Review the Stoning of Stephen and the introduction of Saul.
Chapter 8 begins a new division in the book of Acts. Read Acts 1:8
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
The gospel now begins to move out of Jerusalem and into Judea and Samaria, just as Jesus had commanded. Chapters 8-12 are accounts of the Gospel in Judea and Samaria.
Read Acts 8:1-3 Saul persecutes the church and the church scatters
8:1 And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. 3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
The apostles remained in Jerusalem, but the “great persecution” that began with the stoning of Stephen emboldened men like Saul, who became the chief persecutor of the church. Read Philippians 3:6.
Read Acts 8:4-8 Philip preaches in Samaria
Saul’s persecution of the church did not hinder the church, rather it caused the believers to move out into other regions where they then preached the Gospel, just as Jesus had commanded. According to Acts 11:19, the Gospel was preached in Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch. Notice it says that Philip preached Christ. That is the Gospel, or the Good News; the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. The people received it “in one accord” and there was “much joy.”
Philip was one of the seven deacons appointed in chapter 6. He was able to perform miracles and signs and wonders. Only the leaders were able to do miracles. This was one way God confirmed that He was at work in their lives and ministry and that He gave their teachings authority. Once the New Testament was written, however, and the apostles teachings were recorded, miracles ceased. At that point, the Word of God became the authority, having been inspired by God, and then the true teacher or preacher of the Word of God’s authority was based on correct Biblical doctrine.
Read Acts 8:9-24 Simon the Magician
Vs. 9-11 Simon was a sorcerer. The people of Samaria knew who he was. He considered himself a “great one.” He must have been able to do great works, because the people (from the least to the greatest!) considered him “the great power of God.” Read vs. 11: Why did the people believe him?
Vs. 12-13 Philip preached the Gospel and many people believed and were baptized, including Simon the Magician. He followed Philip and watched the signs and miracles that Philip was performing in the power of the Holy Spirit, but Simon was did not really believe unto Salvation. He understood what Philip had preached, but it never reached his heart. He may have been simply following the crowd, or desiring to be friends with Philip and he desired to do the same miracles that Philip was doing. (We’ll see evidence of this in verses 18-19.)
On the outside, Simon looked like a real, true believer. He did a lot of the things that a true believer does. But it is possible to follow the crowd but not really put one’s faith in Jesus. It is good for us to consider our own faith. Read 2 Corinthians 13:5
Read vs. 14-17 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard there was a “move of the Spirit”, John and Peter came and laid hands on them to receive the Spirit, like they had on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.
Read vs. 18-19 Simon wanted to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit. He wanted to get rich with it, as he had done with his sorcery.
Read vs. 20-23 These verses prove that Simon was not converted (he was not a believer). Peter doesn’t let him get away with it. What does he tell him? How does he know? What must Simon the Magician do?
Read vs. 24 What is Simon’s response? Does he pray for forgiveness? Does he ask how to be saved?
Read vs. 25 The church is moving toward the uttermost ends of the earth! It started in Jerusalem, it will soon move into Antioch, Ephesus, and Rome and from there throughout the whole world!
Read Acts 8:25-40 Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch
In chapters 8, 9, and 10 we have three significant conversions. The first, in this chapter, is the Ethiopian Eunuch. Chapter Nine gives us the conversion of Saul (Paul) and Chapter Ten gives us the conversion of Cornelius. Each of these are significant to the early church. There are three things we will be looking for in each of these conversions:
1. The Power and Work of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8)
The Holy Spirit brought Philip from Jerusalem to Samaria and many were saved. Then He brought Philip to Gaza, where he meets the Ethiopian eunuch. The Spirit had prepared Philip to preach and the eunuch to believe.
2. The Preaching of the Gospel
Romans 10 tells us that faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Read Romans 10:9-17
3. A Preacher Romans 10 helps us to understand number 3. God has ordained preaching as a means to proclaim the Gospel—and that requires a person!
Read Acts 8:26-34
Samaria is north of Jerusalem; now the Spirit is telling Philip to go south, to Gaza. It is a desert land. He asks Philip to leave a place full of new believers and go where there are very few people. Philip obeys. He meets an official of the Queen of Egypt—and he is reading the Prophet Isaiah. He must have been a convert to Judaism because he was on his way to Jerusalem to worship. What does Philip ask him? Does the eunuch understand what he is reading?
The Ethiopian is reading from Isaiah 53. Read Isaiah 53:3-6
Of Whom is the passage from Isaiah referring? (That’s what the eunuch wants to know, too!)
Read vs. 35
Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.
This is an important concept. Philip began to preach the Gospel, the Good News about the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, with the verses the eunuch was reading. The whole Bible, Old Testament and New Testament, is about Jesus. We should strive to learn it and understand it so well that we can begin with any scripture and share the Gospel!
The Ethiopian believed and was baptized. Notice, that Philip asked him some questions! He wanted to be very sure that the eunuch believed with all his heart.
When the man was baptized, Philip was “caught away” by the Spirit and the man went on his way, rejoicing.
Philip went on to Caesarea, carrying the Gospel message with him. The Ethiopian returned to his home in Northern African and took the Gospel message with him! Acts 1:8 is moving into the World!
*These lessons are written for use with elementary aged students. You can find lessons for previous chapters here.