The triumph over Stephen ignited a massive persecution against the believers in Jerusalem, no doubt instigated by the same group of opponents. The leader of the group was Saul, who caused no small damage to the church (Acts 8:3, Acts 26:10). The persecution, however, was turned to good effect.
Indeed, scattered throughout Judea and Samaria, the believers went about preaching the gospel. The command to witness in those areas (Acts 1:8) was then fulfilled.
Read Acts 8:4-25. What lessons are revealed in this account?
The Samaritans were half-Israelites, even from the religious standpoint. They were monotheists who accepted the first five books of Moses (the Pentateuch), practiced circumcision, and expected the Messiah. To the Jews, however, Samaritan religion was corrupted, which means the Samaritans had no share whatsoever in the covenant mercies of Israel.
The unexpected conversion of Samaritans astounded the church in Jerusalem, so the apostles sent out Peter and John to assess the situation. God’s withholding the Spirit until the coming of Peter and John (Acts 8:14-17) was probably meant to convince the apostles that the Samaritans were to be accepted as full members of the community of faith (see Acts 11:1-18).
It didn’t stop there, however. In Acts 8:26-39, we have the story of Philip and the Ethiopian, a eunuch, who after a Bible study requested baptism. “Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him” (Acts 8:38, NIV).
First there were the Samaritans, then the Ethiopian, a foreigner who had come to Jerusalem to worship, and was now on his way home. The gospel was crossing the borders of Israel and reaching the world, as predicted. All this, though, was just the beginning, as these early Jewish believers would soon travel all over the known world and preach the great news of the death of Jesus, who paid the penalty for their sins and offers everyone, everywhere, the hope of salvation.
|Peter told Simon that he was “poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity” (Acts 8:23, NKJV). What was the solution for his problem, and for anyone who might be in a similar situation?|
Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons