Introduction and Prayer
Read Acts 1:8 (out loud) 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
How should this verse play out in our everyday lives today?
Stephen is in the middle of his defense to the council. He has been walking through Jewish history beginning with the patriarch Abraham. He gets to the part of history regarding Joseph.
Read Acts 7:18-
18 But then a new king came to the throne of Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph. 19 This king exploited our people and oppressed them, forcing parents to abandon their newborn babies so they would die. 20 “At that time Moses was born—a beautiful child in God’s eyes. His parents cared for him at home for three months. 21 When they had to abandon him, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and raised him as her own son. 22 Moses was taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was powerful in both speech and action.
What does this verse identify as a similar circumstance surrounding the birth of Moses and the birth of Jesus?
Read Acts 7:23-29
23 “One day when Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his relatives, the people of Israel. 24 He saw an Egyptian mistreating an Israelite. So Moses came to the man’s defense and avenged him, killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses assumed his fellow Israelites would realize that God had sent him to rescue them, but they didn’t. 26 “The next day he visited them again and saw two men of Israel fighting. He tried to be a peacemaker. ‘Men,’ he said, ‘you are brothers. Why are you fighting each other?’ 27 “But the man in the wrong pushed Moses aside. ‘Who made you a ruler and judge over us?’ he asked. 28 ‘Are you going to kill me as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 When Moses heard that, he fled the country and lived as a foreigner in the land of Midian. There his two sons were born.
Jesus was known as the prince of peace. Like the world Moses considered peace as the absence of fighting. What is God’s version of peace? [Look up the word shalom and read its meaning.]
Moses tried go be a peacemaker by doing what? How were Moses’ actions stained by his sinfulness?
How does this violent act of brutally beating a man to death with his bare hands shape how you think of the young Moses?
How do you think that Moses felt years later when God gave him the commandment, Do not murder?
How do you feel when you come face to face with your sinfulness? What should our response be when we understand our brokenness?
Stephen continues his defense by moving through Jewish history and the narrative of these patriarchs of the faith. At the end of his speech he comes to this direct accusation…
Read Acts 7:51-53
51 “You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you! 52 Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One—the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. 53 You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, even though you received it from the hands of angels.”
Why does Stephen call them heathen at heart and deaf to the truth?
The central issue is their resistance to the Holy Spirit. How do we resist the Holy Spirit?
What causes us to resist His leading?
How have you been stubborn with the Holy Spirit’s leading? Why do we sometimes know what God says to do, but we are slow to obey?
Read Acts 7:57
57 Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him 58 and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.
How could Stephen react in this manner?
Could you react in this manner if it was you that was being stoned? How would you react if it was your spouse or child or family member that was being tortured? Could you still respond this graciously?
Share some recent situations where you’ve heard brothers and sisters in Christ are being persecuted for their faith? How might we better consistently pray for them to be bold and strong in the face of persecution? Remember to pray for their family members to stand strong and keep trusting in God through all of the difficulty.
Think on This…
How could you follow the leading of the Holy Spirit if you were a God-follower living in Ukraine right now? What would following the Spirit of God look like if you were a Russian in the army following the orders of the Russian President?