A Stephen-Sermon to the Church Today (part 1 of 2)

Stephen sermon

“Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, and said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.” Acts 7:2, 3. “So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him” (Gen. 12:4), and went at His lead into Canaan, wherein he dwelt, though the Lord “gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet He promised that He world give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.” Acts 7:5.

Then in time, the Lord purposed to lead Jacob and his household out of the land of Canaan, down into Egypt. Knowing, though, that the sons of Jacob would not go as did Abraham, by His simply telling them to, He therefore in His providence put into the heart of Jacob a greater love for Joseph than for his other children. This begot in them envy and jealousy, which in turn begot hatred and greed, manifesting itself in their cruel treatment and sale of Joseph, which resulted in his being carried away a slave into Egypt.

Years later when Joseph’s brothers went into Egypt to obtain food during the seven-year famine, Joseph, recognizing Providential design in the strange drama of his life from enslavement to enthronement, said unto his brothers as he “made himself known” unto them: “Be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life…and…to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.” Gen. 45:1, 5, 7.

Thus the Lord providentially exalted Joseph to share the throne of Egypt in order to predispose Pharaoh to grant Israel permission to enter into the land.

Next, to draw them there, He brought thereabouts the seven years of plenty, followed by the seven years of famine. Whereupon He sent word to Jacob that Joseph was yet alive. At the overjoying news, there sprang up in the father an irresistible desire to see his son. This and the lifetaking hunger upon Joseph’s brethren, compelled them to remove into Pharaoh’s land of plenty, where they lived like kings.

Not purposing, however, to leave them there forever, the Lord did not let their living continue as pleasant as at the first, lest they refuse to take heed to Moses when he should come with the word that the time had arrived for them to go back home. But He brought about another saving providence, this time permitting unbearable hardship to befall them, so that when called they would respond gladly. So slaves they had to become: and still worse, they had to be bereaved of their male children, then mercilessly driven with cruel lashes upon their backs to produce ever more bricks.

Thus the power of the Spirit combined. horrible suffering from their hard Egyptian servitude, was an over-powering force compelling them to forsake the heathen land and to return to their own.

Then, on their way back they met with another providence–their long wilderness sojourn, forty years in all–which God permitted for the express purpose of separating from them the unbelieving, unfaithful multitude who accompanied the Movement out of Egypt.

These being destroyed, the survivors miraculously crossed the Jordan, just as they had forty years before crossed the Red Sea. There removing from their midst the one sinner, Achan, who then sprang up among them, they entered into the promised land and became the most glorious kingdom in their day. Slaves become kings–what a miracle indeed!

Naturally one would think that a people whom God had so miraculously freed from slavery, and of whom He had subsequently just as miraculously made a kingdom, would never fall now that they were strong. But losing sight of their Strength they again fell away into captivity! In weakness as slaves to Pharaoh, God had brought them to strength over their Egyptian masters; now in their strength as masters, themselves, He brought them down to servitude to the nations about them! Twice a miracle.

Here is proof positive that the Lord built them up, and also tore them down (2 Chron. 36:13,23), “that they” might, as He says, “know from the rising of the sun. and from the west. that there is none beside Me. I am the Lord, and there is none else.

In the course of time, with the fulfillment of the seventy years of which Jeremiah prophesied (Jer. 29:10), God once more brought Israel into their own land. But as the years wore on, replacing the old generations with new ones, Israel again lost sight of their Strength, this time so completely that when the long-looked for Messiah finally came, they rejected and crucified and spat on Him!

In divine retribution, God turned away His face in anger, and delivered them into the hand of the oppressor, who destroyed their temple and their city, drove them from their own land, and left them a forsaken, outcast race without God, without coin, without country, a people execrated by all nations from that day till this! Not all, however, were thus cast away. A multitude of them had their eyes opened to the fact that their great men were falsely accusing the Lord, misapplying the prophecies concerning Him, and deceiving the people.

Through those who remained faithful, He preserved the seed of Israel. Accepting Christ and becoming Christians, these faithful sons of Jacob had their name changed from Jew to Christian, as was foreshadowed in God’s changing their father’s name from Jacob to Israel, and their grandfather’s from Abram to Abraham.

Starting out with 120 Spirit-filled disciples, this Jewish-Christian church converted 3,000 souls on the day of Pentecost by the preaching of one simple, Spirit-indited sermon, and then “added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Acts 2:47.

This great ingathering of souls so angered Satan that he avengingly “persecuted the woman [the Jewish-Christian church] which brought forth the man child. (Rev. 12:13), so as to prevent her from making converts, and to prevent those whom she succeeded in making converts, from fellowshiping with her.

(The bed rock facts that the woman’s child Christ, Who was “caught up unto God,” Rev. 12:5, was born to the Jewish church, and that the Christian church emerged from the Jewish, solidly establish the woman as a figure of the faithful servants of God in both the Old and the New Testament churches.)

As a result of persecuting the woman, Satan was, ironically, only helping rather than hindering the divine purpose. Indeed, the church’s field (Matt. 13:38) grew only pure “wheat,” the “net” (Matt. 13:47) caught only good “fish,” because against such a persecution, only the faithful dared take their stand for Truth and to become members of the hated sect. So, seeing the results of his oppression, he quickly changed his tactics.

“By the edicts of toleration,” says Gibbon, “he [Constantine] removed the temporal disadvantages which had hitherto retarded the progress of Christianity; and its active and numerous ministers received a free permission, a liberal encouragement, to recommend the salutary truths of revelation by every argument which could affect the reason or piety of mankind.

The exact balance of the two religions [Christian and Pagan] continued but a moment….The cities which signalized a forward zeal by the voluntary destruction of their temples [the Pagan’s], were distinguished by municipal privileges, and rewarded with popular donatives….The salvation of the common people was purchased at an easy rate, if it be true that, in one year, twelve thousand men were baptized at Rome, besides a proportionable number of women and children, and that a white garment with twenty pieces of gold, had been promised by the emperor to every convert. “This was “a law of Constantine, which gave freedom to all the slaves who should embrace Christianity.”–Gibbon’s Rome, Vol. 2, pp. 273, 274 (Milman Edition).

Just as soon as Satan caused his agents to cease oppressing the Christians, and to start fellowshiping with them, he beguiled them into thinking him their friend. Thus being eased of his persecution, they fell asleep spiritually; and while they slept, he sowed the tares.

Yea, he made a complete turn-about and even compelled the heathen to join the church, thereby casting out of his “mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.” Rev. 12:15. From persecuting those who would unite with the church, he turned to persecuting those who would not, so that she might be flooded with unconverted heathen and thereby “carried away of the flood.” Rev. 12:15.

In order to keep the multitude in darkness in the days of the reformers, he put his clamps on them, then opened wide his extinguisher against the burning light, and when it failed him, he set “sleeping preachers preaching to a sleeping people.”–Testimonies, Vol. 2, p. 337.

This highly successful course he has unremittingly pursued ever since, until as a result the church today is almost choked with tares. It is, as it were, infiltrated with a fifth column.

“That night I dreamed,” says the servant of the Lord in a remarkable view of this very condition, “that I was in Battle Creek looking out from the side glass at the door, and saw a company marching up to the house, two and two. They looked stern and determined.

I knew them well, and turned to open the parlor door to receive them, but thought I would look again. The scene was changed. The company now presented the appearance of the Catholic procession. One bore in his hand a cross, another a reed. And as they approached, the one carrying a reed made a circle around the house saying three times, ‘This house is proscribed.

The goods must be confiscated. They have spoken against our holy order.’ Terror seized me, and I ran through the house, out of the north door, and found myself in the midst of a company, some of whom I knew, but I dared not speak a word to them for fear of being betrayed. I tried to seek a retired spot where I might weep and pray without meeting eager, inquisitive eyes wherever I turned. I repeated frequently ‘If I could only understand this! If they will tell me what I have said, or what I have done!’

“I wept and prayed much as I saw our goods confiscated. I tried to read sympathy or pity for me in the looks of those around me, and marked the countenances of several whom I thought would speak to me and comfort me if they did not fear that they would be observed by others. I made one attempt to escape from the crowd, but seeing that I was watched, I concealed my intentions.

I commenced weeping aloud, and saying, ‘If they would only tell me what I have done, or what l have said!’ My husband, who was sleeping in a bed in the same room, heard me weeping aloud, and awoke me. My pillow was wet with tears, and a sad depression of spirits was upon me.”– Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 578.

The promise, however, is that the flood of tares will remain therein only until the harvest, the natural time for their separation–the end of the world.

(Answerer, V.T.Houteff, Vol. 2, p.5-12)

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