Acts 8

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 2: Acts 8:1-8

Summary of Acts 8:1-8:

On the day Stephen was executed, a persecution against the church began 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 joy was brought to that city because of Philip’s deeds.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 2: Acts 8:1-8

3) The opportunity to spread the Gospel. Philip, a Jew, would normally never have been near Samarians who were looked down upon for racial and religious reasons. Here, all are included in the Good News.

4) Because all Jews looked down upon the Samaritans for racial and religious reasons. Samaria used to be Jewish lands until the Assyrians resettled foreigners there when the Jews were exiled to Babylon. The Samarians did not worship God, or if they did, they intermixed their religions with the Jewish religion. Hence, they were seen as not equals in the eyes of the Jewish people.

5a) Personal Question. My answer: All things are possible with God, and the Gospel will reach all corners of the world and will breach every barrier of the heart.

b) Personal Question. My answer: Same. People are the same no matter where you go in the world. God will reach those whom He has chosen to believe, and we can help by telling others about Him.  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 BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 2: Acts 8:1-8

BSF last go around had this lesson as Lesson 4, Day 2. We were also required to read John 4:6-42 with Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman. You definitely need to read the 2 Kings passage and Jesus and the Samaritan to get the most out of this lesson.

End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 2: Acts 8:1-8

Persecution Begins

In Philippians 3:6, Paul said of his life before Jesus that he was so zealous in his religious faith that he persecuted the church. Saul’s supervision of the execution of Stephen was just one example of this persecution.

Consenting or approval describes Saul’s attitude, but the English translation probably isn’t strong enough. The idea behind the ancient Greek word suneudokeo is “to approve, to be pleased with.” Some people are reluctant persecutors, but Saul wasn’t one of these; he took pleasure in attacking Christians.

Saul of Tarsus – whom most of us know by his Roman name, Paul – later came to deeply regret this persecution of the church. He later wrote, For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God (1 Corinthians 15:9).

Acts 26:11 described what perhaps Paul regretted most: And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities. Paul may have suffered many sleepless nights thinking about those whom he compelled…to blaspheme.

Stephen’s death was only the beginning. The floodgates of persecution were now open against the Christians. Saul was only one of many persecutors of Christians.

Fun Fact: This was the first persecution of the Christians as a whole. Before, the apostles had been arrested and beaten and persecuted; here, every believer was threatened with violence and perhaps death.

The blood of the martyrs became the seed of the church.

Diaspora

According to Boice, there are two different words in the ancient Greek language for “scattered.” One has the idea of scattering in the sense of making something disappear, like scattering someone’s ashes. The other word has the idea of scattering in the sense of planting or sowing seeds. This is the ancient Greek word used here.

In Acts 1:8 Jesus clearly told His followers to look beyond Jerusalem and bring the gospel to Judea, Samaria, and the whole world. But Jesus’ followers had not done this.

Hence, some scholars believe this is why persecution happened. God can and will use pressing circumstances to guide us into His will. Sometimes we have to be shaken out of our comfortable state before we do what God wants us to do.

Since Jewish law prohibited open mourning for someone that had been executed, Luke’s record suggests that these devout men publicly repented of Stephen’s murder.

Destroy or wreck havoc is an ancient Greek word that could refer to an army destroying a city or a wild animal tearing at its meat. Saul viciously attacked Christians, including women.

The end result was for the glory of God, because the persecution simply served to spread the message. These “accidental missionaries” talked about Jesus wherever they went.

Most people don’t come to Jesus through a professional preacher or an evangelist; they come to Jesus through people just like us.

Philip

Like Stephen, he was one of the men chosen to serve the church family in practical ways when the dispute regarding Hellenist widows arose (Acts 6:5). He was one of those forced to flee persecution (Acts 8:1), ending up in Samaria.

File:Kingdoms of Israel and Judah map 830.svgSamaria

600 years before this, the Assyrians conquered this area of northern Israel and deported all the wealthy and middle-class Jews from the area. Then they moved in a pagan population from afar. These pagans intermarried with the lowest classes of remaining Jews in northern Israel, and from these people came the Samaritans.

The Jews of that day hated the Samaritans. They considered them compromising half-breeds who corrupted the worship of the true God.

James and John (and the other disciples as well) once thought that the Samaritans were only good for being burned by God’s judgment (Luke 9:51-56).

Jesus’ experience with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) and His story about the kindness of a Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) illustrate the natural tension between the Jews and Samaritans of that time.

MORE INFORMATION ON THE HISTORY OF THE SAMARITANS

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.  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.”

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.

Ancient Samaria and Central Israel

Note on the Map:  Sychar is next to Shechem where Jesus met with the woman at the well.

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

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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!