6 Requirements for Kingdom Christians

Crown

Go to most churches, and you’ll encounter a lot of activity that has nothing to do with building God’s Kingdom.

Prayer books. Electronic worship. Coffee hour. Kids’ plays.

These things are nice, but Jesus never mentioned them.

According to the Bible, what are musts for Christians called to build God’s Kingdom on earth?

The requirements are the things that Jesus did and taught His disciples to do in His Name.

1. You must be born again.

Nicodemus approached Jesus one night and said, “‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him'” (John 3:2 NIV).

Knowing Jesus as a teacher from God is not enough. All orthodox churches admit that.

You also must recognize the power behind the miraculous signs that Jesus performed—healings, deliverances, and mastery over nature.

How did Jesus answer Nicodemus?

“‘I tell you the truth, no one can SEE the kingdom of God unless he is born again‘” (John 3:3 NIV).

You can’t understand the spiritual operation of Kingdom power unless you’re born again. In fact, Jesus went on to say, “‘[N]o one can ENTER the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit'” (John 3:5-6 NIV).

To enter the Kingdom of God, you must be born of the Spirit:

4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,
5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,
7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
–Titus 3:4-7 NIV

Spiritual regeneration doesn’t result from simply knowing about God or Jesus or from going to church. Rather, “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9 NIV).

The new birth is received by turning from sin and turning to God in faith: “‘Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out'” (Acts 3:19 NIV).

To comprehend the Kingdom, to enter the Kingdom, you must be born again.

Spiritual regeneration is actually an Old Testament experience: Abraham is father of all those who have faith (see Rom. 4:12-16). What kind of faith?

Saving faith.

This is why Jesus was incredulous that Nicodemus did not understand the necessity of being born again. He should have. For, Jesus said, “‘the Lord, “the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” … is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive'” (Luke 20:37-38 NIV).

Why are we born again? To have living relationship with God. To enjoy eternal life.

Also to enable us to be filled with the Spirit: “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham [being born again by grace through faith] might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by [that same] faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Gal. 3:14 NIV, bracketed additions mine).

2. You must be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Paul wrote the Ephesians, “Don’t get drunk on wine, which leads to wild living. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18 GW). This is a commandment for born again believers.

Jesus told His disciples, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (John 15:3 NIV). See also Ephesians 5:26 and Titus 3:5. The disciples were regenerate from Jesus words, which are spirit and life (John 6:63).

Then He said,

16 “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—
17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be IN you.”
–John 14:16-17 NIV

Jesus promised them He would send the Holy Spirit, now with them to regenerate and cleanse them through the word, to be IN them.

He commanded them, “‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit‘” (Acts 1:4-5 NIV).

One hundred twenty born again disciples received the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).

Later, Philip proclaimed Christ in Samaria. The Samaritans “believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, [and] they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12 NIV).

14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.
15 When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit,
16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.
17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
–Acts 8:14-17 NIV

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is a separate experience from being converted. The Samaritans, though born again and water baptized, did not receive the indwelling Holy Spirit until hands were laid on them.

The fullness of the Holy Spirit is not automatically received when you’re born again. You must separately receive the Holy Spirit and be “clothed with power from on high” (Lk. 24:49)—the power to be Kingdom witnesses (Acts 1:8).

You need this power to love God, love your neighbor, and move in the gifts of the Spirit.

For more information:

3. You must love God and your neighbor.

Colossians 1:13 says, “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (NKJV). Those who inherit the Kingdom are those who love God (see James 2:5).

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
–Luke 10:25-28 NIV

You can’t love God without loving your neighbor (see 1 Jn. 4:8,20-21). And everyone is your neighbor—no exceptions.

If you’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit, love is easy “…because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Rom. 5:5 NIV). The fruit of the Spirit is love (Gal. 5:23).

They will know we are Christians—Kingdom Christians—by our love.

4. You must move in the gifts of the Spirit.

Jesus demonstrated, taught, and trained His disciples to do the miraculous works He did. He commissioned them, saying, “‘As you go, preach this message: “The kingdom of heaven is near.” Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give'” (Matt. 10:7-8 NIV).

Paul said, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (1 Cor. 4:20 NIV). There’s a lot of talk in the Church. But where is the power Jesus and the early disciples demonstrated? This is the Kingdom and the true Gospel: signs and wonders.

To minister Kingdom power, we need the Spirit’s enablement. We must submit ourselves to be used of God through the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:7-11). We must excel in the gifts that build up the Church (1 Cor. 14:12).

Paul wrote, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1 NIV). The “most excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31) to move in the gifts is through love. Love sets captives free.

5. You must live an obedient, holy life.

Even if we’re born again and Spirit-filled, moving in the gifts does not guarantee us heaven. Jesus warned His followers,

20 “Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’
23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
–Matthew 7:20-23 NIV

Peter preached, “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:32 NIV).

John wrote, “Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us” (1 Jn. 3:24 NIV).

We must obey God and do the Father’s will. How?

The indwelling Spirit leads us to live a life filled with good fruit, set apart and sanctified for the Lord and His Kingdom. “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14 NIV).

6. You must help fulfill the Great Commission.

Ninety percent of what today’s churches are involved in, Jesus never mentioned nor practiced. What was He about? Peter told Cornelius,

37 “You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached—
38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.”
–Acts 10:37-38 NIV

Jesus said, “‘Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons'” (Matt. 10:8 NIV).

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 Jn. 3:8b NIV). What’s your reason for following Him?

Jesus set aside his divine powers (Phil. 2:5-8) and instead received the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Lk. 2:21-22), through which He healed and performed miracles and prophesied.

We, likewise, need to be filled with the Spirit; move in the gifts, motivated by love; and set captives free. This is true Kingdom work.

Just before He ascended to heaven after the Resurrection,

18 Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
–Matthew 28:18-20 NIV

Jesus Christ is Lord of heaven and earth. He has delegated His authority to His born again, sanctified, Spirit-filled followers. We are to go in His name and make disciples.

What kind of disciples? The kind who do what He did. The kind who do what He released the Twelve and the seventy-two to do: heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the leper, drive out demons.

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.
16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues;
18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.
20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked WITH them and CONFIRMED his word by the SIGNS that accompanied it.
–Mark 16:15-20 NIV

We must do the greater works Jesus promised we could do (John 14:12). This is “God’s Kingdom come, God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).

God’s New Temple, part 5

Worship

This five-part series explores how the early Church separated from the Jerusalem temple, where the first Christians often met (Luke 24:53; Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:20-21). Part 5 is about God’s new temple, the Church.

The Church is God’s house

In the early days of the Church, the new believers continued to meet in the temple (Luke 24:53). But in A.D. 70 Rome demolished the Jerusalem temple just as Jesus had foretold: “‘Do you see all these great buildings?’ replied Jesus. ‘Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down’” (Mark 13:2 NIV). (See also Matt. 24:2; Luke 21:6.)

The ceremonial observances—animal sacrifices—finally were abolished. God had ensured that those who worshiped Him would do so not with regard to place, but in spirit and in truth (John 4:23).

God’s presence was no longer confined to the temple; God would now reach into all the world to build a new temple where the Holy Spirit could dwell and fill all the earth (Eph. 1:22-23).

The Church, the true temple of God

Under the new covenant, the Spirit of God dwells not in any building or structure of wood and stone, but in the spiritual house of the Church—the corporate Body of Christ.

4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—
5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. …
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
–1 Peter 2:4–5, 9–10 NIV

The Church is a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, a spiritual house and temple with Jesus Christ as its Chief Cornerstone.

Paul’s teaching echoes the Body-as-temple motif:

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household,
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
–Ephesians 2:19–22 NIV

The Church is a spiritual building made of living stones, whose foundation is Christ Himself. It is a temple where the Spirit of God dwells.

9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care.
11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. …
16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
–1 Corinthians 3:9–11,16–17 NIV

Paul informed the Corinthians that, as a local body of believers, they were God’s temple, a local expression of the Body of Christ where God dwelled by the Spirit.

Later in this same letter, Paul revealed that each believer was also a temple of the Holy Spirit:

15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? …
19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;
20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
–1 Corinthians 6:15a,19–20 NIV

As Spirit-filled believers, we are the temple of the living God—personally and corporately. (See 2 Cor. 6:16; 1 Tim. 3:15.)

God no longer dwells in buildings made of stone. When we step into a church building, we should no longer quote Psalm 122:1: “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’” (NIV).

A church building is not God’s house or temple; “…WE are his house” (Heb. 3:6 NIV).

Let’s recognize the Lord’s house for what it is—the Body of Christ—and not human structures. Jesus died to set us free from temple worship, and so did Stephen.

Be that temple of the Living God where the Holy Spirit lives and moves and has being. This is new testament Christianity.

More information:
God’s New Temple, part 1
God’s New Temple, part 2
God’s New Temple, part 3
God’s New Temple, part 4

God’s New Temple, part 4

Tabernacle

This five-part series explores how the early Church separated from the Jerusalem temple, where the first Christians often met (Luke 24:53; Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:20-21). Part 4 is about the persecution of the Church and the house of the Lord.

Stephen’s death results in persecution

In a strange way, Stephen’s message was confirmed. Place no longer mattered for Jews who had accepted Jesus as Messiah.

Proof of this became apparent when persecution broke out against the fledgling Church, and they scattered everywhere (Acts 8:1-4).

The “house of the Lord”

In the Old Testament it was the tabernacle and then the temple—the “house of the Lord”—where the people gathered to worship God and experience God’s presence.

The phrase “house of the Lord” occurs 234 times in the King James Version of the Bible. All of these references appear in the Old Testament, and they refer to the building of the temple. Here are a few examples:

One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.
–Psalm 27:4 NIV

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
–Psalm 122:1 NIV

1 Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night in the house of the Lord.
2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.
–Psalm 134:1-2 NIV

The house of the Lord was a physical building where the Israelites were required to gather and worship the Lord. It was there that God met the people by God’s Spirit, as in the days of Solomon.

10 When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord.
11 And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple.
12 Then Solomon said, “The Lord has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud;
13 I have indeed built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever.”
14 While the whole assembly of Israel was standing there, the king turned around and blessed them.
–1 Kings 8:10–14 NIV

God had designated Jerusalem as the place of worship where God’s people must bring their sacrifices. (See Deut. 12:4-7,11-14; 2 Sam. 7:5,13; 1 Ki. 11:36; 14:21.) But God could never be confined to any building.

Jesus predicted that temple worship would come to an end (see John 4:21-24). Those who would worship God would worship “in spirit and in truth.”

Before his stoning, Stephen argued that “‘the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands’” (Acts 7:48 NIV).

When Jesus hung on the cross and surrendered His spirit to the Father, the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies in the temple was rent in two—from top to bottom—showing that this was the work of God, not people. (See Matt. 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45.)

It was the initiation of prophetic fulfillment of this passage from Ezekiel:

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
–Ezekiel 36:26-27 NIV

See also Jeremiah 31:31-34.

Through Christ’s sacrifice, God opened “a new and living way… for us through the curtain, that is, [Christ’s] body” (Heb. 10:20 NIV).

This new access was not only to lead believers into a deeper worship experience within a special building. Rather, it signified that God was letting His Spirit out to touch the entire world.

How?

Through God’s new house, the Church. We’ll learn more next time.

More information:
God’s New Temple, part 1
God’s New Temple, part 2
God’s New Temple, part 3

God’s New Temple, part 3

Stoning of St Stephen

This five-part series explores how the early Church separated from the Jerusalem temple, where the first Christians often met (Luke 24:53; Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:20-21). Part 3 is about Stephen’s rejection and execution.

The rejection of the religious leaders

At his trial, Stephen lambasted the religious leaders: “‘You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!’” (Acts 7:51 NIV). Stephen accused them of betraying and murdering their Messiah.

The Sanhedrin’s rejection of Stephen’s teaching was merely characteristic of their rebellion against all the prophetic messages God had sent them in the past. Jesus had prophesied,

50 “Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world,
51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.”
–Luke 11:50-51 NIV

Ultimately, they refused the One to whom the prophets pointed. In the same way they condemned Stephen, they had executed God’s one true Messenger—the Christ, the Son of God.

Stephen accused them of the utmost hypocrisy: receiving what they considered to be the word of God, but refusing to obey what it said (7:53).

This climax of Stephen’s diatribe was ill received.

The stoning of Stephen

54 When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.
55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
–Acts 7:54–56 NIV

The focus of Stephen’s teaching had been that God is not confined to buildings. He had quoted Isaiah 66:1: “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.’” (Acts 7:49a NIV).

The moment he finished speaking, Stephen was overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit and, looking up, beheld what he’d been teaching about: He saw the throne of God and Christ standing at God’s right hand.

Stephen had preached that God’s place was in heaven; the Holy Spirit confirmed the word and unveiled the Lord in His heavenly glory.

7:57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him,
58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
8:1 And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. …
–Acts 7:57–60; 8:1a NIV

In essence, Stephen proclaimed that worshiping at the temple and observing the ceremonial laws associated with temple worship were no longer necessary for Jews who had received Christ (Heb. 9:8-14 NIV).

As God revealed this to the early Church, the divine plan for them began to unfold. Yet there was a price for progress; Stephen gave his life for the word of the Lord.

In their sin, the people who stoned Stephen rejected his message and refused to accept what their Scriptures already stated—that God could not be contained in human-made structures. God was building a new house to dwell in.

We’ll learn more about this house next time.

More information:
God’s New Temple, part 1
God’s New Temple, part 2

God’s New Temple, part 2

temple

This five-part series explores how the early Church separated from the Jerusalem temple, where the first Christians often met (Luke 24:53; Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:20-21). Part 2 is about the history of “place” and Stephen’s prophetic rebuke of the Sanhedrin.

The history of “place”

Stephen recounted the history of Israel for his listeners in the Jerusalem Sanhedrin, an assembly of rabbis appointed to sit as a tribunal or court system.

He spoke about God’s call to Abraham, who left Ur and traveled to Canaan, and of the hardships the patriarch’s descendants would endure.

6 “God spoke to [Abraham] in this way: ‘Your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.
7 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,’ God said, ‘and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.’”
–Acts 7:6–7 NIV

Stephen echoes his accuser’s words, mentioning place, a special location where the Israelite people one day would worship God.

Stephen also mentions place elsewhere in his speech. He refers to the presence of the Lord in the burning bush:

“Then the Lord said to [Moses], ‘Take off your sandals; the place where you are standing is holy ground.’”
–Acts 7:33 NIV

Stephen then recounts a short history of the tabernacle:

44 “Our ancestors had the tabernacle of the covenant law with them in the wilderness. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen.
45 After receiving the tabernacle, our ancestors under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David,
46 who enjoyed God’s favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.
47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him.”
–Acts 7:44–47 NIV

The tabernacle was a temporary dwelling place for God among the Israelites during their wilderness sojourn. David’s dream was to provide a permanent place for God to dwell among His people. David gave his son Solomon plans for this “house,” the temple.

Stephen then reaches the crux of his argument:

48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:
49 ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be?
50 Has not my hand made all these things?’”
–Acts 7:48–50 NIV

The Jews of that time considered place of utmost importance, but God was never confined to a place, whether it be a tabernacle, a temple, or a house (1 Ki. 8:27).

In the past God had mocked their cries of “the temple of the Lord! the temple of the Lord! the temple of the Lord!” Israel gave lip service to God’s great temple, but they desecrated it by their evil deeds, showing they had no heart relationship with God (see Jer. 7:3-15).

Stephen’s prophetic rebuke

Stephen recounted Israel’s rebellion in the desert (Acts 7:39-43). Even though Israel had the tabernacle, the place where God dwelled with them, they rejected God and refused to obey.

Stephen spoke the truth and accurately assessed the hearts of his listeners. Like their forebears, they “reverenced” the temple but denied their faith in God by spurning what God was saying by the Holy Spirit through Stephen.

Stephen rebuked them.

51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!
52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him—
53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
–Acts 7:51–53 NIV

Strong words. What happened? We’ll find out next time.

More information:
God’s New Temple, part 1
God’s New Temple, part 3

God’s New Temple, part 1

temple

This five-part series explores how the early Church separated from the Jerusalem temple, where the first Christians often met (Luke 24:53; Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:20-21).

Some time after Pentecost (Acts 2), God began to move by the Spirit in a new way in the fledgling Church.

It was time for the new believers to be pushed out of the nest into the world to fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). This developed through persecution, brought on by the preaching of Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

Stephen, a man full of God

Stephen was not an apostle, but Acts 6 describes him as a disciple “full of the Spirit and wisdom” (v. 3), “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (v. 5), and “a man full of God’s grace and power” (v. 8).

Stephen was elected as a deacon—someone who waited on tables and distributed food to widows (Acts 6:1-6)—yet he was on fire for God, moving in the revelation of the Holy Spirit and preaching the gospel boldly.

Stephen “did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people” (Acts 6:8 NIV). These signs were God’s confirmation of the message he was preaching.

Whatever the message was, miracles and healings should have brought rejoicing. Instead, Stephen’s message met with opposition.

Stephen’s controversial message

9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen,
10 but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.
–Acts 6:9–10 NIV

What Stephen preached was controversial. Some people opposed his message and argued with him.

Stephen wasn’t sharing personal opinions, though. He spoke the wisdom of God by the Spirit of God.

11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God.”
12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin.
13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law.
14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
–Acts 6:11–14 NIV

These religious leaders persuaded some men to testify falsely against Stephen so they could condemn him. (This is the same tactic the Sanhedrin used on Jesus [see Matt. 26:60-61].)

Jesus had prophesied that the temple would be reduced to rubble (Matt. 24:1-2; Mark 13:1-2; Luke 21:5-6). He also said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19 NIV; see also Mark 14:58). But He was referring to the temple of His body.

The accusations of the synagogue men contained a measure of truth. However, if Stephen spoke the wisdom of God by the Spirit of God, he certainly wasn’t blaspheming Moses or God.

But the message he was spreading did pertain to abolishing worship in the temple—which they called “this holy place” (v. 13), and “this place” (v. 14).

As a result, “they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin” (Acts 6:12 NIV).

Stephen’s prophetic speech before the Sanhedrin is recorded in Acts 7. Next time, we’ll study this passage to discover what exactly Stephen was preaching.

More information:
God’s New Temple, part 2