We looked at Stephen, one of the seven deacons, last week. This week we look at someone who is believed to have been another deacon, Philip. But first we’ll take a brief digression into the life of someone rather more famous: Saul.
1. What was the Christian church in Jerusalem like before Stephen died? How much had it grown? What sort of opposition had it faced? What sort of structures had it developed?
2. What was the Christian church in Jerusalem like after Stephen died? Read Acts 8:1-3 How far did the Christians scatter?
3. What type of person was Saul? Read Acts 7:58, 8:3, Galations 1:13-14
4. Clearly lots of people stayed in Jerusalem in spite of persecution. How might those who stayed have felt about those who left? When churches split, how do we expect to feel about those who “leave”?
Philip leaves Jerusalem and goes to preach in Samaria.
1. Which Philip do you think this is—Philip the apostle or Philip the deacon? Philip the apostle is the one who led Bartholomew (Nathaniel) to Jesus. He’s the one who asked how the 5,000 could be fed. There’s an apocryphal letter from Peter to Philip which suggests he traveled separately from the other apostles and may not have been present at the ascension. The Acts of Philip tells how he traveled with Bartholomew and his sister to Greece and Syria, converted the proconsul’s wife in Heiropolis, and was crucified upside down with Bartholomew.
2. Why would a deacon preach? And why in Samaria? Read Acts 1:8, 6:8, 8:4-5
3. How did the Samaritans respond? Read Acts 8:5-9
4. How did influential Samaritans respond? Read Acts 8:10-13
5. Do we know who Simon is? Justin Martyr says he performed magic by the power of demons and ended up in Rome during the reign of Claudius. He’s associated with the Gnostic heresies, with falsely claiming to be a third member of the Trinity, and of being the Second Coming of Christ. Some traditions say he was one of John the Baptist’s original followers and became the anti-Christ. Have any other such figures appeared in history?
6. When Stephen preached, in Jerusalem, what kind of opposition did he meet? Read Acts 6:9. Why do you think the response was so different in Samaria?
Later in Acts, we’ll meet lots of different responses to the Gospel, just like in the modern world. But for now, we’re going to see some changes in Samaria.
1. Read Acts 8:14-15 Does this mean the apostles didn’t trust Philip? Or the Holy Spirit didn’t trust him?
2. Read Acts 8:16-17 This passage is often used to prove that we need two baptisms, one with water and one with the Holy Spirit. Or that we need confirmation with the Holy Spirit after baptism with water. Or that... But what message do you think is conveyed by the separation of events – first they make a visible commitment to Christ, then the Holy Spirit makes a visible commitment to them?
3. Assuming Philip is the deacon, not an apostle, what other message is being conveyed here?
4. Read Acts 8:18-19 What message has Simon failed to understand, and how does the fact that Philip didn’t baptize people in the Spirit strengthen that message?
5. Read Acts 8:20-24 If Simon was really who tradition says he was, does that mean their prayers didn’t work?
6. Read Acts 8:25 Would that make their visit to Samaria one of the first missionary journeys?
Philip’s story continues with the conversion of a different type of outsider to Judaism.
1. Philip went to Samaria to escape persecution. Why did he go to the Gaza road? Read Acts 8:26 Have you ever felt a compulsion that proved to have come from God?
2. How does Philip find out that the message or messenger came from God? Read Acts 8:27-31
3. Is the Spirit different from the angel? Does it matter?
4. Who is the eunuch? Why will this story be important? The Ethiopians were led by women and a Candace is like Pharaoh. They were served by eunuchs, and the Jewish faith did not allow full membership to “mutilated” or “incomplete” men.
5. Read Acts 8:32-33, Isaiah 53:7,8. Philip meets the eunuch where he is (physically and spiritually). Who else did that recently in Acts?
6. Read Acts 8:34-38 Philip is baptizing again. Do you think the Eunuch received the Holy Spirit?
7. Read Acts 8:39-40 I used to imagine Philip somehow flew off into the sunset, or sunrise. Is this really what it says? Do we have to believe Philip miraculously disappeared, or just that he left, following the Spirit’s guidance again?
This isn’t the end of Philip’s story. He appears again later in Acts
1. Where did the Spirit lead Philip?
2. Where do Luke and Paul find Philip later? Read Acts 21:8-9 Does this confirm which Philip we’ve read about?
3. What do you think of Philip’s daughters?