Bulletin Edition December 2017

Acts 6:9, 10

What a comfort to believers! They were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which Stephen spake. First, that which Stephen spake was the gospel of Christ. The apostle Paul was among these men who were silenced by Stephen. Perhaps when Paul was speaking to Titus about the responsibility of a preacher, he was telling Titus that which he had first witnessed Stephen do by holding fast the faithful word (Tit 1: 9-11.) Secondly, this Wisdom and this Spirit was that by which Stephen spake. Stephen’s wisdom was Christ our Wisdom. The spirit in Stephen was the power of the Holy Spirit. When a man walks in the light God gives, the Lord promises to give more light, to provide all we need, especially in the face of the adversary (Luke 21:14, 15.)
Clay Curtis.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” What a promise! What a glorious inheritance! What a blessed comfort! Walk in it, believer; lie down upon it; trust in it; rest upon it. It will do for all the days of your life and be a soft pillow for your death. When the news is not good, when your body is tired, when disappointment and doubts fill your mind, when the flesh is weary and weak and you lie upon your bed staring into the sleepless darkness asking yourself, “What shall I do?” hum to yourself these blessed words, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Those words will be like a lullaby to your soul, and you will find rest. Pastor Henry T. Mahan

Self Argues One Point
Acts 8:1: And Saul was consenting unto his death.
Stephen preached the truth of Christ and the Lord wonderfully worked his miracle of grace among the people. Then Saul arose disputing with Stephen (Acts 6: 8,9.) But on what grounds did Saul base his objection? (Carefully read Deuteronomy 13: 1-11.) Saul had no spiritual understanding of what the Lord declared in this law. All Saul beheld was a man working wonders and miracles through the preaching of another god. As far as he was concerned the law said he had a right to reject him.
Is it any wonder that Saul hated Stephen? Stephen declared Christ to be the end of the law for all who believe but the law was Saul’s life. Saul’s gospel was the gospel of the faith of Saul not the gospel of the faith of Christ. So Saul and the others, stirred up the people saying, We have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us (Acts 6: 14.) By his self-attained understanding, Saul imagined his god would be pleased with his obedience to the law if he refused to pity Stephen. By his self-attained faith Saul imagined his god would be pleased with him if he refused to spare Stephen. In this grand delusion from which only God can save, Saul truly thought he could fulfill the law of God. Therefore, instead of fleeing to God for refuge, he literally took the law into his own hands. By the letter of the law Saul justified himself for rejecting Stephen and his Lord, yet he had no idea that in doing so he was the idolater God’s law spoke of.
If we imagine that God’s grace to us is in any way because of our obedience to the law then we are the very outlaw which God’s law warns against. In our day, the signs and wonders of false prophets which the law in Deuteronomy speaks against are outward signs, fleshly signs, great prayers to be seen of men, great sacrifices of self-denial to oppress needy sinners under the thumb of self-seeking imposters, creeds and confessions and denominational traditions of men which are held earnestly over the Word of God.
Clay Curtis.
“They stoned Stephen, calling upon God.”
Acts 7:59
The first martyr in the history of the New Testament Church was Stephen, a faithful deacon. The death of this faithful man is recorded more fully than the death of anyone else in the New Testament, except that of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here is a man dying for the testimony of Christ, dying by the hands of wicked men, but dying in grace and dying graciously for the glory of God.

The Spirit of God directed Luke to identify just one of Stephen’s murderers. Those who stoned Stephen “laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.” Saul was probably the man who examined Stephen and had been baffled by his speech when he stood before the Sanhedrin (Acts 6:8-10).

Striking Contrast
Here is a striking contrast. Stephen and Saul are in glory now. One cannot help wondering how Saul felt when Stephen’s smile met him at the throne! What a joyous meeting they must have had — Stephen and Saul embracing one another! But in this world these two men are poles apart. They had nothing in common. Stephen was about to die. Saul was holding the clothes of those who stoned him. Saul was a proud, self-righteous Pharisee. He was proud of his pedigree, his learning, his works, his religious position, and his great reputation. Stephen was a broken, humbled sinner, saved by the grace of God, whose only hope was in Christ. Saul was wrapped up in himself. Stephen was wrapped up in Christ. His heart was elated not by looking into a mirror, but by looking to Christ, his exalted Lord. He drew his comfort not from what he had done, but from what Christ had done for him. Saul was a religious ritualist. He placed great weight and importance on the externals of religion. To him the law, the temple, the priesthood, and the ceremonies were everything. Stephen’s religion was a matter of the heart, a living, spiritual union with God in Christ (Philippians 3:3; Acts 7:48-50). He knew that religious ceremony without faith in Christ is useless (Isaiah 1:10-15). Saul thought God was impressed with rituals and ceremonies. Stephen knew what few know — “The Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7; Luke 16:15). Saul defended his religion. For the defence of his religion he was willingly cunning, cruel, and callous. Stephen defended the cause of Christ, even at the cost of his own life. The cause of Christ, His Church, His truth, and His glory were of greater value to Stephen than life itself. Stephen was gracious to the end, ever truthful, gentle, forgiving, and self-sacrificing.

Overruling Providence
Our great God graciously overrules all things for the good of His elect and the glory of His name. The stoning of Stephen, though it was a terrible act of barbaric cruelty and sin, was best, the very best thing that could have happened on that day. God was in total control of the situation. If Saul had not been there, Stephen would not have prayed for him. If Stephen had not prayed, Saul would have never preached. Even the evil performed by men and devils is good for God’s elect, and shall bring praise to His name (Psalm 76:10; Proverbs 12:21; 16:7; Romans 8:28; 1 Peter 3:12-13).

Dying Grace
When the time comes, The Lord God gives His people grace to die well. Those who die in the arms of Christ, who die in faith, die well. What God did for Stephen, He will do essentially for all who trust Christ. Stephen died, being full of the Holy Spirit, with his heart fixed on Christ, looking up steadfastly into heaven. He died without a care in the world, trusting his sovereign Substitute, calling on the name of God. He saw heaven opened! He saw the glory of God! He saw the Lord Jesus standing in the place of power to receive him! He died without any malice in his heart! Really, he did not die at all (John 11:25-26). He simply dropped the body of death. He fell asleep in the arms of Christ and woke up in glory, in life! — Blessed Savior, give me grace so to live and so to die!
Don Fortner
“The power of God is that ability and strength whereby he can bring to pass whatever he pleases. As holiness is the beauty of all God’s attributes, so power is that which gives life and action to all the perfections of the divine nature. How vain would be the eternal counsels, if power did not step in to execute them. Without power his mercy would be but a feeble pity, his promises an empty sound, his threatenings a mere scare crow. God’s power is like himself: infinite, eternal, incomprehensible. It can neither be checked, restrained, nor frustrated by the creature” (Stephen Charnock).

The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.”–2 Cor. xiii. 14.
Here, my soul, set up thy pillar. Baptised as thou hast been into the joint name, love, praise, and adoration, of the Holy Three in One; and blessed as thou hast been, and art, in their joint mercies, grace, and favour; here every day, and all the day, seek thy portion and blessing, as the united source of all thy salvation. End the year, and begin the year, under those precious tokens of God in Christ; and daily keep up a lively communion and friendship with each, as the blessed cause of all thine happiness. Jehovah, in his threefold character of person, is engaged to perfect what he hath begun: and it is, and should be thy happiness to be for ever viewing the testimonies of it, in the holy scriptures of truth. God thy Father hath so loved the church in Jesus, as to give him to the church, and the church to him; and God the Son hath so loved the church, as to give himself for it; zeal for his Father’s honour, and longing for the salvation of his people, led him through all the work of redemption, and now engageth his heart, until he hath brought home all his redeemed to glory: and God the Holy Ghost is unceasingly engaged to render the whole effectual, by taking of the things of Christ, and shewing them to his people. See to it then, my soul, that every day, and all the day, thou hast the love-tokens of each person of the Godhead; for this will make thee blessed upon earth, and blessed to all eternity. Hail! holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty! Bless both him that writes, and him that reads, with thy grace: and open and close the year with grace, until grace be consummated in everlasting glory. Amen and Amen. Robert Hawker (1753-1827)

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