Acts 10 atozmomm

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 7, Day 3: Acts 10

Summary Acts 10:

A Roman Centurion (a very important man whom all Jews resented and despised) named Cornelius was living in Caesarea.  He was God-fearing and gave generously to the poor.  One day he had a vision of the angel of God.  The angel told Cornelius to send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter, which he did.

Peter had a vision that same day of a large sheet being let down from heaven with all kinds of four-footed animals, reptiles, and birds on it.  A voice told Peter to kill and eat these animals.

Peter freaked out.  He couldn’t possibly eat anything unclean (as the laws for centuries have been).  The voice corrected him, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

While Peter was pondering this vision, Cornelius’ men arrived and the voice said to go with these men, which he did.

The next day when Peter arrived, Cornelius had invited all of his relatives and close friends to hear what Peter had to say.  Peter reminds everyone it is against Jewish law for Jews to associate with Gentiles but God has said otherwise through this vision.

Cornelius repeats his vision to Peter.  Peter finally understands his dream:  God now accepts every man into His kingdom; the Jews are no longer singled out as God’s chosen people.  With Jesus’ death, everyone is eligible for Salvation.

Peter explains how God chose people to be witnesses to Jesus’ death and resurrection and to preach to the people and testify that God is the one and only judge of the living and the dead.

The Holy Spirit then came upon all who were listening, much to the astonishment of the Jews present with Peter.  Then they were baptized.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 7, Day 3: Acts 10

6) He was a devout, God-fearing man and gave generously to those in need. He was respected by all the Jewish people. He prayed to God regularly.  He was a strong man, authoritative, and loyal to be a Roman Centurion (commander in the Roman army).  He must have been respected, admired, and a good leader.  He obeyed God and yearned to know Him more.

7a) God told Peter to get up and kill and eat, which is against Jewish law. Peter’s objection was just that — that these animals were impure and unclean so he couldn’t possibly eat or kill them. God told Peter not to call anything impure that He has made clean.

b) God confirmed His words by having Peter sent for by Cornelius and taken to Cornelius’ house.

8 ) Personal Question. My answer: Jesus’s death. All barriers.

Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 7, Day 3: Acts 10

Profound passage as Peter finally realizes that all people are made clean through the blood of Jesus Christ. Now all will be preached to.

End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 7, Day 3: Acts 10

Caesarea was a predominately Roman city on the shores of the Mediterranean in Judea. It was the headquarters of the Roman governor of the province of Judea. Archaeologists have discovered a stone from a building in Caesarea inscribed with the name Pontus Pilate.

Who Was Cornelius?

  • Cornelius was an officer in the Roman Army. A Jew of that day would naturally dislike or even hate him.
  • Cornelius was a God-fearer. These were Gentiles who loved the God of Israel; they were sympathetic to and supportive of the Jewish faith. Yet they stopped short of becoming full Jews in lifestyle and in circumcision. Jewish people of that time respected and appreciated these God-fearing Gentiles, but they could not really share their life and homes and food with them, because they were still in fact Gentiles and not full Jewish converts.
  • Cornelius gave generously to the poor, prayed often, sought God, and obeyed. How many of us can say the same?

It is significant that God spoke to Cornelius directly, even calling him by name. It is also significant that Cornelius responded with a healthy fear of the heavenly and holy (he was afraid). This shows that Cornelius had a real relationship with God.

Angels have limited abilities. They are primarily messengers. Note that an angel came to Cornelius to deliver a message, not convert him.

Typically, this is how God operates. He speaks to several people about a matter, not just one. Then confirmation is provided, and out of the mouth of two or three witnesses a word is established.

map of caesarea and joppa atozmomm

Fun Fact:  It is rare in the Bible for God to speak in an audible voice.

Peter had a bad habit of telling Jesus “no” (Matthew 16:22John 13:8). Compare Peter’s response to God (Not so, Lord!) with Cornelius’ response to God (What is it, Lord?). On that day, it seemed that Cornelius was more responsive to God than Peter was.

God repeated this vision three times. Peter was to regard this as important.

When the vision ended, Peter did not have it all figured out. That came in time. And so it is with us.

Previously, in Acts 10:13 and 10:15, it was simply said that a voice spoke to Peter. Now, we are told that the Spirit spoke to Peter. This was God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, speaking to Peter.

At this point, God has not told Peter that his visitors were Gentiles. Normally, a godly Jew like Peter would not associate in this manner with Gentiles. Knowing this, and knowing Peter’s previous resistance (Not so, Lord!), God simply surprised Peter with the knowledge that these men were Gentiles.

The idea that God could send and use Gentiles was entirely new to Peter. God was expanding Peter’s mind and heart.

Peter didn’t just coldly give these Gentiles visitors a room; he entertained them as welcomed guests, and he did this against every custom of the Jewish people of that day. No orthodox Jew would have invited Gentiles into his house. He would not have sat down at the same table with them. He would not have had fellowship with them. It was forbidden.

God flooded Peter’s heart with an understanding that though the Old Testament said God’s people were not to become like their pagan neighbors, it also said God wanted His people to become a light to their neighbors who didn’t know the true God.

“Centuries ago another Jew had come to Joppa with a solemn message from his God, which he was commissioned to bear far hence to the Gentiles. Jonah, the prophet, took a ship from Joppa and refused obedience to the divine call.” (Gaebelein)

Significantly, whenever in the Bible worship is offered to men or to angels (as in Revelation 19:10), it is refused. But Jesus received such worship freely (Matthew 8:29:1814:3315:2528:9). This proves that Jesus is more than a man, and greater than any angel (Luke 4:8).

Acts 10:38 atozmommConversion of Paul

Peter actually entered the house of a Gentile, something that Jewish customs and traditions strictly prohibited. By entering a Gentile’s home, Peter showed that his heart and mind had changed, and that he had learned the lesson of the vision of the great sheet.

“The principle subject of this chapter is not so much the conversion of Cornelius as the conversion of Peter.” (Stott)

Cornelius was not a Christian in the sense that he was not yet regenerated or born again, yet in this case God heard his prayers and remembered his generosity to others.

This is the foundation for Peter’s understanding that the gospel should now go forth to Gentiles. This statement goes completely against the prevailing Jewish thought at that time that God certainly did show partiality, towards the Jews and against the Gentiles. In essence, many Jews of Peter’s day thought that God loved the Jews while hating the Gentiles.

The Prejudice Against Gentiles

According to William Barclay, it was common for a Jewish man to begin the day with a prayer thanking God that he was not a slave, a Gentile, or a woman. A basic part of the Jewish religion in the days of the New Testament was an oath that promised that one would never help a Gentile under any circumstances, such as giving directions if they were asked. But it went even as far as refusing to help a Gentile woman at the time of her greatest need – when she was giving birth – because the result would only be to bring another Gentile into the world.

If a Jew married a Gentile, the Jewish community would have a funeral for the Jew and consider them dead. It was thought that to even enter the house of a Gentile made a Jew unclean before God.

Christianity was the first religion to disregard racial, cultural and national limitations.

When the Jews showed this kind of partiality they were not being faithful to God’s heart as revealed in the Old Testament. The idea that God shows no partiality is also stated in Deuteronomy 10:17 and 2 Chronicles 19:7For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe (Deuteronomy 10:17).

Notably, Peter’s preaching to the Gentiles was essentially the same as his preaching to the Jews. He presented the person and work of Jesus Christ, with an emphasis on the resurrection of Jesus and our responsibility before God in light of these things.

Peter didn’t have one sermon for one group and another sermon for another. All people needed to be saved by coming to a living faith in a living Jesus Christ.

Peter’s sermon was a wonderful (if brief and perhaps condensed by Luke) explanation of the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth:

  • Jesus was baptized to identify with humanity.
  • Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power.
  • Jesus was crucified.
  • Jesus was raised from the dead, resurrected in view of many witnesses.
  • Jesus commanded His followers to preach the message of who He is and what He did.

The moment of a person’s salvation isn’t necessarily when they raise a hand or come forward at an evangelistic invitation. It is more likely at the moment they surrender to God and embrace with trust Jesus in the sincerity of their hearts.

Peter allowed the Holy Spirit to interrupt his sermon. The Holy Spirit was doing the greater work in the hearts of those listening, and Peter went with the flow. He stopped and called for their baptism.

Acts 10 summary atozmomm

The First Gentile Converts to Christianity

These were likely not the first Gentiles to trust in Jesus and be born again. Gentiles had probably received salvation in the eight years since Pentecost (Acts 2). But those Gentiles were saved as they embraced Judaism as well as Christianity. Gentiles may have received salvation before this, but they were saved as Jews, not as Gentiles.

Their filling with the Holy Spirit was accompanied by the demonstration of spiritual gifts. This was a filling with the Holy Spirit in two senses: First, in the sense that He indwells and abides in every believer; second, in the sense of a special empowering with gifts and graces from the Holy Spirit.

This was unique. It was not common in the Book of Acts or in subsequent Christian experience for those who were not previously converted (born again) to instantly be born again and receive such evident spiritual gifts. Yet it was good and even necessary on this occasion, to show that they received the exact same Spirit, the exact same blessing as the apostles and first followers of Jesus did on the morning of Pentecost (Acts 2).

God would fill Gentiles with the Holy Spirit in the same manner and degree as the Jews.

God loved and blessed the Gentiles just as He loved and blessed the Jews, and He did it while they were still Gentiles.

The Old Testament looked for the day when a light would shine in the darkness of the Gentile world: Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. (Isaiah 60:1-3)

God promised Abraham and his descendants that the blessing that came through him would extend to all nations (Genesis 12:1-4). Here, we see Jesus – the greatest blessing from Abraham – extended to the nations.

Remember Jesus’ promise of other sheep, not of this fold in John 10:16. Jesus also promised, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself (John 12:32).

The first Gentile Jesus dealt with in His public ministry was a Roman centurion from Capernaum. When Jesus healed that centurion’s servant, He declared that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 8:5-13).

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Saul on Road to Damascus

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 4: Acts 9:1-19a

Summary of Acts 9:1-19a:

Saul was persecuting the Lord’s disciples and all others who belonged to the Way, trying to imprison them or kill them.  As Saul neared Damascus, a light from haven flashed around him and he heard a voice (Jesus), asking why does he persecute him?  Jesus tells Saul to go to the city and he will be told what to do.

The others with him did not see anyone.  They lead Saul to Damascus because Saul had been blinded by the light.  In Damascus, the Lord called a disciple named Ananias to go to Saul and lay hands on him so that Saul may see again.

Ananias tells the Lord that Saul is a bad man (as if God didn’t know) and he might be arrested if he goes.  The Lord explains his purpose for Saul to Ananias, saying Saul is His chosen instrument to carry his name before the Gentiles.

So Ananias complies, healing Saul and filling him with the Holy Spirit.  Saul was baptized and regained his strength.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 4: Acts 9:1-19a

9) Saul was persecuting the Lord’s disciples and all others who belonged to the Way. There are different types of persecution, including social persecution and emotional. You can be ostracized when you don’t conform.

10) Personal Question. My answer: It’s okay to question the Lord, but you still go and do it anyways.

11) Part personal Question. My answer: Saul was completely transformed and probably in shock since he didn’t eat or drink for 3 days, now about to become one the greatest disciples for Christ. Jesus has made all the difference in allowing me to do what I do, how I do it, and blessing me with a great life.

Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 4: Acts 9:1-19a

Last go-around, we read this along with Acts 22:1-16; 26:9-19

End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 4: Acts 9:1-19a

The Conversion of Saul — One of the Most Important Passages in the Entire Bible

We last saw Saul in Acts 8:3, where it says that he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. Here he continued and expanded this work to the city of Damascus (about 130 miles or 210 kilometers northeast of Jerusalem; a six-day journey altogether).

Saul hated the disciples of the Lord. He wasn’t seeking Jesus when Jesus sought him. We might say that Saul was decided against Jesus when Jesus decided for Saul.

Saul did his persecuting work under the direct approval of the highest religious authorities. He asked and received letters from the high priest authorizing his mission.

The high priest was Caiaphas. In December 1990 an ossuary (something like a burial urn; essentially a bone box) was discovered in Jerusalem. The ossuary was inscribed with the name of this Caiaphas and positively dated to this period. Inside were discovered some of the remains of a 60-year-old man, whom many researchers believe was this same Caiaphas. If true, these are the first physical remains (such as bones or ashes) of a specific person mentioned in the New Testament.

The Way

Here, Christianity is referred to as the Way. This seems to be the earliest name for the Christian movement, and a fitting one – used five times in Acts.

  • The name the Way means that Christianity is more than a belief or a set of opinions or doctrines. Following Jesus is a way of living as well as believing.
  • It is significant to see that there was a Christian community large enough in Damascus for Saul to be concerned about. Christianity – the Way – was spreading everywhere.
  • map of road to damascus paul

God on the Road to Damascus

God does not normally confront sinners with a heavenly light and an audible voice from heaven. Yet Paul said that this light was brighter than the sun (Acts 26:13).

Saul, Saul: When God repeats a name twice, it is to display deep emotion, but not necessarily anger (as in the Martha, Martha of Luke 10:41 and the Jerusalem, Jerusalem of Matthew 23:37).

As the heavenly light overwhelmed him, Saul was confronted by the true nature of his crime: He persecuted God, not man.

  • Saul thought that he was serving God in viciously attacking Christians, but he discovered that he was fighting God.
  • This has been sadly true through history. Often those who are convinced they are doing God a favor do much of the worst persecution and torture ever practiced.

In all probability, Saul heard Jesus teach in Jerusalem; and as a likely member of the Sanhedrin, Saul sat in judgment of Jesus in the trial before His crucifixion.

“Unless Saul was hallucinating, the appearance of Jesus proved that Jesus was alive and that Jesus was God.” (Boice)

Two Most Important Questions to Ask God

  1. Who are You, Lord? We must ask this question with a humble heart, and ask it to God. Jesus showed us exactly who God is, and He can answer this question. Paul spent the rest of his life wanting to know more completely the answer to this question (Philippians 3:10).
  2. What do You want me to do? Few dare to really ask God this question, but when we ask it, we must ask it with submission and determined obedience.

In Acts 9, we are only given the briefest account of what happened during this time. Paul says more about this experience in Acts 22:3-11Acts 26:12-181 Corinthians 9:1 and 15:8. Barnabas said more about Saul’s experience in Acts 9:27 and from what Ananias said about Saul’s experience in Acts 9:17.

Jesus only told Saul what to do right at that moment.

  • God often directs us one step at a time instead of laying out the details of the grand plan all at once.
  • So many of us want to plan out our entire lives. but that is not how God operates.

In the three days of blindness and deprivation, Saul was dying to himself. It would only be after the three days of dying that he would receive resurrection life from Jesus.

unknown road we all must travel atozmomm.com

Ananias and God

Ananias was an ordinary man – not an apostle, a prophet, a pastor, an evangelist, an elder, or a deacon. Yet God used him because he was an ordinary man.

God spoke to Ananias in a completely different way than He spoke to Saul. Saul had a bold, almost violent confrontation from God, but Ananias heard the voice of God sweetly in a vision, where God called and Ananias obediently responded. God speaks to us differently too, just as we need to hear Him.

God considered Saul His chosen vessel long before there appeared anything worthy in Saul to choose. God knew what He could make of Saul, even when Saul or Ananias didn’t know.

So often we underestimate ourselves when God doesn’t.

Acts 8

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 2: Acts 8:1-8

Summary of Acts 8:1-8:

On the day Stephen was executed, a persecution against the church began so all the believers except the Apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.  Stephen was buried, and Saul began a relentless drive to destroy the church.  Philip went to Samaria and began to preach the word there.  Great joy was brought to that city because of Philip’s deeds.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 2: Acts 8:1-8

3) The opportunity to spread the Gospel. Philip, a Jew, would normally never have been near Samarians who were looked down upon for racial and religious reasons. Here, all are included in the Good News.

4) Because all Jews looked down upon the Samaritans for racial and religious reasons. Samaria used to be Jewish lands until the Assyrians resettled foreigners there when the Jews were exiled to Babylon. The Samarians did not worship God, or if they did, they intermixed their religions with the Jewish religion. Hence, they were seen as not equals in the eyes of the Jewish people.

5a) Personal Question. My answer: All things are possible with God, and the Gospel will reach all corners of the world and will breach every barrier of the heart.

b) Personal Question. My answer: Same. People are the same no matter where you go in the world. God will reach those whom He has chosen to believe, and we can help by telling others about Him.  Not let our prejudices stand in our way of telling those who otherwise would have no opportunity to hear about Jesus about him (such as homeless, poor, and minority sects).  Basically, speak in your community where God plants you.

Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 2: Acts 8:1-8

BSF last go around had this lesson as Lesson 4, Day 2. We were also required to read John 4:6-42 with Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman. You definitely need to read the 2 Kings passage and Jesus and the Samaritan to get the most out of this lesson.

End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 2: Acts 8:1-8

Persecution Begins

In Philippians 3:6, Paul said of his life before Jesus that he was so zealous in his religious faith that he persecuted the church. Saul’s supervision of the execution of Stephen was just one example of this persecution.

Consenting or approval describes Saul’s attitude, but the English translation probably isn’t strong enough. The idea behind the ancient Greek word suneudokeo is “to approve, to be pleased with.” Some people are reluctant persecutors, but Saul wasn’t one of these; he took pleasure in attacking Christians.

Saul of Tarsus – whom most of us know by his Roman name, Paul – later came to deeply regret this persecution of the church. He later wrote, For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God (1 Corinthians 15:9).

Acts 26:11 described what perhaps Paul regretted most: And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities. Paul may have suffered many sleepless nights thinking about those whom he compelled…to blaspheme.

Stephen’s death was only the beginning. The floodgates of persecution were now open against the Christians. Saul was only one of many persecutors of Christians.

Fun Fact: This was the first persecution of the Christians as a whole. Before, the apostles had been arrested and beaten and persecuted; here, every believer was threatened with violence and perhaps death.

The blood of the martyrs became the seed of the church.

Diaspora

According to Boice, there are two different words in the ancient Greek language for “scattered.” One has the idea of scattering in the sense of making something disappear, like scattering someone’s ashes. The other word has the idea of scattering in the sense of planting or sowing seeds. This is the ancient Greek word used here.

In Acts 1:8 Jesus clearly told His followers to look beyond Jerusalem and bring the gospel to Judea, Samaria, and the whole world. But Jesus’ followers had not done this.

Hence, some scholars believe this is why persecution happened. God can and will use pressing circumstances to guide us into His will. Sometimes we have to be shaken out of our comfortable state before we do what God wants us to do.

Since Jewish law prohibited open mourning for someone that had been executed, Luke’s record suggests that these devout men publicly repented of Stephen’s murder.

Destroy or wreck havoc is an ancient Greek word that could refer to an army destroying a city or a wild animal tearing at its meat. Saul viciously attacked Christians, including women.

The end result was for the glory of God, because the persecution simply served to spread the message. These “accidental missionaries” talked about Jesus wherever they went.

Most people don’t come to Jesus through a professional preacher or an evangelist; they come to Jesus through people just like us.

Philip

Like Stephen, he was one of the men chosen to serve the church family in practical ways when the dispute regarding Hellenist widows arose (Acts 6:5). He was one of those forced to flee persecution (Acts 8:1), ending up in Samaria.

File:Kingdoms of Israel and Judah map 830.svgSamaria

600 years before this, the Assyrians conquered this area of northern Israel and deported all the wealthy and middle-class Jews from the area. Then they moved in a pagan population from afar. These pagans intermarried with the lowest classes of remaining Jews in northern Israel, and from these people came the Samaritans.

The Jews of that day hated the Samaritans. They considered them compromising half-breeds who corrupted the worship of the true God.

James and John (and the other disciples as well) once thought that the Samaritans were only good for being burned by God’s judgment (Luke 9:51-56).

Jesus’ experience with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) and His story about the kindness of a Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) illustrate the natural tension between the Jews and Samaritans of that time.

MORE INFORMATION ON THE HISTORY OF THE SAMARITANS

Jesus himself had visited Samaria in his teachings as we see from the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:1-26.  In John 4:39-42 we also see how many Samaritans were converted from Jesus’ teachings. He also told the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37.  the Samaritans still worshipped the One, True God along with other gods so it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to convince them of the power and fortitude of the One, True God.  Also, the Jews remaining after the deportation intermarried the foreigners so they probably kept a portion of their heritage and worship culture intact.

So when Philip showed up and started performing miracles, the stage was set for him to reap the rewards from Jesus’ work.

This can be applied throughout the Bible and throughout time into today.  We reap what others have sown.  The Old Testament prepared the people of the New Testament to be saved.  Every small step has been planned by God for His purposes and we (and everyone after us) reap the benefits of this as we continue to plant seeds for the next generation.

1 Corinthians 3:6-8:  “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow…  The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose and each will be rewarded according to his labor.”

The Jews and the Samaritans had a long history of despising one another (please see link in concluding notes). The Jews thought them the lowest of the low and unworthy to know the Good News.  James and John had once asked Jesus if he wanted them to call down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritans (Luke 9:54), which speaks to how little the Samaritans were thought of by the Jews.  I think the Samaritans would have been the last people on Earth the Jews would have converted.  So, God in His infinite wisdom made them because as we all know they were special in His eyes too.

Ancient Samaria and Central Israel

Note on the Map:  Sychar is next to Shechem where Jesus met with the woman at the well.

Fun Fact:  My study Bible points out the fact that the conversion of the Samaritans is the first time non-Jews followed Jesus.  Awesome fact!

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