CHANGING THE CUSTOMS
Acts 6:9 Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. 11 Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. 12 And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, 13 And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: 14 For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. 15 And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.
That word, “Libertines” is a Latin word found nowhere else in the scriptures. It simple means, “Roman freedmen.” These were some of those whom the Roman Empire had conquered and in process of time had allowed them freedom again. And this is just “certain of” them, not all of them without exception. These were just some of that number whose synagogues were located in North Africa, Cilicia and Asia.
For Simon, who was forced to bear the cross of Christ (Mark 15:21), was from Cyrene. And it seems that the Apostle Paul was a close friend of his son, Rufus, and considered Simon’s wife as a mother. (Romans 16:13). And those were from Cyrene who evangelized the Gentiles, when others limited their preaching only to the Jews! (Acts 11:19-20). Apollos was from Alexandria, (Acts 18:24); the Apostle Paul from the province of Cilicia, (Acts 21:39, 22:3); and many of the Jews who attended Pentecost were from Asia! (Acts 2:9). All people should not to be judged by the actions of a few from among their number!
But our Sovereign Lord designed to withhold his effectual grace from these particular souls, as he had a glorious spirit (Stephen), whom he intended to shine forth! 1 Corin. 11:19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
All men are God’s servants! But all men are not God’s sons! And the difference in any pertains to the sovereign dispensing of God’s mercy! Romans 9:15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. 17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. 18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
These were only attempting to resist Stephen’s wisdom but they did actually resist the Holy Ghost! Religion without God’s soul- converting regeneration always attempts to form God into its own image! Psalm 50:21 These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: And when they ran up on such a discerning spirit as Stephen’s, who brings immovable truth to expose them, they are shown to have actually resisted the Holy Spirit all along! Acts 7:51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
The souls of these religious freed men, except they later repented, (of which we have no record given), are in hell at this present moment for having resisted the Holy Spirit in Stephen. And they are guilty, and shall forever be, of the blood of the first Christian martyr! And Stephen is in eternal glory with the Lord Jesus Christ, who appeared as standing and looking on, awaiting to receive his first child to actually enter by death, into the fellowship of his sufferings!
And what was the “official” charge laid against this holy man? That which those who were “suborned” (“induced” – Interlinear Bible) to spread lies on him came up with a very good lie! They said that Stephen was preaching that Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. And that was true!
For the Lord Jesus prophesied this in his earthly ministry! But he did not state that he would do it, as they claimed, just that due to it’s rebellion against him, it would be done. And Stephen was just preaching that which the Holy Spirit took of Christ’s and showed unto him! Luke 19:43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, 44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.
Every religious generation has always fancied themselves and their present state to be that which was the only right way, and therefore felt was needful of being continually preserved. Psalm 49:11 Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names.
But Shiloh, one of the first ‘holy places’ in Canaan, was destroyed and Jerusalem was raised up. Jerusalem was then abandoned as Antioch was brought to be a center of spiritual worship. Jeremiah 7:12 But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. 14 Therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by my name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh.
And did not our Lord say, ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth? The gospel is to be a westward moving force. And it has already gone out from Jerusalem to Judaea and Samaria by the time we come to Acts 8:1! … And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. It is said, that compared to the work of the Spirit in the Old Testament, the coming of the Son of man in his gospel age would be as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (Matt. 24:27).
Therefore we must all hold this world with a very loose grip! And we must realize that all presently held religious customs and traditions are not good! The Lord spoke of those that even made his word without effect in the hearts of those who held to them. Mark 7:9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. 13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
Only those traditions that serve to enhance the spiritual walk within ones soul are to be kept. 2 Thess. 2:15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
It was not only Christ’s word through Stephen, but also his word through his prophets that instructed concerning the changing of the customs of men as the gospel became a force among them. Hosea 3:4 For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: 5 Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.
Hosea here prophesied that the civil government, represented by the words king and prince, should be removed from Israel. And here was national Israel presently under Roman rule! And concerning the Israel of God (Gal. 6:16), their government, and the whole world’s rests upon the shoulders of the Lord Jesus Christ! (Isaiah 9:6).
But he also prophesied that their “Jehovah worship” should also cease as seen in those words, sacrifice, image, ephod, and teraphim. For the Apostle John clearly warns that without the acceptance of the Son of God, there was no proper worship of God the Father! He even states that those attempting to continue to worship the Father only, without receiving the Son are actually antichrist! 1 John 2:22 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. 23 Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. And the Lord himself stated, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6).
The Lord warns everyone in Peter’s Pentecostal message that Christianity was to have the effect of a great upheaval! He clearly states this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel! And Joel not only speaks of the pouring out of the Spirit upon mankind, but he also gives in some startling examples, just how shocking Christianity would be to those settled into the old Jewish religious customs! For he uses examples such as wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: and of the sun … turned into darkness, and the moon into blood! These horrifying things were used by the Old Testament prophets in an attempt to show just how upsetting to the old ways Christianity would be!
And we read of the Lord stating that his sword, not peace, should fall into the family unit, so that one family member shall be turned away from another, as one was made a believer and another left in their sin. Matt. 10:34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
And he says it will be so radical as to require the example of one tearing the tender eye out of its socket, and chopping off one’s hand to express the drastic need to abstain from sin! Every old thing of the flesh shall pass away, as he makes all things new!
Hebrews 10:8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; 9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. That is, God completely takes away Judaism, it’s ceremonies, pageants and approach to God by sacrifice, and replaces it with worship in spirit and truth! John 4:23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
Rev. 21:5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
Pastor Gene Breed, September 29, 2012