A Sorcerer and an Ethiopian ~ Acts 8

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  • To explain that the death of Stephen began the persecution of the early church
  • To list events from Acts 8
  • To compare the characters of the Sorcerer and the Ethiopian

Acts 8Materials: Inductive Bible Study Form, Bible, FREE printable Character Venn Diagram

Geography: Israel; Jerusalem; Samaria; Gaza

Background: More and more people were joining the early church each day. And because there were so many people seven men, or deacons, were chosen to serve the people and one was Stephen. Stephen was the first martyr of the church.

Main Events of Acts 8:

When Stephen was stoned, those who were throwing the rocks laid their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. He agreed with this stoning. He was a Pharisee, loved God, and loved God’s law. He knew that these people who followed Jesus were wrong and were causing trouble. So he went after them. Picture a cow walking into a store that sells a lot of glass items. What would happen? {Everything would brake! Glass would go everywhere.} That is what happened when Saul went after the early church. Everyone scattered. He arrested men, women and children, and even had people put to death. Persecution of the early church had begun with the death of Stephen. And so the Christians fled from Jerusalem. They went to Judea, Samaria, and to even farther lands.

Another deacon we learn about was named Philip. Like Stephen, he was a man of good reputation, wise, and full of the Holy Spirit. He is known as Philip the Evangelist. All people who love Jesus are told to help spread the gospel, but God chooses specific people to totally dedicate their lives to preaching Jesus to other people. And that is what Philip did.

Philip went to Samaria and preached Jesus to the people. There was a man name Simon the Sorcerer, who had made, and claimed, himself great in the community by practicing sorcery so that all the people said that he had great power. Philip started preaching and people started to believe him and in Jesus. Lives were being changed and people were being baptized. Simon followed Philip amazed at all of the miracles and wonders that happened through him. Simon decided to believe in Jesus and be baptized as well.

For some reason the Holy Spirit had not come to these new Christians after they had been baptized. So Peter and John went to Samaria. When they laid their hands on the people the Holy Spirit filled them. Simon watched this and exclaimed to Peter, “I want the power to do that! How much can I pay you?”

Simon the Sorcerer Acts 8Peter looked at him and rebuked him! He told Simon that a gift of God cannot be purchased with money, that he was full of bitterness and sin, and that he needed to repent.

Meanwhile, an angel appeared to Philip and told him to travel to Gaza. He obeyed right away and without question. In the distance he saw a chariot. The Holy Spirit told Philip to go and overtake the chariot. When Philip was close, he heard the man reading from the Old Testament book of Isaiah. The man in the chariot is called the Ethiopian Eunuch in scripture, but he probably was from a nation just below Egypt and not from Ethiopia. This man was the Treasurer for Queen Candace, which is a title like “pharaoh” in Egypt. “Candace” is the title, not the name of the Queen.

Acts 8 EthiopianPhilip asked the man, “Do you understand what you are reading?” This man who was great in his country and rich in influence said, “How can I? I need someone to help me.” Philip joined him in the chariot and proceeded to preach Jesus to this man. They drove past some water and the man asked if he could be baptized. “If you believe in Jesus with all your heart,” Philip replied.

The Ethiopian Eunuch was baptized and afterwards the Spirit caught Philip up. He appeared in a town about 20 miles north of Gaza.

As for the Ethiopian, he rejoiced and returned to his country.

Application of Acts 8:

Let’s think about what was the same for Simon the Sorcerer and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Both had heard Philip preach the gospel. Both had said they believed in Jesus and both were baptized.

So what was different?

Simon: He claimed that he was great, when he was not. He practiced sorcery and trickery to get the people to listen to him. Even though Simon said he believed, he did not have the Holy Spirit in him and he knew it because he wanted to pay Peter for God’s power. Therefore, he did not believe in Jesus with his whole heart. The scriptures tell us that even the demons believe in Jesus and are fearful of Him.

Don’t Miss This – This scripture shows us that people can say words, they can say a prayer, they can answer all the questions correctly, they can be baptized, and they STILL do not have a changed, humble, repentant heart for Jesus.

Ethiopian: He was great in his country, but humble because he knew he did not understand what he was reading. He asked for help and God supplied it through Philip.

Acts 8

Ethiopian Church in Jerusalem

Don’t Miss This – The Ethiopian shows us what salvation and repentance look like. He humbled himself so he could know God’s Truth, he proclaim Jesus by saying, “I believe that Jesus Christ in the Son of God.” After he was baptized, he left rejoicing. And it is probably because of this one man and his influence that began the Christian church in Africa.

**REALLY Do Not Miss This: Words do not save you. Being baptized does not save you. Only believing in Jesus with your whole heart will save you from sin and death.

Sin is everything we think, say, and do that is not pleasing to God. We all sin and fall short of what God wants from us. Therefore God sent Jesus. Jesus died instead of us. Jesus took our place. And if we believe with our whole heart that Jesus died on the cross, came back to life after three days, and is now in heaven with God, then God forgives our sins and gives us eternal life. We are saved from our sins. And when we know Jesus saved us from our sins, then with a humble heart we should want to surrender everything we have to Him.

Have you been saved from your sins? Do you believe in Jesus?

Modification for Older Children:

Have older children use their Bibles to fill out the Venn Diagram below, or work on it together as a group. {Click on the image for a PDF.}

Acts 8

Other Resources for Acts 8:

Simon the Sorcerer Lesson

Simon the Sorcerer Sunday School Lesson (for more info)

Philip and the Ethiopian Object Lesson

Ethiopian Crafts and Coloring Pages

Activities for Philip and the Ethiopian

List of Resources for Philip and the Ethiopian

Lesson on Philip and the Ethiopian

Thoughts? Questions? Please leave a comment below.

** Clip art used by permission from http://www.christiancliparts.net

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