Acts 8:1-40 Comments by Stephen Ricker
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The Gospel Seed Scattered
Comments for Study 10

Acts 8:1-40
Memory Verse: 4


I. The Gospel Seed Scattered (1-8)

>1. Who was Saul? (1a)

"And Saul was there, giving approval to his death." -Acts 8:1a

* "Saul" -a growing leader in Jerusalem amongst the Jews, a Pharisee. (22:3, Phil. 3:4-6)) He was in his late twenties or early thirties. He studied under Gamaliel who was a very prominent Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin. Paul was a Jew born in Greece. His mother was a Jew and father a Greek. He was a Roman citizen. (16:37) Paul was a very unique person. God had been working in his life although he didn't know the true God. He was a devout Jew and loved the Jewish way of life, history, and culture. He must have known of Jesus, but had not accepted his teachings.

* "giving approval of his death" -Saul must have heard of all the teachings of the apostles for they taught in the temple in Jerusalem every day where he often would most likely go to pray too. Yet he did not believe what they taught. He was so against their teachings that he first approved of their execution, and later was a leader in persecuting believers in Jesus to the point of jail and death. Jesus told the disciples that a day would came when men would kill them believing they are doing a service to God. Paul was a main instrument of its fulfilment. Something I'm sure is in not proud of, and thanks God continually for his grace. Do you believe that you have done such a awful sin that God can not possibly forgive you? Whatever that sin may be it surely is not greater than Saul's sin, and he was not only forgiven but greatly used by God. (Rom. 8:39)

>What happened to the Christians in Judea? (1b-2)

"On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him." -Acts 8:1-2

* "On that day" -Stephen had gone to the synagogue that he had often gone to, made up of people who were from his home territory. He taught them about Jesus and God worked miracles through him. (6:8-10) They seized him and brought him before the Sanhedrin. (6:12-15) He was tried and killed. The same day the following events happen.

* "a great persecution" -This was not a small persecution as when the apostles were arrested. Persecute means to treat wrong, harass, oppress, annoy, and bother. As I write this a new great persecution is breakout out against the church all over the world, especially in the Middle East. The overthrow of governments has given people reason to kill believers in Jesus in the name of God, just as had happened in the apostles days.

* "the church at Jerusalem" -At this point the church was mainly, if not only in Jerusalem. This persecution was not like the previous ones that only included the apostles. This included all believers, no exceptions.

* "Jerusalem" -In this day and age Jerusalem was a city of all Jews. The Romans, including Herod, governed from the sea port of Caesarea, built by Herod the Great, to Jerusalem. The Romans only visited Jerusalem during the three main feasts for crowd control and to make a show of presence. The Jew's authority was confined to Jerusalem, and even there they were greatly limited to what the Roman's allowed them to do. Yet, since the Romans were not there at this time, the Jews could get away with what they were not doing.

* "all except the apostles" -Perhaps younger believers in Jesus ran out of town, but most likely the rest left at the apostles decision to send them and scatter them about. Perhaps at first the apostles did not see God's hand in this, but it did become apparent to them that this was God's doing.

* "throughout Judea and Samaria" -A one day travel out of Jerusalem. Since the Jews could have gone out of Jerusalem to get them, and apparently did not, it would seem that the apostles directed the church to scatter a days away, believing they could return to Jerusalem in a little while after things quieted down. Perhaps they believed considered that the Jews would keep the persecution, jailing, and murders within Jerusalem because they didn't want the Roman's to find out what they were doing. Surely if the Romans did know they would come to Jerusalem to "restore the Roman peace."

>Why do you think all the apostles stayed in Jerusalem?

* "the church at Jerusalem" -The world mission starting point was Jerusalem, the start of the spread of the gospel as Jesus foretold it would be. The scattering must not have been easy for the apostles. It took great faith to watch people leave. But they had learned from Jesus who laid down his life for the sheep. Jesus' parable taught about the shepherd who does not care for the sheep but runs away when trouble comes. This was planted in their hearts and so they stayed. (John 10:11-13)

* "Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him" -Perhaps new converts to the church because of Stephen's speech. Also there was a few more than just the apostles left in Jerusalem as verse 3 seems to indicate. The church in Jerusalem continued to grow after the persecution and many left. Some where in jail and perhaps eventually released. Of the seven thousand plus men of the church in Jerusalem, less than fifty remained in Jerusalem; the apostles, the old, those in jail, new converts, and some in hiding who could not accounted for right away.

>What was Saul trying to do? (3)

"But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison." -Acts 8:3

* "But Saul" -He must have been the leader.

* "began to destroy the church" -Totally get rid of the church.

* "going from house to house"- He might have also been looking for the apostles.

* "he dragged off men and women and put them in prison" -For the possible reasons for why there were some in Jerusalem besides the apostles see above. Also, it is possible that this means that Saul went to neighboring towns too.

* "men and women" -no distinction which was unusual in those days.

>2. In what ways was God using this persecution? (4)

"Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went." -Acts 8:4

* "preach the word wherever they went" -God's work was to scatter the gospel and salvation through Jesus, to establish more churches, and ultimately to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth.

* "Those who had been scattered" -When you and I are persecuted to we tell others about Jesus or do we back down and keep quiet so that we won't be persecuted again. Jesus said that if we are ashamed of his now, he will be ashamed of us before his father. (Mk. 8:38)

>What was the ministry of Philip? (5-7)

"Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed." -Acts 8:5-7

* "Philip" -He was one of the seven. (6:5) Philip who was one of the twelve stayed in Jerusalem. This Philip because a traveling evangelist, and perhaps could also be called a missionary.

* "went down to a city in Samaria" -The Jewish leaders avoided Samaria. Philip is used as an example of how those scattered proclaimed the gospel. Samaria's capital city had the same name, and some manuscripts say, "the city Samaria."

* "proclaimed the Christ there" -his main work was to teach the Bible and Jesus was the main focus of his teaching.

* "miraculous signs" -he had a healing ministry. God attested to his word with miracles.

* "all paid close attention to what he said" -This seems to indicate that they may have checked scriptures against what he said. Samaritans consisted of descendants of the ten tribes who were either the few who were not taken into exile or even fewer who came back from exile. John records that Jesus went through Samaria at least once (John 4) and the other gospel writers say Jesus sent disciples into Samaria during his Galilean ministry. (Luke 10) So the message may have not been new to some of them.

II. The Man Who Tried to Buy God's Gift (9-25)

>3. Who was Simon? (9-11)

"Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, "This man is the divine power known as the Great Power." They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic". -Acts 8:9-11

* "Simon" -In early Christian literature the "sorcerer" (Simon Magus) is described as the arch-heretic of the church and the "father" of Gnostic teaching. (NIV Study Bible)

* "practiced sorcery" -One who claimed to have supernatural power or knowledge. He often used magic potions and was considered to be in league with evil forces. The practice of sorcery was widely practiced in ancient times (Ex. 7:11) and was regarded as evil practice for Israel (Isa. 47:9, Mal. 3:5) (The New Compact Bible Dictionary)

* "He boasted that he was someone great" -For the sorcerer (wizard) the point is self glory.

* "the divine power known as the Great Power" -to be god or to uniquely have god's power.

* "They followed him" -Many became kinda cult followers and disciples.

* "Magic" -Magic does not give life. It is entertainment that often is just deception that may include slide of hand, chemicals, electrical and mechanical energy, and light. Some magic may include evil spirits deceptions.

>What made him interested in following Philip? (12-13)

"But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw." -Acts 8:12-13

* "when they believed" -The good news of the kingdom of God is so much liberating and exciting compared to anything else, even magic and sorcery. When the Spirit of God moves a heart that believers it is full of live. Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10) And "but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14)

* "preached the good news of the kingdom of God" -The disciples of Jesus follow Jesus actions and direction of preaching the gospel. The main character of the kingdom of God in this age is preaching to good news. I've written quit extensively on the meaning of "the kingdom of God" in the manuscript The Believer's Future - Hope that Inspires. Jesus is the good news of the kingdom of God.

* "the name of Jesus Christ" -Jesus is the source of life. He is the King who is just and protector. He is the Shepherd that laid down his life. He is the wisdom from above. He is eternal life. Jesus said, "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. (John 12:32-33)

* "they were baptized" -Baptism is an outward sign of an inward transformation and cleansing. Baptism itself has no power to change. when the Spirit of God comes over a person because they have believed, then the person is changed. Jesus said, "Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." (John 3:5-6)

* "Simon himself believed and was baptized" -When he saw Philip doing miracles he knew it had to be of God because he himself could not do what they did, nor any other magician or wizard. Yet his amazement was in the miracles. Throughout the Bible miracle faith is not sustaining faith (i.e. Israel in the desert, the feeding of the five thousand).

* "great signs and miracles" -Signs and miracles are life giving and life changing because they can turn a person to God and his glory and power. They are done for the work of God, the glory of God, and for God's people by faith and hope in him. If they glorify God only they is authentic.

>4. How did the Jerusalem Church respond to the work of God in Samaria? (14-17)

"When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit." -Acts 8:14-17

* "heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God" -Philip had contact with Jerusalem church, and so they knew what has happening in Samaria.

* "they sent Peter and John to them" -Their Mission journey purpose:
    1) church had to confirm the work of God in Samaria was God's
    2) to bless the Samaritan church.

* "that they might receive the Holy Spirit" -Why hadn't they received the Holy Spirit when all believer do? (Gal. 3:2,14) The history of Israel is important in answering this question. The divided Israel nation had hostilities for two thousand years. They were all from Jacob, but they split two and had been at each other throats so long that is was a way of life. The northern kingdom, Samaria, had even set up new places of worship at the spilt even though God said that it was evil. The new church of Jesus Christ could not be split as Israel had been. With the apostles, Jewish men from Jerusalem, coming to pray for and bless the new Samaritans. and their prayer was given testimony of the Holy Spirit, then the new church would not be divided.

* "Peter and John" -top leaders in the Jerusalem congregation (church). Jesus had chosen them to go with him up the mount of transfiguration and to be with him during prayer on the Mount of Olives. They were considered pillars of the church of Jerusalem. (Gal. 2:9)

>What did Simon try to do with the gift of God? (18-19)

"When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money and said, "Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." -Acts 8:18-19

* Simon was probably set to be a leader in the new Samaritan congregation.

* "whom I lay my hands" -selfish motives. He still loved attention, and perhaps missed it. His basic way of thinking had not changed since conversion.

>5. How did Peter rebuke Simon the sorcerer? (20-23)

"Peter answered: "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin." -Acts 8:20-23

* "You have no part or share in this ministry" -Peter was direct, truthful and hopeful. When Peter walked with Jesus at times Jesus rebuked Peter in the same way, (Matt. 16:23; 26:2,34)

* This is just speculation, but perhaps Philip might have pointed out Simon's problem but Simon didn't accept his words.

* Proverbs 9:7-9 states, "Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning."

>How is the power of the gospel revealed through Apostle Peter? (24-25)

"Then Simon answered, "Pray to the Lord for so that nothing you have said may happen to me." When they had testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages." -Acts 8:24-25

* "Pray to the Lord" -Simon accepted. He didn't argue.

* "testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord" -Jesus is the Lord. Peter and John taught Jesus' words to the Samaritans. Believing and receiving the Holy Spirit is just the beginning. Bible study must be a part of every believer in Jesus' daily life.

* "preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages" -Peter and John preached all the way back to Samaria. Perhaps they meet the Samaritan women and her village. (John 4)

III. Philip and the Ethiopian Church (26-40)

Philip and the Man in the Chariot

* This illustration now in public domain shows Philip talking to the Ethiopian man. Next to the man is his chariot driver. The elaborate chariot decoration shows his status. The Ethiopian is holding open a Bible scroll. The scene is when Philip asked him, "Do you understand what you are reading?"

>6. Where did the angel of God lead Philip? (26, 29)

"Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Go south to the road--the desert road--that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." -Acts 8:26

* "The Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it." -Acts 8:29

* "Go south" -God pulled Philip out of Samaria to the semi-desert region along the Mediterranean Sea. Often we do not know where God will send us next.

* "an angel of the Lord" -Angels have been the subject of many books and conversations throughout history. The Bible from beginning to end contains visitation and ministries of angels. There are fallen (evil) rebellious angles and the angels of the Lord. All Biblical references show the Lord's angels as servants, only doing the work of the Lord with no recognition and worship. The focus of any servant is not the servant, but the Lord of the servant. (Col. 2:18; Rev. 22:8-9)

* "Gaza" -Gaza is about fifty miles (200km) south west of Jerusalem, just off the Mediterranean Sea. It was one of the five chief Palestinian cities mentioned in the Old Testament within Judah.

* Jesus sent the angel. Jesus is working from heaven to expand his kingdom. The apostles preached in Jerusalem only because Jesus told them to. Philip went to Samaria only because Jesus allowed the persecution in Jerusalem. Jesus now sends the angle to tell Philip to go to Gaza. Jesus is working to make his church grow. The apostles did not organize this. The apostles only followed the Lord's leading. Has men since them believed that they are organizing and the cause of any growth and expansion of the gospel? Jesus taught, "But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (John 3:21)

>Whom did he meet on the road? (27-28)

"So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet." -Acts 8:27-28

* "Ethiopian" -The Bible terms everything south and west of Egypt as Ethiopia, settled by Cush. Job mentions it. Moses married and Ethiopian, as did Solomon. The word of the Lord had gone out of Israel to this nation throughout history. It is not surprising to see men from there confessing the name of the Lord and being called Jews.

* "eunuch, an important official" -He was a possession of the queen. He had a high social position, but he was not happy.

* "gone to Jerusalem to worship" -Jewish convert.

* "on his way home" -The main road from Jerusalem to Egypt and Ethiopia was through Gaza.

* He was not totally satisfied in Judaism as displayed with his question in verse 30.

* "sitting in his chariot" -The chariot was not moving, unless someone else was driving.

* "reading the book of Isaiah" -He wanted to know more. He studies the Bible. Jesus taught, "Seek and you will find." Psalms 14:2 states, "The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God." And Psalms 105:3-4 states, "Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always."

>7. How did Philip help the eunuch to come to know Christ the Suffering Servant? (30-35)

"Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked. "How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: "He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth." The eunuch asked Philip, "Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus." -Acts 8:30-35

* "Then Philip... do you" -One to one Bible study. Philip was personal and quick to witness.

* "How can anyone" -If the Lord Jesus does not reveal through the Spirit when reading or witnessed to the word of God is hidden from men. How many through history thought they understood, but rejected the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit? One is to many, and yet many have committed this one sin.

* "began with that very passage" -Philip began with that passage, and continued so that the eunuch was lead to Christ, the subject of Scripture.

* "the eunuch was reading from" -Philip was well trained in Bible study. He could personalize a Bible study to lead a person to Christ and repentance.

* "led like a sheep to the slaughter" -Jesus is the lamb of God who laid down his life for our salvation. (John 1:29-34; Heb. 9:26, 10:1-18)

>How did Philip help the man to commit to Christ? (36-38)

"As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?" And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him." -Acts 8:36-38

* "the eunuch said" -Philip did not, but the eunuch suggested that he wanted to be baptized as a Christian, not a Jewish convert any more. If new believers want to be baptized, then baptize them. But baptism is not necessary for salvation.

* "went down into the water" -suggesting full immersion Baptism. Jesus said after his resurrection, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matt. 28:18-20)

>8. How did Philip and the eunuch part ways? (39)

"When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing." -Acts 8:39

* "the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away... the eunuch did not see him again" -Philip planted the gospel and then was taken for it was God's will for this to happen. Sometimes we are to stay with those we lead to the Lord, but often the Lord leads them to other people. To many believers give themselves credit, honor, and glory which leads to control of others and puts themselves and those they claim to be in charge of in danger of hell. 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 states, "What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe--as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building."

>How did God continue to use Philip? (40)

"Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea." -Acts 8:40

* "Azotus" -Azotus is another name for Ashdod, ten miles (16km) north of Gaza and another of the five chief cites of Palestine a few miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea.

* "and traveled about" -We should preached the gospel always and anywhere the Lord sends us.

* "Caesarea" -Caesarea is about fifty miles (200km) north of Azotus, directly on the Mediterranean Sea. The Romans, including Herod, governed from the sea port of Caesarea, built by Herod the Great (25-13 B.C.) and named after Caesar Augustus, who gave his family power in Palestine.

>What do you learn from this passage about the characteristics of the early Christians?

* Witnessing and Bible study gets first priority.

* When we go to people tell them about Jesus, the good news of the kingdom of God.

* Well trained Bible teachers are a necessity.

* Spiritual relationship with other congregations (churches). Jerusalem didn't intervene in all the matters in Samaria, just with the leaders.

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