Lesson 86

Acts 6–7

“Lesson 86: Acts 6–7,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)


Introduction

The Apostles ordained seven disciples to assist in the Lord’s work. Stephen, one of those selected, performed many miracles. Some Jews accused him of blasphemy and brought him before the Sanhedrin, where he was transfigured. After chastising the Jews for rejecting the Savior, Stephen saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. He was then cast out of the city and stoned to death.

Suggestions for Teaching

Acts 6:1–8

Seven disciples are chosen to assist the Apostles in the work

Invite students to think of someone in their family, ward, or community who has a specific temporal challenge or need.

  • How do you feel when you consider this person and his or her circumstances?

  • How do you think Heavenly Father feels about these individuals?

Invite students to look as they study Acts 6:1–8 for the way the Lord has provided to meet the needs of His children.

Invite a student to read Acts 6:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the concern the Grecians brought to the Apostles’ attention. The Grecians “were Greek-speaking Jewish-Christians,” and the Hebrews “were Palestinian Jewish-Christians” (New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 288).

  • What concern did the Grecian Saints express?

Explain that at this time, the Church was growing rapidly and so were the temporal needs of many people, including widows. Because the Apostles were responsible for preaching the gospel to “all nations” (Matthew 28:19), they were unable to personally attend to every individual need of the Church members.

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Acts 6:3–6. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Apostles solved this problem. Invite students to report what they find.

  • What qualities did those chosen to help with the growing needs of the Church need to have in order to be worthy of this calling? (You may want to suggest that students mark the phrases in verses 3 and 5 that describe these qualities.)

  • How is this process similar to what the Lord does in His Church today to ensure members’ needs are met? (After students respond, write the following truth on the board: Worthy Church members are called to help minister to the needs of others.)

Invite several students to come to the board and write down callings in the Church. For several of the callings they listed, ask:

  • Whose needs are ministered to by people who serve faithfully in this calling?

  • Why do you think it is important that people who are called to help minister to others’ needs have the qualities mentioned in verses 3 and 5?

Invite students to read Acts 6:7–8 silently. You may want to suggest that they mark positive outcomes that resulted from the calling of these seven disciples to minister to others. Ask students to report what they find.

Acts 6:9–7:53

Stephen is brought before the Sanhedrin and testifies that they have rejected the Messiah

Invite a few students to stand and demonstrate what it would look like if they were trying to resist the help of another person in the following situations, even though they need the help: doing homework, cooking a meal, solving a major problem in their lives.

  • Why do we sometimes resist the help of others?

  • What consequences can come from resisting the help of others?

Point out that one way Heavenly Father helps us is through the Holy Ghost. Invite students to look as they study Acts 6:9–7:53 for consequences of resisting the Holy Ghost.

Explain that as recorded in Acts 6:9, many people who did not believe in Jesus Christ contended with Stephen as he taught the gospel. Invite a student to read Acts 6:10–11 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for why those who contended with Stephen were affected by him. You may need to explain that the word suborned in verse 11 means to bribe.

  • How were the people who contended with Stephen affected by his teachings?

  • What was Stephen accused of?

Summarize Acts 6:12–14 by explaining that Stephen was brought before the Jewish governing council, called the Sanhedrin.

Invite a student to read Acts 6:15 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what was unusual about Stephen’s appearance as he stood before the council.

  • What do you think it means that Stephen had the “face of an angel”? (verse 15). (Stephen was transfigured. This holy transfiguration was one way God showed the people that He approved of Stephen and his message. [See Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. (1965–73), 2:67.])

Summarize Acts 7:1–50 by explaining that in response to the accusations against him, Stephen recounted some of Israel’s history.

Invite a student to read Acts 7:35–39 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Stephen said about ancient Israel’s treatment of the prophet Moses.

  • According to verse 35, how did the children of Israel respond to Moses when he came to deliver them from Egypt?

  • How did they respond to Moses even after he had delivered them (see verse 39)?

Remind students that Jesus Christ was the prophet that Moses prophesied of (see verse 37).

Invite a student to read Acts 7:51–53 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Stephen compared the Jewish leaders of his day to the ancient Israelites he described.

  • According to verse 51, how were the Jewish leaders of Stephen’s day similar to the ancient Israelites he described? (They both resisted the Holy Ghost. Explain that “stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart” refers to the Jews’ sinful pride and wicked hearts.)

  • According to verse 52, who did the Jews of old reject and persecute as they resisted the Holy Ghost? (The prophets, including Moses.)

  • Who did Stephen say the Jewish council had rejected? (The “Just One” [verse 52], meaning the Savior.)

Explain that Stephen was illustrating that just as ancient Israel had rejected the prophet Moses, the Jewish leaders in Stephen’s day rejected the Savior.

  • What truth can we learn about resisting the Holy Ghost? (Students may use different words but should identify a truth similar to the following: Resisting the Holy Ghost can lead to rejecting the Savior and His prophets.)

  • How can resisting the Holy Ghost lead us to reject the teachings of the Savior and His prophets? (The Holy Ghost testifies of Jesus Christ and witnesses of the truth of His words and the words of His prophets. Therefore, resisting the Holy Ghost will weaken someone’s testimony and his or her resolve to follow the Savior and His prophets.)

Invite students to explain how someone could be tempted to resist the Holy Ghost in the following circumstances: (1) selecting entertainment and media, (2) choosing whether to follow the prophets’ counsel on dating, and (3) deciding whether to apply the principles of repentance that Jesus Christ and His prophets have taught.

  • What can we do to welcome rather than resist the influence of the Holy Ghost?

Invite students to consider how accepting the influence of the Holy Ghost has led them to accept the Savior and His prophets and apply their teachings.

Encourage students to ponder one thing they could do in the coming week to actively invite the influence of the Holy Ghost into their lives. Invite them to write this goal in their class notebooks or scripture study journals, and encourage them to fulfill that goal.

Acts 7:54–60

Stephen is stoned to death

Write the word tribulation on the board, and ask students what they think it means. After they respond, write the following definition next to the word: a cause of great trouble or suffering.

  • Why should we expect tribulation as followers of Jesus Christ?

Encourage students to look as they study Acts 7:54–60 for a principle that can help us when we experience tribulation.

Explain that after Stephen rebuked the wicked Jewish leaders, they were “cut to the heart” (verse 54) and angry.

Invite a student to read Acts 7:55–56 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Stephen experienced during this moment of persecution.

  • What influence filled Stephen?

  • Who did Stephen see?

Stephen Sees Jesus on the Right Hand of God

Display the picture Stephen Sees Jesus on the Right Hand of God (Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 63; see also LDS.org).

  • What fundamental doctrine about the Godhead can we learn from the account of Stephen’s vision? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following doctrine: Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct beings. You may want to suggest that students write this doctrine in the margin of their scriptures next to Acts 7:55–56.)

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Acts 7:57–60. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the people did to Stephen. Invite students to report what they find.

  • What stands out to you about Stephen’s prayer?

  • Why do you think Luke described Stephen’s tragic death with the phrase “he fell asleep”? (verse 60). (Point out that this phrasing might refer to a righteous soul’s rest from the troubles of mortality and the peace with which such a person transitions from this life to the next [see D&C 42:46].)

Invite students to reflect on what Stephen experienced before he was taken and killed (see Acts 7:55–56).

  • How did God strengthen Stephen throughout his experiences with the Sanhedrin? (Stephen was filled with the Holy Ghost and saw the Savior standing on the right hand of God.)

  • What principle can we learn from Stephen’s experience that can help us remain faithful to Jesus Christ during tribulations? (Students may identify a variety of principles, but make sure they understand the following principle: If we remain faithful to Jesus Christ during tribulations, He will be with us.)

  • In what ways can the Lord be with us as we face tribulations?

  • Although Stephen lost his life, what did he gain?

Explain that Stephen is generally considered the first Christian martyr. In addition, he can be seen as a type of Christ, as both he and the Savior stood before a council to be tried, declared truths in the face of their enemies, gave their lives in a righteous cause, and even uttered similar expressions as they suffered death (see Luke 23:33–34, 46). You might want to point out that a young man named Saul—who later became the Apostle Paul—was present and a witness to the martyrdom of Stephen (see verse 58).

Testify of the truths taught throughout this lesson.

Commentary and Background Information

Acts 6:1–6. Those called to assist the Twelve in temporal matters

Just as the Lord called seven worthy men to assist the Twelve in providing for the temporal needs of the Church as recorded in the book of Acts, the Lord has called the Presiding Bishopric to assist the Twelve in providing for the temporal needs of the Church today. The Presiding Bishop and his two counselors serve under the direction of the First Presidency to administer the temporal affairs of the Church. Fast offerings are an essential part of this program and provide temporary, life-sustaining assistance for the poor throughout the world. (For more information, see the topic “Presiding Bishopric” at mormonnewsroom.org.)

Acts 6:15. Stephen’s transfiguration

Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained why Stephen’s face appeared like “the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15):

“Stephen was transfigured before them, visible witness thus being given that God was with him. In a lesser degree, it was with Stephen as it had been with Moses, the skin of whose face [shone] visibly after he had communed with the Lord for forty days on the mountain. (Ex. 34:29–35.)” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 2:67).

“By opposing Stephen and his testimony, the Jewish leaders were also opposing God, who had given an obvious sign showing His approval of Stephen” (New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 289).

Acts 7:56. “Son of man”

“There are over 80 references to the ‘Son of man’ in the four Gospels. In almost every instance Jesus was referring to Himself by this title. Perhaps that is why Stephen referred to the Savior in this manner—he wanted his audience to recognize who Jesus Christ really was. For more information on the title ‘Son of Man,’ see Moses 6:57 and the commentaries for Matthew 8:20; 9:6; 10:23; 11:19; 12:8, 32, 40 and for Mark 14:53–65” (New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 291).