Pastor's Sunday School Blog
Sunday School Lesson
“A Spirit Empowered Testimony unto Death”
December 31, 2017
Acts 6:8-15; 7:44-60
Stephen, was one of the first deacons selected to serve the church in Jerusalem (Acts 6:1-7). The requirements, as set forth by Peter, were that they be men full of faith, and filled with the Holy Spirit. It is important to note that deacons were not called to positions of authority, but ministry; however, their spiritual qualities would suggest that they would be leaders in the church.
Who he was is what he did… “full of faith and power” he “did great wonders and miracles.” What you are on the inside will manifest itself outwardly.
Stephen’s primary opposition was not the unbelieving world, but those who professed faith in Jehovah God. One of the greatest deterrents to the church today comes not from without, but from within.
The complaint against Stephen was his assertion that grace, not the Law, was the only avenue to a relationship with God; and that through Jesus Christ.
A relationship with Jehovah is not by the Law, nor is the residence of God the earthly temple; a relationship with God is by grace through faith at which time the Lord comes to dwell in the heart of those who believe in the person of the Holy Spirit.
The preaching of the Gospel is to the world foolishness. The unbelieving world, including the religious, oppose the preaching of the Gospel, and will respond with animosity.
The inevitable reality is that “those who live godly shall suffer persecution.”
The secret for surviving persecution is to keep your eyes of Jesus, and remembering your reward is the privilege to serve the Lord through suffering, and to receive an eternal reward in heaven.
Such a miscarriage of justice was met by supernatural forgiveness.
Testimony to Jesus in the Face of False Accusations (Acts 6:8-15).
“Stephen, full of grace (faith) and power (Holy Spirit), was performing great wonders and signs among the people.” Who he was, was expressed in what he did. The word “performing” carries the ideal of a continuous act (Stephen was not a Sunday service Saint). What he said was demonstrated by what he did.
Stephen’s actions and message was met with opposition by the religious leaders. The reality is that faithfulness to the Lord work and Word will be resisted by the religious…
Stephen, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, utilized his knowledge of the Old Testament to defend his message, confounding the religious leaders.
At the center of the debate was, and is today, “Law and grace.” It is important to remember it is not by the Law that we are redeemed, but by grace through faith … We keep the Law (as it is set forth in the New Testament), not to be saved, but because we are saved.
Keeping the Law, religious traditions, and church rituals tend to rob people of a real relationship with God rather than promote a relationship.
Warning – People will twist the truth to create a lie in order to promote themselves.
Our witness – Allowing the Lord to shine through our lives in the midst of persecution.
Testimony to Jesus as the Fulfillment of the Old Testament (Acts 7:44-53).
Stephen was not diminishing the importance of the Law or the Tabernacle, but demonstrating Israel’s misplaced faith. The religious leaders seemed to place more importance on the Law than a relationship with God, and more importance on the Temple than the worship of God.
Discuss the following statement – Some people come to church to find God, as if God, is only in the church. Often believers promote this ideal by inviting people to church rather than to God.
It is time that we realize that God is far beyond the four walls of the sanctuary. Church is important, but it is not the sole residence of the Lord.
Note – The work of the Holy Spirit is to use the witness and the words of the believer to bring conviction of sin. That’s why it is imperative that believers live lives characterized by godliness and share the Word of God, which is the power of God unto salvation.
If the Law is the way to God, and you don’t and can’t keep the Law, then there is no hope of salvation.
Testimony to Jesus in a Christ like Death (Acts 7:54-60).
The way through persecution is to keep a visual on Jesus.
Defeat is not a reality in the believers life because Jesus has defeated death, ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Our victory is tied to His victory.
Whether as the result of persecution, or by the natural process, the believer has peace in Jesus Christ.
Consider – While persecution is a growing problem in the United States, it is a very real problem in other places around the world. Today believers continue to be imprisoned and martyred for their faith.
Question – Have you ever been persecuted for your faith?
Note – “Saul’s” (Paul’s) participation/consent in the death of Stephen. Saul’s forgiveness is the evidence of the extent of God’s forgiveness.
I am amazed at the final words of Stephen. They are not words of condemnation but rather forgiveness. His final words/actions witness the loving forgiveness of God.
Theological Theme: God provides, through the Spirit, the courage and confidence to bear witness of Christ in persecution and death.
Christological/Christ Connection: Stephen’s persecution and death followed the pattern of the martyrdom of Jesus. Stephen’s forgiveness of those were responsible for his death was exemplified by Christ’s own forgiveness of those who nailed Him to the cross.
Missional Application: God calls the believers to bear witness to the Lord Jesus Christ, even in the midst of persecution.