1. MISGUIDED FURY
a. What predicament did the church face after the stoning of Stephen—and who was the main cause of it? Acts 8:1–3; 26:9–11.
“At the scene of Stephen’s trial and death, Saul had seemed to be imbued with a frenzied zeal. Afterward he was angered by his own secret conviction that Stephen had been honored by God at the very time when he was dishonored by men. Saul continued to persecute the church of God, hunting them down, seizing them in their houses, and delivering them up to the priests and rulers for imprisonment and death. His zeal in carrying forward this persecution brought terror to the Christians at Jerusalem. The Roman authorities made no special effort to stay the cruel work and secretly aided the Jews in order to conciliate them and to secure their favor.
“After the death of Stephen, Saul was elected a member of the Sanhedrin council in consideration of the part he had acted on that occasion. For a time he was a mighty instrument in the hands of Satan to carry out his rebellion against the Son of God.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 101, 102.
2. WHEN FACED WITH PERSECUTION
a. In response to the fierce persecution, what did the church do—and what should we learn from this today? Acts 8:4; Matthew 10:21–23.
“The Lord has said: ‘Verily My Sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations’ (Exodus 31:13). None should disobey His command in order to escape persecution. But let all consider the words of Christ: ‘When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another’ (Matthew 10:23). If it can be avoided, do not put yourselves into the power of men who are worked by the spirit of antichrist. Everything that we can do should be done that those who are willing to suffer for the truth’s sake may be saved from oppression and cruelty.
“Christ is our example. The determination of antichrist to carry out the rebellion he began in heaven will continue to work in the children of disobedience. Their envy and hatred against those who obey the fourth commandment will wax more and more bitter. But the people of God are not to hide their banner. They are not to ignore the commandments of God and, in order to have an easy time, go with the multitude to do evil. . . .
“Those who forsake God in order to save their lives will be forsaken by Him. In seeking to save their lives by yielding the truth, they will lose eternal life.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 230.
b. What timeless principle will endure to the end? Ecclesiastes 11:1, 2.
“As long as probation continues, there will be opportunity for the canvasser to work. When the religious denominations unite with the papacy to oppress God’s people, places where there is religious freedom will be opened by evangelistic canvassing. If in one place the persecution becomes severe, let the workers do as Christ has directed. ‘When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another.’ If persecution comes there, go to still another place. God will lead His people, making them a blessing in many places. Were it not for persecution they would not be so widely scattered abroad to proclaim the truth. . . . Until in heaven is spoken the word, ‘It is finished,’ there will always be places for labor, and hearts to receive the message.”—Ibid., vol. 6, p. 478.
3. A NEW SAFE HAVEN
a. Where did Philip go as a missionary—and with what results? Acts 8:5–8. What does this reveal about souls in seemingly hopeless places?
“The Saviour’s own visit to Samaria, and later, the commendation of the good Samaritan, and the grateful joy of that leper, a Samaritan, who alone of the ten returned to give thanks to Christ, were full of significance to the disciples. The lesson sank deep into their hearts. In His commission to them, just before His ascension, Jesus mentioned Samaria with Jerusalem and Judea as the places where they were first to preach the gospel. This commission His teaching had prepared them to fulfill. When in their Master’s name they went to Samaria, they found the people ready to receive them. The Samaritans had heard of Christ’s words of commendation and His works of mercy for men of their nation. They saw that, notwithstanding their rude treatment of Him, He had only thoughts of love toward them, and their hearts were won. After His ascension they welcomed the Saviour’s messengers, and the disciples gathered a precious harvest from among those who had once been their bitterest enemies.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 488.
“When [Jesus’] disciples were driven from Jerusalem, some found in Samaria a safe asylum.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 106, 107.
b. Relate the history of one unusual baptism there. Acts 8:9–13.
“Those possessed with devils are usually represented as being in a condition of great suffering; yet there were exceptions to this rule. For the sake of obtaining supernatural power, some welcomed the satanic influence. These of course had no conflict with the demons. Of this class were those who possessed the spirit of divination—Simon Magus, Elymas the sorcerer, and the damsel who followed Paul and Silas at Philippi.”—The Great Controversy, p. 516.
c. Why was the assistance of Peter and John so vital now? Acts 8:14–17.
“[Acts 8:14 quoted.] The Spirit of God was waiting to enlighten souls and convert them to the truth.”—Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 57.
4. MANIPULATIVE DELUSIONS
a. How was the underlying spirit of Simon Magus, by then a baptized church member, unveiled—and how are we warned of this type of occult spiritism that misuses the name of Christ? Acts 8:18–24; Revelation 16:13, 14.
“[Revelation 16:13, 14 quoted.] Except those who are kept by the power of God, through faith in His word, the whole world will be swept into the ranks of this delusion. The people are fast being lulled to a fatal security to be awakened only by the outpouring of the wrath of God.”—The Great Controversy p. 562.
“Fearful sights of a supernatural character will soon be revealed in the heavens, in token of the power of miracle-working demons. The spirits of devils will go forth to the kings of the earth and to the whole world, to fasten them in deception, and urge them on to unite with Satan in his last struggle against the government of heaven. By these agencies, rulers and subjects will be alike deceived. Persons will arise pretending to be Christ Himself, and claiming the title and worship which belong to the world’s Redeemer. They will perform wonderful miracles of healing and will profess to have revelations from heaven contradicting the testimony of the Scriptures.
“As the crowning act in the great drama of deception, Satan himself will personate Christ. The church has long professed to look to the Saviour’s advent as the consummation of her hopes. Now the great deceiver will make it appear that Christ has come. In different parts of the earth, Satan will manifest himself among men as a majestic being of dazzling brightness, resembling the description of the Son of God given by John in the Revelation. Revelation 1:13–15. The glory that surrounds him is unsurpassed by anything that mortal eyes have yet beheld. . . . In gentle, compassionate tones he presents some of the same gracious, heavenly truths which the Saviour uttered; he heals the diseases of the people, and then, in his assumed character of Christ, he claims to have changed the Sabbath to Sunday, and commands all to hallow the day which he has blessed. He declares that those who persist in keeping holy the seventh day are blaspheming his name by refusing to listen to his angels sent to them with light and truth. This is the strong, almost overmastering delusion. Like the Samaritans who were deceived by Simon Magus, the multitudes, from the least to the greatest, give heed to these sorceries, saying: This is ‘the great power of God’ (Acts 8:10).”—Ibid., pp. 624, 625.
5. AN EXAMPLE FOR US
a. Why can we be motivated from how the Holy Spirit guided Philip to a sincere soul needing answers he could provide? Acts 8:26–31, 35.
“When God pointed out to Philip his work, the disciple did not say, ‘The Lord does not mean that.’ No; ‘he arose and went.’ He had learned the lesson of conformity to God’s will. He realized that every soul is precious in the sight of God, and that angels are sent to bring those who are seeking for light into touch with those who can help them. . . .
“The Holy Spirit will guide and direct those who stand ready to go where God calls, and to speak the words He gives them. . . .
“Though you may be weak, erring, sinful, the Lord holds out to you the offer of partnership with Himself. He invites you to come under divine instruction. Uniting with Christ, you may work the works of God. ‘Without me,’ Christ said, ‘ye can do nothing.’ Through the prophet Isaiah is given the promise, ‘Thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward.’
“Ye churches of the living God, study this promise, and consider how your lack of faith, of spirituality, of divine power, is hindering the coming of the kingdom of God. If you would go forth to do Christ’s work, angels of God would open the way before you, preparing hearts to receive the gospel. Were every one of you a living missionary, the message for this time would speedily be proclaimed in all countries, to every people, nation, and tongue. This is the work that must be done before Christ shall come in power and great glory. I call upon the church to pray earnestly, that you may understand your responsibilities. Are you individually laborers together with God? If not, why not? When do you mean to do your Heaven-appointed work?”—The Review and Herald, March 2, 1911.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. What sometimes occurs when a person is resisting Heaven-sent light?
2. If faced with difficulties in a certain place, what may God be telling me?
3. Where is there a “Samaria” near me that might be open to truth?
4. In what ways will the enemy of souls use spiritism to ensnare people?
5. How shall I seek out opportunities such as God gave to Philip?