Worship My Way or the Highway? (Acts 7:1-8:3)
Oct 18, 2010 by Craig Blomberg | 0 Comments
“You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors. You always resist the Holy Spirit.’” (7:51; TNIV)
Imagine a group of devout worshipers of God, some of them longtime religious leaders, quite bent out of shape because some young, upstart folks in their midst are teaching and modeling that true worship doesn’t have to occur in the church building, at the regular times for services, or even in their denomination. Imagine, too, that the forms of worship promoted by this new group appear to violate all the time-honored customs of the congregation.
Sound like the modern “worship wars”? Well, change “church” to “temple” and this could be a description of the fledgling Jesus movement as compared to the orthodox Judaism in Israel in A.D. 32. Stephen may have been first to realize that true worship need not be tied to the temple, the Law, or even the land of Israel. When the Jewish high court arraigned and interrogated him (7:1), he replied with what could be viewed as an ancient filibuster! He began to tell selected bits of the Jewish history that everyone present already well knew. To what end?
On closer inspection, three themes tie this “Old Testament history lesson” together. The patriarchs were not able to permanently occupy the land. Moses, the Lawgiver, pointed forward to the Christ. And the temple was not God’s first or last plan for his people’s worship. Indeed by verse 51, Stephen accuses the court of resisting God’s Spirit by not realizing the new directions God was leading his people. May we never, however unwittingly, allow ourselves to be similarly encrusted by inflexible tradition!