Bible Study: A Face Like an Angel

Belonging to Christ will cause difficulties—but they’re temporary.

In the early days of the church, a remarkable man named Stephen was assigned to the food ministry. As he served the poor and proclaimed the gospel, Stephen radiated wisdom and truth from the Holy Spirit. For opponents of Christianity, however, such beauty can seem unbearable—even today. Hard-line Jews eventually killed Stephen, but his eyes were fixed on Jesus and his face shone with the light of the Lord.

 

READ

Acts 6:1-15

 

BACKGROUND

After Jesus ascended, the apostles took over spreading His gospel. The church grew stronger under their leadership, and the Holy Spirit worked miracles through individual believers. But the synagogues fought against those who put their faith in Jesus.

 

REFLECT

In God’s kingdom, humility and power usually go hand in hand.

  • When conflict arose among early believers, the Twelve advised how to handle it (Acts 6:1-6). Obedience to spiritual authority is one of the ways we’re tested in the church—following instructions shows humility but shouldn’t be done thoughtlessly. What evidence indicates this group of believers found the right balance? Have you ever been tested like this? Describe the role of spiritual authority in your own life.

  • The men chosen to be in charge of food distribution for widows were to be “of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3). Leadership in any part of God’s kingdom is challenging and demands maturity—not in age, but in Christ. Do you find it surprising these qualities were required for the task at hand? Why might each have been important?

  • Consider the combination “grace and power” (Acts 6:8). How is such a blend of traits possible? Try to recall and describe a time you’ve seen both displayed in someone—or in yourself, as God worked through you.

  • Three times, Stephen is described as full of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3; Acts 6:5; Acts 7:55). Love is first on the list of “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23). Describe the role you think love might have played in Stephen’s obedience, service, and testimony.

 

REFLECT

Obedience founded on love is joy, not sacrifice.

Leadership in any part of God’s kingdom is challenging and demands maturity—not in age, but in Christ.

  • After Stephen and others took over ministering to the widows, “the word of God kept on spreading” and the church grew greatly in numbers and influence (Acts 6:7). What relationship do you see between service and kingdom growth? Are you seeing similar fruit in your own walk with Jesus? Perhaps you’d like to pray right now for God’s increase in this area.

  • The text says some men “rose up” against Stephen (Acts 6:9). What in the preceding verses might have drawn their hostile attention?

  • Jesus said His followers would be persecuted because of Him (Matt. 5:11-12). Which of Stephen’s actions and characteristics qualify—grace, power, service, and/or testimony? Have any of these brought persecution into your own life? Give examples.

  • The persecution Jesus described included insult, attack, and slander. In Acts 6, Stephen was falsely accused and taken before the Council (Acts 6:11-13). What form might such persecution take today?

 

REFLECT

Standing for Jesus and displaying His Spirit makes us beautiful—and sometimes a target.

  • In verse 15, we are told that as Stephen was confronted by false accusers, “all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15). Later, as they stoned him, he saw Jesus waiting for him (Acts 7:55-56). Jesus told His followers they’d be attacked, but He also promised them great reward in heaven.

 

GOING FURTHER

Consider how this study applies to your life.

The sixth chapter of Acts is a rare depiction of the sheer loveliness that fills us when we allow our being to be suffused with Christ. Though we might feel full of anger in reading about Stephen’s brutal treatment at the hands of his enemies, Stephen himself was filled with grace, and he reflected loveliness. The story is really about the Holy Spirit, whose power in the believer, just as promised, is life-giving, awe-inspiring, and altogether miraculous.

The story is really about the Holy Spirit, whose power in the believer, just as promised, is life-giving, awe-inspiring, and altogether miraculous.

  • The apostles arranged for others to take charge of serving food so they themselves would be able to focus on preaching. In doing so, they were being obedient to their calling—so others could be obedient to theirs. Have you ever been given a spiritual gifts test? Take steps to discover your calling in the church. You might need humility to accept a role you weren’t expecting, but in fulfilling it, you will know a joy like no other.

  • The fruit of the Spirit includes not just love but also eight other characteristics (Gal. 5:22-23). Read them now and savor the knowledge that they are yours in Christ. Where do you notice yourself growing in each? Can you see how they all would have helped make Stephen’s actions possible throughout Acts 6?

  • The Holy Spirit in you will sometimes draw hatred from others. But walking in His power will always give you love in service, courage in testimony, and joy—as well as forgiveness—in persecution.

 

Illustration by Adam Cruft

Related Topics:  Reading Bible

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1 Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food.

2 So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.

3 Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.

4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."

5 The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch.

6 And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.

7 The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people.

9 But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen.

10 But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.

11 Then they secretly induced men to say, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God."

12 And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came up to him and dragged him away and brought him before the Council.

13 They put forward false witnesses who said, This man incessantly speaks against this holy place and the Law;

14 for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us."

15 And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel.

1 Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food.

2 So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.

3 Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.

4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."

5 The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch.

6 And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.

8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people.

3 Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.

5 The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch.

55 But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God;

7 The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

9 But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen.

11 Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.

12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

11 Then they secretly induced men to say, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God."

12 And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came up to him and dragged him away and brought him before the Council.

13 They put forward false witnesses who said, This man incessantly speaks against this holy place and the Law;

15 And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel.

55 But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God;

56 and he said, Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

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