October 23, 2022 – Acts 8

Lesson Date: October 23, 2022

Focal Scripture Passage: Acts 8:1-40

AIM: To lead students to contrast the motivations and responses of Simon and the Ethiopian eunuch, and to commit themselves to spreading the Gospel regardless of whatever response or resistance they might encounter.

 

Before class: Read the notes on Acts 8 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book.

 

INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Tell the following story (or a similar one from your experience) to the class:

Pastor Bob was encouraging his church to give money to build a new building.  He announced that those who gave $5,000.00 or more to the building fund would have their names prominently displayed on a large plaque in the lobby of the new building.

Sam, a wealthy and influential church member, quickly wrote a check for $5,000.00.  “Pastor Bob, I want to show my support for the new building by giving you this check.  I’ll be proud to have my name on that plaque!”

Eunice, a retired widow, felt God’s leading to sell her late husband’s car and give the money to the building fund.  She told the Pastor what she had done, and gave him a check for $5,650.00.  Pastor Bob thanked Eunice and told her that he would be excited to have her name on the plaque.  “Pastor,” she replied,” I don’t want my name on a plaque; I’m just obeying God.  Please don’t tell anyone how much I gave.”

Ask: “What was Sam’s motivation for giving to the building fund?” (he wanted to be recognized and praised by other people).  Ask: “What was Eunice’s motivation for giving to the building fund?” (she was obeying God).

Tell the students that just as Sam and Eunice had different reasons for giving to the building fund, people have different reasons for coming to church and different responses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  In today’s lesson from Acts 8, we will learn about two men who had very different reasons for responding to the Gospel.  The title of today’s lesson is, A Tale of Two Men.

 

HEART OF THE LESSON (Bible Study):

  1. Review.
    • Remind the class that we are studying the New Testament book of Acts.
    • Ask: “What was last week’s lesson about?” (rejecting the Gospel; the preaching and martyrdom of Stephen).
    • Remind the students that Jesus told His disciples to take the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost part of the world; thus far, however, the disciples had taken the Gospel only to Jerusalem and Judea.
  2. Persecution Caused the Gospel to Spread.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Acts 8:1-4.
    • Explain the following:
      • Saul, who would later become the Apostle Paul, wholeheartedly approved of Stephen’s death (see also Acts 7:58).
      • Great persecution broke out against the church after Stephen’s death.
      • Many of the believers left Jerusalem and scattered throughout the nearby regions.
      • This marks the first time Christ’s followers took the Gospel beyond Judea.
    • Ask: “According to verse 3, what did Saul do?” (tried to destroy the church by arresting Christians and putting them in prison).
    • Ask: “According to verse 4, what did the Christians who fled from Jerusalem do?” (preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ everywhere they went).
    • Read Acts 8:5-8.
    • Tell the students that Philip was one of the seven men chosen in chapter 6 to see that the Grecian widows were not neglected.
    • Ask: “Where did Philip go and what did he do?” (he went to Samaria and preached to the people there about Jesus; locate Samaria on the Map).
    • Remind the students that most Jews avoided the half-breed and idol-worshipping Samaritans, but Jesus had gone to the region to speak to a woman at a well (John 4).
    • Ask: “What happened when Philip preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Samaria?” (many people were saved, many people were healed or delivered from demons, and there was great joy in the city).
    • Summarize: Persecution caused believers to scatter from Jerusalem, spreading the Gospel as they went. Philip preached in Samaria, where many people came to Christ.
  3. Simon, a Worldly Influencer.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Acts 8:9-11.
    • Ask: “What do these verses tell us about Simon?” (he was a sorcerer who bewitched the people of Samaria into believing that he had the power of God; he was very influential).
    • Ask a volunteer to read Acts 8:12-13.
    • Ask: “According to verse 12, how did the people of Samaria respond to Philip’s preaching about Jesus?” (they believed and were baptized).
    • Ask: “How do you think this impacted Simon’s power and influence over them?” (he lost his place of control and praise).
    • Ask: “According to verse 13, what did Simon do?” (he also believed and was baptized).
    • Ask: “According to the last part of verse 13, what was Simon most interested in?” (the miracles and signs that Philip was doing).
    • Read Acts 8:14-17.
    • Explain the following:
      • The Samaritans were the first group outside of Judaism to receive Christ.
      • Because of the natural animosity between Jews and Samaritans, it was essential that the Samaritans receive the Holy Spirit exactly as the believing Jews had, so they could be welcomed as full-fledged members of the church of Jesus Christ.
      • The apostles from Jerusalem needed to witness this miracle to fully comprehend the fact that salvation is available to everyone, not just Jews.
      • The Samaritans needed this experience to teach them that as believers, they were under the authority of the apostles.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Acts 8:18-19.
    • Ask: “What did Simon do?” (offered Peter and John money if they would give him the power to impart the Holy Spirit upon people by laying his hands on them).
    • Read Acts 8:20-25.
    • Ask: “How did Peter respond to Simon’s request?” (v. 20 – he rebuked Simon and rejected his money, v. 21 – he exposed Simon as an unsaved fake, v. 22 – he urged Simon to repent and ask for God’s forgiveness, and v. 23 – he called Simon out as an unredeemed sinner).
    • Ask: “What did Simon ask Peter in verse 24?” (to pray that he might be spared the punishment for his sin).
    • Tell the students the Bible doesn’t tell us if Simon ever truly repented and turned to Christ.
    • Ask: “According to verse 25, what did Peter and John do?” (preached the Word of the Lord and then returned to Jerusalem, preaching the Gospel in many Samaritan towns).
    • Summarize: Simon was a wicked man who used satanic power to influence people. He made a show of following Christ, but his true motivation was power and influence.
  4. The Eunuch, an Eager Inquirer.
    • Read Acts 8:26-29.
    • Ask: “According to verse 26, where did the angel tell Philip to go?” (southward to the road that leads to Gaza; locate Gaza on the Map).
    • Explain the following:
      • Philip encountered a man riding in a chariot or buggy.
      • The man was the treasurer of the queen of Ethiopia (south of Egypt, in east Africa).
      • The man was a Gentile who chose to worship the God of the Jews.
      • Since he was a eunuch, he could never fully be accepted into Judaism or even enter the Jewish parts of the Temple.
      • The Eunuch was returning from worship at the Temple in Jerusalem, reading the book of Isaiah as he traveled.
    • Ask: “According to verse 29, what did the Holy Spirit tell Philip to do?” (go near the chariot and talk to the eunuch).
    • Read Acts 8:30-35.
    • Tell the class that Philip expounded the scriptures about Jesus Christ to the man.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Acts 8:36-38.
    • Ask: “What did the eunuch ask Philip in verse 36?” (if he could be baptized).
    • Remind the students that the Jews would not accept a eunuch into Judaism; it was natural for the man to wonder if his disfigurement prohibited him from becoming a Christian.
    • Ask: “What did Philip say the eunuch must do?” (believe in Jesus with all his heart).
    • Tell the students the man believed and was baptized.
    • Read Acts 8:39-40.
    • Ask: “What happened to Philip?” (the Spirit caught him away and he preached the Gospel in all the cities northward up to and including Caesarea (locate Caesarea on the Map).
    • Ask: “What did the eunuch do?” (continued his journey home rejoicing, and undoubtedly carried the Gospel of Jesus Christ back to his fellow Ethiopians).
    • Summarize: The eunuch studied scripture and was eager to accept Christ as his Savior.

 

PERSONAL APPLICATION: Remind the students that the title of today’s lesson is A Tale of Two Men.  Tell them those two men were Simon the sorcerer and the Ethiopian eunuch.

Ask: “What motivated Simon to make an outward response to the Gospel?” (he feared losing his power and influence over the people; he wanted the respect and fear of the people).  Ask: “What motivated the Ethiopian eunuch to respond to the Gospel?” (he sincerely believed and wanted to follow Jesus).

Tell the students the two men in this chapter had vastly different responses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ: one was genuine while the other was fake, one was based on the Word of God while the other was only interested in a miraculous experience, and one was rebuked and rejected, while the other was filled with joy.  How people respond to the Gospel makes an eternity’s difference!

Tell the students there is a third man that is a pivotal figure in this chapter.  Ask: “Who is that man?” (Philip).  Tell the class the following facts about Philip:

  • Philip witnessed in Samaria, where many were saved.
  • Philip obediently witnessed to the eunuch, who eagerly believed and was baptized.
  • Philip preached the Gospel in all the cities from Azotus to Caesarea.
  • The last the Bible tells us about Philip is found in Acts 21:8-9: he was still living in Caesarea, he was known as “Philip the evangelist,” and he had four daughters who also proclaimed the Gospel.

Tell the students this lesson is actually about three men:

  • Simon, the worldly influencer,
  • The Ethiopian eunuch, the eager inquirer, and
  • Philip, the faithful witness.

Tell them we need to be more like Philip, who spread the Gospel to everyone he could, in spite of persecution or the response of those who heard him.  He followed the Lord’s leadership, witnessing to those to whom the Spirit directed him.

Urge the students to make a commitment to God to spread the Gospel regardless of whatever response or resistance they might encounter.  Lead a closing prayer, asking the Lord to direct them to people who need to hear the Gospel.

 

CONCLUSION: Offer to help your students fulfill their commitments, by going with them to witness to whomever the Lord puts on their hearts.

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