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15. Another first -Stephen

Leader's page and student's page best viewed left/right side together

Lesson 15 Leader’s notes: Acts 6:8-8:1

Get the ladies to read and itemise what happens, verse by verse.

Ask them to only choose what they think are the key points each time.

6:8 Stephen outgrew his ministry of ‘helps administration’. He made the essentially practical ministry of verse 2, into a ‘signs and wonders’ ministry that pointed people to the available transforming new life of the risen Jesus.

Remember, people can grow as they serve!

People can grow into new service. Make sure you give opportunities for this.

6:9 opposition from the Synagogue of the Freedmen, likely emancipated Roman Jews, made up of Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia (Saul’s/Paul’s home town of Tarsus was in Cilicia) and Asia - see map page 4.

6:10 Stephen was obviously an eloquent speaker.

Note the outward influence of the Holy Spirit on Stephen’s service.

6:11 Trumped up untrue charges (as with Jesus, Matthew 26:59-61).

Lying witnesses. Jesus called the devil, “the father of lies” John 8:44.

People are not our real opponents, but the devil will use who he can.

6:12-14 Stephen is brought before the Sanhedrin, together with false witnesses. Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:16-20?

The first Christians expected to face persecution for following their Lord.

6:15 The Sanhedrin looked at the accused - trying to work out who he was, what kind of person he was, what he represented? Would he be overawed by the situation he was facing, knowing they could pass a death sentence on him?

Stephen’s face was ‘like that of an angel’ - he radiated Christ, he reflected Christ. Compare Exodus 34:29-35 and Psalm 34:4-5.

7:1 the trial begins.

Lead steadily through the ‘Stephen’s history lesson’ section. Have the extra verses ready to read out, or set up chosen ladies to read them.

Check them yourself first to be sure of what is coming!

Student's page:

Lesson 15 Acts 6:8-8:1 Another first - Stephen

Acts 6:8-15, 7:1

6:8 compare 6:5-7 what has changed?

6:9-10 what caused the opposition?

different opinions of traditional Jews and Christians like Stephen:

was Jesus of Nazareth the long-awaited Messiah, or not?

“argue” is translated “dispute” elsewhere. It may well mean a formal

debate on current religious issues.

Who Jesus was and ‘did He rise again?’ may well have been subjects.

6:11 does the word ‘secretly’ cause alarm bells to ring in your head?

We need to remember that God sees all secrets, positive and negative.

Matthew 6:6 our individual prayers. Psalm 44:20-21 every heart is open.

6:12-14 ‘stirred up’, ‘false witnesses’

whatever opposition we face our God is greater

compare Daniel 3:16-18. God’s will is always what we want.

6:15 compare Exodus 34:29-35.

How can you take Psalm 34:5 for yourself in difficult times?

7:1 a straightforward start.

Acts 7:2-53 Stephen’s redemptive ‘history lesson’ to the leaders of Israel

7:2 he speaks with respect, “brothers and fathers”, even facing hostility -

he was not there to defend himself – rather he wanted the Sanhedrin to

understand Who Jesus really was - notice ‘our’ father Abraham. That’s Stephen, the Sanhedrin members, and Jesus!

Remember, all his hearers could be saved too!

7:2–8 Find the gist of these Genesis verses in Stephen’s Acts 7 speech:

Genesis 11:31; 12:1-4; 15:2-7, 13, 16a; 17:3-8; 21:1-5; 25:19-26

7:9-16 Genesis 35:23-26; 37:1-4; 41:25-40; 45:1; and Joshua 24:32

(12 sons of Joseph are listed here with Leah first as his first wife and

Rachel second as his second wife.

Chronologically the sons were born -

Leah x 4, Rachel’s maid x 2, Leah’s maid x 2, Leah x 2, Rachel x 2.

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Leader's page:

Keep going through Stephen’s history lesson – he knew the Old Testament well.

God the Holy Spirit brought it to Stephen’s mind when he needed it:

Deuteronomy 11:18

Psalm 119:11

Our Lord Jesus said, “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit”, Mark 13:11.

Keep encouraging the ladies to find what Stephen is speaking about in their own Old Testaments. Familiarity with the Bible helps Christian growth.

Draw attention to Stephen’s focus on what God has doneand is doing:

Acts 7:2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 (x3), 17, 25, 32, 33-34, 35, 37, 42, 44, 45, 46, 48

and in finishing verses 55-56.

The death of Stephen 7:54-8:1

Again, ask the ladies to read the verses and itemise what happens.

7:54 leaders furious

7:55-56 Stephen sees Jesus standing at the right hand of God in glory;

must have been a tremendous uplift for him when facing his death

7:57 unbridled fury - no recorded formal declaration of guilt

7:58 hot work! compare 8:1

7:59-60 forgiving like Jesus, compare Luke 23:34 and Psalm 31:5

Pray together, perhaps in small groups.

Please read Acts 8 for next time.

Student's page:

7:17-19 Exodus 1:8-11

God raises and deposes even secular rulers.

God always knows what He is doing.

7:20-36 Exodus 2:1-10, 11-14; 3:1-3, 4-10; 15:1-5

Moses protected by God at birth. Went his own way at 40yrs.

At 80yrs. encountered God and was called into His special service

Sanhedrin believed they followed Moses.

7:37-38 Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 18:14-15.

7:39-41 Numbers 14:27-35

Moses was misunderstood when alive. Stephen thinks he is again now!

7:44-47 Exodus 25:1-8, 10, 23, 31; 26:1; 27:1, 9, 20; 28:1-5;

Numbers 10:33-36; Joshua 3:17; 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 17; 1Kings 5:1-6.

The Temple was a good idea for public worship, but fell short.

7:48-50 1 Kings 8:27; Isaiah 6:1, Isaiah 66:1-2

God is much bigger than any worship system humankind could devise.

Beware thinking you, and your church, ‘have it all’.

7:51-53 Confrontation. Did Stephen sense the audience becoming restless?

The death of Stephen 7:54-8:1

7:54 Were the judges level headed and calm?

7:55-56 An encouragement to Stephen, an encouragement to us?

7:57 Measured justice or mob rule?

7:58 When Luke wrote Acts he realised the effect this episode had

on Saul/Paul see 8:1a also

7:59-60 compare Luke 23:34 and Psalm 31:5 . God alone gives grace to forgive.

The first Christian martyr - the first of millions. Would you and I be ready? Take a moment to answer for yourself, to yourself.

In many, many places in our world today Christians are being persecuted and martyred for their faith, Sudan and South Sudan included, as you know well.

Pray for those standing up for their Christian faith.

Pray for the families the martyrs leave behind.

Pray for places where there is supposedly freedom, but where it is still not acceptable to present a Christian view. Pray for wisdom for believers.

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