NEW TESTAMENT - LESSON 29
- Seven men are ordained to supervise the temporal work of the Church.
- Stephen testifies before the Sanhedrin and is stoned to death.
- Philip preaches and performs miracles in Samaria.
- Saul is converted and baptized and begins to preach the gospel.
Chapters 6 & 7
- Acts 6:1: "And in those days, when the number of the disciples
was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews,
because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration."
READ ACTS 6:2-6. Seven chosen to assist the work.
- Due to the rapid growth of the early church some members (widows) were
being neglected. Some of the Greek members murmured against the Hebrew
- DO WE, IN THE CHURCH TODAY, SOMETIMES HAVE DIVISIONS OR PREJUDICE BASED
ON ETHNIC, ECONOMIC, EDUCATIONAL, OR CULTURAL DIFFERENCES? HOW CAN WE OVERCOME
- Importance of overcoming those divisions or prejudices.
- 2 Nephi 26:33: "For none of these iniquities come of the Lord;
for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth
nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them
all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that
come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he
remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile."
- The Lord's acceptance is not based on differences in people.
- READ D&C 38:24-27. Let every man esteem his
brother as himself.
- If we are divided we cannot be unified. If we are not one, we are not
the Lord's people.
- Howard W. Hunter: "It is in understanding and accepting [the]
universal fatherhood of God that all human beings can best appreciate God's
concern for them and their relationship to each other. This is a message
of life and love that strikes squarely against all stifling traditions
based on race, language, economic or political standing, educational rank,
or cultural background, for we are all of the same spiritual descent. We
have a divine pedigree; every person is a spiritual child of God."
(Ensign, Nov. 1991, p18)
- WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES PRESENTED BY THE
CHURCH'S INTERNATIONAL GROWTH?
- The Church is increasing in numbers throughout the world in such diverse
places as Russia, India, and Nigeria. Large numbers of members are joining
the Church in Central and South America, Europe, and Asia.
- HOW DOES THE RACIAL, NATIONAL, AND CULTURAL VARIETY OF TODAY'S MEMBERS
ENRICH THE CHURCH?
Stephen brought before the Sanhedrin.
- WHY DID THE APOSTLES CALL THESE OTHERS TO HELP THEM?
- V2 says: "It is not reason that we should leave the word of
God, and serve tables."
- The church was growing so fast that the Twelve could not administer
all things, so they called seven others to assist with the temporal affairs
of the church.
- WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR CHURCH LEADERS TO DELEGATE AUTHORITY?
- The work of the Church is too much for just the leadership.
- It affords others the opportunity to grow and serve.
- False witnesses were set up and accused Stephen of speaking "blasphemous
words against their holy place, and the law" (Acts 6:13).
- V15 says: "And all that sat in the council looking stedfastly
on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel."
- Stephen then speaks to the council (see Acts 7).
- He began by speaking of Abraham and the Lord's promise to him.
- History of Abraham's family up to Jacob. Joseph going into Egypt.
- The story of Moses and Israel in Egypt.
- Some Hebrew history up to Solomon's temple.
- The disobedience of Israel in making idols.
- WHAT DO YOU SUPPOSE WERE STEPHEN'S PURPOSES IN RECITING THE HISTORY
OF THE LORD'S DEALINGS WITH HIS CHILDREN?
- To emphasize the mighty works of the Lord.
- To recall Israel's frequent disobedience in a hope to prick their hearts.
- READ ACTS 7:51-54. The council accused.
- WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO HELP YOU REMEMBER THE LORD'S WORKINGS IN YOUR
- HOW CAN KEEPING A JOURNAL OR COMPILING A PERSONAL HISTORY BLESS YOU,
YOUR FAMILY, AND YOUR POSTERITY?
- President Kimball: "What could you do better for your children
and your children's children than to record the story of your life, your
triumphs over adversity, your recovery after a fall, your progress when
all seemed black, your rejoicing when you had finally achieved?
"Some of what you write may be
humdrum dates and places, but there will also be rich passages that will
be quoted by your posterity.
"Get a notebook, my young folks,
a journal that will last through all time, and maybe the angels may quote
from it for eternity. Begin today and write in it your goings and comings,
your deepest thoughts, your achievements and your failures, your associations
and your triumphs, your impressions and your testimonies. Remember, the
Savior chastised those who failed to record important events."
(Teachings SWK, p351)
- READ ACTS 7:55-56.
- WHAT DO WE LEARN FROM THESE VERSES ABOUT THE GODHEAD?
- READ ACTS 7:57-60. Stephen stoned by his accusers.
- WHAT DO STEPHEN'S LAST WORDS REVEAL ABOUT HIS DISCIPLESHIP?
- Note that Saul (Paul) is first mentioned here.
- READ ACTS 8:5-13. Phillip preaches in Samaria.
The people believe.
READ ACTS 8:14-17. The Holy Ghost given to the
people of Samaria.
- WHAT DID THE PEOPLE OF SAMARIA DO WHEN THEY BELIEVED PHILLIP'S TESTIMONY
ABOUT JESUS CHRIST?
- They were baptized, which requires faith and repentance in advance.
READ ACTS 8:18-24. Simon offers to buy the power
to bestow the Holy Ghost.
- HOW DID THESE PEOPLE RECEIVE THE GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST?
- Through the priesthood authority of the Apostles.
- WHY DIDN'T PHILLIP BESTOW THE GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST?
- It would appear that he didn't have the Melchizekek Priesthood.
READ ACTS 8:26-40. Phillip teaches the eunuch.
- WHAT DIDN'T SIMON UNDERSTAND?
- James E. Faust: "This greatest of all powers, the priesthood
power, is not accessed the way power is used in the world. It cannot be
bought or sold. ...Worldly power often is employed ruthlessly. However,
priesthood power is invoked only through those principles of righteousness
by which the priesthood is governed." (Ensign, May 1997, p43)
- ARE THERE SIMONS IN THE WORLD TODAY?
- WHY WAS PHILLIP SO SUCCESSFUL IN THE LORD'S WORK?
- He was obedient to the commands of the Lord.
- He understood and taught from the scriptures.
- THE EUNUCH DID NOT UNDERSTAND THE SCRIPTURES UNTIL PHILLIP TAUGHT HIM
THE TRUTH. WHAT HAS THE LORD PROVIDED TO HELP US UNDERSTAND THE SCRIPTURES
- The gift of the Holy Ghost.
- Additional scripture (latest versions are completely cross-referenced
with a large topical guide).
- Prophets and apostles to teach us the truth.
- The Background of Saul.
Paul comes to Jerusalem as a persecutor.
- Name & family.
- Saul is his Hebrew name. Paul is his Roman name.
- Luke (in Acts) calls him Saul until he meets the Roman Proconsul Sergius
Paulus on the island of Cyprus during his first missionary journey.
- From that time he seems to have sensed the appropriateness of a Roman
name for a missionary to the Roman Empire. Luke then generally refers to
him as Paul.
- He was born a free Roman.
- He was brought up as a Jew, being the son of a Pharisee from the tribe
- He often supported himself as a tentmaker.
- Saul's early training in Tarsus.
- He was from Tarsus, in Cilicia, now part of Turkey.
- Tarsus was the capital of Cilicia, a city centuries old. It had both
old Oriental qualities and the characteristics of its Greek citizens.
- Tarsus was one of the three greatest centers of learning in Paul's
- It was one of the great university cities and students flocked to it
from many places.
- Understanding that this was a great center of learning, Paul being
the son of a strict Pharisee, his parents would not fail to teach him and
indoctrinate him at an early age in their Sacred Law.
- As was the tradition of that day, Saul was probably sent to an elementary
school, in a room connected with the Jewish synagogue.
- Here, with other Jewish boys his age, he would be instructed in the
reading of Scripture. This may have been the Septuagint (the Greek version
of the scriptures), because in later years he seems to have quoted extensively
- Saul at the feet of Gamaliel in Jerusalem.
- At about the age of 15, Saul's parents sent him to Jerusalem to receive
additional theologoical or rabbinical training.
- He was sent to study at the feet of Gamaliel, one of the most celebrated
Jewish scholars of his time.
- To study in the "Beth Hammidrash" or "House of interpretation"
in the Holy City was a coveted honor among young Jews.
- Gamaliel apears once in the New Testament. When the Apostles were brought
before the Sanhedrin, its members were disposed to kill them, but Gamaliel's
words carried conviction and saved the Lord's servants. "Refrain
from these men," he pleaded, "and let them alone: for
if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought; but if
it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest happly ye be found even to fight
against God" (Acts 5:38-39).
- We do not how long Saul remained under the tutelage of Gamaliel or
how long he remained in Jerusalem.
- It appears that Saul remained in Tarsus until after the death of the
Lord. There is no indication in the scriptures that Saul knew the Lord
or the Apostles prior to the time we see him involved in their persecution.
- Was Saul married? It would seem that he was.
- It was the custom of the Jews to marry their young men between 16 and
- Marriage was considered a sacred obligation among the Jews.
- If Saul was a member of the Sanhedrin (evidence indicates that) it
was required of one who belonged to that tribunal to be not only a married
man, but a father as well.
- He first comes to our attention in Acts 7:58, where we are told that
the witnesses to Stephen's martyrdom "laid down their clothes at
a young man's feet, whose name was Saul."
- What brought Saul to Jerusalem as a persecutor?
- The scriptures provide no explanation.
- We can conjecture that Saul's zeal and talents were remembered by some
of his former friends in Jerusalem when the numbers and influence of the
followers of Jesus began to be thought of as a genuine menance to Judaism.
- At the time Stephen was preaching and performing miracles, Saul may
have been drawn to Jerusalem for the Passover as a representative of Cilicia.
- READ ACTS 8:1-4. Paul makes havoc of the church.
- Paul later said this of himself: a
- 1 Corinthians 15:9: "For I am the least of the Apostles, that
am not meet to be called an apostle, because I presecuted the Church of
- Galatians 1:13: "For ye have heard in my conversation in time
past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the Church
of God, and wasted it."
Following Saul's conversion.
- READ ACTS 9:1-9. Paul's encounter with the resurrected
- WHY DID SAUL CHANGE FROM A HARD-HEARTED PERSECUTOR OF THE SAINTS TO
ONE OF THE GREATEST SERVANTS OF THE LORD?
- In contrast to most of the persecutors of his time, Paul was a man
honest in heart and truly wished to serve God. When he learned the truth,
he continued his service in a new way.
- WHAT EXPERIENCES IN YOUR LIFE HAVE INFLUENCED YOU TO CHANGE FOR THE
- READ ACTS 9:10-18. Ananias and Saul.
- WHY DID ANANIAS HESITATE TO GO MEET SAUL? WHY DID ANANIAS GO DESPITE
- DO YOU KNOW OF A PERSON WHO SEEMED BEYOND REPENTANCE BUT EVENTUALLY
CAME TO CHRIST?
- The stories of Philip and Ananias are great examples of the blessings
that come when a person receives and heeds spiritual impressions.
- WHAT BLESSINGS HAVE COME TO YOU (OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW) BECAUSE YOU HAVE
LISTENED TO SPIRITUAL IMPRESSIONS?
- WHAT MUST WE DO TO BE IN TUNE WITH THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD SO WE CAN
FEEL THSE IMPRESSIONS WHEN THEY COME?
- WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT HOW THESE IMPRESSIONS COME?
- S. Dilworth Young: "If I am to receive revelation from the
Lord, I must be in harmony with him by keeping his commandments. Then as
needed, according to his wisdom, his word will come into my mind through
my thoughts.... Accompanying this always is a feeling of peace."
- Also see Enos 1:10, D&C 8:2, 1 Nephi 17:45.
- READ ACTS 22:12-16. Saul's commission as delivered
- READ ACTS 9:19-22. Saul preaches to the Jews in
- Saul retires to Arabia.
- Sidney B. Sperry: "Saul's conversion was such an upsetting
experience that he must have thought it necessary to seek retirement in
a quiet place, think through his changed situation, and seek the spiritual
instruction and uplift required for his coming mission to the Gentiles."
(Paul's Life and Letters, p23)
- READ GALATIANS 1:16-18. Paul goes to Arabia.
- It is believed that Saul remained in Arabia from 1-3 years based on
his statement in Galatians.
- Sidney B. Sperry: "...we can be sure that through prayer and meditation
Saul came to peace with himself and his God in the desert place. Like Moses
and the Christ before him, in such solitary places was he prepared for
his ministry; doubtless, during this desert soujourn, he became the recipient
of divine revelations instructing hime in the truths of his new faith."
(Paul's Life and Letters, p24)
- Throughout the scriptures, we find accounts of those who went off by
themselves to commune with the Lord.
- Do we take similar opportunities? President McKay said that, "Meditation
is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into
the presence of the Lord" (CR, Apr. 1967). We cannot take off
to Arabia for three years, but it is essential that we find quiet, undisturbed
moments to ponder the things of God.
- This is something that requires focus and effort. J.Golden Kimball
once said, "Think of God. How many of us think of God thirty minutes
out of twenty-four hours? There is not one out of five hundred that actually
thinks of God and his son Jesus Christ thirty minutes a day. I do; but
the first thing I know, my mind wanders off on something else."
- READ ACTS 9:23-25. Saul the target of a plot and
- READ ACTS 9:26-28. Saul goes to Jerusalem.
- READ ACTS 9:29-30. Saul preaches and sent to Tarsus.
- Sidney B. Sperry: "We can only imagine Saul's reception by
his family and former associates upon his return to Tarsus. Yet it would
very probably be a sad one, marked by the sorrow and evident displeasure
of his father, a strict old Pharisee, at his son's conversion to the hated
sect composed of the followers Christ. Saul never once in later years refers
to the encounter with his family and former friends. He doubtless chose
to forget a scene that had caused another tragedy in his life. Surely he
would have mentioned his father and mother if they had turned to Christ
through his preaching; he mentions the names of so many other converts
in his Epistles. And what, in the meantime, became of his wife and child
(or children) whom we believe he had before Stephen's martyrdom? Perhaps
there is still another tragedy here. His wife may have completely forsaken
him also, after his conversion. But of this we can only speculate; the
record is silent." (Paul's Life and Letters, pp29-30)
We, like Stephen, Philip, and Saul, are living in a time when the Church
is growing rapidly. We are each given responsibilities to serve in the
kingdom. Like these three great men, we need to be willing to give all
that we have to serve the Lord and bring forth his kingdom. To do so, is
to bless the lives of others and bring eternal blessings to ourselves.
Lesson 30: Acts 10-15:35
Additional Reading: Bible Dictionary, "Circumcision,"
p646; "Cornelius," p650
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