When Stephen stands before the council accused of blasphemy, he refuses to answer the high priest directly. Rather than offering his own personal witness and testimony, he uses the charges against his as the foundation of a sermon. Much like Peter’s sermon, which we have just seen before, Stephen preaches Jesus as the Messiah, but does so appealing to the Old Testament. In so doing, it is not his own witness, which is subject to scrutiny, which the priests must dismiss; but the very witness of the Prophets themselves, revealing to the multitudes the hard-heartedness of the priests who stand accusing him.
We see similar events unfold in the Church today. Certain doctrines which are taught today which the strongest witness would not be our personal convictions, but the testimony of the Prophets and the apostles. And when someone would argue against the doctrines, it is not our personal witness which they would deny, but rather that of the prophets and apostles themselves.
To deny our works as a part of our salvation would be not only to deny St Paul’s admonition that we are created in Christ Jesus for good works, or James’ constant teaching that faith without works is dead, but Jesus’ teach Himself that “whosoever believes in Me will do the same works that I have done.” Similarly, to teach that we are saved by our very works themselves is to deny St Paul’s teaching that “we are saved by grace by faith, not of our own works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). So, in order for both to be right, for there to be no contradiction, then is must be both, in synergy, working together. To teach that Baptism is not required is to contradict Jesus’ teaching to Nicodemus that, “unless a man is born again, by water and the Holy Spirit, he will not enter the kingdom.” To deny the command to asceticism is to deny Jesus’ command to “deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Me.”
No, when we truly affirm the words of Scripture, when we believe all that God has told us, rather than tens of thousands of denominational differences, we find a truth that looks nothing like the contemporary Western Church, which ironically trumpets it’s own doctrine of “Sola Scriptura” and yet looks nothing like the Church we find in Scripture. We find much more the Church that we find in the Scripture, the Church of the apostles. I have seen a meme on social media that states that a true Christian would be standing at the border offering food and clothing, not a wall and guns; and this is true. The true Church that we see in Scripture is not concerned with nationalistic patriotism; to the contrary, it is more concerned with the people of God becoming a nation unto itself. We find a Church whose largest sect of followers were, at that time, refuted, mocked, assaulted, and sought after for their silence.
May we emulate their example. Christ is risen!