Catch-Up Day (1 Corinthians 10, Acts 7, Hebrews 11)
Warnings against Idols
1I want you to remember, my brothers and sisters, what happened to our ancestors who followed Moses. They were all under the protection of the cloud, and all passed safely through the Red Sea. 2In the cloud and in the sea they were all baptized as followers of Moses. 3All ate the same spiritual bread 4and drank the same spiritual drink. They drank from the spiritual rock that went with them; and that rock was Christ himself. 5But even then God was not pleased with most of them, and so their dead bodies were scattered over the desert.
6Now, all this is an example for us, to warn us not to desire evil things, as they did, 7nor to worship idols, as some of them did. As the scripture says, “The people sat down to a feast which turned into an orgy of drinking and sex.” 8We must not be guilty of sexual immorality, as some of them were — and in one day 23,000 of them fell dead. 9We must not put the Lord to the test, as some of them did — and they were killed by snakes. 10We must not complain, as some of them did — and they were destroyed by the Angel of Death.
11All these things happened to them as examples for others, and they were written down as a warning for us. For we live at a time when the end is about to come.
12Those who think they are standing firm had better be careful that they do not fall. 13Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.
14So then, my dear friends, keep away from the worship of idols. 15I speak to you as sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16The cup we use in the Lord's Supper and for which we give thanks to God: when we drink from it, we are sharing in the blood of Christ. And the bread we break: when we eat it, we are sharing in the body of Christ. 17Because there is the one loaf of bread, all of us, though many, are one body, for we all share the same loaf.
18Consider the people of Israel; those who eat what is offered in sacrifice share in the altar's service to God. 19Do I imply, then, that an idol or the food offered to it really amounts to anything? 20No! What I am saying is that what is sacrificed on pagan altars is offered to demons, not to God. And I do not want you to be partners with demons. 21You cannot drink from the Lord's cup and also from the cup of demons; you cannot eat at the Lord's table and also at the table of demons. 22Or do we want to make the Lord jealous? Do we think that we are stronger than he?
23“We are allowed to do anything,” so they say. That is true, but not everything is good. “We are allowed to do anything” — but not everything is helpful. 24None of you should be looking to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
25You are free to eat anything sold in the meat market, without asking any questions because of your conscience. 26For, as the scripture says, “The earth and everything in it belong to the Lord.”
27If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you decide to go, eat what is set before you, without asking any questions because of your conscience. 28But if someone says to you, “This food was offered to idols,” then do not eat that food, for the sake of the one who told you and for conscience' sake — 29that is, not your own conscience, but the other person's conscience.
“Well, then,” someone asks, “why should my freedom to act be limited by another person's conscience? 30If I thank God for my food, why should anyone criticize me about food for which I give thanks?”
31Well, whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do it all for God's glory. 32Live in such a way as to cause no trouble either to Jews or Gentiles or to the church of God. 33Just do as I do; I try to please everyone in all that I do, not thinking of my own good, but of the good of all, so that they might be saved.
2Stephen answered, “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! Before our ancestor Abraham had gone to live in Haran, the God of glory appeared to him in Mesopotamia 3and said to him, ‘Leave your family and country and go to the land that I will show you.’ 4And so he left his country and went to live in Haran. After Abraham's father died, God made him move to this land where you now live. 5God did not then give Abraham any part of it as his own, not even a square metre of ground, but God promised to give it to him, and that it would belong to him and to his descendants. At the time God made this promise, Abraham had no children. 6This is what God said to him: ‘Your descendants will live in a foreign country, where they will be slaves and will be badly treated for 400 years. 7But I will pass judgement on the people that they will serve, and afterwards your descendants will come out of that country and will worship me in this place.’ 8Then God gave Abraham the ceremony of circumcision as a sign of the covenant. So Abraham circumcised Isaac a week after he was born; Isaac circumcised his son Jacob, and Jacob circumcised his twelve sons, the famous ancestors of our race.
9“Jacob's sons became jealous of their brother Joseph and sold him to be a slave in Egypt. But God was with him 10and brought him safely through all his troubles. When Joseph appeared before the king of Egypt, God gave him a pleasing manner and wisdom, and the king made Joseph governor over the country and the royal household. 11Then there was a famine all over Egypt and Canaan, which caused much suffering. Our ancestors could not find any food, 12and when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent his sons, our ancestors, on their first visit there. 13On the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and the king of Egypt came to know about Joseph's family. 14So Joseph sent a message to his father Jacob, telling him and the whole family, 75 people in all, to come to Egypt. 15Then Jacob went to Egypt, where he and his sons died. 16Their bodies were taken to Shechem, where they were buried in the grave which Abraham had bought from the clan of Hamor for a sum of money.
17“When the time drew near for God to keep the promise he had made to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt had grown much larger. 18At last a king who did not know about Joseph began to rule in Egypt. 19He tricked our ancestors and was cruel to them, forcing them to put their babies out of their homes, so that they would die. 20It was at this time that Moses was born, a very beautiful child. He was cared for at home for three months, 21and when he was put out of his home, the king's daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22He was taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians and became a great man in words and deeds.
23“When Moses was forty years old, he decided to find out how his fellow-Israelites were being treated. 24He saw one of them being ill-treated by an Egyptian, so he went to his help and took revenge on the Egyptian by killing him. 25(He thought that his own people would understand that God was going to use him to set them free, but they did not understand.) 26The next day he saw two Israelites fighting, and he tried to make peace between them. ‘Listen, men,’ he said, ‘you are fellow-Israelites; why are you fighting like this?’ 27But the one who was ill-treating the other pushed Moses aside. ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us?’ he asked. 28‘Do you want to kill me, just as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?’ 29When Moses heard this, he fled from Egypt and went to live in the land of Midian. There he had two sons.
30“After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. 31Moses was amazed by what he saw, and went near the bush to get a better look. But he heard the Lord's voice: 32‘I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Moses trembled with fear and dared not look. 33The Lord said to him, ‘Take your sandals off, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34I have seen the cruel suffering of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groans, and I have come down to set them free. Come now; I will send you to Egypt.’
35“Moses is the one who was rejected by the people of Israel. ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us?’ they asked. He is the one whom God sent to rule the people and set them free with the help of the angel who appeared to him in the burning bush. 36He led the people out of Egypt, performing miracles and wonders in Egypt and at the Red Sea and for forty years in the desert. 37Moses is the one who said to the people of Israel, ‘God will send you a prophet, just as he sent me, and he will be one of your own people.’ 38He is the one who was with the people of Israel assembled in the desert; he was there with our ancestors and with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and he received God's living messages to pass on to us.
39“But our ancestors refused to obey him; they pushed him aside and wished that they could go back to Egypt. 40So they said to Aaron, ‘Make us some gods who will lead us. We do not know what has happened to that man Moses, who brought us out of Egypt.’ 41It was then that they made an idol in the shape of a bull, offered sacrifice to it, and had a feast in honour of what they themselves had made. 42So God turned away from them and gave them over to worship the stars of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:
‘People of Israel! It was not to me
that you slaughtered and sacrificed animals
for forty years in the desert.
43It was the tent of the god Molech that you carried,
and the image of Rephan, your star god;
they were idols that you had made to worship.
And so I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.’
44“Our ancestors had the Tent of God's presence with them in the desert. It had been made as God had told Moses to make it, according to the pattern that Moses had been shown. 45Later on, our ancestors who received the tent from their fathers carried it with them when they went with Joshua and took over the land from the nations that God drove out as they advanced. And it stayed there until the time of David. 46He won God's favour and asked God to allow him to provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.47But it was Solomon who built him a house.
48“But the Most High God does not live in houses built by human hands; as the prophet says:
49‘Heaven is my throne, says the Lord,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house would you build for me?
Where is the place for me to live in?
50Did not I myself make all these things?’
51“How stubborn you are!” Stephen went on to say. “How heathen your hearts, how deaf you are to God's message! You are just like your ancestors: you too have always resisted the Holy Spirit! 52Was there any prophet that your ancestors did not persecute? They killed God's messengers, who long ago announced the coming of his righteous Servant. And now you have betrayed and murdered him. 53You are the ones who received God's law, that was handed down by angels — yet you have not obeyed it!”
The Stoning of Stephen
54As the members of the Council listened to Stephen, they became furious and ground their teeth at him in anger. 55But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw God's glory and Jesus standing at the right-hand side of God. 56“Look!” he said. “I see heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right-hand side of God!”
57With a loud cry the members of the Council covered their ears with their hands. Then they all rushed at him at once, 58threw him out of the city, and stoned him. The witnesses left their cloaks in the care of a young man named Saul. 59They kept on stoning Stephen as he called out to the Lord, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60He knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord! Do not remember this sin against them!” He said this and died.
1To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see. 2It was by their faith that people of ancient times won God's approval.
3It is by faith that we understand that the universe was created by God's word, so that what can be seen was made out of what cannot be seen.
4It was faith that made Abel offer to God a better sacrifice than Cain's. Through his faith he won God's approval as a righteous man, because God himself approved of his gifts. By means of his faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
5It was faith that kept Enoch from dying. Instead, he was taken up to God, and nobody could find him, because God had taken him up. The scripture says that before Enoch was taken up, he had pleased God. 6No one can please God without faith, for whoever comes to God must have faith that God exists and rewards those who seek him.
7It was faith that made Noah hear God's warnings about things in the future that he could not see. He obeyed God and built a boat in which he and his family were saved. As a result, the world was condemned, and Noah received from God the righteousness that comes by faith.
8It was faith that made Abraham obey when God called him to go out to a country which God had promised to give him. He left his own country without knowing where he was going. 9By faith he lived as a foreigner in the country that God had promised him. He lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who received the same promise from God. 10For Abraham was waiting for the city which God has designed and built, the city with permanent foundations.
11It was faith that made Abraham able to become a father, even though he was too old and Sarah herself could not have children. He trusted God to keep his promise. 12Though Abraham was practically dead, from this one man came as many descendants as there are stars in the sky, as many as the numberless grains of sand on the seashore.
13It was in faith that all these persons died. They did not receive the things God had promised, but from a long way off they saw them and welcomed them, and admitted openly that they were foreigners and refugees on earth. 14Those who say such things make it clear that they are looking for a country of their own. 15They did not keep thinking about the country they had left; if they had, they would have had the chance to return. 16Instead, it was a better country they longed for, the heavenly country. And so God is not ashamed for them to call him their God, because he has prepared a city for them.
17It was faith that made Abraham offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice when God put Abraham to the test. Abraham was the one to whom God had made the promise, yet he was ready to offer his only son as a sacrifice. 18God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that you will have the descendants I promised.” 19Abraham reckoned that God was able to raise Isaac from death — and, so to speak, Abraham did receive Isaac back from death.
20It was faith that made Isaac promise blessings for the future to Jacob and Esau.
21It was faith that made Jacob bless each of the sons of Joseph just before he died. He leaned on the top of his walking stick and worshipped God.
22It was faith that made Joseph, when he was about to die, speak of the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, and leave instructions about what should be done with his body.
23It was faith that made the parents of Moses hide him for three months after he was born. They saw that he was a beautiful child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king's order.
24It was faith that made Moses, when he had grown up, refuse to be called the son of the king's daughter. 25He preferred to suffer with God's people rather than to enjoy sin for a little while. 26He reckoned that to suffer scorn for the Messiah was worth far more than all the treasures of Egypt, for he kept his eyes on the future reward.
27It was faith that made Moses leave Egypt without being afraid of the king's anger. As though he saw the invisible God, he refused to turn back. 28It was faith that made him establish the Passover and order the blood to be sprinkled on the doors, so that the Angel of Death would not kill the firstborn sons of the Israelites.
29It was faith that made the Israelites able to cross the Red Sea as if on dry land; when the Egyptians tried to do it, the water swallowed them up.
30It was faith that made the walls of Jericho fall down after the Israelites had marched round them for seven days. 31It was faith that kept the prostitute Rahab from being killed with those who disobeyed God, for she gave the Israelite spies a friendly welcome.
32Should I go on? There isn't enough time for me to speak of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. 33Through faith they fought whole countries and won. They did what was right and received what God had promised. They shut the mouths of lions, 34put out fierce fires, escaped being killed by the sword. They were weak, but became strong; they were mighty in battle and defeated the armies of foreigners. 35Through faith women received their dead relatives raised back to life.
Others, refusing to accept freedom, died under torture in order to be raised to a better life. 36Some were mocked and whipped, and others were put in chains and taken off to prison. 37They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword. They went round clothed in skins of sheep or goats — poor, persecuted, and ill-treated. 38The world was not good enough for them! They wandered like refugees in the deserts and hills, living in caves and holes in the ground.
39What a record all of these have won by their faith! Yet they did not receive what God had promised, 40because God had decided on an even better plan for us. His purpose was that only in company with us would they be made perfect.