Acts 8 Bible Study
Who died and why?
Stephen, one of the seven deacons of the church in Jerusalem was stoned to death after delivering a riveting and stinging sermon to the Sanhedrin, thereby becoming the first Christian martyr.
What is peculiar about verse 2?
Why would "devout men" lament over Stephen? Shouldn't they
have rejoiced at his stellar sermon and courage? And why might Luke have
noted that "great lamentation" was made over Stephen?
Jewish law prohibited public mourning of any kind for a condemned criminal. By making "great lamentation" over Stephen's death, these devout men were publicly celebrating him, conveying that he was not a criminal but as righteous man, and also in effect protesting against those who killed him.
Who was Saul and how was he "consenting to his death"?
Saul was the "young man" who looked after the clothes of the mob while they stoned Stephen and thereafter "made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison."
What is meant by "every house"?
It could mean literally every single house that exists in Jerusalem, or it could mean every house that Saul suspected of having Christians or was even able to locate, or it could mean "every" in the figurative sense of him having been very vigorous in his endeavors, like saying a basketball player was "everywhere" on the basketball court during a game.
What do you think happened to these Christians in prison?
Read Acts 26:10: "This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them." So many of them were killed. S/Paul had blood on his hands. He was a murderer of Christians.
What does Paul say about that later on?
Read 1 Corinthians 15:9: "For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God."
Who among the Christians stayed in Jerusalem?
Why were the other Christians in Jerusalem "scattered"?
Saul might have thought at the time that they scattered to avoid persecution and some of the Christians who scattered might have thought that as well. But the spiritual reason is that they scattered for the Godly purpose of "preaching the word." (Acts 8:4) In fact, the original Greek word for "scattered" is diaspeiro, from which we get the English word, diaspora, and means “to sow throughout”, or "to disperse". So this is “scattering” as in scattering seed, not running away. Whenever a truly Christians church grows, Satan attacks, but God uses that persecution for His purposes, to spread the gospel to other parts of the world, as happened again when the later persecution in Europe spread the Gospel to North America. Satan trying to extinguish Jesus' work is like trying to extinguish an oil fire by throwing water on it - all it does is to spread the fire and make it bigger.
To what extent did Jesus foresee this scattering?
Read Acts 1:8. He didn't just foresee it; He commanded it.
Who is "Philip"?
Read Acts 6:5: Like Stephen, he is one of the seven deacons of the church in Jerusalem
Where is "Samaria"?
Samaria is the capital city of the province by the same name - Samaria - in the middle of Israel and where the Samaritans lived.
Where did Samaritans come from?
Read the Samaritan history in 2 Kings 17:1-41: "1 In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah, Hoshea the son of Elah became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned nine years. 2 And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, but not as the kings of Israel who were before him. 3 Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against him; and Hoshea became his vassal, and paid him tribute money. 4 And the king of Assyria uncovered a conspiracy by Hoshea; for he had sent messengers to So, king of Egypt, and brought no tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year. Therefore the king of Assyria shut him up, and bound him in prison. 5 Now the king of Assyria went throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria and besieged it for three years. 6 In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah [a city on the Tigris river (in modern Iraq) in eastern Assyria, about 600 miles east of Israel] and by the Habor, the River of Gozan [an area (in modern Turkey) about 500 miles northeast of Israel in northern Assyria], and in the cities of the Medes. 7 For so it was that the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and they had feared other gods, 8 and had walked in the statutes of the nations whom the Lord had cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made. 9 Also the children of Israel secretly did against the Lord their God things that were not right, and they built for themselves high places in all their cities, from watchtower to fortified city. 10 They set up for themselves sacred pillars and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree. 11 There they burned incense on all the high places, like the nations whom the Lord had carried away before them; and they did wicked things to provoke the Lord to anger, 12 for they served idols, of which the Lord had said to them, “You shall not do this thing.” 13 Yet the Lord testified against Israel and against Judah, by all of His prophets, every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets.” 14 Nevertheless they would not hear, but stiffened their necks, like the necks of their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord their God. 15 And they rejected His statutes and His covenant that He had made with their fathers, and His testimonies which He had testified against them; they followed idols, became idolaters, and went after the nations who were all around them, concerning whom the Lord had charged them that they should not do like them. 16 So they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, made for themselves a molded image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. 17 And they caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger. 18 Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone. 19 Also Judah did not keep the commandments of the Lord their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made. 20 And the Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel, afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them from His sight. 21 For He tore Israel from the house of David, and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. Then Jeroboam drove Israel from following the Lord, and made them commit a great sin. 22 For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them, 23 until the Lord removed Israel out of His sight, as He had said by all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away from their own land to Assyria, as it is to this day. 24 Then the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon [modern Iraq], Cuthah [Kurdistan or northwest Iran], Ava [a city on the Euphrates river in Iraq], Hamath [a city in Syria about 150 miles north of Israel], and from Sepharvaim [another city on the Euphrates in Iraq], and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel; and they took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its cities. 25 And it was so, at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they did not fear the Lord; therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them. 26 So they spoke to the king of Assyria, saying, “The nations whom you have removed and placed in the cities of Samaria do not know the rituals of the God of the land; therefore He has sent lions among them, and indeed, they are killing them because they do not know the rituals of the God of the land.” 27 Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, “Send there one of the priests whom you brought from there; let him go and dwell there, and let him teach them the rituals of the God of the land.” 28 Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the Lord. 29 However every nation continued to make gods of its own, and put them in the shrines on the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in the cities where they dwelt. 30 The men of Babylon made Succoth Benoth, the men of Cuth made Nergal, the men of Hamath made Ashima, 31 and the Avites made Nibhaz and Tartak; and the Sepharvites burned their children in fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim. 32 So they feared the Lord, and from every class they appointed for themselves priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places. 33 They feared the Lord, yet served their own gods - according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away. 34 To this day they continue practicing the former rituals; they do not fear the Lord, nor do they follow their statutes or their ordinances, or the law and commandment which the Lord had commanded the children of Jacob, whom He named Israel, 35 with whom the Lord had made a covenant and charged them, saying: “You shall not fear other gods, nor bow down to them nor serve them nor sacrifice to them; 36 but the Lord, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and an outstretched arm, Him you shall fear, Him you shall worship, and to Him you shall offer sacrifice. 37 And the statutes, the ordinances, the law, and the commandment which He wrote for you, you shall be careful to observe forever; you shall not fear other gods. 38 And the covenant that I have made with you, you shall not forget, nor shall you fear other gods. 39 But the Lord your God you shall fear; and He will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.” 40 However they did not obey, but they followed their former rituals. 41 S So these nations feared the Lord, yet served their carved images; also their children and their children’s children have continued doing as their fathers did, even to this day."
How much love was lost between the Samaritans and the Jews?
Very little, if any. The Jews despised the Samaritan ancestry, which stemmed from the pagan immigrants from Assyria intermarrying with the low-class Jews who had been left behind by Sargon II of Assyria who succeeded Shalmaneser during the three year siege of Samaria (the upper-class Jews were exiled as above). The Jews rejected the Samaritans as an unclean race, and the Samaritans in turn rejected the Jews. By the time of Acts, the Samaritans claimed God of Abraham and Jacob as theirs, but rejected the Hebrew Tanakh except for the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) and worshipped in their own temple built on Mount Gerizim.
What changed when the Gospel began to be shared in Samaria?
The love of Jesus flowed, healed and smothered racial differences. Even today, the love of Jesus still conquers even the strongest racial animosities (e.g., between Jewish and Arab Christians).
Is your church racially integrated? If not, why not?
To whom did the Samaritans attribute Simon's powers?
"God." (Acts 8:10)
Were they right?
No, he "practiced sorcery" (Acts 8:9), so his powers were demonic.
Why did they "heed" Simon? Why did they "believe" Philip and what does it affirm?
They had "heeded" Simon because he "astonished" them with supernatural signs, but they "believed" Philip for his message, "as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ." (Acts 8:12). And their belief affirms that the Gospel and the name of Jesus Christ overpowers even long-held demonic strongholds.
Could demonic powers be mistaken as Godly powers today?
Jesus warned in Matthew 24:24: "For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect."
How can demonic "signs" be distinguished from Godly signs?
While both signs are supernatural, they can be distinguished by what they point to. Supernatural signs that point to, honor, serve and glorify Jesus are Godly. Supernatural signs that point to, honor, serve or glorify anything or anyone else - pastors and Biblical personalities included - are not.
What objectives were achieved by Peter and John coming to Samaria?
At least four: (1) they prayed for the new converts to receive the Holy Spirit; (2) they rebuked Simon and kept him out of the ministry; (3) they preached "the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans" on their way back to Jerusalem; and (4) as the leaders among even the apostles, they returned with first-hand evidences with which to address any skepticism from Jewish Christian about God's grace being extended to the Samaritans, whom they despised.
How does Acts 8:16 compare with Acts 2:38: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ
for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit"?
In Acts 8:16 above, the new believers had been "baptized in the name of Jesus" but had yet to "receive the Holy Spirit" while in Acts 2:38, being "baptized in the name of Jesus" appears to have been followed by the "gift of the Holy Spirit." First, a subtle distinction should be made regarding the word translated "in" in these two verses. The original Greek word in Acts 2:38 is epi, which means “on" or "upon”, but in Acts 8:16 is eis, which means “to" or "into" in the sense of "indicating the point reached". So the phrase, "baptized in the name of Jesus" in Acts 2:38 indicates 'how' to be baptized ("in the name of Jesus"), while the phrase in Acts 8:16 indicates that the new believers had reached the point of being baptized.
When are the "gifts" of the Holy Spirit given in relation to when we become Christian?
Since we cannot even be drawn to God without the Holy Spirit working on us, His presence "on" us actually precedes our conversion. He takes up residence "in" us at the moment of conversion, and the giving of the "gift"(s) of the Holy Spirit, which both Acts 2:38 and Acts 8:16 (see Acts 8:20) deal with, can take place at any point thereafter.
But don't Acts 8:15 & 18 state that the people had yet to
receive the Holy Spirit even though they already "believed" (Acts 8:12)?
If we read just those passages, it leads to that conclusion, but the passage should be read to its end. Peter specifies in Acts 8:20 that what Simon wanted was the "gift of God". Since the Holy Spirit is God, this phrase could also read, "gift of the Holy Spirit". Moreover, Acts 8:18 states that the manifestation of the Holy Spirit was visible to the eye, which isn't the case for the conversion of the human heart upon the entrance of the Holy Spirit.
But wasn't the Holy Spirit visible as a dove when He descended on Jesus upon His baptism?
Yes, but it was for the unique purpose of identifying Jesus as the Son of God to John the Baptist: "And John bore witness, saying, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God." (John 1:32-34).
Why might the Lord have delayed the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Samaritans until Peter and John's arrival?
To have them return to Jerusalem and share with the skeptics the 'proof' that God had planted a church even among the despised Samaritans.
Was Simon a believer?
Acts 8:13 says, he "believed" and that he was even baptized, but the rest of the above passage qualifies his belief.
What are some of those 'qualifications' to his belief?
Peter told Simon to "perish" (Acts 8:20), that Simon had "wickedness" (Acts 8:22) but "neither part nor portion" with them (Acts 8:21), that his heart is "not right" with God (Acts 8:21) but "poisoned by bitterness and bound by inequity" (Acts 8:23). This is not the description of someone who had been born again through Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ. Someone who is bound by "inequity", which means "sin", isn't someone whose sins have been wiped clean by the blood of Jesus, so Simon was not a believer. According to historians, Simon later became an enemy of the church and died as one.
Then why does Acts 8:13 state that Simon "believed"?
For the same reason that James sarcastically chastises in James 2:19, "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe - and tremble!" The Greek word translated, 'believed" is pisteuo, which can mean "to think to be true" or "to trust" or "to have Christian faith". Both Simon and the demons thought it true that God is God, but they didn't have Christian faith - Jesus wasn't their personal Lord and Savior.
What does this passage indicate about baptism's power to save people?
What did Simon want?
The "power" (Acts 8:19) that he saw. Wanting the power of God or anything else "of God" but not Him is "wickedness".
What pre-requisite to properly serving the Lord is mentioned
in the above passage?
Read Acts 8:21: heart that is "right in the sight of God".
What does this mean?
Heart that is focused on glorifying God, not oneself or anyone else or anything else.
Is your heart "right in the sight of God"?
Is there anything "wicked" - believing things of God but not Him - about your belief in God?
How often does simony occur in your church, either overtly or covertly?
In which direction did Philip travel?
Samaria, where he was, is north of Jerusalem, while Gaza is southwest of Jerusalem, so he travelled in a south-southwesterly direction.
Where was "Ethiopia"?
The Greek word translated "Ethiopia" is Aithiops, which referred not to the modern nation of Ethiopia but to the ancient kingdom of Nubia, which stretched from the southern edge of modern Egypt to central Sudan (today). Therefore this Ethiopia was located in northern Sudan and to the northwest of the modern nation of Ethiopia.
Who was "Candace"?
"Candace" wasn't a person's name but the title given to the mother of the king, not unlike the "Pharaoh" for the Egyptian ruler. In Nubia/ancient Ethiopia, the job of managing the nation was given to the mother of the king, as it was considered too low a task for the king, who was thought to be the son of the sun.
Who was the "eunuch"?
In order to protect the king's harem in early royal courts, as well as to deter assassination of the king aimed at eventually benefitting the children of the assasin, men who served the king inside the palace were required to be emasculated. Over time, "eunuch" became synonymous with a high government official - the Treasury Secretary or Finance Minister in this case - so it is unclear if this political eunuch was also one biologically. But given that "he had come to Jerusalem to worship" (Acts 8:27) and the Law stated, "He who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the assembly of the LORD" (Deuteronomy 23:1) it is likely that the gentleman was still happily intact.
Was he a Jew?
No, he was a gentile so either a "God-fearer" or more likely a "proselyte". God-fearers were gentiles who believed in and feared the Hebrew God, sat and listened in synagogues but could not participate. Proselytes were former God-fearers who had been circumcised and bound themselves to keeping the Mosaic laws, and therefore could participate in the Passover and other Jewish celebrations.
Who told Philip to catch up to the eunuch?
The Holy Spirit.
How was Philip able to hear what the eunuch was reading?
In those days, all reading was customarily done aloud, even when alone.
Where in Isaiah was he reading?
What is the Biblical criteria for being baptized?
"If you believe with all your heart" (Acts 8:37) what the Bible teaches about Jesus, and as is evident from the phrase "with all your heart", the 'belief' here means "to have Christian faith", not simply "to think to be true" as discussed above.
What is the Biblical way to be baptized?
To go "down into the water" (Acts 8:38) and then to come "up out of the water" (Acts 8:39).
What might the eunuch have concluded about Philip?
Given the way he disappeared from his sight, possibly an angel.
What happened to Philip after Caesarea?
Read Acts 21:7-9 which is from about 20 years later: "And when we had finished our voyage from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, greeted the brethren, and stayed with them one day. On the next day we who were Paul’s companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied."
What happened to this eunuch?
According to Irenaeus, a second century church writer, he returned to his country and shared the Gospel. By the 4th century, Christianity became the country’s official religion.
How much 'organized' Bible training is required for one to end up evangelizing an entire nation?
How much Bible training have you received compared to this eunuch?