38 This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:
As you can see, it clearly says the “church” was in the wilderness. The word used throughout the OT for congregation/assembly in Hebrew is virtually the same (in terms of definition) as the Greek word later used in the NT for church. It’s just an assembly of people – and in context, specifically those “called out ones” gathered together under YHWH. The word used here in Acts 7 is EXACTLY the same as the word used throughout the New Testament for the “church”.
Your run of the mill Dispensationalist however believes the “church” began in Acts 2. Not so. Yes, it did begin at Pentecost – but it was the FIRST Pentecost at Mt. Sinai, not the one in the 1st Century.
In Romans 11, Paul clearly teaches that when we believe in Yeshua, we are grafted in to the cultivated olive tree – the ORIGINAL church (Israel).
11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
12 Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?
13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:
14 If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.
15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?
16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.
17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.
19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.
20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.
24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
In Ephesians, we read:
12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
Far off from what? The commonwealth of Israel and the covenant of promise given to them.
19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
The same sort of language is used to describe the Bride of Christ (aka the Church) in Revelation 21. There we see that the New Jerusalem is referred to as the BRIDE of the LAMB (who is Christ). Thus, the Bride of Christ (the Church) is Israel:
2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
The angel then shows the Bride to John:
9 And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.
10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,
As you keep reading, you see that the Lamb’s bride, the New Jerusalem is clearly defined as the 12 tribes of Israel. NOTE: There is no mystical 13th gate called, “the church” in any of the descriptions.
Now, let’s go back to original the site of the wedding:
Exodus 12:6 And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly (Hebrew: “q’hal” = assembly of people – Greek: “plethos” = bunch of people) of the congregation (Hebrew: “adath” Greek: “synagoges,” which is the Jewish equivalent of a modern church) of Israel shall kill it in the evening.
Compare with Scriptures such as…
Matthew 18:17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the CHURCH: but if he neglect to hear the CHURCH, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
The Hebrew Matthew says: w’im-lo’ yish’ma` ‘aleyhem w’higad’at ‘el-HAQAHAL (the assembly) w’im-lo’ yish’ma` gam-‘el-HAQUHAL (the assembly) w’hayah l’ak k’goy uk’mokes.
In Greek it says: ean de parakousÿ autn, eipe tÿ EKKLESIA (called out assembly);ean de kai ts EKKLESIA (called out assembly) parakousÿ, est soi hsper ho ethnikos kai ho telns.
All through Scripture, beginning with Abram, we see a people that is “called out” by God… and it is and always was Israel. Stephen understood that in Acts 7:38, just as Paul understood it in Romans 11, Galatians 3, Ephesians 2 and elsewhere, and John – as if to totally clear up the matter – was told by the angel in Heaven that the New Jerusalem, was the Bride (that is the church) of the Lamb. Scriptures can not be more clear on who the Church is. Constantine, Darby, Scofield, Larkin et al (and those who subsequently followed after their exceptionally flawed teachings) are the ones who confused the matter.
The “church” was married to YHWH on Pentecost – but not the one in Acts 2. On Mt. Sinai, YHWH exchanged vows with Israel saying, “I will be your God and you will be my people.” But He later divorced Israel because she constantly chased after other husbands (gods) and continuously disobeyed her husband, doing that which was wrong, detestable and adulterous:
8 And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.
The only way the adulterous wife could be freed to remarry is if the husband dies. That’s according to God’s own laws. So, what did the Groom do? More on that shortly…
We must acknowledge that ALL of the first “Christians” were of the Jews and of the tribes of Israel (Pentecost caused 3,000 from the lost tribes to get saved). It was only in the ministry of Paul that Gentiles began to come into the fold. But he was quite clear that they were being GRAFTED into the cultivated olive tree that is Israel, thus being ADOPTED into the family of God.