Where the world comes to study the Bible

[Lesson 6] Acts 7

The First Christian Martyr
Chapter 7

Have you ever considered what you would do if you were asked to give up your life for Christ? In this chapter a young man must ask himself that very question. As you study, put yourself in his place. Before you begin, ask God to show you exactly what He wants you to learn from this lesson. The first church's beloved leader Stephen has been arrested and stands before the Sanhedrin.

    1. A. In review, from Acts 6:11, 13 and 14, list the specific charges against him.

    Read Acts Chapter 7, quickly noting the major divisions of Stephen's speech. Observe the sections on Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and the tabernacle-temple. Then pay close attention to his summation in 51-53.

    B. The high priest asked Stephen a question that gave him the opportunity to speak.

    What was the question? (7: 1)

    The answer is the longest sermon in Acts and contains the Old Testament in a nutshell.

    C. (Summit) Make a chart of the seven major divisions in this 50 verse sermon. What book or books of the Old Testament are covered in each division? (Suggested divisions: 2-16, 17-41, 42-44, 45, 46-47, 48-50, 51-53) Label each division. What is the main point of each section? What common thread is woven through the sermon?

    Not only did this sermon make it clear that Stephen knew the Scriptures, but in 7:1-43 it also drew some parallels between the life of Christ and the lives of Joseph and Moses.

    D. Fill in the chart to show the similarities between what happened to Christ, Joseph and Moses. Discuss your findings.

Christ

Joseph

Moses

rejected by Israel

7:8, 9

7:23-28, 39-43

accepted by foreigners (Gentiles)

7: 10a

7:21, 22, 29

became famous

7:10b

7:22, 35, 37, 38

(will return) returned to save Israel

7:11-14

7:36

    2. Who do you think is the "prophet like me" in 7:37? the Righteous One in 7:52? What do you think is the main point of Stephen's sermon?

    (Note: Stephen pointed out that the Jewish leaders were just like the Israelites who had rejected Joseph and Moses. In fact, he observed a pattern of the Jews rejecting the deliverer God sent throughout their history.)

    3. A. In the time of Moses, what did the Israelites do that angered God? (7:42, 43a) What was their consequence? (7:43b)

    B. Do you think God had given up on the established Jewish hierarchy of Stephen's day? Why or why not? (7:51-53)

    C. (Digging Deeper) What consequences would they suffer for their rejection of Christ? (Malachi 4:5, 6)

    4. A. In addition to comparing Joseph and Moses to Jesus, Stephen also spoke about the tabernacle-temple. (7:44-50) After tracing a brief history of the tabernacle-temple in 7:44-47, what did Stephen imply was wrong with the Jews' attitude toward the temple? (7:48)

    B. Where does God live? (7:49, 50) Do you tend to limit God to earthly buildings? If so, why? Do you idolize anything the way the Jews idolized the temple? Discuss.

    5. A. Stephen's sermon gave him the opportunity to answer the charges against him. Instead, he responded with charges of his own. How did he conclude his message? (7:51-53)

    B. How did the Sanhedrin react? Envision the scene. (7:54)

    C. What encouragement was given to Stephen at this point? (7:55)

    D. What did Stephen say? (7:56) Compare this verse with Jesus' words in Luke 22:69. Why do you think Jesus was standing?

    6. A. What did the Sanhedrin do now? (7:57, 58a)

    B. What were Stephen's last words? (7:59, 60) Compare them with Jesus' prayer from the cross. (Luke 23:46, 34)

    C. How do you feel toward those who hate and persecute you? What would be your response if you found yourself in Stephen’s situation?

    7. A. Stoning is an agonizing way to die. Who witnessed the murder? (7:5 8b, 8: 1 a)

    B. Although Stephen and Saul never formally met, how did Stephen witness to Saul?

    C. How do you think the church reacted? (8:2) Have you ever witnessed violence of any kind? How would you have been affected if you had been there?

    D. Stephen was the first Christian martyr. Has anyone's death impacted you for Christ? What can we do in life to ensure that we honor God in death? Discuss.

    E. (Summit) From what you have learned in this chapter, describe Stephen. What do you know about his attitude, behavior and relationship to God?

    8. (Summit) What do you know about martyrs of the faith? Read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs for inspiring true accounts of men and women who let themselves be murdered rather than deny their Lord.

    The stoning of Stephen marks a turning point in the history of the early church. The Jewish leaders thought they had won the battle to contain Jesus and His followers. In reality, they provided the incentive for the church to begin spreading all over Israel. “On that day, a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the Apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” (Acts 8:1) During this great persecution about two thousand Christians were also martyred. But their blood watered the seeds of the gospel which began to sprout everywhere! Even in our lives today, what we often interpret as disaster turns out to be God’s best.

Related Topics: Pneumatology (The Holy Spirit), Curriculum