Introduction and Timeline for Acts 3–7
As recorded in Acts 3–6, Luke recounted the continued growth and activity of the Church in Jerusalem and offered powerful illustrations of how the Lord’s chosen servants led the Church through the guidance of the Holy Ghost. When Peter and John healed a man who had been lame from birth, the miracle created an ideal opportunity for them to bear their apostolic testimony of Jesus Christ to an audience of eager listeners. Five thousand men believed in their words (see Acts 4:4). Jewish leaders attempted to silence Peter and the other Apostles through threats, imprisonment, and physical beatings. Nevertheless, the Apostles defended their testimonies of Jesus by replying, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). The faith of the Apostles and those who followed them invited powerful manifestations of the Holy Ghost, which resulted in the rapid growth of the Church.
Acts 7 relates how Stephen accused some Jewish leaders of resisting the Holy Ghost and rejecting Jesus Christ. When Stephen told them that he saw “the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56), they cast him out and stoned him to death. Stephen is often considered the first Christian martyr, and Saul, later known as the Apostle Paul, was one of the witnesses of his execution.
Commentary for Acts 3–7
Acts 3:1–5. The Lame Man at the Temple
Peter and John went to the temple for prayer at the “ninth hour,” which was nine hours after sunrise. At one of the temple gates they encountered a lame man seeking money. Peter and John fastened their eyes upon him and said, “Look on us” (Acts 3:4). Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained, “Peter said with majestic simplicity, ‘Look on us,’ that is, ‘Exercise your faith in that which we, as ministers of Christ, are about to do in his name and power’” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 2:45). Because the lame man exercised faith and looked, he was healed.
Acts 3:6. “Such as I Have Give I Thee”
Though the lame man at the gate of the temple was begging for money, Peter gave him something much more valuable. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, while he was serving as dean of religious instruction at Brigham Young University, explained: “Peter had no money but he had riches: ‘such as he had’ included every key to the kingdom of God on earth, priesthood power to raise the dead, faith to strengthen bones and sinews, a strong right hand of Christian fellowship. He could not give silver or gold but he could give that which is always purchased ‘without money and without price’ (Isa. 55:1)—and he gave it” (“The Lengthening Shadow of Peter,” Ensign, Sept. 1975, 30).
Acts 3:6–8. Peter “Lifted Him Up”
Considering that this man had been lame from birth, his healing was a remarkable miracle. For the man to leap and to walk would have required that his weak and probably disfigured legs suddenly be made of strong bones and muscles. Also, since he had been lame from birth, he had likely never walked in his life. To now suddenly be able to do so would require balance and physical skills he had never before learned.
President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973) used the account of Peter healing the man at the temple gate to illustrate how to lift those around us. After reading Peter’s words commanding the man to “rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6), President Lee said:
“Now in my mind’s eye I can picture this man, what was in his mind. ‘Doesn’t this man know that I have never walked? He commands me to walk.’ But the biblical record doesn’t end there. Peter just didn’t content himself by commanding the man to walk, but he ‘took him by the right hand, and lifted him up.’ (Acts 3:7.)
“Will you see that picture now of that noble soul, that chiefest of the apostles, perhaps with his arms around the shoulders of this man, and saying, ‘Now, my good man, have courage, I will take a few steps with you. Let’s walk together, and I assure you that you can walk, because you have received a blessing by the power and authority that God has given us as men, his servants.’ Then the man leaped with joy.
“You cannot lift another soul until you are standing on higher ground than he is. You must be sure, if you would rescue the man, that you yourself are setting the example of what you would have him be. You cannot light a fire in another soul unless it is burning in your own soul” (“Stand Ye in Holy Places,” Ensign, July 1973, 123).
Acts 3:12–16. Jesus Christ Is the Source of Healing Power
Peter acted in the role given to Apostles by divine decree when he declared, “We are witnesses” of the Savior (Acts 3:15). That same role and obligation has been given to Apostles in our day (see D&C 107:23). Without hesitation Peter testified to the Jewish leaders that it was not any mortal power that had healed the lame man—Jesus, whom they had delivered up and killed, had healed the man (see Acts 3:12–16).
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke of the Savior’s power to heal: “Ponder the power of the Atonement. Pray to understand how it can heal you. … If you have felt impressions to be free of burdens caused by yourself or others, those promptings are an invitation from the Redeemer. Act upon them now. He loves you. He gave His life that you may be free of needless burdens. He will help you do it. I know that He has the power to heal you. Begin now” (“To Be Free of Heavy Burdens,” Ensign, Nov. 2002, 88).
Acts 3:17–21. “Times of Refreshing”
As Peter testified of Christ, he warned the people that they needed to repent and spoke of “the times of refreshing” that would come. The “times of refreshing” refers to the Millennium, when God “shall send Jesus Christ” again to earth (Acts 3:19–20), as Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:
“This times of refreshing, is to take place at the second coming of the Son of Man, in the day when the Lord sends Christ again to earth.
“If we are to catch the vision of Peter’s prophecy, we must know pointedly and specifically what is meant by the times of refreshing. It is elsewhere spoken of by Jesus as ‘the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory.’ (Matt. 19:28.) It is the day ‘when the earth shall be transfigured, even according to the pattern which was shown unto mine apostles upon the mount, …’ the Lord says. (D&C 63:21.) It is the day when ‘the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.’ (Tenth Article of Faith.) It is the day of the ‘new earth’ that Isaiah saw (Isa. 65:17), the earth which will prevail when wickedness ceases, when the millennial era is ushered in” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1967, 43).
Peter also taught that Jesus Christ would remain in heaven until the “times of restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21). Restitution means restoration. This prophecy began to be fulfilled in the spring of 1820 when God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove.
The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) referred to Acts 3:17–19 and said that Peter was addressing those who had crucified Jesus. “[Peter] did not say to them, ‘Repent and be baptized, for the remission of your sins;’ but he said, ‘Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.’ [Acts 3:19.] … They could not be baptized for the remission of sins for they had shed innocent blood” (in History of the Church, 6:253).
For information on Moses’s prophecy about a prophet being raised up “like unto” himself, see the commentary for Acts 7:37.
Acts 4:7–12. “There Is None Other Name”
The use of the name of Jesus Christ is a recurring theme in Acts 4 (see verses 7, 10, 12, 17–18, 30; see also Acts 3:16). Peter and John had been arrested after Peter’s inspired preaching about Jesus Christ, and the two Apostles were brought before a council of Jewish leaders and questioned about the healing of the lame man. In response, Peter alluded to the prophecy found in Psalm 118:22 and proclaimed that the healing of the lame man was done in “the name of Jesus Christ” and that “there is none other name under heaven” that brings salvation (Acts 4:10–12; see also 2 Nephi 25:20; 31:20–21; Mosiah 3:18; D&C 18:23; 93:19; Moses 6:52). When properly invoked, the name of Jesus Christ is accompanied by power (see John 16:23–24). President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles discussed the importance of Jesus Christ’s name:
“This is more than just a name we deal with. This relates to spiritual authority and power and lies at the very center of Christian doctrine.
“The Lord said: ‘Therefore, whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name. …’ (3 Ne. 27:7.)
“In the Church that Jesus Christ established, all things are done in his name. Prayers are said, children are blessed, testimonies borne, sermons preached, ordinances performed, sacrament administered, the infirm anointed, graves dedicated” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1967, 128).
Acts 4:13. “Unlearned and Ignorant Men”
Prior to their calling as Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, Peter and John were fishermen—not scribes or rabbis—and were thus considered unlearned by the Jewish leaders. After they were fully empowered by receiving the Holy Ghost (see Acts 4:8), Peter and John spoke with such authority that the Jewish leaders “marvelled” at their words (Acts 4:13). These “unlearned” fishermen are examples showing that “by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls” (Alma 37:7) and that “God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:27; see also D&C 35:13).
Despite the Jewish council’s demand that Peter and John not teach in the name of Jesus Christ, the Apostles insisted on doing what was “right in the sight of God” (Acts 4:19; see also verses 13–18). When the Jewish council later repeated this demand, Peter and the other Apostles declared, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Like these early Apostles, Church members today must stand firm for what is right against increasing pressures to conform to the ways of the world. President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) offered the following counsel concerning these pressures:
“The world is constantly crowding in on us. From all sides we feel the pressure to soften our stance, to give in here a little and there a little.
“We must never lose sight of our objective. We must ever keep before us the goal which the Lord has set for us. …
“We must stand firm. We must hold back the world. If we do so, the Almighty will be our strength and our protector, our guide and our revelator. We shall have the comfort of knowing that we are doing what He would have us do” (“An Ensign to the Nations, a Light to the World,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2003, 82–83).
Elder Richard G. Scott gave the following reassurance to those who do what is right despite pressures to choose otherwise: “Do what is right even though it seems you will be alone in so doing, that you are going to lose friends, that you will be criticized. What you will find is that by doing what is right, after a period of testing, the finest friends will be discovered and you can mutually support each other in your resolve to be obedient to all of the commandments of the Lord. I have never been sorry on any occasion that I stood for what was right even against severe criticism. You will learn that truth. You will also discover that when you have taken a determined stand for right, when you have established personal standards and made covenants to keep them, when temptations come and you act according to your standards, you will be reinforced and given strength beyond your own capacity, if that is needed” (“Do What Is Right” [address given at Brigham Young University, Mar. 3, 1996], 5; speeches.byu.edu).
Acts 4:20–21. “We Cannot but Speak the Things Which We Have Seen and Heard”
Peter and John felt compelled to speak of Jesus Christ; such was the powerful impact the Holy Ghost had upon them (see Acts 4:8–20). Jeremiah recorded similar feelings during a time when he was mocked and derided daily: “But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay” (Jeremiah 20:9; see also verses 7–8). The prophet Ether also felt the Holy Ghost so intensely that “he could not be restrained” from prophesying to his people (Ether 12:2; see also 1 Corinthians 9:16; Alma 43:1).
Acts 4:32–35. “They Had All Things Common”
Members of the Church in Jerusalem attempted to live the law of consecration. “They had all things common” (Acts 4:32) probably does not mean that they pooled all of their resources and then divided up equal portions among believers. Rather they used their excess resources to care for the poor and needy among them. Similar attempts to live the law of consecration occurred among the people of Enoch and in the Book of Mormon (see Moses 7:18; 4 Nephi 1:3–18; D&C 105:3–5). To read more about the Saints in the New Testament having “all things common” among them, see the commentary for Acts 2:44–45; 4:32.
Acts 4:36–37. Barnabas Sold His Land
The account of Barnabas selling his land and giving the money to the Apostles stands in stark contrast to the account of Ananias and Sapphira that follows (see Acts 5:1–10). The account of Barnabas serves as an example of the ideal of unity and unselfishness described in Acts 4:32, while the account of Ananias and Sapphira is an extreme example of the consequences of selfishness and lying to the Lord.
Acts 5:1–10. The Importance of Honesty
Ananias and Sapphira made a solemn covenant with God to have “all things common” (see Acts 4:32–35). They were to donate their possessions to the Church to be distributed according to the needs of the members. By lying to Peter, their priesthood leader, they also lied to God about the price they had received for a piece of land so they could avoid giving the full profit to the Church (see Acts 5:1–10). Breaking this covenant by stealing and lying was a serious offense with calamitous consequences for them. This is a powerful illustration of the need to keep our covenants and be honest before our God.
President Gordon B. Hinckley noted: “In our time those found in dishonesty do not die as did Ananias and Sapphira, but something within them dies. Conscience chokes, character withers, self-respect vanishes, integrity dies. … We cannot be less than honest, we cannot be less than true, we cannot be less than virtuous if we are to keep sacred the trust given us” (“An Honest Man—God’s Noblest Work,” Ensign, May 1976, 61–62).
Bishop Richard C. Edgley of the Presiding Bishopric taught that honesty should be a fundamental value that governs our lives: “Honesty is the basis of a true Christian life. For Latter-day Saints, honesty is an important requirement for entering the Lord’s holy temple. Honesty is embedded in the covenants that we make in the temple. Each Sunday as we partake of the holy emblems of the Savior’s flesh and blood, we again renew our basic and sacred covenants—which encompass honesty. … Honesty should be among the most fundamental values that govern our everyday living” (“Three Towels and a 25-Cent Newspaper,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2006, 74).
Acts 5:11. “The Church”
The word church is mentioned only three times in the Gospels (see Matthew 16:18; 18:17). However, it appears over 100 times in Acts through Revelation. It seems likely that during the 40 days prior to the Lord’s Ascension into heaven, His teachings to the Apostles about “the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” included instruction about how the Church was to be organized and how it should function (Acts 1:3).
Acts 5:12–42. Peter’s Leadership
The experiences and teachings recorded in chapter 5 of Acts show that Peter—the prophet, seer, and revelator of Jesus Christ’s Church on earth—was quickly becoming a leader of great faith, courage, and power. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, while serving as dean of religious education at Brigham Young University, said of Peter:
“Faith in Peter’s faith brought the sick into the streets on their beds of affliction ‘that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.’ (Acts 5:15.) One wonders if there is a single written line in any other record that stands as a greater monument to the faith and power of one mortal man bearing the holy priesthood of God. …
“With his own sense of urgency, Peter aggressively defied the injunction not to teach in the name of Christ and he returned again and again to the temple, where his safety was never secure. President [Spencer W.] Kimball pictures him there in the house of the Lord, ‘the number one man in all the world,’ stretching to his full height and speaking with power to those who could imprison him, flog him, even take his life from him. With ‘courage superior and integrity supreme’ [Faith Precedes the Miracle (1972), 244], Peter testified plainly, ‘We ought to obey God rather than men. … We are his witnesses of these things.’ (Acts 5:29, 32.) Imprisoned and beaten, forbidden to speak, Peter was as irrepressible as Abinadi of old. He and his brethren rejoiced that they were ‘counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ’ (Acts 5:41–42.)” (“The Lengthening Shadow of Peter,” Ensign, Sept. 1975, 35).
Acts 5:17–20. An Angel Opened the Prison Doors
As the Apostles ministered with the power of God and multitudes of people joined the Church, the Jewish leaders once again tried to stop the Church’s progress by putting Peter and John in prison. With this imprisonment and the earlier arrest of Peter and John following the healing of the lame man (see Acts 4:3; 5:18), we see a fulfillment of the Savior’s prophecy that His Apostles would be persecuted by those who thought they were serving God (see John 15:20; 16:20).
Acts 5:34–39. Gamaliel
Gamaliel was the grandson of the famous rabbi Hillel. He was a member of the Sanhedrin and a distinguished scholar of Jewish law. Paul was tutored by this famous master of the law (see Acts 22:3). Gamaliel had a reputation for being tolerant and kind, relaxing the standards of the Sabbath observance so they were not so rigorous and encouraging more humane treatment of women in divorce laws. His wise counsel likely saved the lives of the Apostles, who had been brought again before the Jewish council after being released from prison by an angel.
In his speech before the Jewish leaders, Gamaliel referred to two historical situations that showed how a movement would fail if the Lord was not with it. The first was a Jewish uprising against the Romans that was led by a man called Theudas, who had gained about 400 followers before he was slain and his followers were scattered. The second occurred in about A.D. 6, when Judas of Galilee and a band of followers revolted against Roman taxation; in the ensuing violence, Judas died and his followers were dispersed.
In effect, Gamaliel’s counsel was, “Let nature take its course. If this movement of Jesus’s followers is of men, it will fail, as did the uprisings of Theudas and Judas. But if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it” (see Acts 5:35–39).
To help you visualize Peter and John’s continued preaching of the gospel in Jerusalem, review the video segment (5:39) from The Life of Jesus Christ Bible Videos, available on LDS.org. This segment covers Acts 5:12–42.
Acts 6:1–6. The Seven Called to Assist
As the Church grew rapidly, the Apostles were no longer able to care for the needs of all the members. The “Grecians,” who were Greek-speaking Jewish-Christians, felt that their widows were neglected and complained against the “Hebrews,” who were Palestinian Jewish-Christians (see Acts 6:1). To address the growing need to care for widows and others, seven men were called and given authority to assist the Twelve. These men served under the direction of the Twelve with the specific task of caring for the poor and needy. It is not known what priesthood office the seven men held. In the Church today, bishops and branch presidents have the responsibility to ensure that those in need receive help:
“The bishop has a divine mandate to seek out and care for the poor (see D&C 84:112). He directs the welfare work in the ward. His goal is to help members help themselves and become self-reliant. (In branches, the branch president has these same welfare responsibilities.)
“Bishops are blessed with the gift of discernment to understand how best to help those in need. Each individual circumstance is different and requires inspiration. Guided by the Spirit and the basic welfare principles … , the bishop determines whom to assist, how much to give, and how long to assist” (Providing in the Lord’s Way: Summary of a Leader’s Guide to Welfare [booklet, 2009], 4–5).
Acts 6:8–14. Those Who Opposed Stephen
Stephen was one of the seven chosen to help the Apostles care for the poor and needy. He was full of faith, performed great miracles, and taught with the power of the Spirit. Those who opposed Stephen were from one or more synagogues where Jews from foreign lands worshipped (see Acts 6:9). Libertines were former slaves who had gained their freedom. Cyrenians were Jews from Northern Africa, Alexandrians were Jews from the Egyptian city of Alexandria, and Cilicia was a Roman province of Asia Minor. From the accusations made against Stephen (see Acts 6:11–14) and his defense (see Acts 7), it appears that his opponents were angered by his teachings that the coming of Jesus Christ had redefined basic Jewish concepts regarding the land of Israel, the law of Moses, and the temple of Jerusalem. Stephen’s opponents “suborned men” (Acts 6:11), meaning that they persuaded men to commit perjury.
Acts 6:15. Stephen Was Transfigured
Elder Bruce R. McConkie identified the reason why Stephen’s face shone like an angel: “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, 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. In the life of Stephen we see a reenactment of parts of the life of Moses, notably his transfiguration (Exodus 34:29–30) and rejection as one of God’s authorized servants (see Acts 7:35–39). Stephen’s experience also echoes the transfiguration of the Savior (see Luke 9:28–31), further underscoring Stephen’s charge that opposition to Moses and opposition to Jesus Christ were historic patterns in Israel’s resistance to God (see Acts 7:35–39, 51–52, 57–60).
Acts 7:2–60. Stephen’s Condemnation of the Jewish Leaders
Stephen’s speech to the Jewish council (see Acts 7) focused on great pillars of Jewish identity: (1) the land of Israel (verses 2–36), (2) the law of Moses (verses 37–43), and (3) the tabernacle or temple (verses 44–50). Stephen gave the historical background for how the Lord had given each of these three blessings to Israel and showed how ancient Israel had rejected them. Stephen concluded with a denunciation of his accusers, declaring that they were like their forefathers (see verses 51–53). Stephen argued that his accusers had rejected the Savior, just as some Jews in ancient Israel had rejected Moses. He said to his accusers: Your fathers “have slain [the prophets] which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers” (Acts 7:52), thereby declaring that some of the Jewish leaders were responsible for the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The Jews in Stephen’s day were aware of the promise that the Lord would send them a prophet like unto Moses (see Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:22–23; 3 Nephi 20:23; the commentary for Acts 7:37).
Stephen’s declaration that his accusers were like their forefathers and had rejected the Savior is what ultimately led to his martyrdom. When Stephen said that he saw Jesus in vision, the Jews listening to him could stand it no longer, so without a trial or hearing before the Romans, Stephen was taken out of the city and stoned to death (see verses 54–60).
Acts 7:37. A Prophet Like unto Moses
Jesus was that Prophet “like unto” Moses, and the people were to hear Him. Stephen may have hoped that his audience would see parallels between Jesus and Moses. As you study the following chart, notice some of the similarities between Stephen’s teachings concerning Moses and the life of the Savior.
Similarities between Moses and Jesus Christ
Acts 7:18–21. Moses was saved from slaughter in Egypt while he was an infant.
Acts 7:22. Moses was “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.”
Mark 6:2. Many were astonished at Christ’s teachings in the synagogue.
Acts 7:25. Moses “supposed his brethren would have understood … but they understood not.”
Acts 7:29. Moses fled to the wilderness of Midian before delivering the people.
Matthew 4:1–11. Jesus retired to the wilderness to be with God before His mortal ministry.
Acts 7:30–34. Moses returned to his people after those who sought his life were dead.
Matthew 2:20. Jesus Christ’s family returned to the land of Israel following Herod’s death.
Acts 7:34. Ancient Israel was in bondage to the Egyptians; Moses was sent to deliver them.
John 8:33–36. The Jews were in bondage to sin; Jesus came to deliver them.
Acts 7:35. “This Moses whom they refused, … the same did God send to be a ruler.”
Acts 7:36. Moses “shewed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt.”
Matthew 4:23. “Jesus went about … healing all manner of sickness.”
Acts 7:39. “In their hearts,” the people “turned back again into Egypt.”
John 6:66. “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.”
Acts 7:48. “The Most High Dwelleth Not in Temples Made with Hands”
Sometimes Acts 7:48 is used by critics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to find fault with the practice of building temples. But Stephen did not imply that Israel had been wrong to build the tabernacle or the temple; after all, God had commanded the Jerusalem temple to be built. Stephen meant that God was not confined to the physical structure of the temple, as some people believed in ancient times (see 1 Kings 8:27). Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught, “The great Creator, by whom all things are, dwelleth not in temples made by the hands of his creatures; but he is worshiped by them in his temples, which holy houses he visits occasionally, and in which sacred spots his Spirit may always be found by the faithful” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:76).
Acts 7:52–53. “Received the Law by the Disposition of Angels”
Acts 7:53 affirms the reality of angels and their role in communicating divine messages from God to man. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said of this verse: “Whenever a dispensation of the gospel is given to men, it is ‘declared by holy angels sent forth from the presence of God, and by his own voice, and by the gift of the Holy Ghost.’ (Moses 5:58.) What Stephen is here saying is that ‘the law,’ which is the ‘preparatory gospel’ (D. & C. 84:26–27), also was dispensed to Israel by angelic ministration” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:76–77). Just as prophets in ancient Israel received divine messages from angels, angelic visitations have played an important part in the Restoration of the gospel in the latter days. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stated: “I believe we need to speak of and believe in and bear testimony to the ministry of angels more than we sometimes do. They constitute one of God’s great methods of witnessing through the veil” (“A Standard unto My People” [Church Educational System symposium on the Book of Mormon, Aug. 9, 1994], 11; si.lds.org).
Acts 7:55–56. The Godhead Is Three Divine Persons
Stephen was “full of the Holy Ghost” when he “saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55). In this vision, each member of the Godhead was manifest as a separate Being. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “[Stephen] saw the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God. Any person that had seen the heavens opened knows that there are three personages in the heavens who hold the keys of power, and one presides over all” (in History of the Church, 5:426).
To read more about the separate nature of the members of the Godhead, see Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s quotation in the commentary for John 10:30, 37–38. It is also interesting to note the similarities between Stephen’s vision and Joseph Smith’s First Vision by reading and comparing Acts 7:55–56 and Joseph Smith—History 1:16–17.
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.
Acts 7:57–60. The Death of Stephen
Stephen is generally considered to be the first Christian martyr. As he faced death, Stephen followed the Savior’s example by forgiving his killers and placing his spirit in God’s care (compare Acts 7:59–60 to Luke 23:34, 46). Luke may have included Saul in the account of Stephen’s death in order to prepare the reader for the account of Saul’s conversion (see Acts 8–9). Luke recorded the interesting detail that those who stoned Stephen “laid down their clothes” at the feet of Saul (Acts 7:58).
The Lord used the Holy Ghost to magnify the efforts of Peter and John. How has the Lord magnified your efforts through the Holy Ghost?
Reflect on Peter’s statement to the man “lame from his mother’s womb” (see Acts 3:2, 6–7). What was Peter able to give to this man? What are you able to give to those seeking your help?
What lessons do you learn from Acts 3–7 about the power of bearing testimony when given an opportunity to stand as a witness?
Points to Ponder
From Acts 3–7, make a list of qualities you find in Peter, John, and Stephen that you would like to develop in your life. Prayerfully decide what you can begin doing to develop one of those qualities.
Study the sermons about the Savior in Acts 3:13–18, 22; 4:10–12; 5:30–32. What are the main teachings about Jesus Christ in these sermons? Imagine you are writing a letter to a friend about Jesus Christ. Write several paragraphs explaining why these teachings about Jesus Christ are at the core of Latter-day Saint belief and doctrine.