God’s Word for You
Acts 7:35-38 This is the one
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, December 19, 2019
35 “This is the same Moses they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’
With a brilliant rhetorical device, Stephen uses a series of simple, truthful and clear statements about Moses to compare the great prophet of the Old Testament with the greater Messiah, Jesus Christ. Each statement begins with the demonstrative pronoun “This [is].”
The first point: They rejected Moses and defied God by asking, “Who made you ruler and judge?” This is what the Sanhedrin, the highest court of the Jews, had done with Jesus Christ. Just as the Hebrews that Moses led were guilty, so the Sanhedrin was guilty.
This is the one whom God sent to be a ruler and deliverer with the help of the angel who appeared to him in the bush.
The second point: God sent Moses to be the ruler and deliverer of his people through a miracle, the voice of God speaking from the burning bush. So also Jesus was sent by God to be the savior of all mankind through a miracle, the voice of God speaking from the cloud at his baptism. Moses heard God’s voice all alone in the desert, but Jesus heard God’s voice with hundreds of witnesses including John the Baptist, since “people went out to John from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan” (Matthew 3:5).
36 This is the one who led the people out and did wonders and miraculous signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and for forty years in the wilderness.
The third point: Moses led his people from their bondage in Egypt and performed “wonders and miraculous signs.” Jesus was also credited by everyone with having done “miracles, wonders and signs” (Acts 2:22), almost always in public for everyone to see. The Scribes and Pharisees were in the habit of accusing him of doing such miracles in violation of Sabbath day restrictions (Luke 6:7; Luke 14:3), which did nothing but cloud the issue that Jesus was the true Messiah who fulfilled every prophecy about the Christ. Jesus reminded John the Baptist’s doubting disciples: “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me” (Luke 7:22-23).
37 This is the Moses who said to the people of Israel, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers.’
The fourth point: Moses himself pointed to Jesus. Moses prophesied that Christ would come from among the people of Israel (Deuteronomy 18:15). Peter already made this point when he appeared before this assembly (Acts 3:22).
All of the accounts about Jesus show that he was able to trace his ancestry to the satisfaction of the Jews. There are even two complete genealogies of Jesus. One traces the legal line of Joseph (Mary’s husband), follows the line from Abraham down to Jesus (Matthew 1:1-17). The other, which seems to be the blood line through Mary, traces the line backward from Mary’s father Heli all the way back to Adam (Luke 3:23-38). In both cases, the ancestry of Jesus is through the patriarch Judah, son of Israel, son of Isaac, son of Abraham.
38 This is the one who was in the assembly in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai and with our fathers.
The fifth point: The children of Israel had everything that they needed there in the desert wilderness long before there was a temple. God never commanded the building of a temple. He wanted the people to have a tabernacle, something that could move around with them as needed, something portable but made according to God’s specifications. Instead, King David and his son Solomon decided to build a permanent temple in Jerusalem. Although God blessed this choice, it was the assembly of the people that mattered, not the location of the temple.
“Assembly” (Greek ekklesia, ἐκκλησίᾳ), was a word that was taken up by early Christians as the word for an assembly of believing worshipers: the church. Jesus first used this term when he said that the Christian church would be built on the confession of faith: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16-18). Jesus gave to the church the ministry of the keys, which is the God-given ability and command to forgive or retain sins: “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you unbind on earth will be unbound in heaven” (Matthew 16:19).
The identity of the church is the assembly of believing Christians where the outward marks of the church are found: The Word of God and the sacraments (Ephesians 5:25-27). The visible church will, of course, have hypocrites within, just as the assembly of Moses had opponents to the Word of God (Numbers 16:1-2).
Our Lutheran Confession, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, states: “We teach that this church actually exists, made up of true believers and righteous men scattered throughout the world. And we add its marks, the pure teaching of the Gospel and the sacraments. This church is properly called ‘the pillar of truth’ (1 Timothy 3:15), for it retains the pure Gospel and what Paul calls the ‘foundation’ (1 Corinthians 3:12), that is, the true knowledge of Christ and faith. Of course, there are many people in it who build on this foundation perishing structures of stubble, that is, unprofitable opinions. But because they do not overthrow the foundation, these are forgiven them or even corrected” (Articles VII and VIII, para. 20).
He received living words to give to us.
The sixth point: Moses received the living words of God to pass along to the assembly of believers. We have these things today recorded as the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. So also, Stephen says, Christ received nothing else but the living words of God to pass along to everyone who heard him. The four Gospel accounts of the New Testament were not yet written when Stephen spoke, but the message of Christ was remembered by everyone who heard him, and his disciples continued to preach in his name. Two of his apostles, Matthew and John, would record Jesus’ words, miracles, and other acts. Peter did not write a Gospel of his own, but according to one of the most ancient of the early Church Fathers, Papias, we read this:
“The Elder also said this: Mark, the interpreter of Peter, wrote down carefully everything he remembered of the sayings and the deeds of Christ, but not in chronological order. For he did not hear the Lord or follow him, but as I said; later he accompanied Peter, who adapted his instructions to the needs [of his hearers], but did not intend to make a connected account of the Lord’s discourses. So then Mark made no mistake in writing the individual discourses in the order he remembered them. His one concern was not to omit anything that he heard or to record any false statements in this account.” This is Papias’ statement about Mark” (Third fragment of Papias, 3:15).
The words of both the Old and New Testaments are the living word of God. John the Apostle teaches the best possible understanding of God’s Word and its importance to all: “These [words] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
Sometimes Christians have doubts. How can I be sure that this is right? How do I know that putting my faith in a man who lived two thousand years ago and was executed by the Romans is going to get me into heaven? Well, one of the things that Jesus said was: “At least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves” (John 14:11). Jesus performed spectacular miracles that drew the attention of thousands, tens of thousands, in a day with no communication except word-of-mouth. But think, too, about the miracles Moses performed, not least of which was the parting of the Red Sea so that two million slaves, some old and injured, could walk calmly through that body of water before two brigades of Egyptian chariots could catch them (Exodus 14:7). God performed many huge, spectacular miracles that we know really happened. He did those things to provide his people with proof in times of doubt that he does indeed exist, that he surely loves his people, and that you and I are on his mind right now, today, as we live out our lives. Trust in your Savior Jesus. He is the love of God in person, given by the Father for you, for the forgiveness of your sins.
Pastor Timothy Smith