“Unit 18, Day 1: Acts 6–7,” New Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2016)
“Unit 18, Day 1,” New Testament Study Guide
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 to show that God approved of him. 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.
As you study Acts 6:1–8, look for a specific problem the early Church leaders faced.
Read Acts 6:1–2, looking for the concern the Grecians brought to the Apostles’ attention.
“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” (New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 288).
Read Acts 6:3–6, looking for how the Apostles solved the problem of caring for the individual needs of the Church members without keeping them from their apostolic responsibility to take the gospel to “all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught about the responsibilities of those seven men: “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, 3 vols. [1965–73], 2:65).
What qualities were the people told to look for in choosing those who would help?
How is this process similar to what the Lord does in His Church today to ensure that members’ needs are met?
One truth we can learn from this account is that worthy Church members are called to help minister to the needs of others.
Church callings give individuals specific duties to minister to the needs of others. Ponder how an individual’s worthiness affects his or her ability to minister to the needs of others. Then write in your scripture study journal about an experience you have had with someone who ministered to you or to someone else by worthily serving in a calling. Express any thoughts or feelings of gratitude you may have for this service.
Read Acts 6:7–8, looking for the positive outcomes that resulted from the calling of these seven worthy disciples to minister to the needs of others.
Have you ever resisted someone who was trying to help you or had someone resist you when you were trying to help him or her? What were the attitudes of the person trying to help and the person resisting the help?
Why do we sometimes resist the help of others? Consider what consequences can come from resisting the help of others in the following situations: doing homework, cooking a meal, solving a major problem in our life, and deciding on whether to serve a full-time mission.
One way Heavenly Father has provided to help us is through the Holy Ghost. As you study Acts 6:9–7:53, look for consequences of resisting the Holy Ghost.
As recorded in Acts 6:9, many people who did not believe in Jesus Christ contended with Stephen as he taught the gospel. Read Acts 6:10–11, looking for what these men did when they were unable to resist the wisdom and spirit of Stephen’s teaching. (The word suborned in verse 11 means to bribe.)
Acts 6:12–14 records that Stephen was brought before the Jewish governing council (the Sanhedrin) and that false witnesses accused him of blasphemy, which is speaking in a hateful way against God or “something that stands in a sacred relation toward God, such as His temple, His law, or His prophet” (Bible Dictionary, “Blasphemy”). In the case of Stephen, the Sanhedrin falsely accused him of speaking against the temple and against the law of Moses (see Acts 6:13–14). The members of the Sanhedrin both resisted and opposed Stephen and eventually sought to kill him.
Read Acts 6:15, looking for what was unusual about Stephen’s appearance as he stood before the council.
Stephen was transfigured before the council. Transfiguration is “the condition of persons who are temporarily changed in appearance and nature—that is, lifted to a higher spiritual level—so that they can endure the presence and glory of heavenly beings” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Transfiguration,” scriptures.lds.org). This holy transfiguration was one way that God showed the people that He approved of Stephen and Stephen’s message (see Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:67).
Acts 7:1–50 explains that in response to the accusations brought against him, Stephen recounted some of Israel’s history, especially the Israelites’ repeated rejection of Moses and the law that the Lord gave the people at Mount Sinai. Read Acts 7:37, looking for whom Moses prophesied that the children of Israel would someday hear.
The “prophet” spoken of in this verse is Jesus Christ.
Read Acts 7:51–53, looking for how Stephen compared the Jewish leaders of his day to the ancient Israelites he described. “Stiffnecked” and “uncircumcised in heart” refers to the Jews’ sinful pride and wicked hearts.
Acts 7:52 records that Steven accused the Jewish leaders of rejecting the “Just One,” meaning the Savior.
One truth we can learn from these verses is that resisting the Holy Ghost can lead to rejecting 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.
Consider how a person might be tempted to resist the Holy Ghost in the following circumstances:
Selecting entertainment and media
Choosing whether to follow the prophets’ counsel on dating
Deciding whether to apply the principles of repentance that Jesus Christ and His prophets have taught
Ponder your own acceptance of the Holy Ghost’s promptings. In your scripture study journal, write about a time when following the promptings of the Holy Ghost led you to a correct decision or to acceptance of the prophets and their teachings. Consider what you can do to welcome the influence of the Holy Ghost.
Ponder one thing you could do in the coming week to actively invite the influence of the Holy Ghost into your life. Consider writing your goal and how you will fulfill that goal on a piece of paper.
The word tribulation means trouble or suffering. Why do you think followers of Jesus Christ can expect to experience some tribulation?
As you study Acts 7:54–60, look for a principle that can help you when you experience tribulation.
After Stephen rebuked the wicked Jewish leaders, they responded in anger. Read Acts 7:54–56, looking for what Stephen experienced during their persecution. One meaning of the phrase “they gnashed on him with their teeth” (Acts 7:54) is that they were filled with a violent anger against Stephen and they wished him dead.
What fundamental doctrine about the Godhead can we learn from the account of Stephen’s vision?
You may want to write the following doctrine near Acts 7:55–56: Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct beings.
Read Acts 7:57–60, looking for what the people did to Stephen.
What stands out to you about Stephen’s prayer?
Luke described Stephen’s tragic death with the phrase “he fell asleep” (Acts 7:60). 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).
Reflect on what Stephen experienced as he faced the Sanhedrin and before he was taken and killed.
How did God strengthen Stephen throughout his experiences with the Jewish leaders?
Based on what you have studied, complete the following principle: If we remain faithful to Jesus Christ during tribulations, .
Ponder the following questions: In what ways can the Lord be with us as we face tribulations? Although Stephen lost his life, what did he gain?
Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
For Stephen, part of remaining faithful meant the sacrifice of his life. We are not likely to have to offer such a sacrifice today, but what sacrifices might we be required to make?
What do you believe you will gain as you are faithful to the Lord during tribulation and make the sacrifices you need to make?
What have you already gained?
Stephen is generally considered the first Christian martyr. In addition, he can be seen as a type of Christ: 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 died (see Luke 23:33–34, 46; Acts 7:59–60).
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Acts 6–7 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: