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Sabbath School Lesson Begins
Lesson 10 August 29—September 4
Read for This Week’s Study: 2 Cor. 4:18, Acts 2:44-47,4:34-37, 6:1-7, Acts 8,21:7-10.
(Acts 1:8 NIV).
you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will
be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the
ends of the earth
World mission was the main concern of the risen Christ during the 40 days between His crucifixion and ascension. The New Testament preserves at least five of His Great Commission statements: Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47-49, John 20:21, Acts 1:5-8. Together they constitute the greatest assignment ever given to Christians. Among the commands was a geographical strategy for mission outreach, from its Jerusalem base to all Judea and Samaria, then ultimately to the ends of the earth. This was a command that they, indeed, took seriously and set out to fulfill.
This geographical strategy is prominent in the mission work of Philip the evangelist. According to Acts 8, his work extended outward from Jerusalem in expanding circles. That is, it kept spreading farther and farther as time progressed.
Who was this Philip the evangelist? What does the Word of God tell us about him and the work that he did during the earliest days of the church? Finally, what lessons can we take away for ourselves from the inspired record of this early missionary?
Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, September 5.
While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the
things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary,
but the things which are not seen are eternal (2
Cor. 4:18, NKJV). Think about what Paul is saying here,
especially as we study this week about Philip the evangelist, someone
of whom we know little except for the few references in the Bible. As
we will see, though, Philip did a good work even though most of what he
accomplished we know little about. Who are some people whom you know of
who have done great things for God but with little outward recognition?
Why is it always important to keep the principle of Paul’s words in
mind, especially if we do a work that doesn’t garner much acclaim or
attention? See also 1 Cor. 4:13.
Philip was a popular Greek name that means
horse lover. In
the New Testament there are four persons called by that name. Two had
the additional name
Herod and were part of the Herodian ruling
family, which exerted a generally harsh rule over Israel in New
Testament times. The remaining Philips had outstanding roles in
The first, Philip of Bethsaida, was a disciple who was instrumental in bringing Nathanael to Jesus (John 1:43-46). Later he brought Greeks to Jesus (John 12:20-21).
The second Philip was designated
the evangelist in Acts 21:8
to distinguish him from Philip the disciple. He first appeared in the
Jerusalem church as a
table waiter (Acts 6:2-5)
who turned evangelist and missionary (Acts 8:12). His missionary
service, extending over twenty years and supplemented by his four
prophesying daughters, is mentioned in Acts. We know little else of his
It was Philip who preached the gospel to the Samaritans; it was
Philip who had the courage to baptize the Ethiopian eunuch. For a time
the history of these two workers (Philip and Paul) had been closely
intertwined. It was the violent persecution of Saul the Pharisee that
had scattered the church at Jerusalem, and destroyed the effectiveness
of the organization of the seven deacons. The flight from Jerusalem had
led Philip to change his manner of labor, and resulted in his pursuing
the same calling to which Paul gave his life. Precious hours were these
that Paul and Philip spent in each other’s society; thrilling were the
memories that they recalled of the days when the light which had shone
upon the face of Stephen upturned to Heaven as he suffered martyrdom
flashed in its glory upon Saul the persecutor, bringing him, a helpless
suppliant, to the feet of Jesus.—Ellen G. White, Sketches
From the Life of Paul, p. 204.
Read Acts 2:44-47, Acts 4:34-37. What kind of picture of the early church is presented here?
No question, things were for a time going quite well among the early believers. Of course, everyone is fallen, and before long some tensions started to rise.
Read Acts 6:1-7. What problems arose, and how did the church deal with those problems?
Rapid growth of the Jerusalem church brought with it social tension. Philip was appointed to a team to deal with it. Converts included underprivileged and economically challenged persons whose participation in the daily common meals placed increasing demands on church leaders. A murmuring about unfair distribution of food to Greek-speaking widows emerged. This was especially sensitive because of reminders by the Hebrew prophets not to neglect widows and orphans.
To resolve this serious issue, all 12 apostles gathered the
believers and proposed the appointment of seven men, full of the Holy
Spirit and wisdom, who would literally
deaconize (Greek for so the 12 could
deaconize the Word (see Acts 6:3,
4). All seven had Greek names, perhaps indicating a balancing of
welfare service for the neglected Greek-speaking widows. Among them was
Philip, the first time that this Philip is mentioned in the Bible.
The apostles argued that additional leadership was needed so that they should not be overworked by the administration of the resources necessary for communal life. They emphasized that their call was to devote themselves to the Word of God and to prayer.
What are some of the potentially divisive issues in your own local church, and how can you allow God to use you to help ease them?
Saul, a future apostle and missionary, makes his first appearance in the Bible at the stoning of the deacon Stephen, the first Christian martyr. This wave of persecution only helped further the spread of the gospel.
Read Acts 8:1-6. What was the result of the persecution of the church in Jerusalem?
Samaria was the first stop on the geographical spread of
Christianity. Samaritans considered themselves descendants of
Israelites left behind when Assyria exiled most of the Israelites in
722 B.C. The Jews, however, considered Samaritans to be descendants of
foreigners the Assyrians forcibly settled in Israel. Jewish-Samaritan
relationships during the New Testament era were marked by tensions and
outbreaks of violence. However, as we saw earlier, Jesus had already
paved the way for mission work there when He dealt with the woman at
the well, who, in turn, began to
evangelize her own people.
Philip’s call to wait on tables now became that of a missionary evangelist to the Samaritans. As a refugee fleeing religious persecution in Jerusalem, he did not waste his time. He proclaimed that the Messiah, awaited by both Jews and Samaritans, had come (Acts 8:5,12).
Read Acts 8:6-15. How successful was Philip’s ministry in Samaria?
Philip was used mightily of the Lord in this early foreign mission
field. The statement of the woman at the well, that
Jews have no
dealings with Samaritans (John 4:9, NKJV)
had now become a thing of the past.
What animosities, grudges, and prejudices that have
poisoned your soul need to become
things of the past? Isn’t it
time to let it all go?
According to Acts 8:26-39, Philip’s next contact was with the
Ethiopian treasury administrator, bringing mission another step toward
(Acts 1:8, NKJV).
Philip was the link between Samaria and the Gaza mission. From Samaria,
north of Jerusalem, Philip was called to Gaza, which is south of the
city. His work in the north focused on a group; here it focused on a
single person. In Samaria, Philip could proclaim Christ only from the
five books of Moses, for this was all the Samaritans accepted; here he
could also use the book of Isaiah, probably in Greek translation.
end of the earth
Read Acts 8:26-39. As you do, answer the following questions:
What were the texts in Isaiah (from Isaiah 53) that the Ethiopian was reading, and why would they have given Philip the perfect opportunity to evangelize him?
In contrast to Philip’s work in Samaria, where he did miracles (Acts 8:6), all he did with the Ethiopian was study the Bible. What point can we take away from this for ourselves as we minister to others?
The Spirit of the Lord called Philip away as soon as he had finished
good news about Jesus and had baptized the
Ethiopian. Philip had no opportunity to transmit his beliefs and
teachings to his new convert. The Ethiopian was left to embrace the
Christian faith in the context of his African culture, guided by the
Old Testament and the Spirit of God, which had already been working in
him, for he already was a worshiper of the Lord and a believer in His
Philip explained to the Ethiopian crucial Old Testament texts about the death of Jesus. Why must Jesus, His death and resurrection, be central to the message we give to the world? What is our message without Him?
Philip, clearly, was anointed to do the Lord’s work. Commentators
are divided on what
the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip
(Acts 8:39) means, whether he was simply told to go to Azotus (vs. 40)
or was miraculously transported there. Either way, the crucial point
for us is that Philip was a man surrendered to the Holy Spirit; and
thus, God was able to use him to do a great work for Him.
Read Acts 8:40. What does
it tell us about Philip that helps us to understand why he was named
Read Acts 21:7-10. What can we learn about Philip from these few verses?
At this stage of the story we learn that Philip was a family man
with four unmarried daughters. Philip’s call out of the deaconate into
evangelism involved him in extensive travel. We know about the journey
from Jerusalem to Samaria, then on to Gaza, followed by
towns on the 50-mile (80-kilometer) coastline between Azotus and
Caesarea. There were probably unrecorded journeys. Like all the
pioneering missionaries, he would have been harassed, inconvenienced,
and subjected to the
ups and downs such commitments entail.
Still, he managed his family to the extent that four daughters were
deemed by the Holy Spirit suitable to receive the gift of prophecy.
This testifies to good parenting and true godliness in this pioneering
Christian missionary family.
The text reveals that the apostle Paul stayed with Philip
number of days (Acts 21:10 NIV). Twenty-five
years earlier, Paul, then named Saul, had been an aggressive and fierce
persecutor of the Christians (Acts 9:1-2). His persecution of
Jerusalem believers forced Philip to flee to Samaria (Acts 8:1-5). Now,
years later, persecutor and persecuted meet in the home of Philip, who
hosts Paul’s visit. What an interesting meeting of brothers and fellow
workers with Christ in the great cause of bringing the gospel to the
In our work for others, why is it so crucial never to forget our first obligation: our families?
Further Study: Ellen G. White,
The Gospel in Samaria, The Acts of the Apostles, pages 103-111.
When they were scattered by persecution they went forth filled
with missionary zeal. They realized the responsibility of their
mission. They knew that they held in their hands the bread of life for
a famishing world; and they were constrained by the love of Christ to
break this bread to all who were in need.—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, page 106.
And when His disciples were driven from Jerusalem, some found in
Samaria a safe asylum. The Samaritans welcomed these messengers of the
gospel, and the Jewish converts gathered a precious harvest from among
those who had once been their bitterest enemies.—Pages 106, 107.
That night she sold five books for $5 each. She was convinced that God is the true God. But a month later her husband told her to stop selling books.
Your work is bringing shame on me, he said.
Cheng’s husband demanded that she stop believing in Jesus and stop selling books.
I can’t do that, she told him.
I believe in Jesus; I have seen His power at work. And I am selling books to feed myself because you refuse to give me any money.
If you refuse to give up this nonsense, I will leave you, he said. But Cheng refused to give up her new faith. When she was baptized a few months later, her husband left her and went to live with his mother and his sons.
For several years Cheng has tried to visit her sons, but she hasn’t been allowed to see them. Although her life is difficult, Cheng has not let her personal troubles discourage her. She continues to sell literature to support herself and invites people to the church when they show interest in the books she sells. When people are too poor to buy a book, she urges them to come to the church to meet God. She shares her testimony with them and testifies that God is faithful to those who trust Him.
One woman who used to pay Cheng to paint her nails asked Cheng why she had become a Christian. Cheng smiled and told the woman that God is a loving and powerful God, and He answers her prayers. As the two women stood talking outside the woman’s home, the woman realized that one of her precious earrings was missing.
We must find it! the woman said, feverishly searching in the dirt for the missing jewelry.
I inherited this from my mother. I must find it.
The two women searched together for the earring. Cheng knew that if they didn’t find the earring, the woman might accuse Cheng and the church. The woman was so impressed that Cheng’s God could help her find her earring, that she asked Cheng to take her to her church on Sabbath.
Cheng was crushed when her husband told her that he no longer wants her for his wife. But Cheng put her trust in God, and recently she met a Global Mission pioneer, and the two plan to marry.
Truly God has provided all my needs, she says with a gentle smile.
Chhenghorn Thean is a top literature evangelist and soul winner in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
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