Stephen (Part 1)


Series: Acts

Passage: Acts 6:8-7:8

Speaker: Jeff Thompson

Stephen was one of the greatest men who ever lived. In Part 1, we’ll study his rise to prominence in the Early Church, the adversity he encountered, how he answered charges of blasphemy brought against him, and what his message means for us today.

Transcription (automatically-generated):

Last week in Acts chapter six, we were introduced to Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit. He was one of the seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom chosen to verses the distribution of food to the Hellenistic widows in the Jerusalem church. Today's text will continue Steven's story as God works mighty things through this amazing man. In just a few weeks, or at the most months, we're going to see several parallels between Stephen and Jesus. The Lord wants us to recognize that Stephen was Christ like and the Lord wants us to recognize where that lead stevens earthly life.

In Luke chapter two, we are told that as a boy Jesus grew up and became strong, filled with wisdom, and God's grace was on him. And a few verses later we read and Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and with people. Now, compare that with verse three and verse five and what we read about Stephen's development in verses eight. It says now Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. The original Greek tells us that Stephen was doing this consistently on an ongoing basis.

In other words, Stephen was working wonders, performing miracles, healing the sick on the level of the apostles, the Lord anointed Stephen with incredible power in these early days of the Church. Like the Lord Jesus, Stephen was admired by the people for the great wonders and signs he performed among them. And like the Lord Jesus, he remained a humble servant, waiting tables 1 minute and performing wondrous miracles the next. In verse is it says opposition arose, however, from some members of the freedman synagogue composed of both Sirenians and Alexandrians, and some from Celicia and Asia. And they began to argue with Stephen.

Friedmen were Jewish slaves or the children of Jewish slaves who had been set free by their Roman masters. They often formed their own synagogues. And at this time, synagogues were centers of Jewish communal and academic life. That's why, even though the temple was located in Jerusalem, there were also many, possibly even hundreds of synagogues located around the city. The freedmen in view here belonged to one or more of those synagogues.

Steven was himself a Hellenistic Jew, a Greekspeaking Jew who had been raised in Greek culture rather than Hebrew culture. You'll recall that all of the seven men who were chosen to verses the distribution of food to the Hellenistic widows were themselves Hellenistic Jews. It's possible that Stephen actually belonged to one of these freed men's synagogues. When it says that they began to argue with Steve. And the original Greek tells us they were having formal debates, or at least aformal debate.

Subsequent verses and events will make it clear that their debate centered on the death and resurrection and Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth and the inability of the Mosaic law and temple rituals to provide salvation it seems that as a Hellenistic Jew, Stephen's theological understanding in these areas may have been significantly more advanced than even that of the disciples and the apostles. We don't have any indication in Scripture that the apostles were yet wrestling with how Jesus' life, death, and resurrection affected the role of the Law and the Temple in the life of the believer. But Stephen's speech will make it clear that he already understood theological concepts like Jesus having fulfilled the Law on our behalf, justification by faith, the giving of the Holy Spirit, meaning that God's presence was no longer confined to the holy of holies in the Temple. Jesus had said of himself, I tell you that something greater than the Temple is here. Stephen was likely arguing that the Law and Temple rituals were done with because their purpose had been fulfilled in and by Jesus of Nazareth.

The people of God were now the priesthood, and every individual was now a Temple of the Holy Spirit, the presence of God. Therefore, many scholars view Stephen as the theological forerunner of the Apostle Paul, who will actually cross paths with Stephen shortly under tragic circumstances. To the freedmen, Stephen would have sounded as though he were attacking everything Judaism held sacred, like the Temple and the Law. As was the case with Jesus. Nobody had a problem with the miracles that Stephen was performing.

Nobody had a problem with the signs and wonders. Nobody had a problem with him overseeing food distribution to widows. They had a problem with the message he was teaching. Just as nobody had a problem with Jesus performing miracles, healing the sick, turning water into wine, or providing free food. They didn't kill Jesus for any of that.

They killed him because of the message he was teaching. Just as nobody today has a problem when the Church feeds the hungry or houses the homeless. But they do have a problem when the Church teaches the Bible faithfully. Would you write this down? The world is offended by the message of the Gospel and the Word of God.

The world is offended by the message of the Gospel and the Word of God. If you're looking for a Church that the would he going to love, all you have to do is look for one that doesn't preach the Gospel and doesn't teach the Word of God. And the sad thing is they're out there. How did the Friedman's debate or debates with Stephen go? Well, in verse is we read but they were unable to stand up against his wisdom, underlying wisdom and then underline the rest of the sentence and the Spirit by whom he was speaking.

So how did Steven become so incredibly wise? The same way you and I can. Psalm 19, verse seven tells us the instruction of the Lord is perfect, renewing one's life. The testimony of the Lord is trustworthy, making the inexperienced, wise whoever you are, if you will become a man or woman, of the Word. If you will submit to the Word, if you will allow the Word to shape you and have authority over your life, you will become wise.

You will. Stephen was a man of the Scriptures. He knew them. He had been shaped by them, as we shall see shortly in his speech to the Sanhedrin. We were told twice in chapter six that Stephen was a man full of the Holy Spirit.

And so when the moment demanded it, the Holy Spirit flowed out of Stephen's life. God can do great things with the man or woman who is full of his Word and full of his Spirit. That person is ready to be used by the Lord, ready to be called upon for service. And in this instance, God revealed that these freedmen were not full of the Word or full of the Spirit. They were simply full of it.

That was pretty good. Much better than that reaction, by the way. Come on now, man. You see, their reasoning came from human understanding, but Steven's reasoning came from the Spirit of God. His thinking and argumentation had a supernatural and divine source.

Stephen was one of the first fulfillment of Jesus promise in Luke 21, where he told his disciples, make up your mind not to prepare your defense ahead of time, for I will give you such words and the wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict classical debates to this day. Generally revolve, would he? Socratic method, named after the famous Greek philosopher of antiquity, Socrates, a classic Socratic argument presents premises, a series of arguments or facts that, if proven true and reasonable, lead to and provide support for a conclusion. If your premises are found to be false or logically unsound, then they will not support your conclusion and your argument will therefore collapse. Stevens premises would have consisted entirely of scriptures from the Old Testament.

None of the freedoms could argue with any of his premises because they accepted and recognized the authority of those scriptures. However, they simply could not accept any of Steven's conclusions because they sounded so radical and so scandalous. They couldn't argue against his arguments, they couldn't prove him wrong, but they refused to accept what Stephen was able to prove. So just as people do today, they switch to an ad hominem attack. Ad hominem is Latin for to the person.

It's a fallacious strategy employed by those who do not possess a winnable argument. And so instead of addressing the substance of the other person's argument, they attack the person's character or motive or some other attribute. For example, I might say, I think that printing money and giving it to people in the name of coveting inflation is foolish, because printing more money is what causes inflation. And a person might respond by saying, that s exactly the kind of compassionless and uncaring response I would expect from someone who clearly doesn't care about people, who can't afford food right now. Did you notice that they don't actually address the substance of my argument at all?

Instead, they attack my character, they attack my motives. That's an ad hominem argument, and it's used all the time in the public arena. Verse eleven then they secretly persuaded some men to say, we heard him speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God. They stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes. So they came, seized him, and took him to the sanhedrin.

In his fantastic message last week, BJ reminded us of how sickle the crowds were that gathered around Jesus during his earthly ministry. They flocked by the thousands to the man who healed the sick and fed the hungry, but disappeared just as quickly when his teaching became challenging. Up to this point, the crowds in Jerusalem had been passionately in favor of the church. In Acts 421, remember, the sanhedrin felt they couldn't do anything to Peter and John because as a result of their ministry, it says the people were all giving glory to God. In Acts chapter five, the apostles were jailed and then supernaturally freed by God.

They immediately went back out in public and started preaching again. And when the temple guard went to arrest them in verses 26, told us, the commander went with the servants and brought them in without force because they were afraid the people might stone them. The temple guards were afraid that the crowd might stone them because the apostles had so much favor in Jerusalem at that time. But here already in Acts chapter six, just a few weeks later, something has changed. In verses twelve, the same crowds that adored the apostles in chapters four and five are able to be stirred up into a religious frenzy in which they see Stephen and drag him by force before the sanhedrin.

The dynamic is reminiscent of the crowd who was stirred up against Jesus following his arrest. The crowd that turned into a mob and cried out repeatedly, crucify him. Crucify him with such intensity that the cowardly Pontious pilot felt it necessary to acquiesce to their demands in the name of political and possibly physical self preservation. I think we generally fail to grasp just how much religious fervor was in play in the city of Jerusalem in the first century Ad. I don't know if you've ever seen news clippings or videos of the religious mobs of Hindus or Muslims that form regularly and riot and protest in places like Pakistan and Malaysia, where even an accusation of blasphemy can lead to someone being dragged from their home and lynched, beaten, burned to death, or worse.

A group of people come together and a psychological mob mentality is formed in their collective outrage, and they just amplify each other's rage into this animalistic state where they would literally tear a person limb from limb. That's the kind of intensity that was in play in Jerusalem at this time, and that kind of thing could happen at any moment if witnesses suddenly began claiming that somebody had blasphemed Yahweh or the Temple or the Law or the patriarchs. That's what happened with Jesus, and it's what's happening here with Stephen, who now finds himself before the very same council of religious leaders that judged Jesus just a few months earlier and falsely condemned him. Verse 13, they also presented false witnesses who said, this man never stops speaking against this holy place and the Law. For we heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place, the temple, and change the customs that Moses handed down to us.

The second charge in verses 14 was because Stephen was teaching that the Law had been fulfilled by Jesus the Messiah, and therefore followers of Yahweh were no longer under the Law. But they were misrepresenting Stephen's argument and presenting it as though Stephen despised and dismissed the Law. Stephen's coming response will show that, on the contrary, he deeply venerated the Law. He simply understood the Law's correct place and role in light of the sinless life of Jesus. But the first charge is interesting.

They claim, we heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place. Speaking of the Temple, does that remind anybody of anything? In Matthew 26, we're told that at the trial of Jesus, two false witnesses who came forward stated this man said, I can destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days. Like Jesus, Stephen was accused by false witnesses. And like Jesus, he was charged with the claim that Jesus had said he would destroy the temple.

And Jesus did indeed claim that the temple of God would be destroyed and rebuilt in three days. But these false witnesses left out a crucial detail. John 221 tells us that Jesus was speaking of his body, not the temple building in Jerusalem. For indeed Jesus would be destroyed. He would die and then rise in glory three days later.

When we get to Acts 21, we will hear similar charges brought against the apostle Paul. In verse 28, we'll read about some Jews who stir up a crowd by shouting, this is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people, our Law and this place. Speaking of the temple, the reason that Jews in Jerusalem attempt to condemn Jesus, Stephen and Paul with the same charges is likely because the Romans had given the Sanhedrin the authority to try and execute punishments for one specific type of offense profaning the Temple in word or deed. If this was the charge, the Sanhedrin could deal with the offender at their own discretion. The temple police could get involved.

No Romans needed to be consulted. Had they been able to make those charges stick against Jesus, they could have stoned him to death. That was their first plan. Because they couldn't, they had to change tactics and get Jesus sentenced to death via their Roman overlords, which they did by misrepresenting Jesus claims to be God and king as an affront to the authority of the Roman Emperor. Verse 15.

And all who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him, at Stephen, and saw that - underline this - his face was like the face of an angel. If you want to understand the kind of man that Stephen was, or more importantly, if you want to understand how God viewed Stephen, consider that God only did something like this for one other man in history - Moses' face, you will recall, glowed with God's glory after he had fellowship with him. Stephen was marked by God as one of the greatest men who ever lived. God was saying that he was a man on the level of Moses.

The Sanhedrin would obviously be familiar with the story of Moses and his shining face, and they would have understood the significance of Stephen's visage. It was God authenticating Stephen as his representative. This was God saying, this man has been with me, this man represents me, and this man speaks the truth about me. The Sanhedrin had known the Spirit of God was on Jesus and they knew the Spirit of God was on Stephen. They could see it on his face.

Steven's Gloriously anointed face reminds me of a Spurgeon quote which isn't totally connected but was just so good. I had to just throw it in here because it's one of my favorites. He was talking one time, it is said, to a group of students who aspire to a life of vocational ministry. And he told the men, "When you teach on Heaven, let there always be a glow on your face, a gleam in your eye, and a smile on your lips. When you teach on hell, your normal face will do fine."

That's a good quote, right? So, with the charges laid out against Stephen, our story continues into chapter seven, verse one. Are these things true? The high priest asked. The high priest is likely still Caiaphas, who oversaw the trial of Jesus.

Stephen, under the inspiration and direction of the Holy Spirit, will now deliver an incredible speech that will address the accusations against him by pointing to Israel's history. It will reveal damning patterns of behavior across Israel's history, and it will turn the tables on as accusers, instead proving their guilt before God. As we study through Stephen's speech, remember the charges that have been leveled against him. He's been accused of speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God, and he's been accused of speaking against this holy place, the Temple, and the Law. The overriding charge is blasphemy, punishable by death by stoning.

Specifically, the charges are speaking blasphemy against Moses, God, the Temple, and the Law. Verse two. "Brothers and fathers, he replied. Listen, the God of glory appeared to our father Abraham." Stephen addresses the Sanhedrin as brothers because he's Jewish and so are they.

The use of the term fathers shows respect and recognition of their authority. He refers to Abraham as our father. Remember, in the minds of all Christians at this time, they're still religiously Jewish because they view themselves as simply continuing the Jewish faith by placing their faith in the Jewish Messiah who was prophesied by the Jewish scriptures. They don't view themselves as something different from the temple and the law and all of these things. Stephen acknowledges the God of glory as being the God of Abraham, and he acknowledges Abraham as the father of the nation of Israel.

This was Steven's way of saying, I'm an Orthodox Jew. I worship the God of Abraham, just like you, and any accusation to the contrary is false. He says, the God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia before he settled in Harran and said to him, leave your country and relatives and come to the land that I will show you. Then he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. From there, after his father died, God had to move to this land in which you are now living.

He didn't give him an inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground, but he promised to give it to him as a possession and to his descendants after him, even though he was childless. God spoke in this way. His descendants would be strangers in a foreign country, and they would enslave and oppress them for 400 years. That's speaking, of course, of Israel slavery in Egypt. I will judge the nation that they serve as slaves.

God said, after this, they will come out and worship me in this place. And so he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. After this, he fathered Isaac and circumcised him. On the 8th day, Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the Twelve patriarchs. Stephen points out that God introduced himself to the father of Israel and Judaism, Abraham, and fellowshipped with him outside of the holy city of Jerusalem and outside even the holy land of Israel.

In fact, he met with Abraham in Haran, a pagan Mesopotamian city noted for its worship of the moon. So write this down. Stevens first point is that God has never needed a holy temple, city, or land to meet with his people. God has never needed a holy temple, city, or land to meet with his people. Stephen's second point is that Abraham lived by faith in promises given to him by God.

Abraham had to be willing to change his plans whenever God revealed the next step. He had to literally move to stay in the will and plan of God. In the famous hall of Faith of Hebrews Eleven, we read this about Abraham. It's on your outlines. By faith, Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and set out for a place that he was going to receive as an inheritance.

He went out even though he did not know where he was. Going by faith. He stayed as a foreigner in the land of Promise, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, coehrs of the same promise, for he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. Steve's next point is that God gives his people promises. That necessitate faith, action, and a willingness to follow wherever he leads.

And here's the connection to the Sanhedrin and the Jews who rejected Jesus. God had given Israel the promise that he would send her a Messiah. Israel had faith in that promise. However, they were unwilling to accept Jesus as Messiah because he didn't meet their fleshly expectations. They wanted a militant messiah who would overthrow the Romans.

Abraham had faith even when the next step didn't make sense to him. He went out when God told him to go, even when he didn't know where he was going. He trusted God to provide a child, even though he and Sarah were impossibly old. The Father of Israel lived by faith and followed God wherever he was led. The glory of God appeared to Abraham, and so he followed.

The glory of God appeared to Israel in the man Christ Jesus. But Israel said we will not follow. We will not have this man rule over us. Abraham encountered God in such a way that he was compelled to follow and obey him. Jesus told his disciples, the one who has seen me has seen the Father.

But Israel refused to follow and obey Jesus. Write this down. This is Stephen's next point.

Those who follow God cannot dictate how he fulfills his promises. The promise Messiah showed up, and Israel said, we have terms and conditions. Though the Messiah must overthrow the Romans, those who follow God don't get to tell him how he ought to fulfill his promises. The Sanhedrin had added to the Scriptures by insisting that any fulfillment of God's messianic promises had to include the continuation of temple rituals, it had to include the continuation of the Law, and it had to include the political prosperity of the nation of Israel. But the Lord had other plans, plans that were tragically unacceptable to the Sanhedrin.

When Israel spent all those years in slavery in Egypt, out of the Promised Land, was God's plan limited? Was it derailed? Was it delayed? On the contrary, for it was in Egypt, in slavery, that the nation of Israel grew and exploded in number exponentially. The plans of God are not limited by location or anything else.

There is nothing that ever comes up that can derail the plans of God. Nothing. He is able to work wonders and accomplish his plans however he chooses. Steven points out that Abraham never actually even owned even a foot of land in the Promised Land. He never had a tangible object in which to place his faith, like a temple, a city, or a piece of land he owned.

All he had to go on was the word of God, and that was enough. And that's why Abraham goes down in history as the father of faith. Genesis 15:6 tells us, Abram believed the Lord, and God credited it to him as righteousness. Abraham didn't have the law, he didn't have the land of Israel, he didn't have the city of Jerusalem, and he didn't have the temple, but he believed the promises of God, and because he did, God judged him righteous. The implication is that the Sanhedrin had placed their faith not in God or his promises, but in the Law, the temple, the city of Jerusalem, and the land of Israel.

Stephen's point is that Israel was founded on faith. The only sign given to Abraham was circumcision, a physical mark of God's covenant, marking him and those in his line as the people of God. And even this Abraham did by faith, without the law, without a temple, without a holy city or a holy country. Abraham met with God, was directed by God, was given promises by God, obeyed God, and pleased God. True worship of God, Steven was arguing, has always been about a holy God making for Himself a holy people.

And to do that, he requires only faith and obedience. Now, for the final part of the message I said final part, not final minutes. For the final part, I want to look at some things that we can take from Stephen's words, encouragement, exhortation, and reminders. Firstly, write this down. Like Abraham, we are able to fellowship with God anywhere.

We're able to fellowship with God anywhere. We don't need a priest, a temple, or a holy location. God has made all who have placed their faith in Jesus into temples of the Spirit of God, his very presence. I know you know this, but I pray that it astounds you one more time. As you hear it, wherever you go, the presence of God goes with you because he is in you.

In one Timothy Two, Paul writes, there's one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all. Our access to God is through Jesus anytime, anywhere. Probably my favorite verse in the whole Bible, hebrews 415 and 16 it's on your outline declares, we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need. As a side note, I trust everyone here is mature enough to not respond to the reality that we can fellowship with God anywhere by thinking, great, I don't need to come to church anymore.

Then you need to be involved in the life of the church, because Jesus wants his people to not only fellowship with Him, but also one another. And you cannot do. The one another is without one another, and he desires his church serve and worship Him both individually and collectively. That is the will of Jesus. And anyone who says, I'm going to follow Jesus without being involved with his people is not in the will of God.

Like Abraham, we have been given a promise that we will not see fulfilled during our earthly lives, and we have been called to follow God toward it by faith. The apostle Peter urged the brethren to remember to live their lives as sojourners and pilgrims. Paul reminded the Philippians that our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to his glorious body. And Jesus told Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and have yet believed.

Jesus is talking about you and me, and today he would say to you, blessed are you who have not seen and yet have believed. John wrote to the brethren, behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called children of God. Therefore, the world does not know us because it did not know him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be. But we know that when it is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as he is.

If you ever feel out of place in this world, it's because you are. You are out of place in this world. You belong with Jesus. You are a sojourner in this life, a pilgrim. And as we journey toward Jesus, it is our job as his ambassadors to tell as many people as possible where we're going, how we're going to get there, how wonderful Jesus is, and most of all, how much he wants them to come to we're people of the promise.

Just like Abraham. Write this down like Abraham, we must be ready to follow the Lord wherever he leads us. We must be ready to follow the Lord wherever he leads us. Unlike Abraham, we must not dictate to the Lord the manner in which he fulfills his promises to us. We should be careful to not be like the Sanhedrin who determined that God's promised Messiah had to facilitate the continuation of temple rituals and the law and restore the nation of Israel to political prominence.

They put conditions on the way that God was to fulfill his promise, and we should be careful not to do the same and assume things like God's plans for my life can be whatever he wants as long as they include a comfortable middle or upper middle class lifestyle. God's plans for my life are limitless as long as they take place in the city where I live right now, because I really like it here. God's plans. For my life must include the exact number of children that I find most convenient. Not less, not more.

God needs to keep his hands off that. God's plans for my life must include me getting married around this specific age can't be younger, can't be older. God's plans for my life can be whatever he decides, as long as they take place in my preferred career path. God's plans for my life must include the absence of health problems. I'm not open to that.

For God's plans for my life must include no tragedies. And on and on and on. I could go the follower of Jesus, prays your will be done, your will be done, and then remains open to however the Lord chooses to accomplish his will. That's his business. And the follower of Jesus knows that however the Lord chooses to accomplish his will, it will require faith and action.

God is able to accomplish his will. Even when you're in Egypt, even when things look hopeless, even when days are dark, the plans of God are not limited by your location or your circumstances, or your financial situation, or your relational situation or your health situation.

Make a note of this. Like Abraham. God has marked us as his people. Scripture says that he circumcised our hearts by putting His Spirit within us. We're not like the rest of the world.

And one of the most underrated benefits of having the Holy Spirit within us is that he is available. He's available as often as we need to remind us of who we belong to and man, we need to be reminded of that we're sons and daughters of the living God, the God of heaven and earth, who's high above all things. Did you know that you can just ask God to do that at any moment? Just to remind you who you are in Christ, just to remind you whose you are. And he will.

He will. Anywhere, anytime. The Holy Spirit marks us as the people of God. I'm going to ask the worship team to come up as I get ready to close. These are all simple truths, but they are profound truths.

Imagine if Abraham had said no one of the times that God called him to relocate. Imagine if he had said, I really like it here. I've got a nice place. I'm getting on with my neighbors. Business is doing well.

I'm just not at the stage of life. God, where a move is good right now, kind of in kickback gear, I've hit the peak of my career that this is my time to just enjoy myself. Can I tell you a secret?

There's never going to be a stage of life where faith doesn't require faith. If you ever find yourself in that situation, it simply means you've stopped living and walking by faith. Obey God today. Whatever it looks like, whatever it costs, whatever stage of life you're in, whatever circumstance you're in, obey God today and then obey God tomorrow, whatever it looks like, whatever it costs you. And keep doing that until you wake up one day in the presence of Jesus, which you will, because when that day comes, you will realize that you lived wisely and profitably because you lived your whole life by faith, and you lived for the only thing that actually matters the glory of Jesus.

Peter wrote this in his first Epistle. It's on your outlines. Take this to heart. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who according to his abundant mercy. Has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this, you greatly rejoice, though now, for a little while, if need be. You've been grieved by various trials that the genuineness of your faith. Being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love, though now you do not see Him, yet believing you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

We do not labor in vain, Church. We do not labor in vain. Keep your head up, keep your eyes on Jesus. Keep the faith, stay on the narrow path.

Take up your cross daily and follow Jesus, because what no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human heart has conceived, god has prepared these things for those who love Him.

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