- Acts 7
- Hebrews 12:1-3
- Luke 23:32-34
Pray… a prayer where you forgive something that someone has done to you think week.
Day 327 – Peter – Stephen’s message & martyrdom
Looking to Jesus & forgiving wrongdoers
- You may have looked at the length of Acts 7 and been tempted to skim read it. If you did, go back. You should have found it an chapter that was easy to read, full of encouragements and memories of this year’s readings.
- Could you recall all the events Stephen spoke of as you read through? How much are you encouraged by your understanding of Stephen’s teachings, compared to what you might have known last year?
- Stephen gave the priests a history lesson, although they knew the words of the Old Testament, of course. So, think about what Stephen’s aim for retelling them this history. Throughout this overview of God’s story, what is Stephen’s focus? What’s his basic message?
- If you’re unsure, consider this. When Stephen talked about the major prophets – Abraham, Joseph, Moses and David – he pointed out that they have been mistreated by their own people. What does Stephen connect this with?
- One of Stephen’s points was try to and emphasize that Jesus’ coming was a continuation of God’s salvation plan throughout the Old Testament, rather than something new. Think about some examples (you may think about the sacrificial system, or God’s concern for justice, or God’s forgiveness and love, all of which are found in the Old Testament).
- What made the priests so angry? What did they do?
- How did Stephen react as they dragged him out and started to stone him?
- Stephen died in Acts 7:60. How did his death, and his actions as he died, model the death of Jesus? The passage in Luke hints at one similarity.
- Do you think this martyrdom of Stephen ultimately encouraged or discouraged the other members of the early church?
- Acts 7:58 mentions a name we’ll be reading about a lot. Cast your eyes over chapter 8:1 and you’ll see that Saul is there, gleefully approving of this murder. We’ll hear plenty more about this man over the coming weeks.
How could Stephen stand there as he was stoned to death and pray for his enemies to be forgiven? How was (and is) that possible?
Perhaps it was motivated by the gospel. Stephen was a sinner too, and yet had received undeserved grace from God. Stephen’s actions were merely reflecting that same grace to his attackers, strengthened by his confidence in his faith, even in the face of death. What do you take away from this poignant act, found amidst one of the worst incidents of persecution in the whole of the book of Acts?
I wonder what Saul made of it all as he watched on. Saul, as you may know, spent his early career trying to rid the land of Christians before God transformed his life, and his name, to one which saw “Paul” share and teach the gospel with astonishing power. We’ll read more about him next week.