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OLD TESTAMENT CHARACTER SKETCH BIBLE STUDY INSTRUCTIONS
For this assignment, you will be studying the life of one of the characters from Courageous Faith
or a character related to their story. You will seek to discover what can be learned from the
character you have selected when you purposefully study his or her life using the technique of
observation, interpretation, correlation, and application. Rather than using the typical research
paper format, this character sketch Bible study will be completed by using a template developed
from Chapter 36 of Everyday Bible Study.
1. The assignment must be completed using the provided template.
2. You must choose a major character covered in the individual chapters of Courageous
Faith textbook. Thus, you must select a character from this list: Abraham, Jacob, Joseph,
Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, Boaz, David, Jonathan, Daniel, and
Nehemiah. Additionally, the following characters are related to people covered in
Courageous Faith and are also permisable for study: Sarah, Isaac, Caleb, Deborah, Ruth,
Saul (the first king of Israel), Solomon, Ezra, and Esther.
3. For major characters with numerous Scripture passages (i.e. Abraham, Moses, and
David) you do not need to use or reference every Scripture in the Bible related to your
character. However, all of the important and prominent passages related to his or her life
should be addressed in your assignment.
4. Any references used to complete this character sketch Bible study must be cited. You
may do this parenthetically by using the following type of citation: (Hulshof, p. 235).
5. If references are used, a Works Cited or References page must be provided using the
Hulshof, Chris H. Greatness and The Detroit Red Wings: Why the Winged Wheel is
the Greatest Hockey Team on the Planet. Detroit: Motor City Press, 1926.
6. Submit the Old Testament Character Sketch Bible Study by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Monday
of Module/Week 6.
CHARACTER SKETCH BIBLE STUDY
Section: BIBL 104 –____
Step One: For this character-sketch Bible study I will be studying: Stephen
Step Two: Identify and list all the Bible passages on the person. You may find it helpful to use
a Bible dictionary, Bible handbook, or a study Bible. Remember that some Old Testament
characters are mentioned in the New Testament.
• Acts 6:3 – 8:2
• Acts 11:19
• Acts 22:20
Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary
• Acts 6:1-7
• Acts 6:10
• Acts 6:12 – 7:53
• Acts 8:1
Easton’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary
• Acts 6
• Acts 7:60
• Acts 8:2
• Acts 22:19-20
Step Three: Read through each passage, making general observations based on first
impressions. List (in complete sentences) at least 10 general observations from the Bible
passages on your character.
Stephen was selected by the disciples to be a leader in the church. (Acts 6:5)
Stephen was known for his godly character. (Acts 6:3, 5, & 8)
Stephen was one of 7 men selected by the disciples to “wait on tables.” (Acts 6:2 & 5)
Stephen performed miracles. (Acts 6:8)
Stephen spoke with wisdom and by the Spirit. (Acts 6:10)
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6. Stephen was personally opposed by people from the synagogue. (Acts 6:9)
7. Stephen was falsely accused by these people when they could not counter his
teaching. (Acts 6:11)
8. Stephen was brought before the Sanhedrin in order to give account for what he was
accused of teaching. (Acts 6:12)
9. Stephen’s speech before the Sanhedrin reflected his understanding of the Israelite
history (Acts 7: 2-53)
10. The religious leaders were enraged at Stephen’s teaching on Israelite history and the
way it implicated them. (Acts 7:54-57)
11. The religious leaders stoned Stephen (Acts 7:58)
12. Saul was at the stoning of Stephen and collected the coats of the men who stoned
Stephen (Acts 7:58, Acts 8:1)
13. Paul (previously called Saul) mentions that he was in complete agreement with those
who killed Stephen, that he stood by, and kept the coats they took off when they
stoned him. Despite this, God called him to be a follower (Acts 22:20-21)
14. Stephen prayed for the forgiveness of the men who were executing him. (Acts 7:60)
15. The death of Stephen and the persecution of the church caused believers to scatter.
16. Some devout men gathered up Stephen’s body and buried him. (Acts 8:2)
17. As a result of Stephen’s death and the persecution of the church, believers scattered to
places as far away as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria where they preached
the word of God. However, they only preached to the Jews. (Acts 11:19)
Step Four: Ask the key questions and observe other structural or grammatical elements.
Observations related to “Who?”
Stephen was one of the seven leaders selected to “wait tables” in order to ease the
burden of activity on the disciples. The other seven men who were chosen were
Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier
convert to the Jewish faith). Stephen’s ministry also included teaching and
performing miracles. This created a conflict and debate with Jews from Cyrene,
Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia. These men were from the Synagogue of
Freed Slaves. As a result of this conflict, Stephen was brought to the Sanhedrin. In
front of the High Priests Stephen taught from Israelite history connecting the stories
of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and the Israelites to Jesus Christ. His teaching
resulted in the religious leaders stoning Stephen while Saul (later named Paul) agreed
to this killing.
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Observations related to “What?”
There are several “what” observations that can be made in the life of Stephen.
What led to the selection of the seven men (incuding Stephen) in Acts 6:2-4? A
disagreement arose between Greek-speaking and Hebrew-speaking believers as to the
care their widows were receiving.
What was the result of the selection of these seven men? With these seven men
selected, the disciples where able to spend their time in prayer and teaching the Word
(Acts 6:2 & 4).
What is the Sanhedrin? According to the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary the
Sanhedrin is the “highest Jewish council in the first century. The council had 71
members and was presided over by the high priest. The Sanhedrin included both of
the main Jewish parties among its membership. Since the high priest presided, the
Sadducean priestly party seems to have predominated, but some leading Pharisees also
What is significant about Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin? Stephen’s speech to the
Sanhedrin highlights how God was at work in Israel to bring the events and
circumstances of her past to fulfillment in Jesus Christ. He understood the stories of
the Old Testament as leading to and pointing to Jesus Christ.
Observations related to “Where?”
A first important “where’s” in the life of Stephen is the “where” that led to his
selection of seven men to lead in the church. At Jerusalem, there was a conflict
between the Greek-speaking believers and Hebrew-speaking believers that required
the selection of 7 men to make sure that all widows were cared for properly. A second
important “where” in the life of Stephen deals with the location of the men that led to
him being brought before the Sanhedrin. These men were from Cyrene, Alexandria,
Cilicia, and the province of Asia. Thus, they were not from Jerusalem but from out of
town. A third important “where” in the life of Stephen highlights the result of the
persecution that started with his killing. After Stephen’s death, all the believers
(except the apostles) were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria.
Stephen’s death caused the church to scatter.
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Observations related to “When?”
The events of Stephen’s life take place early on in the history of the church. Thus,
they take place after the ascension of Jesus Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit
but before the start of the persecution of the church.
Observations related to “Why?”
There are three notable “why” questions that are answered through the life of
Stephen in Acts 6-8. A primary question of why is, “Why did the early Christians
spread out from Jerusalem?” The early Christ-followers spread out from Jerusalem
because the killing of Stephen caused them to scatter Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1).
Another important why question deals with the selection of the seven to care for the
widows. Why were these seven selected and singled out by the disciples to lead this
new ministry? These seven men were selected because they were “well respected and
full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3). A third why question addresses why Stephen
was brought before the high priest and the Sanhedrin. Stephen was brought before
the high priest and Sanhedrin because men from the Synagogue of the Freed Slaves
could not “stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke” and
“they persuaded some men to lie about Stephen” (Acts 6:10-11).
Step Five: Construct a timeline that details the life of your Bible personality.
Stephen was selected to be a leader in the church.
Stephen teaches and performs miracles.
Stephen’s ministry leads to a conflict with Jews from out of town.
Stephen is falsely accused by these men and is brought before the Sanhedrin.
Stephen is stoned as a result of his testimory before the Sanhedrin.
Saul (later Paul) is a witness to the death of Stephen
The death of Stephen and the persecution of the church causes the church to scatter.
Step Six: Determine what Biblical wisdom can be gained from this character. Carefully
look through your general observations based on your first impressions, your deeper
study, and your timeline. What biblical wisdom can you gather about your character?
Write out five elements of Biblical wisdom that can be understood from your character.
Provide a concise explanation of each of these elements.
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A. Knowledge of the Scriptures
Stephen’s life is a demonstration of the kind of knowledge that Christians should have of
God’s Word. In the two primary chapters that record his life, there is a diligent and
concerted use of the Scriptures. First, his debate with those from the synagogue would
seem to imply that he had such a command of the Scriptures that these men were unable
to respond to him. Thus, they resorted to lies and falls accusations in order to deal with
him. Second, Stephen’s knowledge and skillful use of the Old Testament is on display in
how he responds to the High Priests in the Sanhedrin. He is so familiar with the
Scriptures and deft at using them that they resort to killing him as the means to shut him
Stephen was bold in his proclamation of the Gospel message. This boldness is evident in
the way he debated the men from the Synagogue of Freed Slaves. Even when the
boldness led to lies and accusation about what he was claiming, Stephen continued to
courageously proclaim the Gospel message. Stephen’s boldness was also evident in his
presentation before the High Priests. Facing leaders of the Sanhedrin, he did not back
down or temper his message. He fearlessly connected the stories of the Old Testament to
the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Stephen is listed as a man of wisdom (Acts 6:3). Biblically wisdom carries with it the idea
of skill (Exodus 28:3). It is the skill and ability to make excellent choices in life so that
these choices honor God and benefit others. As a man of wisdom, Stephen’s life
demonstrated that wisdom. It is tempting to think of Stephen’s wisdom in terms of
knowledge due to the command he had of the Scriptures. However, it is more than just
knowledge that is evident in Stephen’s life. He has the skill to use that knowledge in a
way that persuasively communicates the Gospel and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
D. Spirit empowered ministry
Stephen is empowered by the spirit to minister in the early church. This ministry
involved caring for widows, teaching, leading with wisdom, and performing signs and
wonders. It would be easy to mistake Stephen’s success with human skills and abilities.
However, this fails to account for the fact that Stephen was “full of the Spirit” (Acts 6:3).
Consequently, Stephen’s ministry bears the marks of one whose life is full of and led by
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the Spirit. This impacted how he handled things like the task of caring for widows or the
task of proclaiming Christ to the high priest.
E. “Full of…”
Acts 6:3, 6:5, and 6:8 describe Stephen as being “full of” certainly qualities. In Acts 6:3 he
is described as being “full of the Spirit and wisdom.” In Acts 6:5 he is described as being
“full of faith and the Holy Spirit.” Finally, in Acts 6:8 Stephen is described as being “full
of God’s grace and power.” These three sets of “full of” descriptions paint the picture of a
person whose life was maximally full of faith, grace, power, wisdom, and the Holy Spirit.
He was not a 50/50 person. He was “all in” as a follower of God, In this commitment we
see a follower of God who is described as being “full” of faith, grace, power, wisdom, and
the Holy Spirit.
Step Seven: Ask, “How does this character’s life reflect other truths found in the Scriptures?”
List and explain 3 truths from this person’s life that fit within the entire Bible. Your
explanation must note how these truths fit the framework of God’s Word.
A. Followes of God are concern for the overlooked.
Stephen’s ministry involved concern for those who were being overlooked.
Specifically, the selection of the seven is tied to a controversy between the Greekspeaking followers of Christ and the Hebrew-speaking followers of Christ over the
care of their widows. It was the role of the seven to make sure that regardless of
nationality, no followers of Christ were properly looked after. This is a common
theme in the prophetic literature. Both the Major and Minor Prophets speak of care
for the widows, orphans, and the oppressed. As such passages like Isaiah 1:23, 10:1-2
and Jeremiah 7:4-16 point out how Israel had failed to keep the same priority that
God has in His care for the widows, the orphans, and the poor. Later on James would
highlight the importance of this type of care for the overlooked as “pure and genuine
religion in the sight of God” (James 1:27).
B. Followers of God can expect persecution and trials
The Old Testament and New Testament are full of example of people who suffered
because they followed God. This is evident in the persection of the Israelites in Egypt.
In the ministry of the prophets like Elijah, Elisha, and Jeremiah. Jesus Christ prepares
his disciples to face persecution in John 15. The early church is filled with examples
of persecution. Stephen is but one example of this. Later on, Paul would also list his
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numerous trials and persecutions. These include things like beatings, stonings, and
shipwrecks (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).
C. Followers of God should be people of forgiveness
Stephen, like Jesus exampled what it means to be a person of forgiveness. Yet, these
are not the only two examples of this kind of forgiveness in Scripture. David
demonstrated continual forgivenss of King Saul as he was being pursued by Israel’s
leader. On two occasions he had the opportunity to take Saul’s life but he refused to
return the evil that Saul was conspiring against him with his own evil actions. Instead
of killing Saul, David spared his life. The story of the prophet Hosea is another story
of forgiveness. Further this story was used as an illustration to demonstrate the depth
of forgiveness God has for his unfaithful followers.
Step Eight: Ask, “How does this character’s life point me to Jesus?” List and explain 3 ways
the life of your character can point to the person and work of Jesus Christ.
A. Like Jesus, Stephen was falsely accused by men who saught his destruction.
Jesus said in John 15:20-21, “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than
his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my
teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my
name, for they do not know the one who sent me.” We see these words of Jesus
fulfilled in the life of Stephen. He was persecuted in the same way Jesus was.
Stephen’s teaching was rejected just as Jesus’ teaching was rejected. As Jesus, declares,
followers of Jesus like Stephen will be persecuted on account of the rejection of God.
B. Like Jesus, Stephen demonstrated love and concern for his accusers and
At his crucifixion, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they
are doing” (Luke 23:34). At his stoning, Stephen fell to his knees and shouted, “Lord,
don’t charge them with this sin” (Acts 7:60)! In Stephen’s death, he models the kind
of forgiveness and mercy that Christ exampled in His death.
C. Like Jesus, Stephen understood the history of the Israelites (or the Old
Testament Scriptures) in light of Jesus Christ.
In Luke 24:13-35, the resurrected Jesus Christ meets two disciples who do not
recognize him. Jesus begins to have a conversation with these two men about recent
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events as they related to his death and resurrection. Yet, these men still do not know
that they are travelling with Jesus. Luke writes of this encounter, “Then Jesus took
them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the
Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Jesus interpreted the Old
Testament with an understanding that it pointed to and revealed himself. Similarly, in
his speech to the High Priests, Stephen walks through the Old Testament or the
history of Israel and reveals how it points to Jesus Christ. Both Jesus and Stephen
understood the Old Testament in the same manner.
Step Nine: What points of application can be made using the Four Common Questions? List
and explain 1 point of application for each of the Four Common Questions.
A. The question of duty
Stephen was instructed to “wait on tables.” This duty was ministering to others so that
that widows who were getting overlooked would not be treated inequitably. Thus, he
had a duty to bring justice to those who were being neglected. Stephen also taught
and perfomed miracles. In these activities he performed the duty of proclaiming the
good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As Christians, we must be about both of these
duties as well. We should be people who persue justice for those who are overlooked,
oppressed, and mistreated. Christians also ought to be people who regularly speak the
Gospel through their actions and words. This is a duty that must be fulfilled even if it
costs us our life, as it did Stephen.
B. The question of character
Stephen’s character is clearly on display in these passages in Acts. One reason he is
selected for service is because of the obvious character qualities he possesses. Second,
his character is evidences in his unflinching ability to boldy proclaim the message of
the Gospel in front of people who were opposed to him. Third, rather than pray for
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vengeance of God as he was being killed by his oppressors, Stephen asks God that he
forgive those who are murdering him. Christians should also display this type of
character. Their godly character should be evident to all, they should have the kind of
character that will stand up for the message of the Gospel despite opposition, and they
should be gracefully forgiving even in the most dire of circumstances.
C. The question of cause
Stephen’s life was …
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