BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 4, Day 5: Acts 9:19b-30 with Galatians 1:11-24

Summary of passages: Acts 9:19b-30:  Saul spent several days with disciples in Damascus. He began to preach about Jesus and all those who heard him were confused since Saul was known as a hater and persecutor of Christians.  So the Jews conspired to kill Saul but he slipped away in the dead of night.

When he did return to Jerusalem (after 3 years), he endeavored to join up with the disciples but they were afraid of him still.  It took Barnabas (an ordinary man) to take Saul and vouch for him, saying how he has preached so fearlessly in Jesus’s name, before he was accepted.  Saul spoke in Jerusalem for Jesus and with the Grecian Jews who again tried to kill him for his beliefs.  So he was sent off to Tarsus for his safety.

Galatians 1:11-24:  Pauls says he received the gospel from Jesus Christ.  He was a persecutor of Christians until God revealed His Son to him so that he could preach to the Gentiles.  He went straight to Arabia and later to Damascus after his conversion.  No one influenced his gospel except God himself.

After 3 years, he went to Jerusalem to see the apostle Peter.  He later went to Syria and Cilicia to preach.  The people there had heard he was a former persecutor of Christians but did not know him personally.  They praised God for him.

Questions:

13a) After Saul’s conversion, he started preaching the word, angering the Jews (the non-believers) living in Damascus.  So after many days, they conspired to kill him.  So Saul snuck out.  After this, he went into Arabia for three years before returning to Jerusalem to meet with Peter the disciple.

b) I think Paul needed to prove himself after all his time of persecuting Christians.  Actions speak louder than words.  We need to remember everyone knew Paul as a killer and persecutor of Christians.  He had an evil reputation and once you acquire a reputation it’s hard to get rid of it. Paul needed to do good deeds after so many bad deeds.  He had to establish credibility in order to be effective in converting others to the Lord Jesus.  This also helped to prove his message was from God himself and no others.

We need to live a Godly life and not just speak about one.

14)  He stayed with Peter for 15 days (Galatians 1:18).  He saw none of the other apostles–only James, the Lord’s brother (Galatians 1:19).  He fell into a trance while praying and the Lord warned him to leave Jerusalem immediately because his testimony would not be accepted (Acts 22:17-18).

Conclusions:  Good reminder that actions do speak louder than words and we are known for what we do.  We are called to do God’s work as well as to spread the Good News.  It’s easy to tell people about God.  It’s harder to show people God’s love and His ways.

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BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 4, Day 4: Acts 9:1-19a; 22:1-16; 26:9-19

Summary of passage:  Saul was persecuting the Lord’s disciples and all others who belonged to the Way, trying to imprison them or kill them.  As Saul neared Damascus, a light from haven flashed around him and he heard a voice (Jesus), asking why does he persecute him?  Jesus tells Saul to go to the city and he will be told what to do.

The others with him did not see anyone.  They lead Saul to Damascus because Saul had been blinded by the light.  In Damascus, the Lord called a disciple named Ananias to go to Saul and lay hands on him so that Saul may see again.

Ananias tells the Lord that Saul is a bad man (as if God didn’t know) and he might be arrested if he goes.  The Lord explains his purpose for Saul to Ananias, saying Saul is His chosen instrument to carry his name before the Gentiles.

So Ananias complies, healing Saul and filling him with the Holy Spirit.  Saul was baptized and regained his strength.

Questions:

9a) bright, the brilliance of the light had blinded Saul, brighter than the sun blazing around me

b) Paul’s companions did not understand the voice, the voice was in Aramaic

c) Jesus of Nazareth, go into Damascus, told all you have been assigned to do, in Acts 26, Paul says Jesus told him what the other accounts say God told Ananias.

d) Paul’s commanded to go to the Gentiles.  In Acts 9, all we learn is he was baptized.  In Acts 22, Ananias is telling Paul still his commission.  In Acts 26, Paul proclaims he was not disobedient to the vision from heaven

10a) Afterwards, Paul blinded followed Jesus, doing God’s will for his life.

b)  I have never seen the glory of Christ so not for sure what things have lost their brilliance.  If one is asking to list some things that have lost their brilliance after accepting Christ, that’s a different question.  For that question, I would answer lots of things and it’s different for everyone because we are all beaten down by life and the Devil so the fight takes some of our enthusiasm away at times.

Not sure what BSF is after here though.

Not for sure what has lost its appeal in my life either in 4 weeks (a bit premature and borderline presumptuous in my opinion).  This would be a better question to ask at the end of the study.

11) Paul was persecuting all the Lord’s disciples or followers of this Way and had wanted to imprison them in Jerusalem and hopefully kill them.

I’m definitely not persecuting anyone, hunting them down, calling for their imprisonment and death.  In this sense of comparison, compared to what Paul was doing to Christians, I do know I’m no where near such a thing.

Even if BSF is asking for small persecutions, I would say no.  Persecution is a very strong word (I submit a loaded word), meaning to harass in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict (Webster’s definition).

The closest I can come to what BSF is trying to get here is small issues that divide people and cause us not to associate with them due to beliefs.  But there’s usually more that plays into such decisions like if their beliefs are harmful to your children or tearing you down personally.

12)  Ananias questions the Lord’s call, mainly because he is afraid of dying.  But when God explains the importance of His request, Ananias obeys despite the fears he may harbor.

The same goes for us.  Despite our fears and our questions, we must follow God’s call on our life.

Conclusions:  I didn’t like this lesson at all.  I think this is the first time I’ve felt this way.  Trying to compare Paul’s life to ours is a bit of stretch in my opinion.  First, he lived an extraordinary life and lived in turbulent times; whereas, for most of us, we don’t.  We live in relatively peaceful times and most of us lead ordinary lives.

Second, Paul experienced things most of us haven’t like seeing the glory of God and persecuting others to the point of death.  I just can’t relate to these topics.  I haven’t seen the Glory of God (would like to but probably won’t until I die) and I definitely haven’t come close to persecuting anyone.

While I admire BSF for trying to bring lessons down to our level, here I think they went awry.  10b and 11 need to be more specific in the context.

While I think Question 9 and 12 are good, I was so focused on the others that these messages got lost in their importance.

I’m sure some of you won’t like my take on this lesson or my critique.  But this is how I see this from my perspective and I’m being honest with you all.

I’d love to hear your take on these questions.  Maybe I’m being too literal or I’m just missing the point altogether.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 4, Day 3: Acts 8:9-40 with Isaiah 53

Summary of passage:  A man named Simon had been practicing sorcery and amazing the people in Samaria.  He was boastful and loved the people’s attention.  They thought him divine.  But then Philip shows up, preaching the Good News, and performing real miracles.  So Simon follows Philip everywhere, trying to learn his secrets (not truly believing in miracles himself).

The apostles Peter and John traveled to Samaria to pray for the people to receive the Holy Spirit.  Simon, seeing this, offered to pay for the ability to give people the Holy Spirit as well.  Peter tells him to keep his money for his heart is wicked, to repent and pray for forgiveness.  Peter and John return to Jerusalem, stopping in many Samaritan towns along the way.

An angel tells Philip to follow the road to Gaza.  Along the way, he meets an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official to the Queen of Ethiopia.  He is reading the book of Isaiah.  Philip asks him if he understands and the eunuch said, “How can I unless someone explains it to me?”

He was reading Isaiah 53 where Isaiah is speaking about Jesus so Philip explained this to him.  Philip baptized the eunuch and the Spirit of the Lord whisked Philip away to Azotus where he continued preaching until he reached Caesarea.

Isaiah 53:  BSF Lesson 24 discussed Isaiah 53 in detail last year.  I have included the links to my posts for your convenience which includes the summaries.  We spent a whole week on this passage, which should indicate its importance.  Click here, here, and here.

Questions:

6a)  Simon had been practicing sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria.  He was boastful and loved the attention of the people.  The people said he had divine power and Simon was full of himself and pride.  But when Philip arrived and started doing real miracles, Simon jumped aboard the band wagon, eager to find out his secret.  He followed Philip everywhere and even was baptized in Jesus’ name.  But his true motives are revealed when he offers to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit so that he may begin to give the Holy Spirit himself.  He is full of greed, manipulation, and self-aggrandizement.

b)  One cannot deceive the Holy Spirit.  He knows your heart and your true motives.  Only those who are worthy will have the Holy Spirit within.  Those who are evil will not.  Simon was not struck down for his manipulation like Ananias and Sappira were but he was denied God’s gift.

7)  The Lord specifically put Philip on the path to Gaza in order to encounter the Ethiopian eunuch who was struggling to understand God’s word.  God saw this man’s heart and he was so important to Him (as we all are) that he sent Philip to him.  Philip baptized him so that he may have the Holy Spirit.  His soul was saved that day and God had wanted it.

Side Note:  I think Ananias a prime example of this in Acts 9 as well–an ordinary man used by God for His purposes.

On the other hand, Simon had an evil heart and God saw through his human manipulations and denied him the Spirit.

God will go out of his way to win you over to Him.

8a)  The passage is about Jesus as we analyzed in Isaiah Lesson 24 last year.  Jesus was all of those things that Isaiah describes:  pierced for our transgressions, despised and rejected by men, and crushed for our iniquities.  We, the sheep, had turned our own way so God laid on Jesus all of our sins.

b) Yes.

Conclusions: 1 Peter 2:24-5 sound eerily like Isaiah 53:4-6.

Great emphasis on how each of us is important in God’s eyes even if we’re not important in others’.  God loves us when we feel unloved and God cares when no one else does.  He goes out of His way to lead us even when we don’t see it.  God may send someone (such as Philip) to lead us in the right direction.

God is everywhere: in our pain and our sorrows, our miseries and our triumphs.  He’s in people. He’s even present in your dog when the only love you may feel is in his greeting every day.  (Sorry.  Had to throw that in there.  I just wrote a column of 900 words for this week on the beauty of dogs.  They are truly gifts from God and serve purposes to which most of us dog-lovers cannot even put into words.  Again, the infinite wisdom of God who gave Adam Eve and who gave all of us companion animals (also cats, birds, fish, etc)).

God will use whoever or whatever He needs to to get your heart.  We must remember that.

Maps:  When I found this map, I almost burst out of my chair!  For me, I’m a visual learner and I need to see where these people were standing when all these events occurred (hence the plethora of map links on my site).  I love the Internet for this very reason:  I can see things!

This map shows clearly Philip’s walk from Samaria to Gaza and then where Azotus lays and his return path to Caesarea.  Of course, we don’t know exactly where Philip met the Ethiopian on his journey but at least now I can visualize him walking which way!

http://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/CPn05Acts08.htm

Final thought:  My study Bible again points out that with the conversion of the Ethiopian, he became the first African convert to Christianity.  Philip is once again responsible for breaking the mold and showing others what is possible beyond the borders.

It’s hard for us to imagine a small world but Ancient Judea was definitely so.  People rarely traveled and led a simple life.  Life was hard and the main focus was on getting food to survive the next day for most people.  The mindset of these early evangelists was probably contained to the world they knew:  Judea.  The idea of converting other nations was probably very foreign to them and hard to grasp.

So in this mind-set it’s easy to understand how God just picked up Philip and placed him in Azotus and how God had to tell Philip where to go because Philip himself wouldn’t have thought to do so.

God knew the vastness of His world and His people but the people of those times did not.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 4, Day 2: Acts 8:1-8 & John 4:6-42

Summary of passages:  Acts 8:1-8  On the day Stephen was executed a persecution against the church so all the believers except the Apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.  Stephen was buried and Saul began a relentless drive to destroy the church.  Philip went to Samaria and began to preach the word there.  Great job was brought to that city because of Philip’s deeds.

John 4:6-42:  Jesus, tired from his travels, sits down at a well in the Samaritan town of Sychar. When a Samaritan woman comes to draw water, Jesus speaks to her.  Shocked, the woman asks why he is speaking to her since Jews do not associate with Samaritans.  Jesus explains everyone who drinks living water will never thirst again.  Indeed, the water will well up inside of you and lead to eternal life.

The woman accepts his offer.  Jesus tells her to go and get her husband.  She replies she had none.  Jesus tells her a time is coming where everyone will worship the Father in spirit and truth and not just at certain holy places.  He tells her he is the Messiah.

The woman runs back into town and fetches the people, telling them the Christ is here.  Meanwhile, Jesus tells his disciples his food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.  He also says they are reaping the hard work of others and will have eternal life.

So many Samaritans were converted that day and Jesus stayed 2 more days with them.

Questions:

3a)  Because of Stephen’s death all believers except the Apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria and they preached the word wherever they went (Verse 1 & 4)

b)  God has sent Assyria against the kingdom of Israel (Northern Kingdom) for their idol worship.  Assyria deports the Israelites to Assyria.  God’s reasons are listed in 2 Kings 7-23.  Then the King of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim to settle the former lands of the Israelites (Samaria).  They took over Samaria and lived in its towns.  They did not worship the Lord either.  This was a war strategy of the Assyrians. Mixing peoples up made it harder for them to re-group and rebel against them.

From all these mixed races of peoples the Assyrians imported to the land of Israel descends the Samaritans.  They looked different, spoke different, and held different beliefs.  They intermixed with the remaining Israelites.

As the rest of 2 Kings passage shows, they bring their religion mixed with the One, True God (verses 29-33).  They worshipped the Lord but also served their own gods as well.

The Jerusalem Jews (those living in Judah.  Israel had split into two countries, Israel and Judah, around 930 BC.  I am dating this time period where Sargon II King of the Assyrians invaded Israel around 722 BC) still remained relatively faithful to the One, True God with only a minimal amount of idolatry creeping in at this time.  Judah also did not experience the intermixing of races as they still adhered to God’s law of not marrying foreigners; hence staying relatively homogenous.

This is why God only punished Israel at this point in history but Judah’s time is coming.

4) Jesus himself had visited Samaria in his teachings as we see from the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:1-26.  In John 4:39-42 we also see how many Samaritans were converted from Jesus’ teachings.   He also told the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37.  And we know from the previous question that the Samaritans still worshipped the One, True God along with other gods so it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to convince them of the power and fortitude of the One, True God.  Also, the Jews remaining after the deportation intermarried the foreigners so they probably kept a portion of their heritage and worship culture intact.

So when Philip showed up and started performing miracles, the stage was set for him to reap the rewards from Jesus’ work.

This can be applied throughout the Bible and throughout time into today.  We reap what others have sown.  The Old Testament prepared the people of the New Testament to be saved.  Every small step has been planned by God for His purposes and we (and everyone after us) reap the benefits of this as we continue to plant seeds for the next generation.

1 Corinthians 3:6-8:  “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow…  The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose and each will be rewarded according to his labor.”

5a) Previously, they had only preached within Jerusalem but with Stephen’s death a new persecution broke out in Jerusalem so the believers were forced to scatter throughout Judea and Samaria.  Even though Jesus had commissioned them to preach everywhere (Acts 1:8), they had resisted due to prejudices.

The Jews and the Samaritans had a long history of despising one another (please see link in concluding notes). The Jews thought them the lowest of the low and unworthy to know the Good News.  James and John had once asked Jesus if he wanted them to call down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritans (Luke 9:54), which speaks to how little the Samaritans were thought of by the Jews.  I think the Samaritans would have been the last people on Earth the Jews would have converted.  So, God in His infinite wisdom made them because as we all know they were special in His eyes too.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Not let our prejudices stand in our way of telling those who otherwise would have no opportunity to hear about Jesus about him (such as homeless, poor, and minority sects).  Basically, speak in your community where God plants you.

Conclusions:  The beauty of BSF in action.  I had to start this day and leave off due to lack of time.  But I couldn’t stop thinking about Assyria and Israel.  So during the day I started researching–learning more and more–and filling my soul with each passing word.  Great stuff!

Awesome site with the history of the Samaritans here.  If you read nothing else, you gotta read this!

Question 5 made me wonder if the Jews were perhaps getting a little cocky and feeling quite special about being believers and the chosen ones to spread God’s word.  Well, God solved that problem, didn’t He!

Also, today’s lesson was a great opportunity to remember God’s infinite wisdom and how He had planned history throughout.  We are reapers of previous people’s sowing, which can be applied in many different ways:  spiritually, historically, etc.  America herself is a product of countless people’s sweat and toil–our ancestors hard-work.  We need to remember and be grateful for those that have come before us and continue to prepare those who will come after us.

Map of Israel and Judah, showing Samaria:  HERE

Note on the Map:  Sychar is next to Shechem where Jesus met with the woman at the well.  You can see it here at this map but it’s not as definitive as the one above.

Final thought:  My study Bible points out the fact that the conversion of the Samaritans is the first time non-Jews followed Jesus.  Awesome fact!