The early church experienced the greatest excitement and most joyful fellowship in its early days, but it also
experienced the heartbreak and pain of religious persecution. The death of Stephen seemed to have triggered a frenzy of persecution. The advice of Gamaliel (see
Acts 5:34-39) to leave these men alone was not taken by one of his own young students. Saul of Tarsus had been educated by Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) but he was
zealous in the finding and arresting anyone (male or female) who claimed to be a disciple of Jesus.
I. They scattered: Vs. 1.
1. Read the following texts and discuss the ways that Saul "consented" to the murder of Stephen and others? Acts 7:58;
Acts 8:1,3 Acts 26:10-11. Discuss some ways that we might give our consent or approval to some misdeed today knowingly and unknowingly.
2. Why do you think the apostles stayed in Jerusalem while others fled?
II. They suffered: Vs. 2-3.
1. When Stephen died, who came to his funeral?
2. It has been said that, "Birds of a feather stick together." If this is true,
what type of people would we expect to find at a funeral for the following people other than close relatives? (match)
||a. Fellow soldiers
||d. Few people
||b. Faithful Christians
||___ Faithful Christian
||f. Political leaders
3. When a faithful Christian dies today, why should we make every effort possible to attend
their funeral? (See the principle stated in Matthew 7:12.) What would that say to the world about our respect and love for one another?
4. Is grief natural, even when the one who dies is a Christian? "Great lamentation" (Acts 8:2) refers to which of the following?
[ ] long prayers; [ ] much grief and sorrow; [ ] many words of praise.
5. Paul evidently had the legal authority to actually enter into people's homes and arrest
them and then see to it that they were put into prison. It seems odd that the Jewish people were so intolerant of any other religions considering how they were
often persecuted for their own faith. Yet, this is a practice often repeated by mankind. In America, our religious freedom is often taken for granted. We have
the freedom to believe and practice our faith without being legally harassed or persecuted. While we are not put into prison or burned at the stake for our
beliefs, we are often taunted and mocked. Discuss some of the subtle areas of persecution that still exist today when one stands up with conviction for what he
or she believes. True religious freedom exists only when those who differ are willing to be respectful toward one another. One can refuse to compromise beliefs
without being "disrespectful" to those who differ with them. Discuss some ways to help defuse prejudice and misunderstanding in a world where subtle
persecution still exists.
III. They shared: Vs. 4.
1. The persecution in Jerusalem caused the church to scatter. Many who were from other countries no doubt returned home. Others abandoned
their homes and fled to avoid being put into prison. However, there was a silver lining in this dark cloud. Those scattered went everywhere "preaching the
word." How did persecution of the early church actually help
fulfill what God had intended in Acts 1:8? (See Acts 8:4.) Read Romans 8:28, Phil. 1:12-13. If God could use opposition to advance the Kingdom in the first century, could
the same today?
2. Some have argued this verse implies that "women" were preaching. Yet, a closer study of the text indicates the word
"they" is masculine gender and refers to males. This harmonizes with the biblical doctrines set forth later by the apostle Paul (I Timothy 2:11-12; 2
Timothy 2:2; I Corinthians 14:34) and the fact that we have no examples of women publicly preaching the word. Discuss ways other than "preaching" that
women can share the faith with others.