Acts 10 atozmomm

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 7, Day 3: Acts 10

Summary Acts 10:

A Roman Centurion (a very important man whom all Jews resented and despised) named Cornelius was living in Caesarea.  He was God-fearing and gave generously to the poor.  One day he had a vision of the angel of God.  The angel told Cornelius to send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter, which he did.

Peter had a vision that same day of a large sheet being let down from heaven with all kinds of four-footed animals, reptiles, and birds on it.  A voice told Peter to kill and eat these animals.

Peter freaked out.  He couldn’t possibly eat anything unclean (as the laws for centuries have been).  The voice corrected him, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

While Peter was pondering this vision, Cornelius’ men arrived and the voice said to go with these men, which he did.

The next day when Peter arrived, Cornelius had invited all of his relatives and close friends to hear what Peter had to say.  Peter reminds everyone it is against Jewish law for Jews to associate with Gentiles but God has said otherwise through this vision.

Cornelius repeats his vision to Peter.  Peter finally understands his dream:  God now accepts every man into His kingdom; the Jews are no longer singled out as God’s chosen people.  With Jesus’ death, everyone is eligible for Salvation.

Peter explains how God chose people to be witnesses to Jesus’ death and resurrection and to preach to the people and testify that God is the one and only judge of the living and the dead.

The Holy Spirit then came upon all who were listening, much to the astonishment of the Jews present with Peter.  Then they were baptized.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 7, Day 3: Acts 10

6) He was a devout, God-fearing man and gave generously to those in need. He was respected by all the Jewish people. He prayed to God regularly.  He was a strong man, authoritative, and loyal to be a Roman Centurion (commander in the Roman army).  He must have been respected, admired, and a good leader.  He obeyed God and yearned to know Him more.

7a) God told Peter to get up and kill and eat, which is against Jewish law. Peter’s objection was just that — that these animals were impure and unclean so he couldn’t possibly eat or kill them. God told Peter not to call anything impure that He has made clean.

b) God confirmed His words by having Peter sent for by Cornelius and taken to Cornelius’ house.

8 ) Personal Question. My answer: Jesus’s death. All barriers.

Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 7, Day 3: Acts 10

Profound passage as Peter finally realizes that all people are made clean through the blood of Jesus Christ. Now all will be preached to.

End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 7, Day 3: Acts 10

Caesarea was a predominately Roman city on the shores of the Mediterranean in Judea. It was the headquarters of the Roman governor of the province of Judea. Archaeologists have discovered a stone from a building in Caesarea inscribed with the name Pontus Pilate.

Who Was Cornelius?

  • Cornelius was an officer in the Roman Army. A Jew of that day would naturally dislike or even hate him.
  • Cornelius was a God-fearer. These were Gentiles who loved the God of Israel; they were sympathetic to and supportive of the Jewish faith. Yet they stopped short of becoming full Jews in lifestyle and in circumcision. Jewish people of that time respected and appreciated these God-fearing Gentiles, but they could not really share their life and homes and food with them, because they were still in fact Gentiles and not full Jewish converts.
  • Cornelius gave generously to the poor, prayed often, sought God, and obeyed. How many of us can say the same?

It is significant that God spoke to Cornelius directly, even calling him by name. It is also significant that Cornelius responded with a healthy fear of the heavenly and holy (he was afraid). This shows that Cornelius had a real relationship with God.

Angels have limited abilities. They are primarily messengers. Note that an angel came to Cornelius to deliver a message, not convert him.

Typically, this is how God operates. He speaks to several people about a matter, not just one. Then confirmation is provided, and out of the mouth of two or three witnesses a word is established.

map of caesarea and joppa atozmomm

Fun Fact:  It is rare in the Bible for God to speak in an audible voice.

Peter had a bad habit of telling Jesus “no” (Matthew 16:22John 13:8). Compare Peter’s response to God (Not so, Lord!) with Cornelius’ response to God (What is it, Lord?). On that day, it seemed that Cornelius was more responsive to God than Peter was.

God repeated this vision three times. Peter was to regard this as important.

When the vision ended, Peter did not have it all figured out. That came in time. And so it is with us.

Previously, in Acts 10:13 and 10:15, it was simply said that a voice spoke to Peter. Now, we are told that the Spirit spoke to Peter. This was God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, speaking to Peter.

At this point, God has not told Peter that his visitors were Gentiles. Normally, a godly Jew like Peter would not associate in this manner with Gentiles. Knowing this, and knowing Peter’s previous resistance (Not so, Lord!), God simply surprised Peter with the knowledge that these men were Gentiles.

The idea that God could send and use Gentiles was entirely new to Peter. God was expanding Peter’s mind and heart.

Peter didn’t just coldly give these Gentiles visitors a room; he entertained them as welcomed guests, and he did this against every custom of the Jewish people of that day. No orthodox Jew would have invited Gentiles into his house. He would not have sat down at the same table with them. He would not have had fellowship with them. It was forbidden.

God flooded Peter’s heart with an understanding that though the Old Testament said God’s people were not to become like their pagan neighbors, it also said God wanted His people to become a light to their neighbors who didn’t know the true God.

“Centuries ago another Jew had come to Joppa with a solemn message from his God, which he was commissioned to bear far hence to the Gentiles. Jonah, the prophet, took a ship from Joppa and refused obedience to the divine call.” (Gaebelein)

Significantly, whenever in the Bible worship is offered to men or to angels (as in Revelation 19:10), it is refused. But Jesus received such worship freely (Matthew 8:29:1814:3315:2528:9). This proves that Jesus is more than a man, and greater than any angel (Luke 4:8).

Acts 10:38 atozmommConversion of Paul

Peter actually entered the house of a Gentile, something that Jewish customs and traditions strictly prohibited. By entering a Gentile’s home, Peter showed that his heart and mind had changed, and that he had learned the lesson of the vision of the great sheet.

“The principle subject of this chapter is not so much the conversion of Cornelius as the conversion of Peter.” (Stott)

Cornelius was not a Christian in the sense that he was not yet regenerated or born again, yet in this case God heard his prayers and remembered his generosity to others.

This is the foundation for Peter’s understanding that the gospel should now go forth to Gentiles. This statement goes completely against the prevailing Jewish thought at that time that God certainly did show partiality, towards the Jews and against the Gentiles. In essence, many Jews of Peter’s day thought that God loved the Jews while hating the Gentiles.

The Prejudice Against Gentiles

According to William Barclay, it was common for a Jewish man to begin the day with a prayer thanking God that he was not a slave, a Gentile, or a woman. A basic part of the Jewish religion in the days of the New Testament was an oath that promised that one would never help a Gentile under any circumstances, such as giving directions if they were asked. But it went even as far as refusing to help a Gentile woman at the time of her greatest need – when she was giving birth – because the result would only be to bring another Gentile into the world.

If a Jew married a Gentile, the Jewish community would have a funeral for the Jew and consider them dead. It was thought that to even enter the house of a Gentile made a Jew unclean before God.

Christianity was the first religion to disregard racial, cultural and national limitations.

When the Jews showed this kind of partiality they were not being faithful to God’s heart as revealed in the Old Testament. The idea that God shows no partiality is also stated in Deuteronomy 10:17 and 2 Chronicles 19:7For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe (Deuteronomy 10:17).

Notably, Peter’s preaching to the Gentiles was essentially the same as his preaching to the Jews. He presented the person and work of Jesus Christ, with an emphasis on the resurrection of Jesus and our responsibility before God in light of these things.

Peter didn’t have one sermon for one group and another sermon for another. All people needed to be saved by coming to a living faith in a living Jesus Christ.

Peter’s sermon was a wonderful (if brief and perhaps condensed by Luke) explanation of the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth:

  • Jesus was baptized to identify with humanity.
  • Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power.
  • Jesus was crucified.
  • Jesus was raised from the dead, resurrected in view of many witnesses.
  • Jesus commanded His followers to preach the message of who He is and what He did.

The moment of a person’s salvation isn’t necessarily when they raise a hand or come forward at an evangelistic invitation. It is more likely at the moment they surrender to God and embrace with trust Jesus in the sincerity of their hearts.

Peter allowed the Holy Spirit to interrupt his sermon. The Holy Spirit was doing the greater work in the hearts of those listening, and Peter went with the flow. He stopped and called for their baptism.

Acts 10 summary atozmomm

The First Gentile Converts to Christianity

These were likely not the first Gentiles to trust in Jesus and be born again. Gentiles had probably received salvation in the eight years since Pentecost (Acts 2). But those Gentiles were saved as they embraced Judaism as well as Christianity. Gentiles may have received salvation before this, but they were saved as Jews, not as Gentiles.

Their filling with the Holy Spirit was accompanied by the demonstration of spiritual gifts. This was a filling with the Holy Spirit in two senses: First, in the sense that He indwells and abides in every believer; second, in the sense of a special empowering with gifts and graces from the Holy Spirit.

This was unique. It was not common in the Book of Acts or in subsequent Christian experience for those who were not previously converted (born again) to instantly be born again and receive such evident spiritual gifts. Yet it was good and even necessary on this occasion, to show that they received the exact same Spirit, the exact same blessing as the apostles and first followers of Jesus did on the morning of Pentecost (Acts 2).

God would fill Gentiles with the Holy Spirit in the same manner and degree as the Jews.

God loved and blessed the Gentiles just as He loved and blessed the Jews, and He did it while they were still Gentiles.

The Old Testament looked for the day when a light would shine in the darkness of the Gentile world: Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. (Isaiah 60:1-3)

God promised Abraham and his descendants that the blessing that came through him would extend to all nations (Genesis 12:1-4). Here, we see Jesus – the greatest blessing from Abraham – extended to the nations.

Remember Jesus’ promise of other sheep, not of this fold in John 10:16. Jesus also promised, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself (John 12:32).

The first Gentile Jesus dealt with in His public ministry was a Roman centurion from Capernaum. When Jesus healed that centurion’s servant, He declared that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 8:5-13).

Acts 9

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 5: Acts 9:19b-30

Summary of 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.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 5: Acts 9:19b-30

12a) After Saul’s conversion, he started preaching the word, angering the Jews (the non-believers) living in Damascus. They just didn’t believe a man so full of hatred could do an about-face. So after many days, they conspired to kill him.

b) The disciples were afraid of Saul, not believing that he was really a disciple. Barnabas took Saul to the disciples and vouched for him. Only then was Saul allowed to stay. Still the people wanted to kill him.

13) Part personal Question. My answer: They in essence his Paul. They too him to Caesarea and then sent him to Tarsus. We can protect fellow believers in the same way, sheltering them from people and other things when they need it the most. The Galatians passage BSF had us readin 2011 explains this further (Galatians 1:11-24).  Saul 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).

14) To increase their faith and strengthen them.

Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 5: Acts 9:19b-30

Last go-around, we read this passage along with Galatians 1:11-24. The extra readings we did back then just gives us a fuller picture of what actually happened. Too bad most of these have been omitted thus far in an effort to save people time when studying God’s word.

End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 5: Acts 9:19b-30

Lessons From Saul’s Conversion

  • At its core, salvation is something God does in us. What we do is only a response to His work in us.
  • God finds some who, by all appearance, are not looking for Him at all. Seeing how God reached Saul encourages us to believe that God can reach the people in our life that we think are very far from Him. We often give up on some people and think they will never come to Jesus; but the example of Saul shows God can reach anyone.
  • God looks for people to cooperate in the conversion of others, even when they are not really necessary, except as a demonstration of the importance of the family of God.
  • It isn’t enough that we be broken before God, though that is necessary. God wants to only use brokenness as a prelude to filling.

At the Jewish synagogue, the custom was that any able Jewish man could speak from the Scriptures at synagogue meetings.

To be called the “son of” something meant in Jesus’ time that you were totally identified with that thing or person, and their identity was your identity. When Jesus called Himself the Son of God, and when others called Him that, it was understood as a clear claim to His deity.

In fact, on two occasions when Jesus called Himself the Son of God, He was accused of blasphemy, of calling Himself God (John 5:17-18Matthew 26:63-65). Everybody knew what Jesus meant in calling Himself Son of God, and everyone knew what Saul meant when he preached that Jesus is the Son of God.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

When you are newly converted, you still understand the way people who don’t yet know Jesus think.

timeline acts 9

Saul, an expert in the Old Testament, could easily see how Jesus was the Messiah promised in the Hebrew Scriptures.

In Galatians 1:13-18, Paul explained more about what happened during these many days. He described how he went to Arabia for a period of time, and then returned to Damascus. After his return to Damascus, he went to Jerusalem. Paul spent a total of three years in Damascus and Arabia (Galatians 1:18); truly these were many days.

In 2 Corinthians 11:32-33, Paul refered to this incident and mentions it happened under Aretas the king. This means that this escape from Damascus happened between A.D. 37 and 39. So, taking into account the three years mentioned in Galatians 1:18, and that this incident happened at the end of those three years, we can surmise that Paul was converted sometime between A.D. 34 and 36.

“It was the beginning of many escapes for Paul, and sometimes he didn’t quite escape. Sometimes they caught him, imprisoned him, beat him. He did indeed have to suffer many things for Jesus’ sake.” (Boice)

Paul made a point of the limited nature of his time with the apostles in Jerusalem to show clearly that he did not receive his gospel from the other apostles. Though he was no doubt blessed and benefited from that time, he received his message by direct revelation from Jesus on the road to Damascus.

Somewhere between 8 and 12 years passed in the life of Saul before he again entered into prominent ministry, being sent out as a missionary from the church at Antioch.

map ancient tarsus paul's journey

Tarsus

Tarsus was one of the great cities of the ancient world, with an excellent harbor and a strategic placement at trade routes. It was especially known as an university city, being one of the three great educational cities of the Mediterranean world. “Strabo speaks of the Tarsian university as even surpassing, in some respects, those of Athens and Alexandria (Geography 14.5.13). It was especially important as a center of Stoic philosophy” (Williams)

The Book of Acts tells us nothing about the planting of churches in Galilee. We don’t know who started these churches, how they did it, or all the great works of God which took place in these young churches. This reminds us that Acts is only a partial history of God’s work during this period.

At the end of Acts 9:31, we reach an important historical crossroads in Acts and the events of the Roman Empire. In A.D. 37, Caiaphas was replaced as high priest, first by Jonathan, then by Theophilus. In the same year, Caligula succeeded Tiberius as Roman Emperor. Caligula was bitterly hostile against the Jews and was assassinated four years later.

Acts 8:36

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 3: Acts 8:9-40

Summary of Acts 8:9-40:

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.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 3: Acts 8:9-40

6) 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). He followed Philip everywhere and even was baptized in Jesus’ name. Simon then saw how Peter and John were laying hands on people and giving them the Holy Spirit. Simon was impressed, so he asked them to give him this ability as well. He offered to pay for it. This is the indication that he never believed; he was only following Jesus for what Jesus could give to him and not vice versa.

Thus, I think Simon merely professed, looking still for attention. He is full of greed, manipulation, and self-aggrandizement.

7) Persoanl Question. My answer: God knows everyone’s heart. Peter calls out Simon and his hypocrisy and Simon then is worried about what will happen to him. we need more people to call out hypocrisy when they see it. 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.

8a) 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) Personal Question. My answer: My desire is what it always is: to live out God’s truth every day of my life the best I can to my abilities.

Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 3: Acts 8:9-40

Last go around, we had to read all of Isaiah 53 along with this passage. In the study of Isaiah, one whole week was spent on Isaiah 53, which should tell you something of its importance. You can see Isaiah’s lessons here: Click herehere, and here.

2011’s Study of Acts is here for this passage HERE

End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 6, Day 3: Acts 8:9-40

Simon the Sorcerer

In the Bible sorcery is associated with occult, magical practices – and often with the taking of mind and mood altering drugs. Whatever real power Simon had, it was from Satan, not God.

i. The specific wording indicates that Simon was a magi. In the ancient world there was a class of astronomers and scientists known as magi (Matthew 2:1), but local wizards and sorcerers also took the title. They used it to prey on the ignorance and superstitions of the common people.

Up until Acts 8:13, there is nothing to indicate that Simon’s belief was false or insincere. Yet it will be tested by his conduct and response over time.

Often, the empowering and filling of the Holy Spirit is received as hands are laid on a person and prayer is offered for them (Acts 9:171 Timothy 4:142 Timothy 1:6). We should always be ready to receive whatever special graces and gifts God has to give us through the laying on of hands.

Simon the Sorcerer

Different Explanations for Why the Samaritans Had a Delay in the Holy Spirit

  • Some scholars say they were never truly born again (converted) under Philip’s preaching. When Peter and John came, they really trusted in Jesus and then received the Holy Spirit.
  • Some scholars say they were truly born again. Then, in a subsequent experience, they received the Holy Spirit in a pattern that believers should follow today.
  • Some scholars say they were converted in response to Philip’s preaching; yet God, in a unique move, withheld the gift of the Holy Spirit until Peter and John could bestow it on them. God’s purpose in this was to ensure continuity between the church in Jerusalem and the new church in Samaria, guarding against division.
  • Some scholars say they were really born again and did really receive the Holy Spirit at the time of conversion, but were given special gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit at the laying on of hands by Peter and John.
  • The best option seems to best explain what happened. Whatever the Samaritans experienced, it seems to have been more than the “regular” bestowal of the Holy Spirit at salvation. This is a filling of the Holy Spirit we should always desire and seek.

Fun Fact: Simony is the word for the sin of buying or selling church offices or privileges, because it is done in the same spirit as this Simon. This sin is sometimes practiced today; but more commonly people simply think that blessing follows money instead of money following blessing.

Simon’s Rebuke by Peter

Boice observed: “When Peter says, ‘You have no part or share in this ministry,’ it is interesting that he employs the same words Jesus used for him when Peter had objected to Jesus’ washing his feet in the Upper Room. Jesus said, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me’ (John 13:8). Strong words. Still Peter was not an unbeliever; he was just out of the will of God.” (Boice)

Without doubt, Simon was headed in the wrong direction, so he needed this rebuke. We don’t know what happened to Simon, as he disappears from Scripture. We won’t know until we get to heaven if Simon ever did believe or not.

 

map of christianity

Phillip and the Ethiopian

Ethiopia in ancient times was much larger than modern-day Ethiopia. It was the land where the Queen of Sheba came from, who saw the glory of Solomon’s kingdom and professed faith in the God of Israel. It’s possible that pieces of the Jewish faith were passed on through the centuries to men like this servant of the queen. Candace was the title for certain female royalty in Ethiopia.

We can’t say if the Ethiopian found God in his visit to Jerusalem, but he certainly found the Word of God – and reading the Word of God would lead him to God.

The Ethiopian was a rich man, a man of power, and at least in some way a celebrity. Yet Philip knew he needed Jesus just a much as anyone else. We should never fear speaking to those who are considered to be important people about Jesus.

We often shrink back from speaking boldly about Jesus, and the world lets us know we shouldn’t talk about such things. But the world does not hesitate to impose its own message on us. We should be just as bold to the world about Jesus as the world is bold to us about sin.

It was common in the ancient world to read aloud. Philip knew what the Ethiopian was reading by listening as he read.

God Grants Open Doors

Philip knew at that moment that God had given him an open door, a prepared heart. Plainly, God had arranged this meeting between Philip and the Ethiopian; this is a wonderful example of how God opens doors for evangelism. God directed Philip because God had already arranged an open door.

  • One of our greatest jobs in preaching the gospel is to simply pray for open doors. Then, having prayed for open doors, we must keep alert to the opportunities God presents.

Sometimes we all need guidance to understand the Bible.

road from jeruslaem to gaza acts 8

Isaiah 53

  • Some thought the suffering servant was the nation of Israel itself, as Israel had suffered greatly in wars, exile, and persecution.
  • Some thought the suffering servant was Isaiah writing about himself.
  • Some thought the suffering servant was the Messiah, but they found this hard to accept, because they didn’t want to think of the Messiah suffering.

We really can begin at any Bible passage and find where it leads to Jesus.

Too many preachers today focus on what we must do for God, but the gospel begins with and is founded upon what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.

This shows that Philip started preaching not only to Samaritan cities, but also the Gentile cities – such as Caesarea. This is the very beginning of the gospel’s spread to the end of the earth – as Jesus commanded in Acts 1:8.

Fun Fact: Philip is the only one in the New Testament specifically given the title, “The Evangelist” (Acts 21:8). Acts 21:8  as we end this passage with him in Caesarea, doing his work of evangelism.

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!

Rembrandt Stoning of Stephen

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 5, Day 5: Acts 7:54-60

Summary Acts 7:54-60:

Of course, the Sanhedrin weren’t happy with this attack, gnashing their teeth.  But Stephen looked up and saw the glory of God and Jesus at His right hand.  Appalled, the Sanhedrin attacked Stephen and stoned him to death. Stephen prayed for the Lord to forgive his attackers, while Saul looked on–something of profound significance coming up.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 5, Day 5: Acts 7:54-60

12) God showed Stephen His glory, as well as Jesus sitting at His right hand.

13a) He prayed that the people’s sin of stoning him would not be held against them. Jesus prayed the same thing while on the cross before he died. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

b) Personal Question. My answer: It’s difficult every day of my life when I’m a sinner, trying to do what Jesus would do in every situation and fighting against that and sin.

14) Personal Question. My answer: Even in death, Stephen is at peace. It gives me hope to one day have Stephen’s heart and to one day have Stephen’s peace.

Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 5, Day 5: Acts 7:54-60

The peace Stephen had at the end of his life while he is being stoned is what we all should strive for. To have others on your mind in the midst of terrible pain, agony, and anguish. To have a heart of Jesus when it’s so very difficult in this world.

Stephen was tried and executed because he upset the establishment. Yet, he died breathing forgiveness, giving us Paul as a result.

Going against the grain when led is what we are called to do as Christians. In today’s culture, this is harder than ever. Where do you stand?

End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 5, Day 5: Acts 7:54-60

The Sanhedrin were angry because Stephen was right. Instead of submitting to the Holy Spirit, admitting they were wrong and asking for forgiveness, they stoned Stephen instead.

Can you imagine grown men gnashing their teeth? The idea of gnashing at him with their teeth can’t help but remind us of the imagery of Hell. Seven different times, Jesus described Hell as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12). These men were prominent, successful, and appeared to be religious; yet they were rejecting God and associating themselves with hell, not heaven.

Jesus Standing

It is significant to note Jesus is standing here, as opposed to the more common description of Him sitting in heaven (Matthew 26:64Colossians 3:1), at the right hand of God the Father.

  • Jesus may have been standing in solidarity with Stephen at this moment of crisis. He does not react impassionately to the problems of His people.
  • Jesus may have been giving a standing ovation to Stephen, whose fate made him unique among believers. Among all the followers of Jesus, Stephen was the first martyr.
  • Jesus may have been standing to plead Stephen’s case before God the Father, assuring that though he was found guilty and punished on earth, he was found righteous and rewarded in heaven.

Jesus said, Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven (Matthew 10:32).

When Stephen declared that he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God, it was too much. The Sanhedrin reacted quickly, violently, and together. When Jesus, before this same body of men, declared that He would sit at the right hand of God, they had the same reaction and sealed his death as a blasphemer (Matthew 26:64-66).

death of believers

Stephen Stoned

“For Stephen to suggest that the crucified Jesus stood in a position of authority at the right hand of God must have ranked as blasphemy in the thinking of those who knew that a crucified man died under the divine curse.” (Bruce)

The reaction of the Sanhedrin seems extreme, but is typical of those who reject God and are lost in spiritual insanity

Ran at him: This uses the ancient Greek word hormao. This is the same word used to describe the mad rush of the herd of swine into the sea (Mark 5:13). This was an out-of-control mob rushing at Stephen.

The extent of their rage was shown by their execution of Stephen, which was done without regard for Roman law, and which was performed according to traditional Jewish custom (stoning).

Saul stood there as the supervisor of the operation. As a member of the Sanhedrin, he had also approved of Stephen’s execution.

Young man literally means, “a man in his prime.” It certainly does not mean that Saul wasn’t old enough to be a member of the Sanhedrin. In Acts 26:10, Paul says I cast my vote against them, and the plain implication was that he had a vote as a member of the Sanhedrin.

Stephen’s life ended in the same way it had been lived: In complete trust in God, believing that Jesus would take care of him in the life to come.

God heard Stephen’s prayer, and Paul is the evidence of it. We have no idea how greatly God can use us in our times of suffering.

Augustine said, “If Stephen had not prayed, the church would not have had Paul.”

Stephen displayed the same forgiving attitude that Jesus had on the cross (Luke 23:34). He asked God to forgive his accusers, and he made the promises loudly and publicly.

The text describes the passing of Stephen as tenderly as possible. Instead of saying simply that he died, it says that he merely fell asleep – with the idea that he woke up in a much better world.

  • If Stephen fell asleep, the church had to wake up.

Many have little idea of how greatly they can be used of God as they walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.

stubborn people