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 Romans Lesson 6, Day 5: Romans 3:31

Summary of passage:  Faith upholds the law.

Questions:

11)  We can only be righteous if we are cleansed of our sins.  Jesus cleanses us of our sins so that we can live in Spirit.  For all of this to occur, we have to believe Jesus died for us.  Simple faith.

12)  One word:  Sin.  Sin occurs.  That’s what goes wrong.  God is holy.  He cannot abide sin.  Thus, we cannot be saved if we spit in His face and continue to purposely sin.

13)  Personal Question.  My answer:  He prods me when I’m on the wrong path until I turn.  And then He keeps prodding and adjusting my radius.  He is doing this now.  I know because I’m restless again.  When I get restless, it’s God saying “Um, yeah, you are not quite there yet.”

We all have free will to obey or not.  This is a gift from God as well.  If we wear His armor, we will persist and obey.  If we turn from Him, we will Fall.

Conclusions:   Notice how all of these questions refer to other passages. I’ve been in a pretty pessimistic mood this week if you couldn’t tell by my answers.

End Notes:  Paul will explore this more in Romans 4 (next week) but the law predicted the saving grace of faith and Jesus. Jesus establishes the law.

Antinomianism (Greek for “anti” against and nomos “law”) was a word coined by Martin Luther during the Reformation when people questioned salvation.  It means those who think they don’t have to obey the Law if they have Jesus.  God’s grace discounts moral effort.  Like I explained before, God cannot abide sin.  Purposely sinning goes against everything God says.  A new life in Christ means death to old evil desires (Galatians 5:24).

BSF referenced Romans 8:31, one of my favorite all-time verses.  Here’s Chris Tomlin’s song (again, one of my favorites) that uses this verse repeatedly.  Enjoy!

Conclusions to Lesson 6:  So we covered a whopping 5 verses.  But we read a ton more out of the Bible than just these. Next week we pick up the pace.  As much as I don’t really enjoy these slower lessons, it does allow the verses to sink in, for those of us who are drowning in “busy” work to catch up, and to explore more in depth what God is telling each of us.

BSF Study Questions John Lesson 6, Day 5: John 4:43-54

Summary of passage:  Jesus departs Samaria after 2 days and heads for Galilee.  He was welcomed as the Galileans approved of what he did at Passover (turn over the money lenders’ tables) in Jerusalem.  He visited Cana again where he had turned the water into wine at the wedding feast.  He was approached by a royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum and was begged to heal him.

Jesus said unless the people see miraculous signs, they won’t believe.  Jesus healed the man’s son from a distance.  This was the second miraculous sign (the first being the water into wine at the wedding).

Questions:

10)  Jesus said unless he performs this miracle, the official will not believe.  He performed the miracle.  But the nobleman had to believe in Jesus’ words alone since the miracle was performed from afar.  True faith is taking Jesus at his word.

11)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Jesus answers prayer even if your faith is not perfect.  Pray always and ask him.  He is waiting to answer and to strength our faith in him.

12)  Personal Question.  My answer:  First, the man asked.  You can’t receive if you don’t ask (Matthew 7:7-8).  The official had faith enough to come to Jesus or was desperate enough.  Many a believer comes to Jesus desperate for him.  The man believed in Jesus’ ability to do it.  Jesus can do anything.  The miracle turned the man and his household into believers.  Miracles change lives.  Believe Jesus can handle anything you are facing.  Give it to him.  Let him do the rest.

Conclusions:  Great lesson on faith.  Great lesson on miracles happening.  Great lesson on Jesus caring for the people no matter who they are and deepening their faith no matter where they are on their walk with Him.

End Notes:  This is the 2nd sign of 7 we will study (remember from our study of Revelation that 7 is the number of completion).  The first is the water turning to wine at the wedding in chapter 2.

Because the people knew him and Galilee is where Jesus grew up, they did not honor him.  However, we can be in danger of not honoring Jesus as well, a false sense of familiarity.  They were interested only in his miracles.  In essence, they were rejecting Jesus the Savior here instead of welcoming him.

Scholars debate if “his own country” means Judea or Galilee.  A case can be made for both.  Other Gospels relate to Galilee (Matthew 13:57 and Mark 6:4).

All Jews traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast (Exodus 23:14-17) as dictated by Jewish law.

Jesus had made His home in Capernaum (Matthew 4:13 and John 2:12). Though Jesus was at Cana (John 4:46a), the nobleman travelled the 20 or so miles (32 kilometers) from Capernaum to Cana.  He was probably an officer of Herod Antipas (Jesus’ eventual killer).

Jesus rebuked those who depended on signs and wonders before they would believe.  The you is plural so in general all Galileans.  Signs and wonders can be a good thing, but they should not prove God to us.  They do not change the heart.  Just ask the Israelites who were wandering the desert before coming the Promised Land.  So many miracles God did daily (like manna) and still they worshipped a golden calf.

The nobleman’s plea was based on need–not status.  This is what Jesus wants-to fulfill our needs not our wants.

Had Jesus gone with the man, the man’s unbelief would still exist.  This miracle is just as much about strengthening the father’s faith as it is about healing the child.  God is amazing!

Fun Fact:  Of Jesus’ recorded miracles, only 2 were done over a distance. The other is fulfilling the Roman centurion’s request (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:2-10).  Note both are Gentiles and upper class.

Note there is no dramatic effects.  Jesus says simply, “Your son will live.”  No show or pomp.  That’s Jesus.

The nobleman believed before the evidence rolled in.  Exactly what we must do.

In faith, the nobleman walked home.  He did not run.  The nobleman’s faith was deepened by God’s power and personal experience of it.

In John the signs are given to lead the reader to faith (John 20:29-31). The relation between belief and signs is clear in John chapter 2 and chapter 4.

· The first sign persuaded His disciples

· The second sign persuaded a Jewish nobleman and his household

· The Samaritans believed without a sign

These first two signs take place at Cana of Galilee.  The first was a happy occasion–a wedding.  The second a horrible and tragic event–a dying child.  Jesus is there in both the ups and down of our lives.  Always and forever.

Map of Cana and Capernaum:

BSF Study Questions John Lesson 6, Day 4: John 4:39-42

Summary of passage:  Many Samaritans were converted due to the woman’s testimony at first and then because of Jesus himself.

Questions:

7)  Part personal Question.  My answer:  1) Because of the woman’s testimony.  2)  They came with an open heart and mind and listened.  3)  Because of Jesus’ words many more became believers.  Family and friends.

8 )  Part personal Question.  My answer:  John the Baptist testified to what he saw.  He told Andrew and John the Apostle to come and see and hear for themselves.  They did.  They believed.  Just like the Samaritans.  Come with an open heart and mind and God can do anything.

9a) Very similar.  Philip went to Samaria, proclaimed Christ, performed miraculous signs which got the people’s attention, believed and were baptized.  Same thing in this passage.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  As the days pass and trials and joys come and go, I think our faith grows as well.  My family’s has grown significantly.

Conclusions: Amazing how belief is entered into!  It’s a very simple process and has been since Abraham.  Someone testifies or encounters Jesus, they come with open hearts and minds, they listen and see miracles, and then they believe and commit their lives to Christ.  We must remember this as we’re inviting others to church and to events that have Jesus as the center.  It’s easy on our part.  God does the rest.

End Notes:  It’s important to note that Jesus loved the Samaritan woman despite everything she did.  He chose her to reveal the secret to eternal life!  Can you imagine?

It’s remarkable at this time in history that Jesus stayed two days with the Samaritans.  Samaria remember was a place to avoid by Jews at all cost and to enter and exit as quickly as possible.  That the people wanted a Jew to stay and that Jesus agreed broke all social bounds!  This shows just what an impression Jesus made on people.  Oh, to have been there!

Listening to Jesus deepened their faith.  We can do the same thing through reading the Word, praying, and listening for God to speak to us.

Note John records Jesus as the Savior of the world.  Jews, Samaritans, Gentiles, everyone!

BSF Study Questions John Lesson 6, Day 3: John 4:35-38

Summary of passage:  Jesus tells a parable to explain what he means by his food is doing the will of God and finishing his work.  Jesus’ disciples will reap the reward of his work:  eternal life.  The reaper works now for a harvest later when in truth his harvest is now since the work is the reward.

Questions:

5)  The harvest is all of the people the disciples are trying to reach to come to Jesus.  The reapers are the workers (disciples) for the harvest (people).  The harvest is now, not in 4 months.  Wages is the reward (eternal life).  Receptive hearts of the Samaritans are the fields and the crop.  The sower is Jesus in this case, spreading the gospel to the Samaritan woman who spread it further.

6)  Personal Question.  My answer:  God’s Kingdom is immediate.  We can have it now and not spend our entire lives waiting to get to heaven.  There is a heaven here on earth:  it’s with Jesus as the Holy Spirit inside of us.  If we listen close enough, the rewards are endless.

Conclusions:  A difficult proverb for us westerners today since most of us have never worked in a field before.  This ties in nicely with Lesson 1.  It is God’s work and grace, not ours, that we are saved.  We do none of the work.  It is all God.

End Notes:  The common amount of time from sowing the seeds until harvest is about 4 months.  The seed has already sprung up in the hearts of the people.  Traditionally, “ripe” is translated as “white”.  Grain seeds, when ripe, turn from green to a yellow to a white color, which indicates it’s time to harvest.

Scholars use this time frame to date this to the beginning of December since Christ has just come from Passover and flipping over the money lender’s tables.

1 Corinthians 3:6-9 uses a similar field analogy with the emphasis on God making things grow.

Growing together urges unity.  All share in the joy of the crop.

BSF Study Questions Revelation Lesson 6, Day 3: Revelation 3:11-13

Summary of passage:  Jesus is coming soon to never leave again.  Those who overcome shall have written upon him God’s name, the new Jerusalem, and Jesus’ new name.

Questions:

7a)  Part personal Question.  My answer:  Hold onto what you have.  Jesus and hope.

b)  Faith, righteousness, life (eternal), victory.

8 )  Part personal Question.  My answer:  He will make believers into pillars in the temple of my God.  Means God will reign here on earth (or in the temple of my God–in God’s kingdom if we die before the Second Coming).  Never again will he (us) leave it–meaning we will have eternal life, reigning forever with God either in heaven or here on earth.

I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.  Means all those saved will be marked with the Holy Spirit (God’s name), given a new name in Christ, and dwell in the New Jerusalem.

I will be a new person in Him and with Him always.

9)  Personal Question.  My answer:  God is in control.  He has it.  One day it will come to pass. I am His.  He is mine.  Even when the immediacy is slow and overbearing, I know in my heart I’ll have it one day.

Conclusions:  Personal Question day it seems.  I enjoyed the whole image of the pillar (see End Notes). It’s such an iconic image, which fits perfectly with Jesus.  I can only hope to stand as strong as a temple pillar.

End Notes:  “Soon” here means when it comes, it will be quick.  NOT it is coming in the immediate future.

Remember the ancient Romans and Greeks invented the pillar–the tall stone columns that support the building, mostly temples.  Every important building and temple had pillars.  Often when we see pictures of ancient ruins, what is the only thing still standing?  Pillars.  They symbolized strength, stability, and beauty.

Jesus here is saying, “Even when the world around you is crumbling, stand strong like a pillar. Stand with me.”

Philadelphia had a lot of earthquakes.  Often the people would flee the city and then come back to it once the tremors stopped.  We are to stand strong in the Lord and never flee.

Pillars were often inscribed in the ancient world much like plaques today.  It was a great honor and privilege.  The fact God would inscribe us is so beyond it’s insane.

Picture of Roman Temples with Pillars HERE and HERE

BSF Study Questions The Life of Moses Lesson 6, Day 3: Exodus 12:31-13:16

Summary of passage:  During the night Pharaoh finally told the Egyptians to leave as the Egyptians were afraid they would all die.  Pharaoh also asks to be blessed by God.  So they were given clothing, silver, and gold and journeyed on foot.  They numbered 600,000 men, along with the women, children, livestock, and others.  They were in Egypt for 430 years.

The Lord said no uncircumcised males may partake of the Passover.  It must be eaten inside with no bones broken.

Exodus 13:  God ordered every firstborn male be consecrated to him, including the animals (this would later be replaced with the Levites in Numbers).  This day must forever be commemorated with a festival and with no bread with leaven in it for the generations to come and is to be told to every generation and remembered.  Every firstborn and sacrifice will be a sign of this remembrance.

Questions:

5a)  It would devastate it.

b)  When He struck down all the firstborn in Egypt (Passover).

c)  Israel is God’s firstborn son.

d)  Personal Question.  My answer:  By following God’s purpose for my life.  Living a godly life.  Doing what Jesus would do.  Repenting.  Asking for forgiveness for others.  Praying.  Faith.

6)  “The Lord made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.”

7)  Non-Israelites did go with the Israelites (verse 38) and God had to make sure they believed in Him and accepted His sacrifice for their sins.  It’s just like taking communion or the Eucharist today.  It has meaning and you must accept Him in order to be cleansed just like with Jesus.

Conclusions:  Try not to gloss over this section although it’s easy to do especially after yesterday which was a doozy. It is repetitive, yes, of what happened in Exodus 12 but it’s important enough to be repeated.  Note the emphasis of how God keeps stressing over and over the importance of remembering this day and what it means to His people.  The importance of passing this on to the next generations.  The importance of obeying these ordinances forever.

We must remember the Passover in the OT is the equivalent of Jesus dying on the cross–it was that important.  It accomplished the same thing–cleansing us of our sins.  Hence, the importance of it in these passages.

I love how Pharaoh says “Go but bless me too!”.  It’s still about him, yes.  But we see he has finally accepted that God is the One, True God.  He learned the hard way.  I pray we don’t learn that way.

End Notes:  Pharaoh was finally broken when his son died.  God does whatever it takes for His will.  Always justly.

We see the importance of the unleavened bread for the Israelites had to leave NOW.

Succoth means shelters to this may not be the town of Succoth.  There was probably was an air of celebration after the haste and the people were probably over the moon.

The number 600,000 has been debated.  Some say this was about 2 million people in total who left Egypt.  Regardless, it was a lot of people to be moving all at once out of the country.

Note the magnitude of God:  to the exact day of 430 years did the Israelites leave.

If you were part of God’s people, you had to celebrate the Passover.  If you wanted in,  you had to be circumcised and celebrate Passover.

God also required the dedication of the firstborn to Him because God always requires our best and the firstborn was considered the best in Ancient Times.

Phylactery boxes began with these instructions of which priests corrupted back in Jesus’ day.  This passage is not meant to be literal.

This is the simpliest and easiest Map of Exodus I could find with Rameses and Succoth clearly marked:  http://dedicatedchristfollower.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/exodus-map.gif

Fun Fact:  “Out of Egypt” occurs 56 times from this passage in the Bible.  Important, wouldn’t you say?