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Bible Discussion — Acts 6-7 : Bweinh!

Bible Discussion — Acts 6-7

September 3, 2008, 1:00 pm; posted by
Filed under Bible, Chloe, Connie, David, Josh J, Steve  | No Comments

This week, Bweinh.com progresses to the next two chapters of Acts.

Genesis: 1-4 | 5-9 | 10-14 | 15-18 | 19-22 | 23-26
27-29 | 30-32 | 33-36 | 37-39 | 40-43 | 44-46 | 47-50
Exodus: 1-4 | 5-8 | 9-11 | 12-14 | 15-18
19-22 | 23-26 | 27-30 | 31-34 | 35-40
Romans: Ch. 1 | Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4 | Ch. 5 | Ch. 6 | Ch. 7 | Ch. 8 (I)
Ch. 8 (II) | Ch. 9 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15-16
Luke: 1:1-38 | 1:39-2:40 | 2:41-3:38 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10
11 | 12 | 13 | 14-15 | 16-17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24
Esther: 1-2 | 3-5 | 6-8 | 9-10
Acts: 1 | 2 | 3-4 | 5

Believers continued to be made in staggering numbers until there was just too much daily work for the apostles to handle. When it became overwhelming they took a page from Moses and started to raise up new leadership. These two chapters tell the story of the leader of those leaders, Stephen, namesake of our own fearless leader here at Bweinh…

There\’s trouble in paradise, as the Jewish converts who accepted Greek customs begin to feel discriminated against by the conservative Jewish Christians. The disciples call “the multitude” together, leaving the selection process of deacons to the body, while ordination rests (literally) in the hands of the Apostles.

Stephen refers to those who sold Joseph as “the patriarchs” (7:9) — which they were, but it’s certainly not how I think of Joseph’s brothers in that story.

It was as if the men of the Sanhedrin were literally blind. They saw that Stephen\’s face was like that of an angel (6:15), and yet it had absolutely no impact on them.

Stephen’s sermon was rhetorically brilliant in a few ways, but I noticed this time the way that he subtly and repeatedly identifies himself with his accusers. “Our father Abraham,” “our people,” “our fathers.” It makes me wonder if he would have been released, had he not chosen to twist the knife with his last three verses.

As in all things, there are some jobs no one wants to do…or at least ones that sometimes get neglected. And there were seven men chosen, including Stephen, but I bet no one remembers the names of more than two of them…

Josh: Stoning Stephen
David: Three Score and Fifteen Souls
Chloe: This Fellow
Steve: Proselyte
Connie: The Patriarchs

When I was a kid, I had a Sunday School teacher who wanted to act out the account of Stephen. He was planning to surprise us all with paper balls we could throw at the volunteer “Stephen,” hoping none of us would know where the story was going. It probably would have worked, if I hadn’t blurted out, immediately after the volunteer was picked, “Didn’t they stone Stephen?”

Stephen’s speech was similiar to Peter’s in Acts 2. I wonder if that’s why the crowds weren’t as impressed as the first group — plus he didn’t have the whole tongues thing.

In the echo of Stephen\’s prayer: “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge!”

On the other side of Stephen\’s sleep.

The message preached by Stephen is amazing in scope. He stood before a band of proud religious men, proving from Scripture that their personal claim to that religion was a sham. Since calling Abraham and prophesying 400 years of bondage, God had sent three deliverers — Joseph, Moses, and Jesus — and the Jewish people had now rejected all three.

Their claim (6:11-14) of unbroken devotion to Moses, God, Jerusalem, and the Law, extending back some 15 centuries, was nothing but a fraud. “Which of the prophets have your fathers not persecuted?” Stephen asked. “And they have slain them which have shown before the coming of the Just One, of whom now you have become the betrayers and murderers.”

7:49 says: ” ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me?’ says the Lord. ‘Or where will my resting place be?’ ”

What temple do we have that can compare with the universe God has created? The common metaphor is that Jesus lives in our hearts — He\’s living in us, in our minds and our souls. What kind of mind is He living in? How does it compare with the splendor of His creation? Most importantly, do we endlessly strive to make a better resting place for our Savior?

God had Stephen speak the truth pretty bluntly to those around him, and of course it enraged them enough to kill him. But they could not say they haven’t heard the truth — they may stick their fingers in their ears as in verse 57, but they still heard it.

The first time I read the story of Stephen, I cried. It\’s one of my favorite parts of Acts because even though he\’s being stoned to death, Stephen has an undeniable peace. And then he falls asleep.

Covering your ears and yelling, the tried and true way for a child to settle a disagreement, would seemingly make it difficult to drag someone from the city. I mean, when you take your hand off your ear to grab him, a little bit of irrefutable logic might slip in.

Of the six deacons, Stephen became a martyr, Philip an evangelist, Nicolas a heretic (see the Nicolaitans in Rev 2:6), and Timon a beloved friend of both Pumbaa and Simba.

7:60 — “Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”

7:49 — “Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
What house will you build for Me? says the LORD,
Or what is the place of My rest?”

Connie; Steve:
6:7 — “Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.”

I wonder how much of an effect Stephen\’s message had on Saul. The effect was not immediate, obviously, but it isn’t always our good fortune to see immediate impact from what we do for God. The fact remains: Saul heard that message and later took up the same refrain against his religious peers, when God called his name.

Were Stephen’s miracles service-related, or more conventionally religious? I believe the miraculous can be found amidst the mundane, so if he was the recipient of divine wisdom in the way he stretched and delivered three minas among five widows, all the better for him!

Jesus never promised an easy road for any of us, regardless of calling. Stephen was chosen for a seemingly innocuous ministry, yet became the first Christian martyr. We are not to be surprised when we are persecuted for His sake.

Hebrews 6:2 lists “the laying on of hands” as one of the foundational teachings of Christianity. We see it used here in ordination, and, in other texts, in prophecy, healing, blessing and the infilling of the Holy Ghost. How deep is this doctrine? And why don\’t we talk about it more?

Stephen has a specific message tailored to his audience. He doesn\’t just start talking about Jesus — he recounts the history of the Jews to show that Jesus was a natural part of their narrative. We also need to have a message that connects Jesus and our audience, or else they\’ll come away from it say, “Well, that wasn\’t meant for me.”

A young man named Saul served as a witness and held the coats of Stephen’s murderers. Perhaps he had this day in mind when he later called himself “the chief of sinners,” “not fit to be called an apostle.”


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