“Multiply”

[Week 5]

Acts Chapter 7:1-53

Verse of the Week

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  Acts 7:55

The Big Idea

The life, ministry and death of Stephen parallels the life, ministry and death of Jesus. The Gospel has most often taken root in places prepared by the blood of martyrs.  But before people can give their lives for the gospel, they must first live their lives for the gospel.

Acts Chapter 7

Last week we were introduced to a man named Stephen.  Stephen was selected as one of the managers of the food distribution ministry in the early church.  We were told that Stephen was full of faith, wisdom and the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5-8).  After being chosen and prayed over, Stephen went to work. Just like Jesus, Stephen's ministry was an act of service. He served food to widows and due to his servant leadership, many came to believe in Jesus. As he began to work, opposition arose from a religious group of people called Freedman.  This ultimately caused Stephen to be arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin.

 

During Stephen’s trial, he launched into a long speech about Israel's relationship with God.  He took the opportunity to summarize the whole history of Israel and their rejection of God’s ways over the centuries.  Just like Jesus did,  Stephen then accused the religious leaders of failing to obey God’s law .  Just like Jesus, Stephen was tried and was falsely convicted and falsely found guilty.  

 

After Stephen’s accusations, the religious leaders became furious and began to stone Stephen and Stephen died. Stephen said two things as he was being stoned.  The first thing he said was “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  This paralleled what Jesus said as he was on the cross. In Luke 23:43 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”   The 2nd thing Stephen said was “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”  Does this sound familiar to you?  In Luke 23:34  Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”   Just like Jesus, Stephen died an innocent man.  

 

Stephen’s death may raise some questions for some people.  One big question is “why didn’t God do something to help Stephen as he was being stoned?”   The truth is, God did help Stephen.  He gave him the grace to forgive his murders and to pray for them!   Not only did God give Stephen grace but because of the life, ministry and death of Stephen, God would cause a ripple effect to happen and many more people including you and I would be reached with Gospel.  

 

“God does not call all of us to be martyrs, but He does call us to be “living sacrifices.” In some respects, it may be harder to live for Christ than to die for Him: but if we are living for Him, we will be prepared to die for Him if that is what God calls us to do.”  - Warren Wriesbe’s The Bible Expositions Commentary

Discussion Questions:

  1. As we see the service and sacrifice of Stephen and Jesus, how does it motivate you to serve and sacrifice to multiply the kingdom of God?   What does it motivate you to do (next step)?
     

  2. Have you ever been persecuted for your faith?  What was the outcome?
     

  3. Stephen prayed for God to forgive the very people that were stoning him.  How do you think Stephen was able to forgive the very people that were stoning him to death?  Do you have anyone in your life you need to forgive?
     

  4. People all over the world are being persecuted for their faith.  Take time in the group to pray for those who are being persecuted.  Also pray that God would give you boldness and courage if and when you are persecuted.  A great resource to know what to pray for is an app called Open Doors Prayer App.

Weekly Discussion Questions:

  1. What were the key ingredients that made the early church so successful?

  2. What was your main takeaway from this chapter?

  3. What is our next step for this group?