Sunday School Material 10-14-12: Stephen Is Faithful to Death

(Acts 7:51-60; 8:1; 10/14/12)

Introduction: A key idea in today’s Sunday School material is that faithfulness may lead to death. Prayerfully, we will be challenged to work on having the faith to endure persecution.

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Body:

Read Acts 7:51-54

I. Countercharges. In our Sunday School material Stephen refers to his audience as stiff-necked people. He talks about how they have killed the prophets of God. They have failed to obey God’s word. The Sanhedrin became very angry.

Applications –

- Responding to the truth. Notice in vss. 51-53 that the truth can be painful, but the consequences of not obeying the truth are even more painful. The religious leaders were enraged by the truth about their sins and the sins of their fore parents.

Instead of obeying the truth, they killed the messenger. But they will still have to face the consequences of the truth. There are many people who avoid the church, because they don’t want to live by the truth. Others go from church to church, because they don’t want to live by the truth.

No matter if we listen to the truth or not, and no matter if we obey it or not, the truth is the truth. Let’s strive to live by the truth, instead of killing the messenger.

- Our legacies. Notice in vs. 51 of our Sunday School material that the previous generations left a legacy of resisting the Holy Spirit. This is a terrible legacy to leave. However, if we are not living by God’s word, we too are leaving a legacy of resisting the Holy Spirit.

At the core of God’s will for our lives are the issues of making sure we are saved by way of accepting Jesus as our savior by faith and then living lives focused on loving God and others, as we love ourselves. Let’s work on leaving godly legacies.

Read Acts 7:55-56

II. Vision. Stephen is said to look up to heaven. He saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at God (i.e., the Father’s) right hand. In our Sunday School material he shares what he sees with the angry audience.

Applications –

- Jesus’ standing on the right side. Notice in vss. 55-56 that Jesus is on the right side of God the Father. Some speculate that He is standing to welcome Stephen into glory. Others speculate that He is standing to testify to the Father about the faithfulness of Stephen.

The truth is, we really don’t know why Jesus is standing. We can be sure that the blood of Jesus is sufficient to get us into glory and that Jesus will meet us in glory, when this life is over. Let’s live like we believe that we have a marvelous place to go, when this life is over.

Read Acts 7:57-60

III. Death. In our Sunday School material the people covered their ears and yelled. They quickly dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Stephen essentially asks the Lord to receive his spirit, and he asks God to forgive or not hold against the people the actions that they are committing. He died/fell asleep in the presence of Saul.

Applications –

- The devil’s tactics. Notice in vs. 57 that the devil has a way of getting people to stop listening and to start stoning. On one hand, we need to be aware of the devil’s tactics. We ought not think it is strange, when people stop listening and start stoning or trying to cause harm.

But on the other hand, we should make sure that the devil doesn’t use us. Just like he used religious people in the text, if we are not careful, he will try to use us. He is using us, when we stop listening and start trying to cause harm to others.

We cause harm by ignoring needs, gossiping, and being unkind. Let’s keep the devil from using us. Prayerful Bible study and obedience with the support of other believers will help you in this area.

- The death of a believer. Notice in vs. 59 of the Sunday School material the idea of commending one’s spirit to the Lord and talking about dying as sleeping. First, every human lives at both a biological and a spiritual level.

One day, the biological will stop working. But the spiritual will continue in Heaven or Hell. By accepting Christ as one’s savior by faith, one can be assured of being with the Lord in Heaven.

Second, when you know that Heaven is your destination, it takes some of the fear out of dying. When a loved one dies, in the Lord, there is a sense of comfort that comes with thinking about them being in Heaven. Let’s make sure we are saved and trust God to take care of us, even in death.

- “God bless those who are stoning me.” Notice in vs. 60 that it takes a tremendous capacity to seek God’s forgiveness for those who are stoning you. Most of us are far from this level of maturity. However, that simply means that most of us have some growing today. Let’s work on growing to trust God to handle those who mistreat us.

Read Acts 8:1

IV. Legacy. Saul was in agreement with the mistreatment of Stephen. There was a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem. The believers were scattered, except for the Apostles.

Applications –

- Focus in times of conflict and drama. Notice in vs. 1 that there is a great conflict between good and evil, light and darkness, salt and decay. As we see the persecution in our Sunday School material, we should not be surprised when conflict and drama arises in our lives, just because we are trying to do God’s will.

Furthermore, as leaders, we may be called upon to stay in a bad situation, while others move on to safer areas. To whom much is given, much is required. There is so much more to being a leader than carrying a title and looking important.

And finally, we should think about how even though the believers were scattered, they shared the good news about Jesus everywhere they went. In like manner, we should be witnesses for the Lord, no matter what our lot in life may be. Let’s work on staying focused on doing God’s will, even in the times of conflict and drama.

Conclusion: Let’s work on developing the faith needed to endure persecution. God has much for those who obey His will.

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