This study is one of several in part 3 of the three-part series, Witnesses to Jesus, exploring “witness” in Luke and Acts.
What do you think was the cost for proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ in the first century? What is the potential cost on your campus or in your family?
1. Read Acts 6:1–8. What words are used here to characterize Stephen [verses 3, 5, 8]?
2. Now read verses 9–15. Compare the way Stephen's opponents handled the "problem" that they had (Stephen's powerful preaching) with the way the believers in verses 1–8 handled the problem of food distribution.
3. Why do you think the activities of Stephen and the church aroused opposition [verses 7–8]? What led Stephen's opponents to resort to deception [verse 10]? Why do you think Luke mentions in verse 15 that Stephen's face was "like the face of an angel"?
4. What are the prevalent attitudes on your campus toward the gospel of Jesus Christ? Do the things Christian students do and preach arouse opposition? Why or why not?
5. Give the group a few moments to skim Acts 7:1–50, which records Stephen's defense against the charges of the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin. Have them try to summarize the central point of Stephen's speech. [By tracing God's calling and promise through the patriarchs, Stephen demonstrates that it is the religious establishment—not the Christian community—that misunderstands the temple and the law of Moses. He draws the distinction between God's faithful prophets and those who rejected them. He identifies Christians as God's truly faithful people and the religious leaders as being opposed to God.]
6. Read Acts 7:51–60. In what ways are Stephen's opponents just like their ancestors [verses 51–52]? What is the irony of verse 53? As this story unfolds, why do Stephen's opponents become so hostile? How does Stephen respond?
7. Read 8:1–4. How did the purposes of Stephen's persecutors contribute to the mission of the church [verse 4]? What does this say about God?
Compare the message of salvation in Jesus Christ to the conventional wisdom on your campus. Do you see any evidences of hostility or suspicion toward the gospel? In what ways does your behavior affect the credibility of your witness (both positively and negatively)?
Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this article provided this permission notice, and the copyright notice below are preserved on all copies. © 1995 InterVarsity Christian Fellowship of the USA. All rights reserved.