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Lesson 4: The First Church Leaders *

Introduction: Would you like to do great things for God? Is your desire to do great things hindered by the fact that your Church assignment is something ordinary? For example, "soul-winning" is not your assignment, rather coordinating potluck. This week we turn our attention to a man who stands out in the potluck crowd when it comes to witnessing. His assignment was food distribution. Let's jump into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. Controversy

    1. Read Acts 6:1. What is the claim of discrimination? (It is not a claim based on religion or race, but rather on national origin. It appears to be more of a cultural claim.)

      1. Do you think the charge is true? Or, is this just the kind of false claim that arises from cultural differences and hypersensitivity? (We don't have enough information to know.)

    2. Read Acts 6:2-3. Do the twelve disciples believe the charge is true? (What they actually decide is that they do not want to deal with it. They resolve to set up a group of administrators who will be sure that the distribution of food is done fairly.)

      1. What are the qualifying traits they are looking for in the seven food administrators? (Men who are full of the Holy Spirit and wise.)

        1. Why do they need to be wise? (Discrimination claims between different cultures is a difficult matter. It is hard to know exactly how to fix the problem without creating more discrimination.)

    3. Read Acts 6:5. Recall that the original charge was that the Greek widows were being neglected. These names are all Greek. Is there a lesson in this? (Certainly, having Greek Jews involved is important. However, the names may not accurately reflect their cultural backgrounds.)

        1. Who did the choosing here? The Twelve? (No. The members of the early church. This was not a choice made by the leadership.)

          1. Why? (This is further proof the Twelve wanted this responsibility taken from their shoulders.)

    4. Read Acts 6:4. What will be the focus of the Twelve? (Prayer and ministry of the word.)

    5. What lessons should we learn from these four verses? (You don't want complaints to fester. Whether they are true or not, you want to address them in some way and not ignore them. Letting the complainers have a hand in the resolution is important. Responsibility in the Church should be focused. If it is too broad, then important details may be missed. All those in administration should be full of the Holy Spirit, even if they have a seemingly mundane task. Being wise is also important.)

    6. Read Acts 6:6-7. My translation states, "So, the word of God spread." Is there a connection between growth and the resolution of the controversy? (I think this is what the writer has in mind. He wants us to know that resolving this problem in the church allowed it to grow.)

  2. Stephen

    1. Read Acts 6:8-10. What is Stephen's job? (Read Acts 6:2. The Twelve were to engage in ministry and Stephen was to "wait on tables.")

      1. Why is Stephen involved in ministry? Has he forgotten his job description? Is he invading the work of the Twelve? (Nothing in this account suggests that Stephen is doing anything wrong. This tells us that it is the opportunity of everyone in the church, regardless of formal responsibilities, to share the gospel.)

      2. What other reason do we have to believe that ministry is part of Stephen's proper work? (Verse 10 tells us that the Holy Spirit is speaking through Stephen. We also read that he does "great wonders and miraculous signs." Clearly, God is promoting Stephen's ministry work.)

    2. Read Acts 6:11. Stephen's opponents cannot meet his arguments. What do we know about the honesty of the charges brought against Stephen? (If a group has to work secretly, if they have to "persuade" people to make charges, then you know the charges are questionable.)

      1. What lesson do we learn about deciding who is right in a debate? (If one side gives up debating the merits, and instead uses contrived legal attacks or physical attacks, that gives you a clue as to who is right.)

    3. Read Acts 6:12-15. What do you think it means that Stephen's face "was like the face of an angel?"

      1. If you were a member of the Sanhedrin, and the person facing charges had a "face like the face of an angel" what should you conclude?

    4. Read Acts 7:1-3. How do we know that Stephen is a lawyer? (The question presented to him has a "yes" or "no," answer. Instead of answering the question, Stephen goes on for another 49 verses!)

    5. I invite you to read the next 49 verses, but for our discussion let's skip down and read Acts 7:54-58. What kind of judicial process is this? (Stephen does not answer the question posed to him, instead, he outlines the history of the relationship of Israel and God. He recites that Israel resisted and killed God's prophets up through the killing of Jesus. In response, the crowd becomes angry and kills him. This is complete chaos as far as any legal process is concerned.)

    6. Read Acts 7:59-60. Why not hold this sin against them? Stephen just got through explaining why their ancestors and now they were guilty of rebellion and unfaithfulness to God. His murder is consistent with the line of sins he has just outlined.

      1. Do you think that God holds the murder of Stephen against those who killed him in anger? (Read Luke 11:4. The issue is not whether they were sinning, they were. The issue is forgiving those who sin against us.)

      2. Have you forgiven those who have sinned against you?

  3. Saul/Paul

    1. Read Acts 8:1. Saul (who is later known as Paul) understands the law and he understands the Scriptures. How could he approve of Stephen's murder? (We all do things that are irrational because we want a certain outcome. Saul thought that the Christians were harming his religion.)

      1. Why do you think the apostles stayed in Jerusalem?

      2. Read Acts 1:7-8. How do you think the apostles understood this direction from Jesus?

    2. Read Acts 8:2-3. If you had just been converted to Christianity, would this make you more or less determined to stay with your new faith? (The statement that Saul was destroying the church tells us that people were intimidated, and perhaps gave up their new beliefs.)

    3. Read Acts 8:4-8. Let's assume that Satan or his angels are inspiring this persecution. How is their strategy working? (I think it is backfiring. Instead of destroying the work of God, they are spreading it.)

      1. Think about this for a minute. Isn't this result predictable? Does this mean that Satan is not that smart? (Read Romans 8:28 and Genesis 50:19-20. We must not leave the hand of God out of our evaluation. He takes things that are meant to be bad and turns them into something good. I also believe that Satan's intelligence is clouded by his anger and animosity.)

    4. Read Acts 8:14-17. Is this a reason for the apostles to have remained in Jerusalem? (The new church needed leadership. It needed a "headquarters." This allowed the people to report back and the Apostles to go to places they were needed.)

    5. Friend, if you desire to do great things for God, ask Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit and direct the path of your life. Why not do that right now?

  4. Next week: The Conversion of Paul.
* Copr. 2018, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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