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Lesson 16 Leader’s notes: Acts 8:1-40
Acts 8:1-4 Ask the ladies to find eight different happenings here.
1. Saul approved of the death sentence passed on Stephen.
2. Persecution of Christians followed.
3. Christians fled throughout Judea and Samaria.
4. The apostles stayed in Jerusalem.
5. Godly men buried Stephen.
6. Saul started a persecution.
7. Saul dragged Christians off to prison.
8. Those who had been scattered witnessed where they found themselves.
We begin to see the outworking of Jesus’ promise in Acts 1:8.
Persecution helped the believers obey God.
What was the basic problem with Simon the sorcerer?
He wanted power that secret knowledge would give him. This is called Gnosticism – from the Greek word ‘knosis’ = knowledge. Gnosticism was growing in New Testament times. Finding ‘secret’ knowledge was believed to be empowering, as we see from Simon. Gnostics also believed that the spiritual is superior to the physical, that matter is evil, and therefore Jesus being flesh cannot also be God.
(Gnosticism is pronounced nosti-sism)
Paul began to encounter Gnosticism and warned Timothy about it
in 1 Timothy 6:20 and again in 2 Timothy 1:13-14.
John, who wrote at least 30 years after Paul, is emphatic that
Jesus was God and Man, in John 1:1-2, 14; 1 John 1:1-4; 2 John 7.
Gnosticism is still alive and well today in many forms:
- in sects with Christian connotations like so called Christian Science,
- in ways of living that base on ‘the power of positive thinking’,
- Freemasons and other secret societies claiming allegiance to God.
Gnosticism says ‘come and join us, bring your faith with you. We will add it to our collection’! It gathers new ideas and wants Biblical Christianity plus other things.
Jesus did not say “I am the way, plus you need some other things”.
“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” John 14:6.
Lesson 16 Acts 8:1-40
Another first and it’s results - more firsts!
Acts 8:1-4 What do you learn from these verses?
Can you discover at least eight things?
1. Another little detail from Luke adding to our understanding of Saul/Paul.
2. Can you see God anywhere in what happened?
3. And the result? Christians in new places.
4. The apostles stayed in Jerusalem.
5. Stephen was respected greatly.
6. Saul ravaged the church like a wild beast.
7. Saul increased the prison population.
8. Christians continued to live out their faith wherever.
‘destroy’ in verse 3 is also used in other contexts of the ravages of wild animals.
Now compare Acts 1:8. What was God doing by all of the above?
Philip in Samaria (one of the seven deacons/administrators, Acts 6:5)
Can you find some more details in Acts 8:5-13?
8:5-8, 14-16 Philip preached in the city of Samaria.
Men and women believed and were baptised.
8:9-13 A dangerous distraction.
Sorcery involves evil spirits, black magic and witchcraft.
8:14-17 The church in Jerusalem heard what was happening and sent Peter and John to see. They prayed for the new
believers to receive the Holy Spirit.
8:18-19 Simon wanted this ability to give the Holy Spirit.
8:20-23 Peter told Simon he could not buy the ability to give
the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit and evil spirits do not co-exist.
8:24 Simon responded positively.
8:25 More preaching before returning to Jerusalem.
Philip down south on the Gaza Road Acts 8 continued.
Get the ladies to make short summary sentences for each reference, then share them.
verses 26-29 Very specific directions to Philip, leading to a prepared listener.
verses 30-35 Philip went from the reading of Isaiah 53:7-8 straight to Jesus.
verses 36-39 Philip baptised the eunuch – an important government official.
When I was in Sunday School this government official was known as the Ethiopian eunuch, but it is more likely that he was actually from the Nubian empire which the Old Testament calls Cush. This was between Aswan in southern Egypt and Khartoum in Sudan.
verse 40 God took Philip to where He wanted him next.
Philip is seen in Azotus.
He then travelled preaching until he got to Caesarea .
Caesarea. Rebuilt by Herod and named in honour of Caesar Augustus. It was the headquarters of the Roman procurator. Pilate did not live in Jerusalem; he lived in Caesarea and came only on special occasions to Jerusalem.
Ask the class to close their Bibles and their notes.
Invite them to speak out as many ‘firsts’ as they can think of from Acts chapters 1-8.
(You could divide into small groups of three or four and make a competition out of it.
Every group may write/compile their own list, rather than calling out aloud.
After five minutes compare the lists to see which group has remembered most).
Please read Acts 9:1-31 for next time
Philip down south on the Gaza Road Acts 8 continued
verses 26-29 What do we know about the man in the chariot?
verses 30-35 Who had organised this encounter between two men?
verses 36-39 How do we know that there was at least one other person in this
verse 40 How many towns did Philip preach in between Azotus and
We leave Philip here, and in Acts 21:8 we find him still there 20 years later.
Firsts so far in Acts!
First church growth
First sermon by Peter
First apostolic healing
First church discipline
First confrontation and arrest
First problem in the group of believers – leading to new/more leadership
First organised persecution
First mission to Samaria - Philip
First counterfeit attempt - trying to buy the power of the Holy Spirit
First confirmation/verification - Peter and John, sent by the church in Jerusalem,
picking up leadership responsibility to the check on new churches
First time Jesus’ Gospel goes to Africa? Philip meets the Finance Minister to
the Queen of Nubia/Cush, a God-fearing Gentile,
who believes, and following on is immediately baptised.