Acts 8:1-8

Sunday Morning Bible Study

November 9, 1997


There really shouldn’t be a break between chapter 7 and chapter 8. The story is really just continuing on after the stoning of Stephen.

(Acts 7:58-60 KJV) And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. {59} And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. {60} And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

:1-4 Persecution

:1 And Saul was consenting unto his death.

Keep in mind, this is the man who will one day be known as Paul, who will one day write most of our New Testament.

Consentingsuneudokeo – to be pleased together with; to applaud

Paul himself will admit that he acted this way –

Ac 22:20 And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.

We saw how Paul was most likely one of those who had debated Stephen, being from Cilicia, and had been one of those bested in debate by Stephen.

(Acts 6:10 KJV) And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.

It’s kind of a gruesome scene now, with Paul being overjoyed that this opponent of his is now being stoned to death.

:1 And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem

Paul tells in his own words, that Stephen wasn’t the only one who was put to death –

Ac 26:10 Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against [them].


Remember the persecuted church.

Back in 1960, 70% of the world’s Christians lived in free, democratic nations. Over the last thirty years, the church around the world has exploded in the third world countries, and now 70% of the world’s Christians live in third world countries. Many live under extreme persecution. Just like the early church.

Next Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Shatter the Silence. (play the tape) Pray.

:1 they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria

scattered abroaddiaspeiro – to scatter abroad, disperse; based on the word speiro, which means "to sow or scatter seed"

You could almost translate this, "they were all seeded throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria.

It’s kind of like the picture of a dandelion growing up, only to have a breeze come by and blow all it’s seeds away.

It’s interesting what’s happening here, because this is actually part of God’s plan. Jesus had said –

(Acts 1:8 KJV) But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

We believe the church is about two years old at this time, and though it’s possible that they might have reached out beyond Jerusalem, it’s interesting to note that we don’t have any mention of them outside Jerusalem until the persecution hits.


Moved by pain.

Sometimes it takes some tough times to get us to move into the place we’re supposed to be.

I’m not sure I want to say with confidence that the early church had become fat and lazy, staying in Jerusalem, but that’s certainly what happens sometimes to us.

And sometimes God has to let us experience a little discomfort before He has our attention.

For many of you, it was a very tough time in your life that got you to the place where you started seeking God.

For some of you, you might have come to church today because there’s been a sort of crisis in your life, and you’ve begun to feel that you need to start seeking God for the answers.

For some of us, it was a difficult time that led to the direction our lives have taken today.

Pain isn’t always a pleasant thing. But sometimes it gets us going in the direction we ought to be going.


God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

C. S. Lewis (1898–1963)


God uses chronic pain and weakness, along with other afflictions, as his chisel for sculpting our lives. Felt weakness deepens dependence on Christ for strength each day. The weaker we feel, the harder we lean. And the harder we lean, the stronger we grow spiritually, even while our bodies waste away. To live with your "thorn" uncomplainingly—that is, sweet, patient, and free in heart to love and help others, even though every day you feel weak—is true sanctification. It is true healing for the spirit. It is a supreme victory of grace. The healing of your sinful person thus goes forward, even though the healing of your mortal body does not.

J. I. Packer (1926– )


Cripple him, and you have a Sir Walter Scott.

Lock him in a prison cell, and you have a John Bunyan.

Bury him in the snows of Valley Forge, and you have a George Washington.

Raise him in abject poverty and you have an Abraham Lincoln.

Strike him down with infantile paralysis, and he becomes Franklin Roosevelt.

Burn him so severely that the doctors say he'll never walk again, and you have a Glenn Cunningham who set the world's one mile record in 1934.

Deafen him and you have a Ludwig van Beethoven.

Have him or her born black in a society filled with racial discrimination, and you have a Booker T. Washington, a Marian Anderson, a George Washington Carver.

Call him a slow learner, "retarded," and write him off as uneducable, and you have an Albert Einstein.

Life is about 20% in what happens to us and 80% in the way we respond to the events. - Ted Engstrom

:1 except the apostles.

We don’t really have an idea why the apostles stayed behind.

:2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.

lamentationkopetos – lamentation with beating of the breast as a sign of grief

It was common practice for Jews to lament with great wailing and beating on their breasts when someone they knew died.

This was the first Christian to die.

Later, as the Holy Spirit would be maturing them and teaching them, the church would learn a different attitude towards the death of loved ones.

(1 Th 4:13-18 KJV) But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. {14} For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. {15} For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. {16} For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: {17} Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. {18} Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

It’s okay for us to grieve for ourselves over the loss of loved ones, because we will miss them.

But we shouldn’t be grieving for them, they’re in a better place, with Jesus.

:3 he made havock of the church … haling men and women

made havocklumainomai – to make filthy, to dishonour, defile; to ravage, ruin. It’s a word used to describe a wild boar trampling down a vineyard (Ps. 80:13)

haling – to draw, drag

:4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.

scattered abroad – same word as in verse 1, as well as in Acts 11, where we get another view of events happening at the same time …

Acts 11:19-26 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. {20} And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. {21} And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. {22} Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. {23} Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. {24} For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord. {25} Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: {26} And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.


God can turn all things to good.

Even the bad things that we’ve done.

Here God has taken the awful persecution that Saul has helped to promote, scattered the Christians, and then after Saul has been saved, used the very same man to minister to the churches that were started partly because of his persecution. Amazing.

(Rom 8:28 KJV) And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.


In the center of main street in Enterprise, Alabama, stands one of the strangest monuments in the world. It's a memorial to an insect! Handsomely carved in stone is the likeness of a boll weevil. Many believe that divine providence was involved in the circumstances that led to the erection of this unusual statue. In early plantation days almost everyone in the community raised cotton. But as the years rolled on, a serious pestilence infested the area in the form of a small beetle that punctured the boll of the plant. As a result, it became almost impossible to bring a season's growth to maturity. George Washington Carver, along with several other scientists, became deeply concerned about the situation and began intensive studies to see if any substitute crop could be grown in that part of the country. Raising peanuts was the answer, for they could be planted and harvested with very little loss. In time, cotton gins were forgotten in that region, and it became known as an outstanding peanut center of the world. Soon the farmers' profits far exceeded what they had earned from their best cotton yield. In the end, they realized that the destructive insect they had feared had actually triggered the research that brought them prosperity.

Perhaps there have been things in your life that have brought destruction. It doesn’t have to be over. God can to turn it around.

:5-8 Philip in Samaria

:5 Then Philip went down

Samaria is to the north of Jerusalem, so we would say he went up to Samaria because of our ideas of maps. But Jerusalem is up in the hills, and to go north to Samaria, you have to first go down the hill to get there.

This Philip is the same one who is listed as one of the "deacons", one of those chosen to wait on tables back in Acts 6.

It was this same Philip, that some twenty years later would again meet up with Saul (then known as Paul)

Acts 21:8-9 And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. {9} And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.

I wonder what kind of things Paul and Philip reminisced about, considering that Philip had gone out on his first great evangelism crusade due to the persecution brought about by Paul.

:5 to the city of Samaria

The city of Samaria, which at one time was the capital of the northern kingdom was known at this time as the city of Sebaste.

The Samaritans themselves were descendants of colonists whom the Assyrian kings planted in Palestine after the fall of the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C. They were despised by the Jews because of their mixed Gentile blood and their different worship, which centered at Mount Gerizim.

Jesus Himself had ministered to the Samaritans on a small scale –

John 4:5-7 Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. {6} Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. {7} There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.

John 4:28-30 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, {29} Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? {30} Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.

John 4:35-40 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. {36} And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. {37} And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. {38} I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours. {39} And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. {40} So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days.

It’s going to seem kind of strange, but Philip is going to be "reaping" where Jesus "sowed".


Jesus often prepares the way for us.

In reality, the most successful times we have witnessing to others is when we see that Jesus has already been working on their hearts.

:5 and preached Christ unto them

preachedkerusso – (like the name "Caruso") to proclaim after the manner of a herald; always with the suggestion of formality, gravity and an authority which must be listened to and obeyed

This is a different word than that used back in verse 4, euaggelizo, (we get our word "evangelize") to bring good news, to announce glad tidings


There’s different ways to "witness".

The words in the Greek to convey that the message went out in different ways.

Philip is standing up to proclaim a royal message.

Others were simply sharing the good news.

Even though some of the methods that are taught in witnessing can be helpful to get you started, we need to learn to see each opportunity as unique, and speak to people where they’re at.

Be careful not to try to be like somebody else. Learn to be yourself, and share what Jesus has done in your life.

:6 the people … hearing and seeing the miracles

peopleochlos – a crowd; a multitude


We need more busboys.

We look at things like this and can be almost jealous of the work that Philip is doing. We can start to long for God to be doing more miracles in our midst. But we forget that Philip is just one of the church cafeteria workers.

We don’t need more miracles, we need more busboys.

We often want to start the ministry with the big, splashy things, with the miracles. But God wants to start it with the servants.

:7 For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice …

As Philip cast out demonic spirits, they cried with a loud voice, as they often did with Jesus.

palsies - paralyzed

:8 And there was great joy in that city.

There is always joy when people come to Jesus.