Rembrandt Stoning of Stephen

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 5, Day 5: Acts 7:54-60

Summary Acts 7:54-60:

Of course, the Sanhedrin weren’t happy with this attack, gnashing their teeth.  But Stephen looked up and saw the glory of God and Jesus at His right hand.  Appalled, the Sanhedrin attacked Stephen and stoned him to death. Stephen prayed for the Lord to forgive his attackers, while Saul looked on–something of profound significance coming up.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 5, Day 5: Acts 7:54-60

12) God showed Stephen His glory, as well as Jesus sitting at His right hand.

13a) He prayed that the people’s sin of stoning him would not be held against them. Jesus prayed the same thing while on the cross before he died. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

b) Personal Question. My answer: It’s difficult every day of my life when I’m a sinner, trying to do what Jesus would do in every situation and fighting against that and sin.

14) Personal Question. My answer: Even in death, Stephen is at peace. It gives me hope to one day have Stephen’s heart and to one day have Stephen’s peace.

Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 5, Day 5: Acts 7:54-60

The peace Stephen had at the end of his life while he is being stoned is what we all should strive for. To have others on your mind in the midst of terrible pain, agony, and anguish. To have a heart of Jesus when it’s so very difficult in this world.

Stephen was tried and executed because he upset the establishment. Yet, he died breathing forgiveness, giving us Paul as a result.

Going against the grain when led is what we are called to do as Christians. In today’s culture, this is harder than ever. Where do you stand?

End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 5, Day 5: Acts 7:54-60

The Sanhedrin were angry because Stephen was right. Instead of submitting to the Holy Spirit, admitting they were wrong and asking for forgiveness, they stoned Stephen instead.

Can you imagine grown men gnashing their teeth? The idea of gnashing at him with their teeth can’t help but remind us of the imagery of Hell. Seven different times, Jesus described Hell as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12). These men were prominent, successful, and appeared to be religious; yet they were rejecting God and associating themselves with hell, not heaven.

Jesus Standing

It is significant to note Jesus is standing here, as opposed to the more common description of Him sitting in heaven (Matthew 26:64Colossians 3:1), at the right hand of God the Father.

  • Jesus may have been standing in solidarity with Stephen at this moment of crisis. He does not react impassionately to the problems of His people.
  • Jesus may have been giving a standing ovation to Stephen, whose fate made him unique among believers. Among all the followers of Jesus, Stephen was the first martyr.
  • Jesus may have been standing to plead Stephen’s case before God the Father, assuring that though he was found guilty and punished on earth, he was found righteous and rewarded in heaven.

Jesus said, Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven (Matthew 10:32).

When Stephen declared that he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God, it was too much. The Sanhedrin reacted quickly, violently, and together. When Jesus, before this same body of men, declared that He would sit at the right hand of God, they had the same reaction and sealed his death as a blasphemer (Matthew 26:64-66).

death of believers

Stephen Stoned

“For Stephen to suggest that the crucified Jesus stood in a position of authority at the right hand of God must have ranked as blasphemy in the thinking of those who knew that a crucified man died under the divine curse.” (Bruce)

The reaction of the Sanhedrin seems extreme, but is typical of those who reject God and are lost in spiritual insanity

Ran at him: This uses the ancient Greek word hormao. This is the same word used to describe the mad rush of the herd of swine into the sea (Mark 5:13). This was an out-of-control mob rushing at Stephen.

The extent of their rage was shown by their execution of Stephen, which was done without regard for Roman law, and which was performed according to traditional Jewish custom (stoning).

Saul stood there as the supervisor of the operation. As a member of the Sanhedrin, he had also approved of Stephen’s execution.

Young man literally means, “a man in his prime.” It certainly does not mean that Saul wasn’t old enough to be a member of the Sanhedrin. In Acts 26:10, Paul says I cast my vote against them, and the plain implication was that he had a vote as a member of the Sanhedrin.

Stephen’s life ended in the same way it had been lived: In complete trust in God, believing that Jesus would take care of him in the life to come.

God heard Stephen’s prayer, and Paul is the evidence of it. We have no idea how greatly God can use us in our times of suffering.

Augustine said, “If Stephen had not prayed, the church would not have had Paul.”

Stephen displayed the same forgiving attitude that Jesus had on the cross (Luke 23:34). He asked God to forgive his accusers, and he made the promises loudly and publicly.

The text describes the passing of Stephen as tenderly as possible. Instead of saying simply that he died, it says that he merely fell asleep – with the idea that he woke up in a much better world.

  • If Stephen fell asleep, the church had to wake up.

Many have little idea of how greatly they can be used of God as they walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.

stubborn people

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BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 5, Day 5: Acts 12

Summary of passage:  King Herod arrested James, the brother of John, and executed him.  He seized Peter as well with the same fate in mind.  But the Feast of Passover was occurring so Herod had to postpone his plans for Peter.  Meanwhile, people were praying for him.  Then, an angel of the Lord appeared to Peter the night before his execution and rescued him.

Peter went to the house of Mary mother of John to tell them he was okay.  Many people were there praying for him.  The servant girl Rhoda was shocked as was everyone else at Peter’s escape.  He told his tale and told them to tell James and the others.  Then Peter fled for safety. Herod then killed all the guards who let Peter escape.

God then struck Herod down and the word of the Lord continued to spread.  Then Barnabas and Saul returned to Jerusalem from Antioch (Acts 11:25-6) with John also called Mark.

Personal Questions:

13)  Prayer works miracles.  The people prayed for Peter.  An angel rescued him.  If you do evil, God will judge you in the end.  Herod was evil to the core.  God struck him down.  Despite all the persecution, the truth of God’s word prevails.  Man cannot conquer God.

14)  God protects those who believe in Him even when things seem hopeless.  He rewards those who do not give up.  The bad guys will get their due reward in the end.  I can trust God to deal with evil people and vindicate the good guys.

Conclusions:  Do you ever wonder why Peter was rescued but not James?  I wanted more information on this from the Bible.  I’m assuming the Lord’s work for Peter was not done and James’ was.  James’ death had a purpose as did Peter’s remaining life.  Interesting to think on though.

End Notes:  There were several Herods throughout Roman history spanning approximately 100 years from about 30 BC to 64 AD–all ruling over parts of present-day Israel.  I’m assuming this Herod was the one involved in Jesus’ trial (Luke 22-23).  If you have a Bible Dictionary, look up Herod.  I found three pages in mine all about the different Herods.

The most profound thing I discovered was the Herod dynasty kept the peace in this region (hard even today) during this time frame, which gave the early church the time it needed to grow.  It postponed the inevitable clash which was coming of the Romans versus the Jews over religious differences. (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J D Douglas and Merrill C Tenney)

Tyre and Sidon were the principle cities of Phoenicia (modern-day Lebanon).  See map HERE.

Great historical background on both cities HERE.