Lynn Waddy and Phyllis Lister hosted the April 9th meeting of the Wednesday Bible Study Club. The meeting was opened with prayer by Lynn. Nikki Murphy brought the lesson from Acts, Chapter 8.
The study of Chapter 7 ended with the martyrdom of Stephen. Chapter 8 opens with “now Saul was consenting to his [Stephen’s] death.” Nikki explains further that the wording connotes delight or pleasure at his participation. With the death of Stephen a great persecution began versus the church at Jerusalem and many of the disciples scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. However, the apostles, along with a few other devout men, stayed in Jerusalem and provided a proper burial for Stephen. Saul led the attacks during this persecution and he was vicious in his attacks on the early believers without regard to age or sex. The scripture indicates he entered EVERY house in his zeal. As the disciples scattered throughout the remote lands, so was the gospel. They went everywhere preaching the word. This persecution resulted in the first missionary outreach of the church. Among those disciples dispersed to remote lands was Phillip, one of the seven selected in Acts 6:5 as a deacon. He is the first named missionary and the first to be called an evangelist [Acts 21:8]. His evangelistic efforts involved the Samaritans and the Ethiopian church.
Samaria had been the ancient capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. It had fallen to the Assyrians who moved into the area. As time passed, the gentiles intermarried with the remaining Jews. Phillip arrived in Samaria and began his ministry. He preached, baptized and performed miracles. Souls and bodies were being redeemed. And the Samaritans responded in faith and the city was filled with tremendous joy. This is the first gospel preaching to those not fully Jews.
An interesting character appears in Samaria: Simon. Simon was a magician, a sorcerer. And he had mesmerized the people of Samaria – they thought him a powerful agent of God – until they met Phillip. Simon was impressed by what the apostles, Peter and John, could do and tried to purchase the ability to do as the apostles. Simon had failed to learn that certain gifts are dependent on character; money cannot buy them.