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AG ADULT SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS|JANUARY-JUNE, 2023 UNIT 4: Acts Of The Apostles (part 1) LESSON 26: JUNE 25, 2023.
TOPIC: INCREASING MINISTRY AND STEPHEN’S MARTYRDOM
Memory Verse: Acts 6:7 – And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly (KJV).
Lesson Bible Text:
Acts 6 and 7
Lesson Central Truth:
The gospel is the power of God for salvation.
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INTRODUCING THE LESSON
The Early Church was continuing to grow. As it did, it attracted more and attention from the Jewish leaders, many of whom had been instrumental in the crucifixion of Jesus. These people, who thought they were ridding themselves of a problem by crucifying Jesusnow found that, instead of a scattering of followers, this group had grown to thousands and was continuing to grow. Their efforts to stop the Church were only increasing its success. At the end of this lesson, we will explore the challenges the Early Church encountered and how God helped them to overcome. Using Stephen as a case study as he stood his ground even unto death.
1. SERVING A MULTIPLYING CHURCH
A. Growing Pains – Acts 6:1-6
B. Sustained Growth – Acts 6:7.
2. POWERFUL MINISTRY AND TEACHING OPPOSED
A. Powerful In Deed And Word – Acts 6:8-10
B. Powerful In Adversity – Acts 6:11-15.
3. THE FIRST CHRISTIAN MARTYR
A. Stephen’s Defence – Acts 7:1-2, 51-53
B. Stephen’s Death – Acts 7:54-60.
1. SERVING A MULTIPLYING CHURCH
Being a Christian means seeing opportunities in every difficulty. In Acts 6, the early church was experiencing some growing pains. By understanding how they dealt with their difficulties, we can learn how to turn our problems into possibilities. Because of the rapid growth of the Early Church, some of the widows were being overlooked when help was distributed. When apostles discovered the challenges, they proposed that seven Spirit-filled men be chosen to take on responsibility of the growing pains within the believers. One thing is to discover a challenge and another thing is to apply the right antidote to address the challenge. Stephen – a man full of faith and Holy Spirit with other six men were chosen for this business of taking care of the church needs. Note that as a church grows, important issues can get overlooked. This was the case in the Early Church. The apostles addressed the situation by getting more people involved in the ministering to the needs of the congregation.
By appointing these seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom shows that in the Church of Christ, no one knows it all – it is not a man alone movement. Everyone has a part to play for the growth of the Church. The New Testament clearly teaches that each believer has a place of service within the body of Christ. Finding that place of service allows churches to minister effectively to believers and unbelievers. The purpose of appointing the seven men was met ie murmuring and negligence among believers was taken care of by this great men appointed. How we handle our position in the church will determine the level of church growth within the members. You are appointed for a purpose as a leader and you are a member of a church for a purpose as well. Be the medium through which church will have solution to its challenges. Are you or your church experiencing some growing pains? Embrace it; turn your problems into possibilities for growth. Acknowledge the issues and pray for God-given solutions.
God is pleased when His Church grows. God is not against Church growth. Instead, it is God who gives growth to His Church! When God’s Church grows, it is because God is at work! God is at work in the growing of His Church through the ministry of His Spirit and His Word. The Word of God increased and many lives came to Christ through the message of the disciples. The growth was sustained by the Early Church through their total dedication and daily studying of the Word – they didn’t just study the Word, they also live by the Word. The growth continued over a long period of time. More and more people are accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior. And a great company of priests were obedient to the faith – meaning, many priests joined them. As believers, we can sustain the growth of the church through our lifestyles and our total dependent of the Holy Spirit. It would not be wrong to say the story of Acts continues today as the followers of Christ stay true to the faith and steadfast in proclaiming it. The Church of Jesus Christ continues to grow!
2. POWERFUL MINISTRY AND TEACHING OPPOSED
Stephen, as one of those chosen to serve the needy among the believers also was powerfully used by the Lord to proclaim the gospel. The Scripture tells us that Stephen was a man who was full of faith and power and did great wonders and miracles among the people. These wonders opened opportunities for Stephen to tell others about Jesus. This account about Stephen is an encouragement to churches. Believers other than apostles (or pastors) can effectively minister in the power of the Spirit. All believers can, like Stephen, be full of faith, and of the Spirit and His power. When believers have a heart to serve and are yielded to the Lord, great things can happen. Those outside the Church need to experience the power of God to meet their needs and to hear the good news about Jesus. May God raise up a new generation of Stephens for such a time as this!
Because Stephen was a man of Christ-centred character and Christ-driven commitment, conflict was inevitable. Again, it was in such conflict that we see more of his character in action as he remained committed to Christ and His church. Stephen had access to synagogue and he faithfully preached Christ there. Because he was faithful he was fearless. He effectively, powerfully and convincingly proclaimed the truth of God’s Word. But rather than conversions, there was oppositions against the Word. They put Stephen on debate. The synagogue worshipers could not refute the truth of Stephen’s claims but they also refused to submit to them. Sadly, as too often happens, when people cannot accept the message, they attack the messenger. They twisted Stephen’s words and used them against him. They persuaded men to claim what Stephen was saying was blasphemy against Moses and God. Just like Stephen, not everyone will accept good news from us, they will reject and oppose us at times, but we must stand firm in our convictions about Him.
3. THE FIRST CHRISTIAN MARTYR
Acts 7:1-2, 51-60
Stephen has been arrested and charged with blaspheming Moses and God. These charges are, if true, worthy of punishment by death (see Leviticus 24:10-16). Stephen was not bothered or upset, however, as he was full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. He trusted the LORD, and continuing his ministry of witnessing to the people.The high priest (probably Caiaphas) asks Stephen, “Are these things so?” Stephen had a chance to defend himself and he did all that through God’s Word. God’s Word, as Scripture tells us, is living and powerful, it is sharper than any two-edged sword, and it is able to divide soul and spirit, joints and marrow, to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart. It is inspired by God. It is efficient. In other words, we must use the Word of God in our witness and defense of the gospel. Stephen defended himself by rebuking the false accusers through the Word of God. Stephen continues his defense with a deep knowledge of the scriptures and the history of the faith. Beginning with father abraham and his many sons. In other words, we must use the Word of God in our witness and defense of the gospel. We should bear in mind that as we relying on the Word of God and the Spirit of God, we can stand boldly and graciously for His truth in the face of any false accusation.
Stephen took a bold stand for the truth, a strong, uncompromising stand for Jesus Christ. Stephen was so committed to Jesus that he was willing to sacrifice everything for the cause of Christ. Those hateful, religious judges were so enraged at Stephen that they were literally gnashing or grinding their teeth at him. They were so filled with anger, malice and violence. But their intimidation could not break Stephen’s commitment. Stephen knew that the cause of Christ is more important than our comfort, more important than our safety, more important than anything else in the world. Many Christians around the world are standing in Stephen’s shoes today, and God wants us to have that kind of commitment. As he stood there facing death, Stephen was fully conscious that Heaven was at hand. We must keep this in mind that God is always present when one of His dear children is facing a crisis. Stephen had the promise of Christ and was conscious of it. Stephen’s moment of greatest trouble, God gave Stephen the most glorious testimony: “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” As believers, we Stephen’s consciousness and character.
The most wonderful thing about Stephen is that he had a heart like the Lord’s heart. Stephen was like Jesus, and we see this truth at least a couple of ways. They stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” That sounds a lot like the last thing Jesus said on the cross (Luke 23:46). Stephen trusted in God, just as the Son of God trusted His Heavenly Father. Stephen knew he was going to a better place. He knew he was going to be where Jesus is. And Stephen was willing to die for Jesus, because he knew that Jesus had died for him. Stephen knew that Jesus Christ is the only Son of God who died on the cross for our sins. What amazing Christ-likeness we see in Stephen’s life as he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” Those words are another echo of what Christ said on the cross. In Luke 23:34, Jesus said: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Indeed, we We need Stephen’s courage, commitment, consciousness, and character in our walk with God.
Lesson Action Word
The gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romams 1:16). We should stand firm as believers with the full gospel no matter the opposition from those outside the faith as we believe God for salvation of unbelievers.
Lesson Prayer Point
With Christ on our side victory is assured even in the face of oppositions and challenges.
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