Without even a cursory understanding of Israel’s history, Stephen’s rehearsal of it here in chapter 7 will be nearly meaningless for us. Therefore, for this part of the study in Acts to make better sense, I encourage you to first read (or at least slowly skim) Genesis chapters 12-24 (better to read to chapter 50, but we will get that part next time). Because of the amount of reading needed for this part of the study, I will break Acts chapter 7 into several parts. Here is the first:
verses 1-8 St. Stephen rehearses the origin of Jewish faith, dating back to Abraham. You read about him in Genesis 12-24. With regard to Jewish faith, especially Abraham’s faith, see what St. Paul says about that faith in Rom 4:1-5:1. For example:
a. What relationship does St. Paul make between salvation rooted in works and salvation rooted in faith, especially verses 4-9 of Romans 4? See also his comment in Ephesians 2:8-10; 2 Corinthians 5:10, Titus 3:14. See also the Lord’s comment in John 5:28-30 and Matthew 25:31-46. See also the Catechism passages 176, 183, 1430-1432, 2044.
b. How does Romans 4:19-25 speak to the issue of believing, trusting, and having utter confidence in a miraculous God?
c. How does Romans 5:1 speak to the question of justification (the Greek word translated as justification means, “to be declared guiltless”)? Does that answer the question, “How can we have peace with God” (the second clause in 5:1)?
176 Faith is a personal adherence of the whole man to God who reveals himself. It involves an assent of the intellect and will to the self-revelation God has made through his deeds and words.
183 Faith is necessary for salvation. The Lord himself affirms: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mk 16:16). For study: Put into your own words the sentiment of paragraphs 176 and 183. How does one express faith to others?
2044 The fidelity of the baptized is a primordial condition for the proclamation of the Gospel and for the Church's mission in the world. In order that the message of salvation can show the power of its truth and radiance before men, it must be authenticated by the witness of the life of Christians. "The witness of a Christian life and good works done in a supernatural spirit have great power to draw men to the faith and to God."88 For study: What does the last sentence have to do with our works or our good deeds? Which comes first – interior conversion or good deeds?
We will move further into this chapter next time.