The end of Chapter 5:
The others accepted his advice. They called in the apostles and had them flogged. Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go. The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: “Jesus is the Messiah.”Acts 5:40-42
But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.” Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith). These seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them. So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too. Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people.
But one day some men from the Synagogue of Freed Slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him. They were Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia. None of them could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke. So they persuaded some men to lie about Stephen, saying, “We heard him blaspheme Moses, and even God.” This roused the people, the elders, and the teachers of religious law. So they arrested Stephen and brought him before the high council. The lying witnesses said, “This man is always speaking against the holy Temple and against the law of Moses. We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy the Temple and change the customs Moses handed down to us.” At this point everyone in the high council stared at Stephen, because his face became as bright as an angel’s.Acts 6:1-15
The Opening to Chapter 7:
Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these accusations true?” This was Stephen’s reply: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me. Our glorious God appeared to our ancestor Abraham in Mesopotamia before he settled in Haran. God told him, ‘Leave your native land and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.’ So Abraham left the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran until his father died. Then God brought him here to the land where you now live. . .Acts 7:1-4
The End of Chapter 7:
The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honour at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honour at God’s right hand!” Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.Acts 7:54-60
Let me spell it out to you. Stephen’s speech runs from Acts 7:2-53. So I wasn’t going to give you all of Chapter 7 here. Stephen’s speech in Acts 7 is the longest speech in the Book of Acts. Take time to read Acts 5 again to the end of Acts 7. Hit the pause button if you need to. A number of you have written and said my suggestion for you to read the beginning of Acts 5 to the end of Acts 7 was too much. The quotes from George Washington Carver in the last Gem may help you to remember to do the common things in an uncommon way so you will end up being extraordinary. Take advantage of the opportunity to do your reading and make your own decisions as to where you would divide Chapter 6 if at all. It is an important thing to do on the basis of your own interaction with the larger block of text. Remember there are other ways of dividing it. The chapter divisions and the headings in your Bible are not sacred or anointed. Do some of your own thinking.
- What do you notice about the way this section of Acts is divided?
- Would you divide this block of Scripture any differently?
- Do you notice some curious features of Chapter 6?
- Does it remind you of something you have seen before?
- Do you see any recurring features in the Book of Acts here?
- Are there questions which come to mind related to content of Chapter 6?
- Are there any elements which puzzle you?
This exercise is designed to encourage you to look at the big picture, the overview, rather than the nit picking little details. But of course it may be that some of those little details require some further attention. It is always a case of looking in all directions in each part of the Bible we look at. The minute details and the big picture, as well as what went before the passage and what comes after it. All that, as well as deciding where you would divide this sixth chapter of the book of Acts. How it fits best with the chapters around it. Maybe some of you will come up with some creative approaches to the section.
Clue: the speeches in Acts are important. The speeches often cap very significant steps in the process of the growth of the church. Stephen’s speech is the longest in the book of Acts. Might that be important? Perhaps Luke has included a more significant build up to this speech. Take another look at how Luke has structured the flow of this part of his book.
We pray for answers and instead God gives us a promise and something to do towards its fulfilment.Ian Vail
God wants to include you in the answer to your own question.Ian Vail
I would rather be included in the answer than to just be an observer.Ian Vail
In the process God knows you need a bigger container in order to contain the magnitude of the answer.Ian Vail
Learn to recognise the answer in the small beginnings. When you do you expand your faith capacity to receive.Ian Vail