International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday September 27, 2015
Purpose: To be boldly empowered by God’s characteristic, unwavering faithfulness
Bible Lesson: Acts 7:2-4, 8-10, 17, 33-34, 45-47, 53
Background Scripture: Acts 7:1-53
Key Verse: But Stephen, enabled by the Holy Spirit, stared into heaven and saw God’s majesty and Jesus standing at God’s right side. (Acts 7:55)
Acts 7:2-4 (CEB)
(2) Stephen responded, “Brothers and fathers, listen to me. Our glorious God appeared to our ancestor Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he settled in Haran. (3) God told him, ‘Leave your homeland and kin, and go to the land that I will show you.’ (4) So Abraham left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After Abraham’s father died, God had him resettle in this land where you now live.
Acts 7: 8-10 (CEB)
(8) God gave him the covenant confirmed through circumcision. Accordingly, eight days after Isaac’s birth, Abraham circumcised him. Isaac did the same with Jacob, and Jacob with the twelve patriarchs. (9) “Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him into slavery in Egypt. God was with him, however, (10) and rescued him from all his troubles. The grace and wisdom he gave Joseph were recognized by Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who appointed him ruler over Egypt and over his whole palace.
Acts 7:17 (CEB)
(17) “When it was time for God to keep the promise he made to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt had greatly expanded.
Acts 7:33-34 (CEB)
(33)The Lord continued, ‘Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. (34 I have clearly seen the oppression my people have experienced in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning. I have come down to rescue them. Come! I am sending you to Egypt.
Acts 7:45-47 (CEB)
(45) In time, when they had received the tent, our ancestors carried it with them when, under Joshua’s leadership, they took possession of the land from the nations whom God expelled. This tent remained in the land until the time of David. (46) God approved of David, who asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. (47) But it was Solomon who actually built a house for God.
Acts 7: 53 (CEB)
(53) You received the Law given by angels, but you haven’t kept it.”
Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter
The story of Stephen is exciting and inspiring. Stephen was a Hellenist Jew. That means he spoke Greek, rather than Aramaic, the local language for Judah and the surrounding area. During this time in Jerusalem there were those that had returned to Jerusalem, but spoke Greek, which was the common language for the Roman Empire. One of the Greek speaking synagogues was the so-called Synagogue of Former Slaves. Members from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and Asia entered into debate with Stephen. These were Jews that had been freed by Rome and allowed to return to Jerusalem.
Unable to win any argument with Stephen they trumped up charges, just as they had done with Jesus. Stephen is brought before the same council that had condemned Jesus as well as Peter and John.
The testimony of Stephen was a history of everything that had happened since the call of Abraham. While it detailed the good, it also spoke about the disobedience of the people from the time of Moses on.
One of the charges brought by this Synagogue of Former Slaves, was Stephen talking about the destruction of the Temple. Stephen was trying to convince them that God did not dwell in a building. For many years prior to the escape from Egypt, God had communicated with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses, without any building. Indeed, Jesus himself had said, “destroy this temple and in three days I will restore it.”
With the resurrection of Jesus and the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost the need for a temple to offer sacrifices had been removed. As the Gospel would be spread throughout the Roman Empire there would be no need for a Temple. Indeed in 70 A.D. it was destroyed and never rebuilt.
Stephen died as the first martyr, and his testimony was repeated by the Apostle Paul many times. This episode must have had a tremendous effect on Paul because it was shortly after having the cloths of Stephen laid at his feet that Paul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus.
Stephen was a faithful servant, and had a great understanding about God. Jesus and the Holy Spirit. God was faithful in being with Stephen as he faced death. Just as Jesus had done, Stephen also forgave those that stoned him to death.
It is great serving a faithful God, as the hymn says, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”