Acts 6–7

New Testament Teacher Resource Manual, (2002), 140–42


Introduction

As Church membership increased, the Apostles called a group of seven men to assist them and to administer certain temporal needs of the Saints in Jerusalem. Stephen, one of these seven, was described as “full of faith and power” and as one who “did great wonders and miracles among the people” (Acts 6:8). Some of the Jews accused Stephen of blasphemy for teaching that Christ “shall change the customs which Moses delivered us” (v. 14). Stephen defended himself before the council by reminding them that true prophets had always been rejected by Israel. He testified that “as your fathers did, so do ye” (Acts 7:51) and said they had rejected the Son of God. Stephen saw a vision and testified of seeing God the Father and Jesus at His right hand. This so enraged the people that they stoned him, and Stephen became one of the early Church’s first martyrs.

As you read Acts 6–7look for the qualities early Church leaders possessed that qualified them for the ministry. Also notice how Stephen used Israel’s history to teach Jewish leaders about Jesus Christ.

Prayerfully study Acts 6–7and consider the following principles before preparing your lessons.

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

Additional Resources

  • The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, 245–46.

Suggestions for Teaching

Choose from the following ideas, or use some of your own, as you prepare lessons for Acts 6–7.

Acts 6–12. Heavenly Father directs His work through His prophets.

(30–35 minutes)

Arrange for someone (perhaps a parent or priesthood leader) to come at the beginning of class and make an announcement about an upcoming event. Have the person give the correct date, time, place, and other information. Then have a second person enter and make the same announcement but with different details. Next have a third person enter and announce the same event with still different details.

Ask: Which announcement do you believe? Why? Tell students that the first individual gave the correct information. Ask:

  • How can this situation lead to confusion?

  • When it comes to the gospel, who can best counsel us?

  • How can listening to other sources affect us?

Discuss the difficulties that come from listening to messages from the wrong source.

In Acts 6–12we see the Lord directing Peter, the President of the Church, to take the gospel to the Gentiles, a change that many of the early Saints had not expected. Explain that changes such as this must come through the living prophet, and that the members of the Church should have full confidence in the prophet’s words.

Divide your class into three groups. Assign one group to study Acts 6, one to study Acts 10, and one to study Acts 11, looking for direction that the Lord gave the Saints through His Apostles. Have them report their findings. (These might include the appointment of seven men to take care of the widows, Peter’s vision to take the gospel to the Gentiles, and his recounting of that vision to the Church.)

Assure students that the Lord still speaks to His Church today through His prophet and apostles, and that we can have full confidence in their words. Consider sharing an excerpt from one of your favorite conference talks. Encourage students to go home and study the most recent conference edition of the Ensign looking for what the prophet and apostles have said to them.

Give students copies of the following quotations as a handout, and read them together.

President Harold B. Lee said:

“If you want to know what the Lord would have the Saints know and to have his guidance and direction for the next six months, get a copy of the proceedings of this conference, and you will have the latest word of the Lord as far as the Saints are concerned” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1973, 168; or Ensign, Jan. 1974, 128).

President Ezra Taft Benson said:

“For the next six months, your conference edition of the Ensign should stand next to your standard works and be referred to frequently. As my dear friend and brother Harold B. Lee said, we should let these conference addresses ‘be the guide to [our] walk and talk during the next six months. These are the important matters the Lord sees fit to reveal to this people in this day’ (in Conference Report, Apr. 1946, 68)” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1988, 97; or Ensign, May 1988, 84).

Acts 6:1–6. Church leaders need worthy members to help minister to the needs of others.

(15–20 minutes)

Invite a student to hold some items for you. Give the student objects such as a pencil, a book, a roll of tape, a stapler, and so forth until the student either has to drop something or set something down.

Show students a picture of the current prophet or of one of the Apostles. Discuss the great responsibilities these Church leaders are called to carry. Ask:

  • Who are the General Authorities responsible to?

  • What might happen if they ignored their calling?

  • How does this relate to the object lesson?

Read Acts 6:1–6 looking for the specific problem the early Church leaders faced.

  • How did the Church leaders solve this problem?

  • Who was called to assist the Apostles in caring for the widows? (As students find the names of the seven men, list them on the board.)

Have a student read the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie:

“The work assigned them fell within the realm of those temporal matters normally handled by the Aaronic Priesthood, thus leaving the apostles free to handle the more difficult matters of their Melchizedek ministry” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:65).

Ask:

  • What similar challenges do we face today?

  • How do Aaronic Priesthood holders help in caring for widows?

  • How does it lighten the load of Church leaders if Aaronic Priesthood holders faithfully perform their duties?

Invite a student to read Acts 6:3 again, and ask:

  • What qualities did the Apostles look for in selecting the seven men?

  • How do these same qualities help qualify us to serve in the Church today?

    Read Acts 6:7–8 and look for evidence that these calls were inspired. Ask: In what ways can priesthood holders bless the widows and the entire Church?

Acts 6:5–7:60. The faithful enjoy God’s blessings in life and in death.

(20–25 minutes)

Have students imagine that they were forewarned that they were going to die. Ask: If you could write the eulogy for your own funeral, what would you say? To help your discussion, consider asking questions like these:

  • How would you like to be remembered?

  • What impact would living the gospel faithfully have on how you are remembered?

Invite students to read Acts 6:5–8and look for what kind of individual Stephen was. Ask: If you had seen some of the wonders and miracles performed by Stephen, what would you think of him?

Have students read Acts 6:9–15. Ask:

  • Why were some not pleased with Stephen’s work?

  • What evidence can you give that God blessed Stephen during his difficult mission?

  • What did the people do to get Stephen charged and brought before the council?

Acts 7is a discourse by Stephen during his own defense before Jewish leaders. Tell students that Stephen recounted some of Israel’s history, showing how Israel rejected Moses and the prophets. Have students read Acts 7:51–53, and ask: What three accusations did Stephen make against the Jewish leaders? (They were stiff-necked and resisted the influence of the Holy Ghost; they rejected and slew the Just One, Jesus Christ; they received the law of Moses but didn’t live it.)

Invite students to read Acts 7:54–60, and ask:

  • How did the Jewish leaders react to these accusations?

  • How did God sustain Stephen as he bore his testimony?

  • What does this vision imply about Stephen’s worthiness?

  • What evidence can you give that Stephen remained faithful until the end?

  • If you were to write the eulogy for Stephen’s funeral, what would you say?

Acts 7:55–56(Scripture Mastery). The Godhead consists of three separate and distinct beings.

(10–15 minutes)

Ask: How might people of the world describe the Godhead? Have a student read the following quotation by Elder Dallin H. Oaks:

“Many Christians reject the idea of a tangible, personal God and a Godhead of three separate beings. They believe that God is a spirit and that the Godhead is only one God. In our view these concepts are evidence of the falling away we call the Great Apostasy.

“We maintain that the concepts identified by such nonscriptural terms as ‘the incomprehensible mystery of God’ and ‘the mystery of the Holy Trinity’ are attributable to the ideas of Greek philosophy. These philosophical concepts transformed Christianity in the first few centuries following the deaths of the Apostles. …

“The consequences persist in the various creeds of Christianity, which declare a Godhead of only one being and which describe that single being or God as ‘incomprehensible’ and ‘without body, parts, or passions.’” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 112–13; or Ensign, May 1995, 84–85).

Read Acts 7:55–56. Draw a diagram on the board similar to the following:

Father, Son, Holy Ghost

Read Doctrine and Covenants 130:22 with the class and explain that Latter-day Saints believe that each member of the Godhead has a separate body. Give students a few minutes to find and share other scriptures that indicate that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three separate individuals (see the teaching suggestion for Matthew 3:16–17, p. 24). Ask:

  • How does it make you feel to know that we can pray to our Father in Heaven, whose children we are, and who hears and answers prayers?

  • How does knowing that Jesus is an individual help us follow His example?

  • Why do many parents keep journals and write letters to their children? (One answer is that they love their children and want them to know them.)

  • Why do you think Heavenly Father has revealed His nature to His children? (see John 17:3).

Have a student read the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks:

“In common with the rest of Christianity, we believe in a Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. However, we testify that these three members of the Godhead are three separate and distinct beings. We also testify that God the Father is not just a spirit but is a glorified person with a tangible body, as is his resurrected Son, Jesus Christ” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 112; or Ensign, May 1995, 84).