TODAY’S READING: Acts 7–8
A man whose job it was to minister to Libyans, Egyptians, and Turks and who would not shut up about the gospel gave the longest sermon recorded in Acts, and it is a classic missionary sermon. From beginning to end Stephen made a case that God is the Lord of all the earth, working in every place and among every people, and should be worshiped globally. Stephen hammered away to nationalistic Jews that God has ever worked (and ever will) outside their borders as well as within them.
The sermon in Acts 7 began with a reference to Abraham, the one through whom God would bless all nations, whom God met first in Iraq and then in Syria, telling him to leave his own country and people. God didn’t give Abraham a foot of land in Palestine but instead promised that the path to glory led through slavery in Egypt, where Jacob and all the fathers died. The point is piercing: The patriarchs never owned land in Israel and didn’t even die there. God obviously is not confined to one place or people.
Moses, mighty in word and deed, was born in Egypt and then received revelation in Saudi Arabia where God called the ground holy. Whether the exact location was Saudi Arabia or the Sinai Peninsula, the main point remains it was outside Israel, for God is not confined to one place or people. God showed signs and wonders outside Israel. God spoke to Moses and gave him the law outside Israel. The tabernacle was made and the presence of God descended upon it outside Israel. Solomon’s temple could not contain God, for heaven is His throne eminently outside Israel. On and on Stephen thundered on how God has ever been at work outside one country and one people. And for this truth he is stoned, for those who think they own God are ever furious when He reminds them He is the God of glory and the God of the Gentiles, and not our personal, parochial genie.
To emphasize the point, Luke recorded that the effect of Stephen’s missionary sermon was persecution and the preaching of the gospel everywhere (8:4). We tend to focus on the persecution, but Luke’s point was that missionary going always follows missionary preaching. He underlined this by taking us to Samaria, a Gentile city, and then to Samaritan villages, and then to a Sudanese official. The Spirit used Stephen’s sermon and sacrifice to stir Saul’s sadism so that Samaria, Samaritans, and Sudanese might receive the Spirit. Missionary preaching always leads to missionary going, and it is missionary going that leads to salvations, baptisms, and Spirit fillings, and if we want to see the 7,000 unreached peoples evangelized, if we want to participate in God’s glory manifest in all the world as Stephen declared it, we will have to constantly preach missions. We must preach missions to our infants, children, youth, adults, seniors, and ourselves. To not preach missions is to be stiff-necked resistors of the Spirit.