Stoning the Messenger
By Gary Amirault
In the book of Acts, the seventh and eight chapters, we read of the martyrdom of Stephen, a Jew who had accepted Yeshua as the Messiah. Acts tells us Stephen "good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom." He was, "full of faith and the Holy Spirit." Again, he was, "full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people." When Stephen spoke, "they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.
As a result of Stephen's bold preaching followed by signs and wonders, many believed, but many were furious because they heard him say that, "Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us."
When Stephen was brought before the council, they gave him an opportunity to defend himself. The Bible says that false witnesses were brought in to speak against Stephen. Stephen took the opportunity to deliver a long sermon well over a thousand words long. He gave a basic Jewish history course ending with Solomon building a house for God. He then quoted Isaiah 66:1,2 stating that, "Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me, saith the Lord, or what is the place of My rest? Has not My hand made all these things?"
Now at this point in his discourse, Stephen makes a dramatic change. Please keep in mind, he is filled with faith, wisdom, power, and the Holy Spirit. It is God speaking through him. He is not manifesting a "critical spirit" here. He is speaking what the Holy Spirit desired to say to the leaders of God's people.
"You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it."
Have you ever wondered why the Holy Spirit had Stephen speak so strongly? It would be easy for a church leader to take such a statement as the one above and declare, "This man has a critical spirit. There is no love coming from him. He is an 'accuser of the brethren.'" Words such as those above would have been cause in most churches I have been associated with to physically remove that person from the church and make a few calls to the right people so that he is labeled a "trouble-maker." Stoning is forbidden in the United States. There was a time when it was allowable for the church to kill men who spoke as Stephen did, even in the United States. Remember, the Salem witch trials? Of course the European church history is a trail of blood full of the voices who spoke forth against the church in the manner described above.
So then, why did God speak in this manner to Israel, knowing those who heard it would be, "cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth." What good does it do? I am often asked this question. I should build up, edify, look for the good, cover my brothers sins, etc., etc.
Yes, I should do all of the above. But in all things there is a balance. To all things there is a season. There is a time to say "peace," and a time to declare war.
The purpose of this issue of Dew is to bring people to yearn for fullness. Fullness of what? Everyone is full of something. When Stephen spoke,he was full of the Holy Spirit. When the leaders of God's people heard him they manifested what they were full of. "Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him." They were full of anger, pride, and stubbornness which manifested in murder. In their hearts, they were murderers. "If you have hate in your heart, you are guilty of murder." The cup of their iniquity was full. It was time for judgment. And from then to 70AD there was great judgment. It is sad to note most of the church world is ignorant of what came upon this very generation.
Before our Father judges and carries out the penalty of that judgment, He warns, and warns, and warns. But, as Stephen pointed out, those who delivered the warnings, were killed.
Now there are more ways to "kill" messengers of warning than to stone them to death. The object is to keep the people from receiving the messages. So, not allowing them into the church and putting enough fear in the congregation to make sure no one would want anything to do with these people is often effective enough to "kill" the message and get rid of the messenger. Denominational doctrines, articles of faith, Confessions and many more methods work very well to "kill" any messages that may contradict the position of the leadership.
Stephen did not mix his words. He, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit called the ordained and anointed leaders of God's people "betrayers and murderers" of the Just One. What are those who "grieve the Holy Spirit," "quench the Spirit," those who lord over the people of God becoming their intermediaries again? Look at the Roman Catholic church. The Priestcraft has risen again acting as mediators between man and God. This is not to be the role of church leaders under the New Covenant. Yet, this is what has happened in many denominations. And it appears the Protestants leaders are running to the system which has separated the people of God from Him more than any other denomination, the Roman Catholic church. As far as I am concerned those who, through their doctrines separate the people of God from being taught by the Holy Spirit Himself are killing God again!
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you for ever, I mean the Spirit of truth. It is impossible for the world to receive him, because it neither sees nor knows him. You know him because he stays with you, and is in you. I will not leave you to face life all alone. I am coming to you. Very soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Because I live, you too will live. When that time comes ,you will know that I am in my Father, and that you are in me and that I am in you.
(John 14:16-20, Barclay translation)
I have told you this while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom my Father will send in my place, will teach you everything, and will remind you of all that I said to you. My last gift to you is peace. It is my own peace that I give to you.
(John 14:25-27, Barclay translation)
I cannot overemphasize the importance of what is contained in the above Scriptures. In the early part of my walk, these Scriptures were a reality that made my Christian life so powerful and wonderful. But for several years, I allowed the traditions of men and doctrines of demons to replace the Holy Spirit as my teacher. I got caught up in Presbyterian, Baptist, AOG, "Word-Faith", Pentecostal, Charismatic, etc. doctrines. I allowed men and women to subtly place themselves between me and the Father. I quenched the Holy Spirit even while we spent a great deal of time talking about the Holy Spirit or the "Holy Ghostah" as they would say in some circles. Words cannot describe the power of the traditions of men. Perhaps Jesus Christ said it best when He said,
For the sake of your traditional law you have cancelled the word of God. Your fault is that you do not practice what you preach. Isaiah well described you in his prophesy: 'This people honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. It is a futile worship which they offer me, for they teach as divine commands man-made rules and regulations.'
In my Christian walk, I have been in between 200 to 300 churches. I doubt there was one pastor in any of them that would ascribe the above Scripture to themselves. It was always some other church these kind of Scriptures pointed to. But as I read the various newsletters, editorials, books about the times we live in, they point out that all the denominations seem to be more favorable to the Roman Catholic church than ever before. If there is a church the above Scriptures fit perfectly, it is the Roman Catholic church. There is an expression which probably goes back to the times of the Roman Empire which states: "All roads lead to Rome." There may be much truth in this saying, but I know of a city whose maker is God. The Road to this City is not made of man-made bricks or man-made doctrines. It is not made of stones chiseled by masons nor theologians. The stones are living stones formed and fashioned by the Creator Himself. There is a stone which if we fall upon it, will break us, but if it falls upon us will crush us to powder. Let us fall on it!
The road to the City, called New Jerusalem is not an earthly one-it is a heavenly One and the Name of that road is Jesus the Messiah. "I am the way" ...remember?
This issue of Dew dealt with "fullness." Many may be disappointed with the subject matter we dealt with. We are all full, all the time. The question is what are we full of. Are we full of religion? Traditions of men? Doctrines of demons? Articles of Faith? Creeds? Do we mix law and grace and call it truth? I fear we do.
These things above were put upon the sheep of God by the shepherds,
"therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of Yahweh! Thus says Yahweh: ;Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food to them.'"
As for the sheep,
"If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
(2 Chronicles 7:14)
When we empty ourselves from the things mentioned above, then there will be plenty of room for the Holy Spirit to conform us to the image of His Son.