Acts - Lesson 6
Acts 6 and 7
Problems and Persecution
- The student can describe the problem about the distribution of food and how the apostles handled it.
- The student can describe the issues of the growing conflict between Jews and Christians
- The student can state the basic message of Stephen's speech to the Sanhedrin.
- The student can relate the aftermath of Stephen's speech.
- Have Written Review No. 5 ready to hand out.
- Have Notes/Review ready to hand out.
- Bibles and pens for all.
The apostles provide an excellent model for handling a church problem as they deal with the distribution of food among the widows. Stephen also provides a model for courage and commitment under fire.
Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class
Introduction: (about 10 minutes)
- Check roll, welcome visitors, and make announcements.
- Review the last class by giving the answers to the Written Review.
- Prayer and songs as desired: Bind Us Together; Anywhere with Jesus; Be Still and Know that I am God.
- The Conflict over Food Distribution
- When the church is growing, Satan attacks. (vss. 1-2)
- Q: What was the problem that arose? Q: Describe the parties involved in the problem? (The Grecian Jews were probably those who had adopted more of the Greek culture. Maybe they had lived abroad and had now returned to Jerusalem or just had adopted more of the Greek lifestyle and/or the Greek language. Those called Hebraic Jews were those whose culture was more that of the Hebrews and their language Aramaic. Whatever these cultural differences, they were to be one in Christ and should have had equal treatment in the care of the widows.)
- Q: What do the apostles not do to solve the problem? (Leave their work of preaching and prayer) Q: What do they do to solve the problem? (They delegate to others the distribution of food. They recognize that different people have the capacity for different ministry.) See Supplemental Lesson 6 for much more on the apostles' management style.)
- Q: How well informed did they keep the church on what they were doing? (very well through meetings and explanation)
- Q: How did the apostles designate the seven for their work? (Laying on of hands in a public ceremony.)
- Stephen's Conflict with the Sanhedrin
- Stephen was one of the seven who served in the distribution of food. Read Acts 6:8-15. Q: What else was Stephen doing?
- Q: Did Stephen speak against the temple and the law? (He may well have been saying earlier what he says at the end of his sermon (7:48), that God is not limited to temples made with hands and that the Law of Moses and the words of the prophets have been fulfilled. He would have given high respect to the Law as God's message but would also have said that what it had predicted about the Messiah had now come to pass.)
- Q: Who disputed with Stephen? Q: Who made the stronger case? Q: What help did Stephen have? Those of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (maybe former slaves) disputed with Stephen but "they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.”
- Q: Having lost the argument, how do these men try to defeat Stephen? (They get people to misstate what he said as blasphemy, bring Stephen to the Sanhedrin, produce false witnesses.)
- Stephen's Speech
- Q: What major epochs from Jewish history does Stephen describe? (Abraham's call, Joseph and the sojourn in Egypt, Moses giving of the Law, and the kingdom of David and Solomon.)
- Stephen's sermon is a defense against the charge of blasphemy. There is a good reason why he selects these four periods for his focus.
- Q: Where is the primary location in which these four stories takes place? (Mesopotamia, Egypt, Sinai, and Israel. God is not limited to one place.
- From each of these epochs he draws something to show he is following the message of God and they are not. Notice the connection these four periods have with the message of the gospel Stephen is preaching? (a) To Abraham was given the promise (vss. 8, 17). (b) Joseph sustained the people so the promise could eventually be fulfilled (vss. 11-13). (c) Moses predicted that there would arise from this people of the promise a prophet "like him” and the people should listen to him (v. 37). And (d) David and Solomon built the temple for God but He is not contained in a building (vss. 45-50).
- Q: As he recites this history, what is the common charge against the Jews he weaves among these stories? (That the Jews have disobeyed God—patriarchs were jealous (v. 9), people rejected Moses (v. 35, 39ff), and the prophet Amos spoke of their disobedience (vss. 42-44).
- Q: Of what does Stephen accuse his audience? (Of being like their fathers who rejected God and killed the prophets. They also had killed the predicted Righteous One. They have not obeyed the law.)
- Q: How did the Sanhedrin respond to Stephen's charge?
- Q: Why is this event significant in the story of the early church? (A strong defense of the message of Christ, an escalation of the conflict to the level of killing, the introduction of a new person named Saul.)
- Q: What can we learn about our response to those who oppose us from Stephen's example?
- Q: What can we learn about our conduct from Stephen's example when persecuted?
- Be prepared for the Written Review over this lesson.
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