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Those who had been scattered preached the Word wherever they went.

~Acts 8:4

Lesson13-image001Materials Needed: Whiteboard or easel.

Notes to the Leader: In life, yourself or members of your group will have experiences difficult situations, painful experiences, trauma, loss and other not so pleasant happenings. Too often, the pat Christian answer is just that it must have been God’s will. Well, God does get His way but the story is just a little more complex. One element of hardship is to spread the Word of God. This study creates an opportunity to discuss hardships and how they have been and are used to spread the Kingdom of God.

Introduction

Have you ever wondered why God did not just let the Holy Spirit work in mankind to develop a hungry appetite for salvation instead of sending people out to evangelize?

  • The answer to this question cannot be found directly in Scripture. However, we have come to understand that much of God’s plans are carried out with the aid of mankind because the effort itself is beneficial to us.

Do you think that the early Christian missionaries were pleased to leave their families and travel far from home?

  • While there were no doubt Spirit-empowered people who felt a strong call to evangelize, most early Christians were not so anxious to become missionaries. Some were called but many were pushed or even chased into the mission field.

How was God’s plan served through the persecution of the early church?

  • As people fled in fear, they were driven to all corners of the Mediterranean and effectively spread the Gospel message.

Section One: Saul, the Persecutor

Read Acts 7:58; 8:1 to the group.

Saul (the apostle Paul), was not only approving of the persecutions, he was a participant. There are several possible reasons for Saul’s actions:

  • He may have been a member of the Sanhedrin.
  • He may have acted as the herald, to announce the convicted person was about to be executed.
  • Other thoughts indicate that Saul may have been a student and attended as part of his education.

Have someone in your group read Acts 20:4-5 and Acts 8:3.

What was Saul trying to do through his actions?

  • He was trying to destroy the church. Saul wanted those he persecuted to give up there new found faith in Christ.

Where did Saul attack?

  • The homes of families in which it held meetings (Acts 5:42). Men and women were jailed with many of them put to their death (Acts 22:4).

Note: The Greek translation for Saul’s actions was lumainomai, to “destroy” like a wild boar ravaging a vineyard. Saul’s actions were specifically targeted at the Grecian Christians (Stephen’s nationality), who had an effective ministry.

What does this tell us about our enemy Satan?

  • He has been granted certain powers here on earth.
  • His methods are ruthless and he goes directly into the home and family.
  • He goes after those who are effective.
  • Use this opportunity to have your group create a list on your whiteboard or easel.

What is happening today in our society with regard to the family?

  • Divorce
  • Abortion
  • Drugs, alcohol, abuse, etc.
  • Lack of morality

This should be an easy list to build. You may want to have the front page of your Sunday Edition news paper handy. Just read on. Satan gets good press coverage.

Read Acts 8:2 to the group.

  • The Jewish Law prescribed burial for executed criminals, but strictly prohibited the public display of grief. In spite of the risk, devout men staged a public protest by having open deep mourning.

Section Two: The Early Church Spreads Anyway

Have someone in your group read Acts 8:4.

What evidence do you see that tells you that the early Christians had experienced a renewal of the Spirit and their needs had been met by the church?

  • Their willingness to share the Gospel message in spite of the dangers.
  • The early church had been about seven to eight years old at this time. People were getting comfortable about their faith.

Is there danger in becoming too comfortable in your Christian life?

  • God wants His message spread throughout the world. While he wants people to become comfortable with their faith (it has been given to us through grace), He does not ever want us to become complacent with the message in the Gospel.

Have someone in your group read Acts 8:5-8.

What were the elements of Philip’s mission trip?

  • Miracles and healing
  • Proclaiming Christ

How would you apply these to the Church’s missions today?

  • All of our activities must be balanced in both charity (handling the needs of people) and proclaiming Christ as Savior. To do one without the other is not mission.

Have someone in your group read Acts 8:9-13.

What do you find significant in these verses? Why would they be given to us as part of the New Testament?

  • God is most interested in those who we would write off. Why?
  • Because they become very effective in His ministry.

How would Simon’s conversion affected the people of Samaria?

  • Added to the belief that all sins are forgiven through Christ and that all are welcome.

Have someone in your group read Acts 8:14-17.

There are three very unique facts that we are given in this Scripture. Can you find the facts?

  • The apostle’s prayer for the Samaritans to receive the Spirit (v. 15).
  • Mentioned nowhere else in Acts
  • The lapse of time between initial faith and receiving the Spirit (v. 16).
  • Mentioned in only two other places (Acts 9:17; 19:6).
  • The link between laying hands on of hands and receiving the Spirit (v. 17).

What does this tell us about the Holy Spirit?

  • The Holy Spirit adapts His activities to the uniqueness of the persons involved, their spiritual history and situations, and His plans for the church.
  • The Spirit’s work is not limited by human preconceptions, expectations, or doctrinal deductions. He works any way He chooses.

Have someone in your group read Acts 8:18-24.

Was Simon a phony?

  • We are not given enough to answer that question. However, this is what Simon didn’t get right:
  • Simon had a flawed concept of grace. He thought he could buy God’s favor.
  • Simon failed to grasp the difference between magical or occult powers by which he gained influence and the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit. He had unholy motives.
  • Simon saw ministry in the Spirit as a means for personal profit.

What was missing from Simon’s conversion?

  • He had unconfessed sin (v. 22).
  • He needed to be forgiven (v. 22).
  • He was full of spiritual poison (v. 23).
  • He was still in spiritual bondage (v. 23).

What current events in your life, the lives of your group or your church might parallel this story in Acts?

  • One could view any loss as God’s refocusing of His people upon His work.

Bible Truth Being Taught

God uses persecution and discomfort to release His people from being comfortable and get them to work on His priorities.

Our Response

To recognize discomfort and pressure as opportunities to mature and refocus our life on what God is calling us to do.

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