January 29 - Acts 7
OH, NOW I GET IT: At first, it's hard to know where Stephen is going with this speech. It sort of seems like maybe he's just trying to buy time for the good guys to rush in and save him as he recites the history of Israel. But he pulls it all together in v51-53. He provides a Cliff's Notes version of the Old Testament in order to show the Sanhedrin that they, like their ancestors, have a long & sad history of resisting the Holy Spirit.
PLAY IT AGAIN: Now that you've read the ending, go back and look at the patterns in Stephen's speech: God provides, then Israel resists (v9, 27, 39) until things hit rock bottom in v42. Finally Stephen explains that although Solomon built a temple for God to live in, God doesn't live in a house (v48), rather He came to live with Israel in person only to be rejected and killed by them.
NOW MAKE IT PERSONAL: Think back on all of the ways that God has provided for you. Did you use these gifts and opportunities He gave you to come closer to Him, or have you been 'resisting the Holy Spirit? (v51)'
PRETTY COOL FACT: After going through the entire Old Testament history, Stephen tells them that they always resist the Holy Spirit, meaning the Holy Spirit has been active in this world long before Pentecost!
DIDN'T WE JUST READ THIS? Compare v55-85 with Mark 14:61-64. Why do you these words incited the Jewish leaders so much?
ENTER, STAGE RIGHT: A young man named Saul (v58). He was a student of Gamaliel, the respected teacher who spoke wisely in 5:34. Of course we know that Saul will become the Apostle Paul, but why do you suppose Saul is so vitriolic at this point, especially when his teacher acknowledges that this new movement might be from God? Put yourself in Saul's shoes for awhile today. This new Christian movement threatens everything he has been working for. Saul would likely claim he was defending God's honor by persecuting & killing blasphemers, but he's actually just looking out for himself. How does Saul perfectly represent the pattern Stephen spoke about? Do you ever have the attitude Saul displays?
SOUNDS FAMILIAR: How are vs. 59-60 a perfect expression of how Jesus taught us to pray (see Matt 6:14-15)?
Sunday we learned to pray constantly following the AAA pattern given by Jesus. We will be practicing that pattern by using what we read each day to guide us in prayer.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Covenant God of our Fathers, who is ruling all things with the Son of Man sitting at His right hand (v56)
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Ask God to keep you from resisting the Holy Spirit (v51). Pray that Jesus will return soon so we will see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED. Then follow the example that Jesus gave and Stephen demonstrated and forgive those who have sinned against you.
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