Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Acts 8:1-8
Pastor Steve Schell
Sunday: Acts 8:1
v1: Luke says Saul of Tarsus “was consenting to the killing of [Stephen].” The word “consenting” (suneudokeo) carries the sense of formal or legal approval of a matter (Lk 11:48; Ro 1:32; 1Co 7:12, 13), and 25 years later Paul used this same word when he described his participation in Stephen’s death (Ac 22:20). Clearly, he was not just a bystander. In some significant way he contributed to the verdict or helped organize the execution. He shared in the moral responsibility for this death. v1 (continued): Before this event took place, the temple authorities had been forced to restrain their persecution of the church because it enjoyed widespread approval among the people in the city. But now, with the Sanhedrin enraged by Stephen’s sermon, they felt they had enough political support among these key leaders to rid the city of what they considered to be a dangerous religious movement.

Monday: Acts 8:1
v1 (continued): The ugly process of neighbors reporting homes where believers lived would have been the first step, then soldiers would have been sent from house to house to arrest and imprison the men and women they were able to capture, and when taken to prison they were beaten and executed if they refused to blaspheme Christ (Ac 22:4-5, 19-20; 26:9-11). The effect of this violence was to scatter believers. They fled for their lives. Luke says, “And there was in that day a great hunt upon the church in Jerusalem, and all were sown out into the rural countrysides of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” He pictures believers being “sown” like a farmer sows seeds. They were scattered far and wide, hiding out in the rural areas of Judea and neighboring Samaria. The southern boundary of the region called “Samaria” lay about 25 miles north of Jerusalem, and because Samaritans were culturally and spiritually hostile to Judaism and the temple, it would have provided a measure of refuge for those able to reach its borders.

Tuesday: Acts 8:1, 2
v1 (continued): Luke notes that the apostles themselves did not flee, but remained in the city. In the future all of them would travel widely, but in the midst of this crisis it appears they did not feel they could abandon their flock (Jn 10:11-13). Many believers would have been physically unable to flee and therefore would have been forced to hide in the city, and as the persecution raged on, more and more of their flock would have ended up suffering in jail. So they believed their assignment from the Lord was to remain steadfast and to pastor the remnant of this persecuted church. v2: This verse should not be overlooked. Burying Stephen and loudly lamenting his death was a very brave and defiant act. Stephen had been executed as a blasphemer, and in such cases public lamentation was forbidden (F. E. Bruce, Acts, Eerdmans, 1974, p174).

Wednesday: Acts 8:2
v2 (continued): Aaron first modeled this type of silence after two of his sons were executed by God because they presented incense before the Lord using coals from a common fire. God’s divine fire burst out of the Holy of holies and consumed them. Then, after he had the dead bodies carried outside the camp, Moses sternly ordered Aaron, and his two remaining sons, to show no grief (Lev 10:1-11). In this way they were to teach the nation to be grateful, not sad, that those who had treated God as unholy had been removed from among them, because the death of these guilty ones spared the rest of the nation from God’s wrath. So when these devout men (men who carefully obeyed God’s law) loudly lamented Stephen’s death and gave him a proper burial, they were openly rejecting the Sanhedrin’s verdict. Their actions publicly proclaimed that Stephen had been the victim of a terrible miscarriage of justice. They were fearlessly declaring that their conscience would not allow them to watch his corpse treated shamefully. For them to have been silent would have meant that they agreed with the charges against him.

Thursday: Acts 8:3
v3: Most of the temple authorities were Sadducees, and Saul was a Pharisee, raised from his youth to reject Sadducean unbelief (Ac 23:6-8), yet these Sadducees happily employed a Pharisee to do this work of persecuting the church. His zeal was unmatched. Luke uses a word which pictures Saul tearing the church apart like a wild animal. The anger behind this persecution didn’t come from the people of the city. What we’re seeing here was not an explosion of mob violence against the church. This was a police action, orchestrated by the high priest (Ac 9:21; 26:12), with Saul apparently managing the day-to-day operation. To hunt people down and make so many arrests, he must have been supplied with soldiers from the Levitical guard (Ac 4:1; 1Chron 9:22, 23; Mt 27:65; 28:11, 12). Luke tells us Saul entered houses and forcefully dragged men and women to prison. As the Apostle Paul, he would later on confess that he had flogged believers in synagogues in an attempt to force them to blaspheme Christ (Ac 22:19; 26:11). But he also admitted that these experiences had left him “furiously enraged,” likely because few, if any, of these believers had renounced their faith (Ac 26:11). And when trials were conducted to determine whether or not to execute someone, he said, “I cast my vote against them” (Ac 26:10).

Friday: Acts 8:4
v4: As we read Luke’s brief but chilling account of this vicious persecution we might assume that God’s work will be stopped by this well-organized assault, but then Luke thankfully adds this statement: “Therefore the ones being sown passed through these regions preaching the word (about Jesus).” With this one remarkable sentence he shows us that not only was the persecution unable to stop the expansion of the church, it actually accelerated its growth. It turned a lot of people into missionaries. It scattered them, like farmers sowing seed, into Judea, Samaria and even the remotest parts of the earth­—the very places to which Jesus had told them to go after they were “clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49; Ac 1:8). Beginning with Philip, Luke will now show us how the church expanded into Samaria and Judea (Ac 8:4-11:18), and then, later on he will describe how the gospel was carried to the “remotest parts of the earth” (Ac 11:10 onward).

Saturday: Acts 8:5-8
v5: Luke introduced Philip earlier as one of the seven men chosen to administrate the church’s benevolence fund (Ac 6:5). Like Stephen, he is a Hellenistic Jew (6:1). To escape arrest, he fled to the city of Samaria which by that time had been renamed “Sebaste” by Herod the Great in honor of the Roman emperor Augustus (D. J. Wiseman, The New Bible Dictionary, J.D. Douglas, ed. Eerdmans, 1971, pp. 1130, 1131). When Philip arrived there he began to preach. vs6-8: The people in that city were very responsive. Crowds gathered and everyone in the crowd would listen intently to Philip because when he ministered amazing miracles were happening, things they could see and hear. For example, many who had been in bondage to “unclean spirits” were set free, and as the demons came out, the person would cry out in a loud voice. He also prayed for the sick and when he did many of them, who had been weak or crippled in some way, were dramatically healed, while everyone watched it happen. We can only imagine the joy that filled the city as those who came to the meeting severely handicapped ran into the arms of their loved ones, or arrived home well.

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