There is a theme of escalation in the opening chapters of Acts 1–7. Here are three examples that stand out clearly:
(1) Escalation in Arrests: Peter and John are arrested (4:3); all the apostles are arrested (5:18); all the apostles are rearrested (5:26)
(2) Persecution against the Apostles: the authorities arrest Peter and John (4:3), the authorities warn Peter and John (4:18, 21), the authorities oppose all the apostles (5:18), the authorities want to put them to death but do not (5:33), the authorities flog them (5:40), the authorities kill Stephen (7:57-58).
(3) The Response of “the People”: the people favor the apostles (2:47), the people’s favor pressure the authorities (4:21), the people highly regard the apostles (5:13), the people’s pressure keep the authorities from using force against the apostles (5:26), but the people turn against Stephen (6:12). In Acts 2, then, the people still favor the apostles. But by the time Stephen dies in Acts 7, the people have turned against him.
Through elements of escalation, Luke shows continuity between the stories in Acts, as well as the growing opposition against the gospel and its proponents. Escalation also presses to a climax, which comes in Acts 7 with the death of Stephen, the first recorded Christian martyr.