Unity Threatened

Brief overview of chapters 5 through 7

Several stories play out in this segment of our Spiritual Growth Resource for this week. We can summarize these chapters as when the church faces internal challenges to its unity and mission. In chapter 5, Ananias and Sapphira wanted to take advantage of the blessings without being fully invested in the community. 

In Chapter 6, we find discrimination within the Christian community. The church is not just a Jewish community, and people learn to love and care for each other. The church is growing in diversity, and the church will fail or flourish depending on how they handle a delicate situation. The office of deacons makes its debut as part of the solution to this problem.

In Chapter 7, Stephen becomes the first martyr of this new Christian community, and Saul of Tarsus makes his first appearance on the scene as he witnesses the stoning of Stephen.

Our study will be divided into three sections: KNOW, GROW, GO

1. KNOW the word of God (Bible Study)  
2. GROW in faith (applying the word of God)
3. GO share your faith (Ideas for sharing what you've been studying)


Read Acts 5-7
1. What influence do you think Barnabas had (Acts 4:36-37) on Ananias and Sapphira’s (A & S) plan?
A. Barnabas seemed to be well known by the apostles. They wanted to be known too.
B. Barnabas hold sold a field and gave the money to the apostles. They could do the same thing but keep some of it.
C. Barnabas, a Levite, had religious credentials. A & S wanted to be known as devoted believers.
D. They wanted to truly bless the young church, but too afraid to be honest about their plan.
E. Other.

2. Why would keeping part of a sale and giving the rest to the church be such a big deal?
A. Ananias and Sapphira conspired to make it seem like they were giving 100%.
B. They knew what they were doing was wrong.
C. Their heart was truly not in it. 
D. They were lying to themselves and to God.
E. Other.

3. Why would it not be a good idea for Peter to ignore the couple’s deceit?
A. Confrontation is challenging, yet many times necessary.
B. If not dealt with at that moment, he would have to deal with it later.
C. The Spirit that A & S brought would begin to spread to the rest of the community.
D. Peter gave Sapphira a chance to come clean.
E. Other.

4. How did the Ananias and Sapphira incident affect the church? Acts 5:11-16
A. People became very aware of God’s power to read hearts and minds.
B. Even more people came to be healed.
C. More people wanted to be part of the church.
D. Other

5. How would you apply Gamaliel’s words to today’s circumstance in the world and your life (if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”)? Acts 5:38-39.
A. There is wisdom in waiting things out before jumping to dangerous conclusions.
B. Be humble to acknowledge that God may be doing something that we don’t think he can do.
C. We can't “overthrow” something that is of God even if we don’t like it or don’t disagree with it.
D. If God’s not in it, you’re not going to win it.
E. Other.

6. How could there be discrimination from spiritual people who just witnessed the death of Ananias and Sapphira? Acts 6:1
A. They were new believers, but they were still learning what loving one another meant.
B. When we first believe and begin to follow, we are on a path of discovering who we are and how God
C. wants to continue to transform us.
D. The Jews were having a hard time wrapping their minds around the concept of God’s grace to foreigners.
E. Even Christians have put other identities (nationality, race, religion, etc.) before they identity in Christ.
F. Other.

7. How do you apply what “The Twelve” said in regards to their role within the community of it “not being right to give up preaching to wait on tables” and “devoting themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.”? Acts 6:2, 4.
A. If the apostles were to be doing everyday administrative work, the preaching of the gospel would suffer.
B. The apostles believed in delegating responsibilities.
C. The apostles didn’t think they had to resolve every issue.
D. The apostles still took the initiative to address the issue at hand.
E. Other.

8. What happened as a result of the apostles decision to select 7 men (deacons) to take care of the daily distribution? Acts 6:7
A. Similar to what happened after the Ananias and Sapphira story.
B. Now they call the new believers disciples.
C. Now we see multiplication, not addition.
D. Even priests dedicated to the Temple work are part of the new church.
E. Other.

9. Why do the apostles find themselves having to defend their preaching, teaching and healing? Acts 6:8-15.
A. The religious leaders believe that they are in danger of losing their authority and position in the community.
B. The religious leaders wanted to be consulted first and probably get their permission to do what Jesus already had given them.
C. Some people don’t want to believe even if they see it with their own eyes.
D. The Gospel compels people to make a decision. When people don’t want to surrender after hearing the E. Gospel, they either go away or try to get rid of the messenger.
F. Other.

10. How did Stephen become the first martyr of the Early Church? Acts 7:2-60  
A. He gave an accurate historical review of Israel’s leadership’s continual refusal to hear God.
B. Stephan called out their hypocrisy.
C. He spoke plainly about their role in crucifying Jesus.
D. Stephan laid out God’s plan of salvation that would extend beyond Israel and that worship went beyond the Jewish Temple.
E. Other.

11. What influence did Stephan’s death have on Saul of Tarsus (Paul)? Acts 7:58.
A. Stephan’s face was like that of an angel (Acts 6:15)
B. While priests were gnashing their teeth with anger, Stephan was “full of the Holy Spirit and had a clear vision of Christ. Acts 7:55.
C. While being stoned, Stephan prayed that their sin be not held against them. Acts 7:60.
D. Saul heard Stephan’s “sermon” and saw his fearlessness.
E. Other.


We can either grow by going through something ourselves or being close to something happening to someone else. When life happens to us, we begin to consider the essential things that matter. When tragedy or difficulties comes close to us, we wonder if it had been us affected.

In the case of Ananias and Sapphira, the church saw first hand and close up what happened to a husband and wife who conspired to try to trick the community and lie to God about who they were and their true intentions. Luke writes that “great fear came upon the church (first mention of the church) and all who heard these things” (Acts 5:11). In other words, they were “shook”!

Let’s talk about fear for a moment. I think fear has its place in getting us to react and snap out of heading in the wrong direction. In other words, fear can be a helpful short-term motivator but a terrible long-term motivator. If fear got us to open our eyes and look towards God, then it served a purpose. But if after many years you are only motivated by fear, then you haven’t grown much. Love demonstrated through Jesus Christ, with respect (fear) towards God’s authority and power, is the long-lasting motivator for our faith in God. Despite this “fear,” the church continued to grow, which means it didn’t scare them away.

Peter confronting Ananias and Sapphira on the spot and allowing God to deal with them directly demonstrates some growth on Peter’s part. Before, he would have taken more aggressive action on his own. Did Peter know Ananias would die? Peter just laid bare Anania’s plot, and Ananias dies. Peter’s role seems to fit well with his personality of speaking up. Others have a tough time confronting people and their sinful behavior. We are afraid of coming across as judgmental, so we overlook things that harm the church and relationships.
The same thing happened to Stephan. He had strong words, even what some would consider harsh (Acts 7:51-53). Today he would be called a radical full of himself and not “full of the Holy Spirit.” Confrontation is necessary, but I would caution that your conversations be Spirit-led and Christ-centered. Confrontation, for confrontation’s sake, is not fruitful.
We find leadership growth on the part of the disciples in chapter 6. A problem arises, and the disciples decide that the best course of action is to select a small number of people “full of the Spirit” to lead out in making sure the Greek widows are being taken care of. The apostles give the instruction for the people to select among themselves. We never hear anything else later from the disciples, not even to tell the newly selected deacons how to get the job done. They were focused on the mission.

On the other spectrum of leadership, we see the religious leaders wanting to hang on to every aspect of control and authority. They thought that allowing the apostles to preach the Gospel was wrong and would lead the people astray. They figured that if anything of religious importance were going to happen, it would have come first through their office. These spiritual leaders had lots of growth, but the problem was that they didn’t think so.
Hearing the story of Israel repeated requires some humility. I might have been saying to myself, “I’ve heard this story before. I don’t need a class from you, Stephan.” Spiritual growth happens when we repeatedly read and listen to God’s story and have an attitude of openness to God, revealing something new in the review of something old.

In chapter 7, Saul of Tarsus (later Paul) probably hears a full presentation of the Gospel for the first time. That seed was planted in him even though he continued to persecute the church. But that experience with Stephan, hearing him preach with boldness, with no fear of the consequences, having a vision of Jesus in heaven and saying it out loud, contrasted with the religious leaders’ anger. Saul could see the contrast between Stephan’s faith and his faith. Stephan planted a seed in Saul’s life that would, later on, bear fruit.

Most of these examples give us a picture of how the church can overcome potential schisms. If Ananias and Sapphira had joined the church, what would their influence have done to the faith of many? If their deception had gone unchecked, how many more lies would the apostles have to deal with later on.

If the apostles had tried to get into a racial dispute between the Jews and Gentiles, either the Jews or the Greeks would be alienated. Instead, the congregation, the community selected the men. Most likely, among the seven, were Jews and Gentiles. The name Stephan is a Greek name, which means that he wasn’t Jewish by birth.

So, the church grows and matures not in the absence of problems but how the church handles issues. Shall we grow after many months of COVID restrictions? Can we thrive when we disagree on what to do about church policy, finances, strategies, etc.? Do we still get hung up on minor things that mean nothing to the furthering of the Gospel? There are personal preferences of colors, designs, times, and places, but these are secondary to our call to stay the course when compared to the Great Commission.  

  1. How has fear played a role in your Christian development/growth?
  2. Take a look at how you confront people and why you do it? Is it Spirit-led and Christ-centered?
  3. What’s your leadership style? Are you afraid of others taking your place, or do you equip and disciple others and letting God lead that person?
  4. When you read the Bible, are you tempted to skip over the parts you’ve already read many times? Or how many times have you read a very familiar story only to learn something new that God showed you?
  5. Do you ever think that there may be a “Saul” watching as we “Celebrate, Grow, and Serve in the love of Jesus?
  6. The church faced internal and external challenges in the Early Church, yet it continued to grow. How would you consider yourself contributing to that growth?


Knowing, Growing and Going all contribute to staying connected with Christ. Growing happens when we put our faith into practice. Here, "making disciples" was potentially harmful to the apostles.

Preaching the Gospel lead them to prison, being brought before civil and religious leaders for questioning. Threats were made against them if they kept on preaching. The apostles' living out the “going” part was the part that people the most. If people just listened to sermons, and then they changed some personal behaviors to be better people, that probably would not have caught much attention from the leaders of the time.

But there is something about the Gospel that compels a person to share what they’ve learned and experienced. In addition to the fact that Jesus himself told them to make disciples by teaching and baptizing. Doing this requires sharing. The apostles were passionate so their sharing wasn’t “under the radar” or quiet. Their preaching the Gospel would be out in the open for everyone to hear. The healings would not be behind closed doors, it would be in the public square. The conversions wouldn’t just be church, but it would be news throughout the neighborhood. There are times for personal evangelism and then there are times for public evangelism. I’m not talking about a 4 week evangelistic campaign 5 nights a week. I’m talking about times to share one-on-one, small groups, and sometimes opportunity presents itself to get up to speak to more people in unexpected circumstances.

  1. Think of times when you find yourself sharing the Gospel with someone. What were your feelings and thoughts as you shared?
  2. If you knew you would get in trouble for talking about Jesus, would you still do it?
  3. Would you like to be part of a class to learn how to share your faith? (Contact Pastor Pedro at ptrinidad@carmsda.org) 

Songs of Worship