God’s Word for You
Acts 7:48-50 What God spoke
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, December 31, 2019
48 But the Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands, as the prophet says, 49 ‘Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or where is my resting place? 50 Did not my hand make all these things?’
Stephen shows that Israel’s great kings, David and Solomon, knew that God could never be contained in a building, and that this was also the confession of the prophets (he is quoting from Isaiah 66:1-2). The God who fills the whole universe cannot be completely contained anywhere inside it. Even heaven as we think of it is something God created (Genesis 1:1; 2 Kings 19:15). His presence is there because he wills it, not because he is locally confined there, captive like a bird in a cage or a dog on a leash, as Zwingli taught and as the Reformed churches still profess. Ancient peoples thought that deities were for the most part local, which is why there are different Baals mentioned in the Scriptures: the Baal of this place and the Baal of that place (Exodus 14:2; Numbers 22:41; Numbers 32:38; Judges 8:33, etc.). The many Baals were similar in the minds of the people, but their influence was believed to be limited to one area.
Stephen was preaching the law to condemn his listeners, to drive their hearts to repentance for their unbelief. They thought that they were scrupulously paying attention to each and every commandment, even to the point of inventing new rules to ‘protect’ the commandments from being broken or even bruised, and yet they had missed the point of all of God’s laws. The commandments begin with these words: “And God spoke all these words: ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery’” (Exodus 20:1-2). What “God spoke” in one place cannot and does not contradict what “God spoke” in another place. The promised Son of God, the Savior Jesus Christ, does not contradict anything that God spoke in the Old Testament. On many occasions, it was the pre-incarnate Christ who was doing the speaking for God the Father. Christ certainly does not contradict himself. But he can and does proclaim that what was said at one time has since been fulfilled. This is the message of Jesus. The salvation that was promised by Isaiah and the other prophets all the way back to Moses and even to Enoch before the flood has been accomplished on the cross by Christ. This is why the ancient believer could sing: “The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” (Psalm 126:3).
Stephen’s words were beginning to sting the men of the Sanhedrin to the point where they were becoming enraged (Acts 7:54). Solomon’s own words about the temple were these: “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders build in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain” (Psalm 127:1). The temple was ancient, dating back a thousand years to Solomon’s own hands, although the stones were new, and the doors had been replaced. Stephen’s point was that the watchmen—the Sanhedrin—were watching in vain. Why? They had rejected the Lord.
Saying such a thing to a person’s face is never pleasant, but Stephen teaches us that it is necessary. God does not command us to get along with everyone in the world at the expense of our faith, but to proclaim Christ crucified. If this means telling an idolater or an adulterer or a thief that he is sinning, then that should be done. Christ came to forgive sinners, not to let us think that whatever sins we commit are okay. He came to take the guilt of our sins into his own body and die for us, to rescue us. He rescued you. Now is the time to thank him with your life, to turn away from temptations and sins, and to put your faith in Jesus the Son of God, the risen Savior.
Pastor Timothy Smith