Stephen’s execution created an even more hostile environment in Jerusalem against the church. Nurtured in the protection of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem for several years, the church has now matured enough to burst forth to other lands, still in the protection and guidance of the Spirit. Believers are scattered, and rather than being intimidated and hushed up, they share the gospel message wherever they go—back to familiar homelands or to places unknown—faithful believers responding to the Holy Spirit’s guiding. When the Holy Spirit says, “Time to go!” we should respond by being both available and flexible.
You may have heard the phrase, “Bloom where you are planted.” For a believer, a more appropriate version would be, “Bloom where you are transplanted.” Women like to put down roots wherever they are and prefer not to move if given a choice. And, God may choose to leave you there. Or, He may choose to “transplant” you, possibly more than once. Faithful believers should consider themselves available to the Holy Spirit’s leading in their lives to go wherever, whenever, and be flexible enough to wait on His leading once there. When the Holy Spirit says, “Time to go!” the response should be to go on the adventure with Him, having no idea where you are heading and who will be there. Scary? You bet. But, we can trust our trustworthy God to strengthen us for the journey.
Read Acts 8:1-40 in one sitting to get the whole picture. As you do, read it selectively—looking for important information. Pray that God would open your heart to the truths He has for you from this text.
25. Discovering the Facts: Acts 7:58-8:3 have the first mention of Saul (Greek name, Paul). List the information you are given about Saul in these verses and the methods he used. See also Acts 22:3-5; 26:4-11 and Philippians 3:4-6.
Deeper Discoveries: Research the background of the Pharisees in your study notes, concordance, Bible dictionary, etc. From what you learn about the Pharisees, why do you think the Pharisee Saul (Paul) hated the Christians so much?
26. What was happening to the church? How did this affect the composition of the Jerusalem church? Why do you think the Apostles stayed in Jerusalem, and why do you think the Jewish leaders allowed them to remain there?
Think About It: Someone once said this section describes the “Christian’s Second Law of Thermodynamics” — the greater the heat, the great the expansion. How does that phrase fit what is happening?
Now Luke records the way God used another deacon, Philip, as an example of what He was doing all over Judea and Samaria through His “scattered” servants. The word “scattered” in Greek is used to refer to sowing seeds.
27. Who was Philip (see 6:5)? What was his message, and how did God authenticate it?
Historical Insight: Philip was a Grecian Jew and, therefore, more broadminded than Aramaic-speaking Jews in Israel (cf. 6:1). He went to the Samaritans who also had a more Hellenistic mindset. (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 372)
Deeper Discoveries: Who were the Samaritans in relationship to the Jews? Were they expecting a Messiah? Use a Bible dictionary, commentary, and/or internet search to get the information.
28. Jesus spent time with the Samaritans early in His ministry. Read John 4:39-42. (This occurred right after His encounter with the woman at the well.) How did they respond to Jesus? How do they respond this time to Philip’s ministry?
29. Share Your Life: Joy is evident throughout Acts, seen in 13 places (2:46-47; 5:41; 8:8, 39; 11:23; 12:14; 13:48, 52; 14:17; 15:3, 31; 16:34; 21:17). Joy is a deep, inner gladness—an attribute of God given to us by the Holy Spirit (John 15:11; Galatians 5:22). Describe someone you know whose life is characterized by the joy of the Lord. Is the joy of the Lord evident in your life? It can be. Ask Jesus today to give you His joy. Pray for those in your group to experience His joy as well.
30. When news of the faith of the Samaritans reached Jerusalem, what happened? Why do you think it was important for the Apostles to demonstrate officially that these “half-breed” Samaritans were true participants in the church? Why wasn’t Philip’s confirmation enough in this situation?
31. Since the “door” was now open to the Samaritans, what else did Peter and John do while in Samaria (v. 25)? Considering their historical prejudices against them, why the change?
32. Discovering the Facts: Briefly list the facts given about Simon in this passage. Describe him and his activities before Philip’s arrival. What did he think of himself? What did the people call him?
Scriptural Insight: Scholars differ as to whether Simon was actually a believer. Although he professed faith, it may have only been head knowledge much like the profession of the demons in Luke 4:34. This view is substantiated by Romans 10:9 which requires that a Christian “believe in your heart” and Acts 8:21 which reveals that Simon’s heart was not right before God. (Sue Edwards, Acts of the Holy Spirit, p. 21)
The adverb “perhaps” does not mean that God is reluctant to forgive sin. The question was whether Simon would repent of his heart’s intention. (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 374)
33. What was Simon’s response to the gospel? How did Peter confront him?
34. Based upon what Simon wanted to do, could he have really understood the “good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ?” Did he understand grace? Explain.
35. Discovering the Facts: In the midst of a very successful ministry, how did the Holy Spirit direct Philip (vv. 26-30)? What was Philip’s response?
36. Share Your Life: Faithful believers are available to the Holy Spirit’s leading in their lives. Philip had no idea where he was heading and who would be there. But, he followed instructions given him. When was the last time you responded to the Holy Spirit prompting you to be in a relationship with someone so you could share the gospel when opportunity arose? Was it hard to wait? Describe the experience.
37. Why was the Ethiopian eunuch in Israel? What was he reading? (Be specific.) What does this tell you about him?
Historical Insight: A eunuch is a man who has been castrated, especially one employed to guard the female living quarters in an oriental court.
38. Philip used what the Ethiopian already knew and expanded on that. Since he preached Jesus from the Old Testament, look up these other references and relate what they tell of Christ — Psalms 22:1, 11-18; Zechariah 9:9; and Micah 5:2.
39. Share Your Life: Philip was both available and flexible. He knew his message well enough to be able to start anywhere and lead to Jesus. We can also do that through the power of the Holy Spirit and His illumination of the scriptures in our minds as we study. If you found someone reading Isaiah 53 (or any other passage—pick one!), wanting to know more, how would you tell her about Jesus from there? Ask God to give you an opportunity, and be ready!
40. Once again, the Spirit directed Philip to a new place (vv.39-40). What did he do there? Does this surprise you? Why or why not?
Historical Insight: Philip reached Caesarea. There he seems to have settled down—at least, it is there that we find him when he makes his next appearance in the narrative, twenty years later (21:8). By that time he had become a family man, with four daughters, each one a prophetess—worthy children of such a father. (F. F. Bruce, The Book of the Acts, p. 179)
41. Share Your Life: Has the Lord moved you to a new place (or places)? How did you respond to the move(s)? What lesson can we learn from Philip’s faithfulness?
42. In Acts 1:8, what does Jesus tell the Apostles to do when they receive the Holy Spirit? Did the persecution mentioned in chapter 8 hinder God’s plan? List at least three observations in this chapter to support your answer.
43. Share Your Life: God used persecution in the first church to fulfill His plan. Where in modern history has the gospel spread in spite of resistance by human authorities? How does this affect your view of persecution and resistance? Are you regularly praying for the persecuted church in specific areas of the world to be empowered by the Spirit to boldly share the gospel and live for Christ? Visit for specific prayer needs and consider making this a priority in your prayer life.
Review the scripture passage covered in this lesson for evidences of the guidance and empowering of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. What will you ask God to do in your life?