This week we return to our series on preaching Christ from the Old Testament in Acts. Each week we are in Acts during Eastertide, the goal will be to find the Old Testament connection which can bring to light a faithful preaching of the Gospel that bridges the testaments during the Easter season. It is plain to see how the apostles preaching had plenty of Old Testament “echo,” “allusion,” and “quotation.” So, even though our assigned text this week does not have an “allusion” and even less of an “echo,” let us explore the “quotation” our assigned text has from Daniel 7:13-14:
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of Heaven there came one like a son of man, and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His Kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
The rhetorical question which arises for those who were listening to Stephen’s speech and his use of the Old Testament quotation from Daniel 7:13 is: Does this remind you of anything? The answer is, without a doubt, in the affirmative! Of course, this is the case because his audience is overly familiar with the Old Testament, but it also reminds us and them of the time Jesus Himself quoted this Old Testament passage in Matthew 26:64 when He was on trial for His life, just as Stephen was in our text. In fact, when you look at both accounts together the similarities are uncanny between both the situations.
In their preaching, therefore, the apostles followed their Master by preaching Christ from the Old Testament. There was no doubt in their minds that the Old Testament witnessed to Jesus. In fact, Herman Ridderbos notes that “one of the leading motifs of Paul’s preaching is that his gospel is according to the scriptures.” He writes further, “Paul proclaims Christ as the fulfillment of the promise of God to Abraham (the person who shows up at the beginning of our pericope 17:2a), as the seed in which all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Galatians 3:8, 16, and 29), the eschatological bringer of salvation whose all-embracing significance must be understood in the light of prophecy (Romans 15:9–12), the fulfillment of God’s redemptive counsel concerning the whole world and its future.”
To put it quite plainly, the whole book of Acts can be summarized by a thematic question which serves as a refrain throughout the entire book. Namely, when the apostles did something, it should beg a question: Does this remind you of anything? The answer will always be, “Yes. It reminds us of Jesus!”
Here is the pattern:
- The apostles preach the arrival of the Kingdom of God and the good news that repentance and forgiveness of sins can be found in Jesus alone, God’s Messiah.
- Then through the Holy Spirit they accompany that word with great signs and wonders.
- After that they are persecuted and brought before tribunals and judges.
- They then suffer injustice, persecution, imprisonment, and in some cases they even experience death and resurrection (Paul being brought back after stoning or in Stephen’s case they die in such a manner that it reminds us of the passion of Jesus Christ).
- Despite their best efforts to stop the work of God the Church continues to grow and live and thrive by the working of God through the Gospel of resurrected Jesus Christ.
Do you not believe me? Take a moment now to comb through the book of Acts to see this Gospel pattern!
That is not the only question in the book of Acts though. It also answers a secondary question which lurks in the back of the early church’s mind. Now that Jesus is ascended and gone, is His work over? The answer is a definitive, “NO!” Jesus’ work is still going on and still being accomplished. In fact, when you look at the apostles’ work, it reminds you literally of Jesus! This pattern demonstrates His work is still going on through the Church in the faithful preaching and teaching of the word (both Old and New Testaments) and through the administration of the Sacraments. Christ has given these gifts for the Church’s indestructible connection to their Lord and for the life of the world. The book of Acts is not a model for structuring your ministry, it is a reminder that Jesus is alive and His consistent work continues by His provision and plan through the faithful proclamation of the Word and the right administration of the Sacraments.
Jesus’ work is still going on and still being accomplished. In fact, when you look at the apostles’ work, it reminds you literally of Jesus!
Since we are asking questions, it seems natural to lean towards the Question Answered Structure:
“This structure identifies a significant question for the hearers (in other words, one that cannot be easily answered, and addresses matters which are significant to the hearers) and then theologically considers one or more feasible answers before arriving at a satisfactory resolution. The question is simple, memorable, and remains the same throughout the entire sermon. It cannot be answered with a “yes or no” but invites the hearers into processing various answers. The movement toward a faithful answer provides the dynamic progression of the sermon. This progression could be a movement from false answers to a true answer or from partial answers to a full answer. The preacher avoids trite false answers which will insult the hearers and he seeks to have a final resolution that proceeds from the Gospel.
The sermon usually opens by depicting the human or textual dilemma that raises the focusing question. The answers are then arranged in a climactic scheme, offering more development to the later answers. In dismissing the false or partial answers, the preacher is clear about the theological reasoning which guides the discussion and thereby teaches the hearers how to think through matters theologically. Along the way, the preacher is careful not to raise distracting issues or to change the question. Finally, the sermon concludes by proclaiming the satisfactory gospel-based answer.”
Possible Sermon Outline
Introduction: Here you introduce the situation in the life of the church. Then highlight what happened to Stephen, making connections to the struggle of sharing the Gospel today and possible or anticipated negative/law-based reactions. Here you may comment on the length of the extended Old Testament usage in his speech which is not in our public reading. Now, direct their attention to why the pericope narrowed his speech down. Then, narrow it further to identify our focus on Stephen’s quotation of Daniel 7:13-14. Now, you can ask the question and then explore the answer in three developed movements.
- Does this remind you of anything? (Stephen’s quotation of Daniel 7:13-14)
To the people Stephen was speaking too it was an obvious quotation from a very well-known passage in the Old Testament. Daniel 7:13-14 is the prophetic proclamation of God’s power in the midst of suffering and weakness for the exiles. When Stephen quotes this he might obviously be making the same statement about his situation. You persecutors mean to make me weak through suffering, but I see God’s power displayed here in Christ, the One you crucified but whom God raised from the dead in power. But Stephen’s use of Daniel 7:13-14 is more than a contrast. It is a quotation which reveals the key to the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament in Acts. The preaching of the apostles was not to “read Christ back into the Old Testament,” as if they were allegorizing and typologizing the Old Testament. The apostles were not using the Old Testament to simply springboard a retelling of the story of Jesus. This would mean Stephen was forcing Daniel 7:13-14 to say something it does not intend to say. In other words, it misuses the Old Testament text. However, Stephen and the apostles quote the Old Testament texts because it faithfully witnesses to Christ and what He came to do. They quote the Old Testament because they believe it to teach us something about Christ. All Scripture (for them the Old Testament) points to Christ! So, we will ask the question again about how Stephen uses Daniel 7:13-14.
- Does this quotation remind you of anything else?
Yes, it reminds us of a time that Jesus Himself said this in Matthew 26:64. Notice the context of Jesus saying this and the context of Stephen saying this. When Jesus quoted the same passage from Daniel 7:13-14, it was a proclamation of His divine sonship and authority. It is a direct proclamation of His Messianic rule and reign and the trinitarian mystery of the Ancient of Days. This quotation of Jesus quoting Daniel is the announcement of who He is and what He came to do. When Stephen gives the same quotation, it is to literally the same people who put Jesus on trial and executed Him, except now Stephen is proclaiming the resurrected Jesus has, in fact, accomplished what He came to do because, though they tried to kill Jesus, He is alive and resurrected and reigning as the prophecy from Daniel foretold! Now that caused a scene! However, notice how these scenes between Jesus’ trail and Stephen’s are nearly identical. I wonder if there is a pattern to this.
It is a direct proclamation of His Messianic rule and reign and the trinitarian mystery of the Ancient of Days.
- Does this remind you of anything?
Now, quickly survey three other instances (or you can pick your own) in the Book of Acts:
- Acts 2-4 Peter preaches at Pentecost/people are baptized / The lame beggar is healed in Jesus’ name / The apostles are dragged before the council / Suffer unjustly / Come out of it alive and they rejoice.
- Acts 14 Paul and Barnabas preach / they do signs and wonders / The people are divided / They are mistreated by the ruling authorities who plan to execute them / They keep up the work / Paul is executed by stoning / He rose up alive again and the work kept going.
- Acts 19 Paul is in Ephesus / Preaches / Baptizes / Miracles / Casting out of demons in Jesus’ name / Riots in the city / The dead are raised / Paul must depart but the Word and Spirit will remain.
Does this pattern sound familiar? Does this remind you of anything? The work and ministry of Jesus is still going on! The Devil and the world think it can stop something by killing it. That is what they tried to do with the Prophets of the Old Testament and with the Apostles in the book of Acts. They even tried to do that with Jesus. But when they tried to stop Jesus by killing Him and burying Him, God purposed that work to atone for sin as He promised, and then God rose Jesus from the dead because nothing was going to stop His amazing grace for you (Romans 6:10-11 baptism connection). The book of Acts demonstrates that the resurrection message of Easter cannot and will not be stopped. Jesus is alive and His Church lives because of Him. He is Lord of the Church. It is not our church or our ministry, but it is the Church which Christ established and the ministry He accomplishes even today through the Word and Sacraments.
Conclusion: When people see the Church faithfully preaching, baptizing, and celebrating the Supper, they should see no innovation, no change in the message, no agenda of the organization of humankind, and no earthly politic. They should only witness the consistent message of all of Scripture from the Old Testament to the New Testament which bears testimony through public preaching from public pulpits of the faithfulness of God in Christ crucified and risen again for your justification by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of the sufficiency of Christ alone. When they see what is happening here, the great Easter mystery will lead them to ask: Does this remind you of anything? The answer is, “Yes! It reminds us of Jesus!” By faith we know and proclaim He is not gone or dead or buried any more. Jesus is alive and here are His gifts given to the Church for the life of the world (John 20:31).
Craft of Preaching-Check out our previous articles on Acts 6:1-9; 7:2a, 51-60.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Acts 6:1-9; 7:2a, 51-60.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Acts 6:1-9; 7:2a, 51-60.
 Dennis L. Stamps, “The Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament as a Rhetorical Device: A Methodological Proposal,” in Hearing the Old Testament in the New Testament, ed. Stanley E. Porter, McMaster New Testament Studies (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006), 12.
 Even the Sanhedrin, according to Luke, astonished at the bold preaching of Peter and John as “unschooled, ordinary men... took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13, New International Version).
 Ridderbos, Paul, 51. This quotation is followed by Romans 1:17; 3:28; also see Romans 4; Galatians 3:6 and following; 4:21 and following; 1 Corinthians 10:1–10; Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 9:10; 2 Timothy 3:16.
 Ibid. See also Sidney Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: A Contemporary Hermeneutical Method (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), 58. He states: “This fulfillment was not only foretold by the prophets but signifies the execution of the divine plan of salvation that He purposed to Himself with respect to the course of the ages and the end of the times (Ephesians 1:9, 10; 3:11). This is the fundamental redemptive-historical and all-embracing character of Paul’s preaching of Christ.”
 Sidney Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: A Contemporary Hermeneutical Method (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), 54.