Court ruled that churches could meet under the freedom of religion clause in that country's constitution. But the Christians are holding their breath on whether the violence against churches by Buddhist extremists will stop. (1)
*Persecution against Christians is on the rise around the world, and even here at home. But we should stand up for Jesus, no matter the cost.
*Robert Dyson reminds us why with these words of praise: "We praise Jesus because He has been a doctor when we were sick. We praise Him because has been a lawyer when we were in trouble. We praise Him because He has been mother for the motherless and father for the fatherless. We praise Him because He has been shelter from the rain, and medicine for our pain. We praise Him because He has been a rope of hope when we were sinking in the seas of sadness and sorrow.
*We praise Him because when we had fallen and couldn’t get up. He came where we were and put His loving arms around us, and lifted us from the muck and mire of sin." (2)
*We praise Jesus Christ most of all, because He died on the cross for our sins! And God wants us to add our names to the long line of witnesses who have made a difference in our world.
2. The Lord will never lose a legal case, so put your name on God’s witness list. -- And be persuaded of God's ultimate victory.
*We must be fully persuaded that no government can stand against God, so please listen again to the false charges against Stephen. We find them in Acts 6:13-14. And as we read, notice that there were basically two false charges against this man of God:
13. They also set up false witnesses who said, "This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law;
14. for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.''
*The two false charges against Stephen were that he was trying to destroy the Temple and the Old Testament Law.
 Now let's focus on God’s excellent defense against those false charges.
*In vs. 1-19, we saw the stories of Abraham and Joseph, and there, God reminds us that He was at work long before the customs of Moses. Then in vs. 20-36, Stephen retold the story of Moses. There, God reminds us that He was at work long before the temple was built. And in vs. 44-50 God reminds us that He is bigger than any man-made building!
44. "Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He appointed, instructing Moses to make it according to the pattern that he had seen,
45. which our fathers, having received it in turn, also brought with Joshua into the land possessed by the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers until the days of David,
46. who found favor before God and asked to find a dwelling for the God of Jacob.
47. But Solomon built Him a house.
48. However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says:
49. 'Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the Lord, or what is the place of My rest?
50. Has My hand not made all these things?'"
 All of that was God’s defense for the false charges against Stephen. -- But in this trial, God also made extremely serious charges against the court.
*God charged those judges with resisting Him and rejecting Him. How did God do that? First He showed their history of rejection.
*And as Stephen began to recite the history of Israel, God began to make His case against the judges. In vs. 9, God reminded them how His man Joseph had been rejected: "And the patriarchs, becoming envious, sold Joseph into Egypt. But God was with him"
*In vs. 27, God's man Moses was rejected: "But he who did his neighbor wrong pushed him away, saying, 'Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?'"
*Next, in vs. 35-39, we see more about the rejection of Moses:
35. "This Moses whom they rejected, saying, 'Who made you a ruler and a judge?' is the one God sent to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the Angel who appeared to him in the bush.
36. He brought them out, after he had shown wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness forty years.
37. This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear.'
38. This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us,
39. whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected. And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt."
*Then, in vs. 40-43, we see that the Children of Israel really weren’t just rejecting Moses. They were rejecting God!
40. "saying to Aaron, 'Make us gods to go before us; as for this Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.'
41. And they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.
42. Then God turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the Prophets: 'Did you offer Me slaughtered animals and sacrifices during forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?
43. Yes, you took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, images which you made to worship; and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.'"
*God showed these judges their history of rejection. Then in vs. 51-54, He showed them their heart of rejection:
51. "You stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.
52. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers,
53. who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.''
54. When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth."
*In vs. 54, those unbelieving judges were "cut to the heart" not in godly sorrow for their sins, but in raging anger against Stephen. They were so furious that they were literally grinding their teeth over his accusations. But in rejecting Stephen's message, these rulers were totally rejecting God.
*And today we have many leaders who are just as rebellious against the Lord. I could talk about this all night. But here is one gruesome statistic that proves the point: Since the Supreme Court ruled on Roe vs. Wade in 1973, over 55 million babies have been aborted in the United States.
*No government can long continue to stand against God. But because of the cross of Jesus Christ, we can stand with God!
*Malcolm Muggeridge was a well-known Christian journalist from Britain. Some years ago he spoke at a breakfast in Washington, D.C. And after giving his testimony, Muggeridge made a number of comments about world affairs, all of which were very pessimistic.
*Someone asked him, "Dr. Muggeridge, you have been very pessimistic. Don’t you have any reason for optimism?" Muggeridge replied, "My friend, I could not be more optimistic than I am, because my hope is in Jesus Christ alone."
*He allowed that remark to sink in for a few seconds, and then added this: "Just think if the apostolic church had pinned its hope on the Roman Empire." (3)
*We surely love our country, and we pray for godly leaders. On top of that, Christians should be fully involved every way possible to be salt and light in our nation. But no government can stand against God for very long. And the Lord will never lose a legal case, so be persuaded of God's ultimate victory.
3. Also pledge your full allegiance to the Lord.
*This is the third lesson tonight from Stephen’s trial. We must pledge our first and full allegiance to the Lord. In Acts 7, this means doing the exact opposite of these judges who rejected Christ. We must not resist the Holy Spirit. We must not be stiff necked and stubborn against God. We must be open to what God tries to tell us in His Word.
*They rejected Jesus Christ. We must open our hearts to Jesus to trust Him, and follow Him in every area of life. Jesus is Lord! He is the only Savior of the world! And He can use everyday people like us to make an everlasting difference in our world.
*I like the testimony Pastor Geoff Thomas once gave in his church. Geoff said:
-"Two weeks ago today I was preaching in Johannesburg in a Methodist church, and Dudley, the pastor, told me of his restoration after long years of backsliding. He was on vacation in London, and decided to go to the famous Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park, just to listen to the orators and political agitators.
*But 'some man' was there preaching the gospel. His face bore the marks of living years without God and without hope. But now he knew the power of the life we find in Christ.
*An educated man began to interrupt him: 'You are ruining my Sunday morning stroll with your nonsense,' he cried. The preacher was unperturbed, and continued to speak of the Lord Jesus. 'We don't need religion today,' the other man said. 'This is a scientific age. I myself am a graduate of Cambridge University.' 'Sir,' the old preacher replied, 'I envy you having gone to university. I never went to Cambridge or any college, but I have been to Calvary.'"
*And Geoff Thomas commented: "Those words are so artless, and almost a cliché in our circles. But God's Spirit used that phrase of 'some man' to humble and restore Dudley, and put him back in the gospel ministry. There are thousands of such examples of unsung, anonymous men and women whose identities we can never discover but who have known something of the living power of Jesus Christ. God used them to bring others to his Son who then saved them." (4)
*The world will probably never hear of me and you. But just like Stephen, we can make an eternal difference for Jesus Christ. And the Lord God will never lose a legal case:
-So put your name on God's witness list.
-Be persuaded of God's ultimate victory.
-And pledge your full allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ.
*Make the commitment you need to make this evening, as we go to God in prayer.
(1) Asia Stories - "Sri Lankan pastors, churches under attack" by Susie Rain - August 4, 2013
(2) Source: SermonCentral sermon "Why Do We Praise Him?" by Brent Baker - Psalm 63:3-5
(3) SermonCentral sermon "A Dream Come True" by Paul Decker - Matthew 4:12-17
(4) Online sermon "Jesus Christ Has Authority to Forgive Sins" by Geoff Thomas - Mark 2:1-12 - Jan. 19, 2003