Sin and Sanctification: Just a Stones-Throw from Each Other

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Sin and Sanctification: Just a Stone’s-Throw from Each Other’

© September 9, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 9 2018

Originally shared with BLCF on November 15, 2015

BLCF Bulletin November 15, 2015

Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                                        Opening Hymn #276: In the Stars His Handiwork I See; Choruses                             Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                                     Responsive Reading #648: A Challenge to Faith (John 8:1-11)                         Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                         ‘Sin and Sanctification: Just a Stone’s Throw from Each Other’

 Let us pray…

As you may surmise from the Scripture verses, today’s lesson, entitled ‘Sin and Sanctification: Just a Stone’s Throw from Each Other’, will look at accounts of stoning in the Bible.

Before talking about these passages, let us check with our Wikibits for a definition of this cruel form of execution:

Stoning, or lapidation, is a form of capital punishment whereby a group throws stones at a person until he or she dies. No individual among the group can be identified as the one who kills the subject. This is in contrast to the case of a judicial executioner. Slower than other forms of execution, stoning within the context of Modernism or contemporary Western Culture, is considered a form of execution by torture.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoning

The first of today’s accounts of stoning an individual is found in John 8:1-11, where we have the familiar account of a woman who was caught in adultery, who was brought by the scribes and Pharisees to Jesus as part of a plan to test and trap our Lord, as he was teaching in the temple.

John 8:1-11 (ESV)

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

Jesus was asked what should be done with the adulteress, citing that Mosaic Law mandated that she be stoned or killed for her transgression. But as Jerusalem was under Roman jurisdiction, and only Roman officials had the authority to judge or execute the woman.

The trap was intended to have Jesus side with one authority over the other. If Jesus agreed with the Mosaic Law, to stone the woman, the scribes and Pharisees would inform the Roman authorities that Jesus was guilty of usurping the authority of Rome. If the Lord told them to bring the woman to the Roman authorities, the scribes and Pharisees could accuse Jesus of breaking the Mosaic Laws.

We see that our Lord did neither, but challenging anyone who believed himself to be without sin, to cast the first stone at the woman. No stone was tossed and the crowd dissipated. Jesus then asked the woman whether any of her accusers had remained, to which she answered no. Jesus responded that neither did he accuse her, instructing her to go and sin no more.

Our second Scripture Verse, tell the story of the Apostle Stephen, the first to be martyred for preaching truth from the Scriptures.

Acts 6:8-15 (ESV) Stephen Is Seized

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11 Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, 13 and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak 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 will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” 15 And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

Acts 7:51-60 (ESV)

51 “You stiff-necked people, 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 announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

The Stoning of Stephen

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 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. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together[a] at him. 58 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. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 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.

Footnotes: a. Acts 7:57 Or rushed with one mind

Our verses, form Acts 6:8-15 and Acts 7:51-60 describe how Stephen was falsely accused of speaking against before the council accused by several groups of speaking blasphemous words against the Law of Moses, God and the temple, any consideration of these violations carried the death penalty of being stoned.

Stephen was arrested and instead of defending refuting the false charges, pointed out how his accusers were guilty of bearing false witness and rebelling against the authority of God. In Acts 7, Verses 1-50, Stephen gives a concise, condensed accounting of how previously, Joseph, Moses, John the Baptist, and Jesus were victims of those who challenged God’s authority, with Solomon having the audacity of attempting to house God in the temple.

Chapter 7 of Acts gives a wonderful synopsis of the challenges the people of Israel gave to God’s Prophets and His Son. While the Speech or Sermon of Stephen covers centuries of time, we see a repeated pattern of disobedience to God, which resulted in the children of Israel repeatedly being punished by God, who allowed them to be enslaved or subjugated by the Egyptians, Babylonians, and the Romans. We see how God repeatedly demonstrated His love and compassion for His children by providing leaders to deliver them from death and enslavement, with His Son, Jesus, providing a way from the judgment for sin.

Stephen’s truthful account of how God’s love was spurred; His rules disobeyed; and His Son rejected, angered his accusers, who killed the Apostle by stoning him. Before his death, Stephen, being described as being full of the Holy Spirit, looked towards Heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right-hand side of the Father. Stephen’s last words were to commend his spirit to God and to ask Him to forgive those who persecuted him.

Our third set of Scriptures describes the faith transformation of Saul of Tarsus by an encounter with Jesus on the Road to Damascus in Acts 22:6-21.

Acts 22:6-21 (ESV)

Paul on the Road to Damascus

“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[a] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

This is the same Saul described in Acts 7:58, who watched the garments of those who stoned the Apostle Stephen, as Saul acknowledged in Acts 22:20.

We see that instead of having Saul being punished for his crimes of murder, our Lord showed compassion to Saul, who now identified himself as Paul, now an apostle of the Gospel and way of the Lord. Such is the degree of love and compassion demonstrated by our Lord and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ sacrifice had removed the judgment of sin from those who confess by faith, including Saul of Tarsus.

The Lord will come and knock at our door, asking us to allow him to come into our hearts. If we answer his call by accepting his gift of salvation, confessing to him our sins, and allowing him to be our Lord in our lives; we are born again in the Holy Spirit. We are given the choice to cast a stone of sin or drop that stone and answer the knock at the door and be sanctified from sin through Christ. The decision is ours’. The decision, that is just a stones-throw away.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #263: Somebody’s Knocking at Your Door

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):                                                                            The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

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Zacchaeus and Saul – A Tale of Two Callings

BLCF: footprints-in-sand-following-Jesus

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Zacchaeus and Saul – A Tale of Two Callings’

© August 21, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin August 21, 2016

BLCF: exercise your faith

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #662 (Freedom from Sin – Romans 5 and 6) Prayer; Prayer                                                                                           

Opening Hymn #553: Morning Has Broken                                                                 

Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers

Today’s Scriptures: Luke 19:1-10, Acts 22:6-21, 1 Timothy 1:12-20

Let us pray…

For today’s lesson, I would like to examine the similarities and differences between the accounts in the Scriptures of two individuals, Zacchaeus and Saul, whom were called by the Lord.

Our first account, about the conversion a tax collector named Zacchaeus, is found in Luke 19:1-10.

Luke 19:1-10 (ESV) Jesus and Zacchaeus

Zacchaeus_and_Jesus

19 He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich.And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

You will note that in order to satisfy the old Mosaic Law, Zacchaeus had to commit to give a fourfold restitution to those whom he had defrauded and give half of his material wealth to the poor.

In the above passage, Zacchaeus finds salvation through Jesus, and Christ acknowledges that he came to seek and save sinners, whom he calls “the lost.” Another example of Christ seeking to save a sinner is the account of Saul of Tarsus, later known as the Apostle Paul, we see described in Acts 22:6-21.

 Acts 22:6-21 (ESV) Paul’s Testimony

Paul on the Road to Damascus

Paul on the Road to Damascus

 “As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[a] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

Both Zacchaeus and Saul worked as a tax collector and a persecutor of Christians, respectively. Zacchaeus was called by Jesus, before the Lord was crucified on the cross.

By contrast, Saul was called by the Lord, after Jesus had ascended to heaven, following the Lord’s resurrection and the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. And Saul, now known as Paul, not only received salvation from the Lord, he was baptized in Spirit of God.

The Holy Spirit provided Paul, and other believers baptized in the Spirit, with the means of sharing the Gospel of Christ and defending the faith from those who oppose or reject the Word of God.

In his letter to Timothy, (1 Timothy 1:12-20), Paul explains why God chose to demonstrate the power and perfection of His love grace at work in his own life, as a proof and testimony to other sinners.

1 Timothy 1:12-20 (ESV) Christ Jesus Came to Save Sinners

BLCF: devil_says_Jesus_says

12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.[a] Amen.

18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

Footnotes: a. 1 Timothy 1:17 Greek to the ages of ages

Paul’s conversion, from a life of sin to an Apostle of Christ, is significant because it impacts an individual, but how the Spirit empowers a believer to minister to an Empire and plant seeds of faith that impact the world. Here is a Wikibits biopic of the Apostle Paul, courtesy of about.com.

Apostle Paul

Get to Know the Apostle Paul, Once Saul of Tarsus

(From: christianity.about.com – Updated August 08, 2016)

BLCF: San_Paolo_St_Paul

The Apostle Paul, who started as one of Christianity’s most zealous enemies, was hand-picked by Jesus Christ to become the gospel’s most ardent messenger. Paul traveled tirelessly through the ancient world, taking the message of salvation to the Gentiles. Paul towers as one of the all-time giants of Christianity.

Apostle Paul’s Accomplishments

When Saul of Tarsus, who was later renamed Paul, saw the resurrected Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road, Saul converted to Christianity. He made three long missionary journeys throughout the Roman Empire, planting churches, preaching the gospel, and giving strength and encouragement to early Christians.

Of the 27 books in the New Testament, Paul is credited as the author of 13 of them. While he was proud of his Jewish heritage, Paul saw that the gospel was for the Gentiles as well. Paul was martyred for his faith in Christ by the Romans, about 64 or 65 A.D.

 http://christianity.about.com/od/newtestamentpeople/a/Apostle-Paul.htm

Let us pray…

 Closing Hymn #484: Pass it On

 Benediction – 2 Peter 1:2-3 (ESV):

 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.  His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence

Sin and Sanctification: Just a Stone’s Throw from Each Other

BLCF: StonesThrow

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Sin and Sanctification: Just a Stone’s Throw from Each Other’

© November 15, 2015 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin November 15, 2015

BLCF: he-who-is-without-sin

Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #648: A Challenge to Faith (Hebrews 11 and 12); Prayer                                                                                                           

Opening Hymn #276: In the Stars His Handiwork I See; Choruses                            

Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers

Today’s Scriptures: John 8:1-11, Acts 6:8-15, Acts 7:51-60, Acts 22:6-21 

BLCF: forgive_stone

Let us pray…

As you may surmise from the Scripture verses, today’s lesson, entitled ‘Sin and Sanctification: Just a Stone’s Throw from Each Other’, will look at three stoning accounts in the Bible, which included our Lord, Jesus.

Before talking about these passages, let us check with our Wikibits for a definition of this cruel form of execution:

Stoning, or lapidation, is a form of capital punishment whereby a group throws stones at a person until he or she dies. No individual among the group can be identified as the one who kills the subject. This is in contrast to the case of a judicial executioner. Slower than other forms of execution, stoning within the context of Modernism or contemporary Western Culture, is considered a form of execution by torture.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoning

The first of today’s accounts of stoning an individual is found in John 8:1-11, where we have the familiar account of a woman who was caught in adultery, who was brought by the scribes and Pharisees to Jesus as part of a plan to test and trap our Lord, as he was teaching in the temple.

John 8:1-11 (ESV)

BLCF: STONING

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

Jesus was asked what should be done with the adulteress, citing that Mosaic Law mandated that she be stoned or killed for her transgression. But as Jerusalem was under Roman jurisdiction, and only Roman officials had the authority to judge or execute the woman.

The trap was intended to have Jesus side with one authority over the other. If Jesus agreed with the Mosaic Law, to stone the woman, the scribes and Pharisees would inform the Roman authorities that Jesus was guilty of usurping the authority of Rome. If the Lord told them to bring the woman to the Roman authorities, the scribes and Pharisees could accuse Jesus of breaking the Mosaic Laws.

We see that our Lord did neither, but challenging anyone who believed himself to be without sin, to cast the first stone at the woman. No stone was tossed and the crowd dissipated. Jesus then asked the woman whether any of her accusers had remained, to which she answered no. Jesus responded that neither did he accuse her, instructing her to go and sin no more.

Our second and third Scripture verses, tell the story of the Apostle Stephen, the first to be martyred for preaching truth from the Scriptures.

Acts 6:8-15 (ESV) Stephen Is Seized

BLCF: St_Stephen_GiacomoCavedone

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11 Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, 13 and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak 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 will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” 15 And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

Acts 7:51-60 (ESV)

BLCF: Stephens_message_Acts7

51 “You stiff-necked people, 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 announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

The Stoning of Stephen

17_Fontaine engraving_Stoning of S Pitts theology library L'histoire dv Vieux et dv Nouveau Testament : Author: Fontaine, Nicolas, 1625-1709 Image Title: Stoning of Stephen Scripture Reference: Acts 7 Description: Stephen sees a representation of the Trinity as he is stoned to death. Saul sits on his horse in the background, giving approval.


Fontaine, Nicolas, 1625-1709 Image Title: Stoning of StephenScripture    Reference: Acts 7
Description: Stephen sees a representation of the Trinity as he is stoned to death. Saul sits on his horse in the background, giving approval.

 

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 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. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together[a] at him. 58 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. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 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.

Footnotes: a. Acts 7:57 Or rushed with one mind

Our verses, form Acts 6:8-15 and Acts 7:51-60 describe how Stephen was falsely accused of speaking against before the council accused by several groups of speaking blasphemous words against the Law of Moses, God and the temple, any consideration of these violations carried the death penalty of being stoned.

Stephen was arrested and instead of defending refuting the false charges, pointed out how his accusers were guilty of bearing false witness and rebelling against the authority of God. In Acts 7, verses 1-50, Stephen gives a concise, condensed accounting of how previously, Joseph, Moses, John the Baptist, and Jesus were victims of those who challenged God’s authority, with Solomon having the audacity of attempting to house God in the temple.

Chapter 7 of Acts gives a wonderful synopsis of the challenges the people of Israel gave to God’s Prophets and His Son. While the Speech or Sermon of Stephen covers centuries of time, we see a repeated pattern of disobedience to God, which resulted in the children of Israel repeatedly being punished by God, who allowed them to be enslaved or subjugated by the Egyptians, Babylonians, and the Romans. We see how God repeatedly demonstrated His love and compassion for His children by providing leaders to deliver them from death and enslavement, with His Son, Jesus, providing a way from the judgment for sin.

Stephen’s truthful account of how God’s love was spurred; His rules disobeyed; and His Son rejected, angered his accusers, who killed the Apostle by stoning him. Before his death, Stephen, being described as being full of the Holy Spirit, looked towards Heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right-hand side of the Father. Stephen’s last words were to commend his spirit to God and to ask Him to forgive those who persecuted him.

Our third set of Scriptures describes the faith transformation of Saul of Tarsus by an encounter with Jesus on the Road to Damascus in Acts 22:6-21.

Acts 22:6-21 (ESV)

BLCF: Saul of Tarsus

“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[a] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

This is the same Saul described in Acts 7:58, who watched the garments of those who stoned the Apostle Stephen, as Saul acknowledged in Acts 22:20.

We see that instead of having Saul being punished for his crimes of murder, our Lord showed compassion to Saul, who now identified himself as Paul, now an apostle of the Gospel and way of the Lord. Such is the degree of love and compassion demonstrated by our Lord and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ sacrifice had removed the judgment of sin by those who confess by faith, including Saul of Tarsus.

The Lord will come and knock at our door, asking us to allow him to come into our hearts. If we answer his call by accepting his gift of salvation, confessing to him our sins, and allowing him to be our Lord in our lives; we are born again in the Holy Spirit. We are given the choice to cast a stone of sin or drop that stone and answer the knock at the door and be sanctified from sin through Christ. The decision is ours’. The decision that is just a stone’s throw away.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #263: Somebody’s Knocking at Your Door

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):                                                                           

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

BLCF: Sauls_conversion