Usually we balk at the idea of a preacher not using any Scripture in his sermon, as well we should. But there is at least one example of the apostle Paul preaching a sermon without referencing any Scripture. It’s his sermon to the Areopagus in Acts 17, and though he teaches Scriptural truth, he doesn’t quote any Biblical texts as he presents the truth to idolatrous philosophers.
And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, (Acts 4:29, ESV)
I really love what the apostles do here. They’ve recently been commanded by the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem to no longer preach in the name of Jesus. Of course their answer to that was a resounding, “No way.” They had said in verse 20 that they couldn’t help but speak of what they had seen and heard. They couldn’t help but preach about Jesus. And later on in Chapter 5, they will tell the Jewish leaders that they had to obey God rather than men, and thus they must continue preaching about Jesus.
I love this little verse though. How did they respond to the persecution that they were being faced with? They didn’t ask that it be taken away. Certainly they could have. They could have asked God to protect them from the Jewish leaders, but what do they ask for? They ask for boldness to speak the Word of God.
Maybe we should take an example from the apostles today. Too many of us, I’m afraid, are hesitant when it comes to speaking the Truth because we know that we are going to face persecution because of it. In our increasingly sinful society, many people don’t want to hear God’s Word. So it is my prayer that, come what may, we be given boldness to speak the Truth in the face of the persecution.
Father God in Heaven, hallowed be your name. I ask you Father that you give all who wear the name of your son, all who are Christians, be granted boldness to speak the Truth of your holy Word, despite what persecutions may arise. I pray that we have the same attitude that your apostles had when the church was still so young. Lord, grant us boldness. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.
I hope you will pray that prayer today as well. Have a great day, and God bless.
I know, I know, I’ve been really terrible about getting these posts out. Been a busy time around here and just haven’t gotten around to posting things. Finally I’m gonna post the final part of my series on Teaching the Lost Like Stephen from Acts 7. If you haven’t already, I might suggest first reading Acts 7 and then going back and reading my previous posts in this topic.
We have already discussed three ways that Stephen taught the lost. He taught using something the knew and understood, he taught them the truth, and nothing but the truth, and he taught them without fear. Today we are going to discuss how Stephen taught with love.
In Acts 7, beginning in verse 54, the Bible reads:
Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Even as Stephen fell to his knees about to die from stoning, he spoke with love toward his fellow man. His statement, “Lord do not hold this sin against them,” should remind us of what our Lord said from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Love is such a central theme to so much of the Bible. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 that no matter what gifts we may have, or what knowledge or faith we may possess, without love, we have nothing. Jesus told his followers in Matthew 5, “Love your enemies.” In John’s first epistle, he reminds us that if we say we love God, but hate our brother, we are lying. Paul encouraged the Ephesians to speak the truth, “in love (Eph 4:15).”
There are three kinds of people when it comes to this idea that Paul discusses in Eph 4:15. First, there are some who ignore the truth. They are loving and love to say, “Jesus loves you,” but they leave it at that. They don’t teach the truth about sin. While the message may sound good, it doesn’t teach the whole counsel of God, so it is actually leading souls away from God.
Second, there are some who ignore the love. Sure, they teach the truth, but they do so in such a way that anyone who hears that message will not receive it because the message is so hateful.
Thankfully, there is a third option, and in reality it is the only option if we hope to bring people to Christ, and that is “speaking the truth in love.” No doubt we have to teach the truth, even concerning sin, but when teaching that truth it should be with an attitude of, “I’m doing this because I care about you,” and not, “Look how good I am and how bad you are because you are doing this sin.” Remember what the Lord said about removing the plank from your own eye before removing the speck from your brothers.
If we are ever going to hope to reach someone who is lost, we have to have love in our hearts. That doesn’t mean we don’t say what needs to be said. But, so many people, who may in all honesty have good intentions, are so unloving when they talk about the Gospel. Some I’ll even go as far as to say are hateful. For this reason, there are some, who are lost, who won’t even come near a church building. They believe that all Christian’s are like that. I’ve heard people say that. They’ve been around so many hateful “Christians” that they think that’s par for the course. But that’s not how we are is it? That’s not the example we have from the early church is it? And that’s not the example we see from Stephen.
Paul who was present at Stephen’s stoning would later write in Colossians 4:5-6:
Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
How are we conducting ourselves when we reach out to the lost? Are we following Stephen’s example? Stephen was a preacher of the Gospel who should serve as a great example for Christians today. He gives what I consider to be a great pattern, or blueprint if you will, for which we can go about teaching the lost. I encourage that when we go to teach others about Christ, we look to Stephen, and Acts 7, as an example for how to do that.
I hope you have enjoyed and been uplifted by this series, even though it took me far too long to post so few posts. Thank you for taking the time to read this.
When Stephen was accused and brought before the High Priest in Acts 6, he started his defense in Acts 7 with one of the best summaries of Old Testament history found anywhere in the New Testament. For the sake of space, I won’t go into detail here, but would encourage you to read it on your own (Acts 7:1-53). Yeah I know that’s a lot of reading, but I’d rather you read it for yourself than take my word for it.
When Stephen spoke to those people in front of him, he spoke from a point of view that they could understand. In fact, that’s what the majority of Acts 7 and Stephen’s defense is. The Jews certainly knew their Scriptures, (what we call the Old Testament) and took much pride in being descendants of Abraham, which is where Stephen began.
When Paul begins taking the Gospel to the Gentiles, he uses a different approach. He still speaks from a point of view they understand, but since they were Gentiles and not Jews, he couldn’t use the Jewish Scriptures to teach them. In Acts 17, when Paul is speaking before the Areopagus in Athens, he starts with an alter dedicated to “the unknown God” that he had seen in the city, and from there teaches them about the one true God.
In this same way, if I were going to teach an atheist, I could not use the Bible, because they of course would not believe in the authority of a book that we claim is authored by a God they do not believe in. I’d have to start somewhere else, using one of a number of tools from the field of Christian Apologetics to first lead them to understand that there is a God.
So the first way we can look to Stephen as an example for teaching the lost, is to start with a point of view that they understand. Otherwise, we may have considerable difficulty in reaching them and bring them to Christ.
In my next text post, we’ll continue this discussion with the topic, “Speaking the Truth.” Until next time. God bless.