- Verses 1-22. Persecution. The leaders of organized religion now openly persecute the disciples. What caused the arrest (verse 3) and the release (verse 21) of Peter and John? What verbal and visible evidence did Peter offer in their defence? Does fear of men sometimes make us silent when we ought to speak?
- Verses 23-31. Prayer. Going back to their fellow Christians, the disciples pray. Trace the threefold reason (verses 24-28), request (verses 29, 30) and result (verse 31) found in their prayer. Could you pray with such boldness and willingness in a similar tough situation?
In this insight into the fellowship of the early church the sincere self-sacrifice of Barnabas is compared with the hypocrisy and greed of Ananias and Sapphira.
- In 4:32-37 what essential of fellowship are demonstrated? See one result of them in verse 33.
- What made the sin of Ananias and Sapphira so grave and what led to it? Why was such a divine judgment necessary? What result did it produce?
- What example can you follow from the action of Barnabas and what danger can you avoid from the attitude of Ananias and Sapphira?
- In spite of persecution and warning (cf. 4:17-210 the apostles continue to witness. Consider the different parts played by the angel (verse 19), the Holy Spirit (verses 20, 32), and Gamaliel (verses 34-40) in making this possible. Do you know something of the same constraint – to speak to others about Christ?
- Consider the four different reactions of the religious opposition (verses 17, 24, 26, 33). Finally they beat the apostles. Cf. 1 Pet. 2:20, 21. Are you afraid to suffer through faithful witness?
- How did the apostles deal with the incipient troubles mentioned in 6:1? What three results followed for the widow, the Seven, and the Twelve? What lessons can we learn from their handling of the situation?
- Notice three things about Stephen’s life and ministry (6:5-15): (a) the outstanding features of his life (verses 5, 8); (b) the nature of the persecution against him (verses 11-13); (c) the charges laid against him (verses 13, 14).Cf. mark 14:57, 58 and Acts 21:27, 28. What do you consider to be the indispensable qualifications for, and the possible consequences of, faithful witness for Christ?
- 6:1. ‘Hellenists’ denote Jews who had lived abroad and spoke Greek ‘Hebrews’ were Jews of Palestine who spoke the Jewish language.
- Stephen’s ministry marked a vital stage in the growth of the early church, ‘first drove a wedge between Judaism and Christianity’ (see Acts [ TNTC], pp. 128-150).