THIS WEEK: HATE SPEECH
THE CONTEXT OF STEPHEN: THE DISCIPLES
Acts 4:8–12 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ 12Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4:18–20 18Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
Acts 4:27–31 27Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness . . . . 31After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
THE CONTEXT OF STEPHEN’S LIFE: THE EXAMPLE SET BY THE APOSTLES
1. NOTICE THE KIND OF PERSON STEPHEN WAS: FULL OF GRACE AND THE HOLY SPIRIT
Acts 6:8–9 8Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen.
2. NOTICE STEPHEN WAS WISE. HE SPOKE THE WORD OF GOD. (See also James 3:13, 17)
Acts 6:10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.
Acts 6:15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Acts 7:2 To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran.”
3. NOTICE THE RESPONSE OF THE CULTURE TO THE TRUTH, AND THEN STEPHEN’S RESPONSE.
Acts 7:51–60 51“You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him—53you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.” 54When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56“Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
2 Timothy 2:23–26 23Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
QUESTIONS TO DISCUSS IN LIFE GROUP OR WITH YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Passages to consider: Acts 6:8-15, 7:51-60; Matthew 5:38-48; Ephesians 4:2-3; 1 Peter 3:15-17
1. What impacted you from the sermon?
2. Read Acts 6:8-15, 7:51-60. What do you observe about Stephen and his situation?
3. In what ways has the definition of “hate” been shifted in your world? Or what have you noticed about expressing opinions or offended-ness? A) How has this impacted you?
4. When you have a disagreement or different views, how do you handle it? (Be as real and honest as possible.)
5. Take a look at Ephesians 4:2-3 and 1 Peter 3:15-17. What stands out in these passages? A) What challenges you personally?
6. What is God, through the Holy Spirit, His Word, and His people saying to you? A) How will you respond? Think specific and practical.