lesson
14

Bible Class
Discussion Guide
by Edward Thomason

The face of an angel
Acts 6:8-15, 7:1-60

warm up

   1. In what way is our generation like that of previous generations?
   2. Is it true "like father, like son?" If so how? Why?
   3. For fun... match the best definitions:
__ suborned (6:11) a. place of worship
b. low class birth
__ synagogue (6:9) c. only see what is in front of your nose
d. where the idol of "Gog" was worshipped
__ lively oracles (7:38) e. Jesus
f. a ball team in Jerusalem
__ stiff necked (7:51) g. Stephen
h. what one can't do with potato chips
__ just one (7:52) i. living words
j. hired
__ first Christian martyr (7:59)

wise up
  

It is unfortunate that some men are unable to reason together in debate or dispute without anger and ill feeling entering into the arena. Pride and stubbornness can cause one to make life difficult for those with whom they do not agree. Such was the case with the opponents of Stephen.  

I. Stephen's detainment: Vs. 6:8-15
   1. Stephen's wisdom and attitude was a powerful force for the enemies of the cross to contend with. Rather than reconsider their position, those with whom Stephen disputed chose to hire false witnesses that would say they heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.
Discuss the specific accusations that were made against Stephen?
   2. The council of elders and scribes and the high priest at that time were the very ones who had crucified Jesus and had threatened the apostles not to speak in th
e name of Jesus. 

II. Stephen's defense: Vs. 7:1-53
   1.  STEPHEN'S FIRST WITNESS: "ETHNIC HERITAGE" Vs. 7:1-36

      a. Stephen was a man  versed in the scriptures. He began his defense by recalling the history of God's people from the time of Abraham until Moses. 
      b. There is no doubt that he had the attention of his audience. The Jewish people loved to hear and recall the story of their ethnic heritage and ancestry. Little did they know where Stephen was leading them in his journey back through the books of the Old Testament.

   2. STEPHEN'S SECOND WITNESS: "ETHICAL HERITAGE" Vs.7:37-53

      a. There was a common thread that ran down thru time that Stephen wanted his audience to consider. As far back as they could trace their heritage, they had as a people been guilty of rejecting and mistreating God's spiritual leaders or messengers.
      b. Joseph was rejected by his brothers (7:9); Moses was rejected by his brethren (once before Sinai, 7:22-28 and again at Sinai, 7:37-39); God was himself rejected by Israel (7:40-43); all the prophets were rejected (7:52) and as Stephen concluded, they themselves had followed in the footsteps of their ancestors, by rejecting Jesus the very son of God (7:52). In Stephen's defense he turned the tables on his accusers. This defense should have caused those listening to rethink and ask to hear more. But unlike those on Pentecost who were pricked in their hearts and asked what must we do... these men became viciously angry.  

      c. Read 7:51 again. What does Stephen's argument tell us about human nature? How do men today resist the Holy Spirit? Cf., Romans 10:17. Compare the priests in Acts 6:7 to this council of elders and scribes? What did one group do that the other did not?

III. Stephen's death: Vs. 7:54-60
   1. How did the council respond to Stephen's defense strategy? 

   2. Who did Stephen see as he was being mutilated by the mob? Discuss the concern of Jesus as expressed by the fact that Stephen saw him "standing" rather than sitting at the right of God. When his disciples today suffer abuse and persecution do you think he is on his feet? Is there comfort in that thought?
   3. How did the crowd respond when Stephen said he had seen the Son of man? (Vs. 57-58)
   4. Who was the young man who held the clothes of those who stoned Stephen? What was Stephen's posture as he was being stoned? What was his attitude toward his executioners?
   5. What qualities about Stephen do you admire most? And what can you do to develop that quality?

[  ] His courage, [  ] His wisdom [  ] His forgiving attitude
[  ] His speaking ability [  ] His knowledge of Scripture [  ] other
wrap up

1.  Stephen's death was referred to as "sleep." There is comfort in that word. Death is like sleep in the sense that we will someday awake. This is our hope as Christians. 

Assignment

  Please read Acts 8:1-4 for next week        copyright 2001