I. Strong argument v. 8-10 What are some godly characteristics we can gather from Stephen in these two chapters that indicate he was relying on the power of God? Trusting in God, wise, bold, forgiving: similar to Gal. 5 fruits of the spirit. Are there any godly attributes that you are either cultivating now or would like to focus doing a better job on?
II. False Accusations v. 11-12 Who were the Freedmen? The Synagogue of the Freedmen were Cyrene Jews from North Africa who were freed from slavery and part of the dispersion. What happened when Stephen interacted with the Synagogue of the Freedman and why did they dispute with him? He debated with them concerning who Jesus was and they were unable to cope with the wisdom (Luke 21:15). Scholars believe he may have been taught under a famous Jewish scholar Gamaliel.
What exactly was the accusation against Stephen? That he was incessantly speaking against the Holy place and the law; for he said that Jesus would destroy the temple and alter the customs which Moses handed down. However, Jesus was speaking about his own body, not the temple. As for the law, Jesus did not come to abolish it but to fulfill it. Can anyone think of other stories from the Bible where a godly man or woman was falsely accused? Read Joseph’s account (Gen. 37).
Do you ever feel wrongly accused or misunderstood?
III. Eager Response v. 15-7:53 It was common for judges to observe the countenance of the prisoner, which can sometimes be an indication of innocence or guilt. They looked and saw that Stephen’s face was like an angel. What do you think the writer was trying to express about Stephen’s demeanor or countenance? Cheerful, no fear or anger towards his accusers, pleased to suffer for Christ, undaunted courage, that of Moses when he came down from Mount Sinai. What does Stephen begin to tell the high priest and the Council? Explains the OT in light of Christ and accuses them that they have resisted the Holy Spirit and persecuted those who are standing up for the righteous One.
IV. Harsh Reaction v. 54-55 We have the death of the first martyr (witness). Stephen was never found guilty by the council but only his accusers. Matthew Henry said this about the passage: “Here is hell in its fire and darkness and heaven in its light and brightness.” Do you think this statement is an accurate depiction of the text? As they gnash their teeth, Stephen sees the glory of God (heaven). When they heard these things, they were cut to their hearts (Heb. 11:37). Gnashing their teeth indicates the way they acted, not as human, but as brute beasts. Also it is used to describe the torments of the damned. Do you think that rejecters of the gospel and those who are opposed against Christ are really tormentors to themselves?
V. End Result v. 55-56; 59-60 They tried to drown out Stephen’s voice when he said; “I see heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” In Stephen’s speech, it’s interesting that he makes the point that these people are uncircumcised in their heart and ears. Why do you think they were trying to drown this sound out? What are some “noises” in our culture that try to silence the truth of the Scriptures?In the preceding verses, it states that the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. Do you know why? Possible answer: That the upper garments might not get in their way as they threw the stones at Stephen. At the end of the verses, we see that the witnesses were full of evil (murderers) and Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit. The same words were spoken as Jesus was on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Does this Scripture reference give you the confidence not to have bitter and anger stored up against someone who may righteously deserve it? Stephen had every right to be angry with his persecutors, but instead he chose to forgive them and not allow this sin to be against them. Who do you need to forgive today?