The text for this lesson is Acts 6–7
- We are crushed and enraged at the accusations of God’s Law, but the Gospel brings peace and quietness. In church, the pastor speaks the same Word of God as Stephen speaks in Acts 7:60, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them,” and gives us peace through the Words of the Absolution, “for His sake [God] forgives you all your sins.”
- Law: Sin brings disorder and chaos.
- Gospel: Christ brings order and control to the chaos of my sin with His grace and mercy.
- By and large, American Christians do not face persecution for believing in and confessing Jesus Christ, at least not the kind of persecution in which Christians must fear for their lives every day. What kinds of persecution do American Christians face? How well-prepared do you think American Christians are to handle more severe forms of persecution?
- Read Acts 6:1–6. Who were “the Hellenists” and “the Hebrews” (v. 1)? What problem did the growing young Church face? Why did the Twelve (the apostles) recommend choosing other men to assist in the Church’s work (vv. 2–4)?
- What qualifications do the apostles give for the men who would occupy this new office in the Church? What part do the apostles (the clergy) serve in this process, and what part do “the full number of disciples” (the laity) serve? What essential Christian virtues enable this working together? See Romans 12:10; Ephesians 4:1–3; Acts 20:28 (for clergy); and Hebrews 13:17 (for laity).
- Read Acts 6:7–15. According to verse 7, how does growth in the Church—both numerical and spiritual growth—occur? Summarize what happened to Stephen after he began his ministry of “great wonders and signs among the people.” With what false accusation was Stephen charged (v. 14)? What made Stephen’s face look “like the face of an angel” (v. 15)? See Judges 13:16 and 2 Corinthians 3:18.
- Read Acts 7:1–53. Outline the major sections of Stephen’s “defense speech.” What does he choose to talk about? How does Stephen apply his overview of salvation history to the people who falsely charge and try him? What similarities can you see between these verses and Peter’s sermon from Acts 3:12–26?
- Read Acts 7:54–60. How do these verses describe Stephen as he is being executed? What does he see just before he is taken to be stoned to death? Notice who makes his first appearance in verse 58. In verses 59–60, what similarities can you see between Stephen’s death and the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus? See also Luke 22:41; 23:34; and 23:46. Why is this important?
- What can you learn from Stephen about confessing faith in the salvation that comes from Jesus Christ? How can his example prepare you to stand firm in believing and confessing Jesus Christ even in the midst of persecution?