Lesson 87: Acts 8

New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, 2016


Introduction

Persecution against the Church in Jerusalem resulted in Church members being scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Philip ministered in Samaria, where many people accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ. After Peter and John bestowed the gift of the Holy Ghost on the new converts, a sorcerer named Simon attempted to purchase the priesthood. God later led Philip to an Ethiopian official whom Philip taught about Jesus Christ and baptized.

Suggestions for Teaching

Acts 8:1–25

Philip ministers in Samaria, where Simon the sorcerer attempts to purchase the priesthood

Display some money. Ask students to imagine they have received a large amount of money.

  • What is something you would purchase with the money?

Point out that some people believe that money can buy anything. However, some of the most valuable things in life cannot be purchased. Invite students to look as they study Acts 8 for a gift from God that cannot be purchased.

Remind students that in Acts 7 we learn about the death of the disciple Stephen at the hands of persecutors. Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Acts 8:1–5. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Church members did as a result of persecution against the Church in Jerusalem. You may want to explain that haling (Acts 8:3) means dragging or pulling.

  • What did persecution lead Church members to do?

Direct students’ attention to the name Philip in verse 5. Remind students that Philip was one of the seven disciples ordained to assist the Twelve Apostles in ministering to the needs of Church members (see Acts 6:5). Ask students to refer to the “Overview of the Acts of the Apostles” handout (see the appendix of this manual) and find the Savior’s commission recorded in Acts 1:8.

  • According to Acts 8:5, how did Philip begin to fulfill the Savior’s commission?

Invite a student to read Acts 8:6–8 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Samaritans responded to Philip’s preaching.

  • How did these Samaritans respond to Philip’s preaching?

  • In addition to preaching the gospel, what other works did Philip perform?

Invite a student to read Acts 8:9–11 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for the description of a Samaritan named Simon.

  • What do we learn about Simon from these verses? (Explain that the “use of power gained from the assistance or control of evil spirits is called sorcery” [Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. (1965–73), 2:82].)

  • What influence did Simon have on the people?

Invite a student to read Acts 8:12–13 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Simon responded to Philip’s preaching. Ask students to report what they find.

  • According to verse 13, how was Simon affected by the “miracles and signs” he saw?

Summarize Acts 8:14–16 by explaining that Peter and John came to Samaria after hearing that the people there had accepted the word of God. They prayed that the converted Samaritans would receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Ask students to read Acts 8:17 silently, looking for what Peter and John did for the new Church members in Samaria.

  • What can we learn from this account about how the gift of the Holy Ghost is given? (After students respond, write the following doctrine on the board: The gift of the Holy Ghost is bestowed after baptism through the laying on of hands by authorized priesthood holders.)

Invite a student to read Acts 8:18–19 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the offer Simon made to Peter.

  • What offer did Simon make to Peter?

Show students the money you displayed at the beginning of the lesson. Invite them to consider how they would have responded to Simon if they had been in Peter’s position.

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Acts 8:20–24. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Peter taught Simon about receiving the priesthood.

  • What did Peter teach Simon about the priesthood, as recorded in verse 20?

  • When he offered the Apostles money in exchange for receiving the priesthood, what did Simon not understand about the priesthood? (Because the priesthood belongs to God, it can be bestowed only according to His will. God establishes the manner in which the priesthood may be obtained.)

  • According to verses 21–23, why could Simon not yet receive the priesthood? In what ways do you think Simon’s heart was “not right in the sight of God”? (verse 21).

  • What can we learn from this account about receiving the priesthood? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: The priesthood is bestowed according to God’s will and standard of worthiness. Write this truth on the board.)

  • Why do you think it is important to know that the priesthood is bestowed upon individuals only according to God’s will and standard of worthiness?

Summarize Acts 8:25 by explaining that Peter and John preached the gospel in many Samaritan villages.

Acts 8:26–40

Philip teaches and baptizes an Ethiopian official

Ask students to think of situations in which they have needed or would need someone to guide them.

  • What are some situations in which you could be a guide for someone else? (You might invite students to think of destinations or subjects they are knowledgeable about or talents they have developed.)

Invite students to look as they study the remainder of Acts 8 for an important way in which they can be a guide for others.

Invite a student to read Acts 8:26–28 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for why Philip went to Gaza.

  • Why did Philip go to Gaza?

  • Who was also traveling in the area Philip was in? (An Ethiopian eunuch. Explain that a eunuch was an official in the court of a king or queen [see Bible Dictionary, “Eunuch”].)

  • What was the Ethiopian official doing in his chariot? (Reading from Esaias, or the words of Isaiah.)

Place two chairs facing each other at the front of the room. Ask for two volunteers to act out the roles of the Ethiopian official and Philip in the account that follows. (You may want to assign these roles before class and invite these students to prepare to act out their parts.) Ask the student playing the Ethiopian official to sit in one of the chairs and the student playing Philip to stand by the door. Invite a third student to perform the role of the narrator.

Ask these students to read aloud from Acts 8:29–39 and act out their respective parts. Ask the class to watch what took place between Philip and the Ethiopian official. As students read and act out their parts, do the following:

  1. 1.

    After the narrator reads verses 32–33, invite students to consider writing Isaiah 53:7–8 as a cross-reference in their scriptures next to Acts 8:32–33.

  2. 2.

    After the narrator reads verse 35, ask the student performing the role of Philip to explain to the class what he or she would teach about the Savior in this situation. (You may want to invite the class to make suggestions as well.)

  3. 3.

    When the narrator reads verse 38, kindly ask the volunteers not to act out the performance of the baptism.

After the volunteers have finished this activity, thank them and invite them to return to their seats.

  • According to verse 29, why did Philip go to the Ethiopian official’s chariot?

  • According to verse 31, what did the official say he needed in order to understand the writings of Isaiah?

  • According to verses 35–38, how was Philip a guide for the official?

  • What principle can we learn from Philip’s experience about the results of heeding promptings from God? (Students may use different words, but make sure it is clear that as we heed promptings from God, we can receive opportunities to help guide others to Jesus Christ. Write this principle on the board.)

handout iconProvide students with copies of the following handout. Invite students to follow the instructions on the handout and think of ways they could help guide someone to Jesus Christ. Explain that they will have an opportunity to share with the class what they write.

Guiding Others to Jesus Christ

Select one of the following situations:

  • A young man you are friends with belongs to another Christian church. One day during lunch, you feel prompted to talk with him about the Church.

  • While walking home from school, you see a young woman who is crying. You recognize her as a member of your ward who has not attended any church meetings for several years. You feel prompted to talk to her. As you try to comfort her, she describes her challenges and asks, “Why can’t I just be happy?”

  • The mother of a young man you are connected with on a social media site recently passed away. You feel prompted to respond to the following post he recently made: “Feeling alone right now. Wishing that someone understood.”

On the back of this piece of paper or in your class notebook or scripture study journal, write what you would say and do to help guide this person to Jesus Christ. In your description, include answers to the following questions:

  • What truths of the gospel would you share to help guide this person to Jesus Christ?

  • What is one scripture you might invite this person to study?

  • What would you invite this person to do?

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After sufficient time, divide students into pairs. Invite students to explain to their partners what they wrote and why they would take that approach. Then invite several students to explain to the entire class what they wrote. You might consider inviting students who selected one of the first two scenarios to role-play what they would say and do in these situations, with you playing the individual they are trying to help. (If you do so, give students a minute to prepare before inviting them to role-play the scenario with you.) Then ask the class the following questions:

  • When and how have you helped guide someone to Jesus Christ?

  • When and how has someone helped guide you to Jesus Christ?

Encourage students to heed promptings from God so they can be directed to individuals whom they can help guide to Jesus Christ. Invite students to ponder what they can do in the next few days to help guide someone they know to Jesus Christ. Encourage students to report back to the class what they experience.

Commentary and Background Information

Acts 8:18–23. Accessing and using the priesthood

President James E. Faust of the First Presidency explained that the way in which priesthood power is accessed differs from the way in which worldly power is accessed:

“This greatest of all powers, the priesthood power, is not accessed the way power is used in the world. It cannot be bought or sold. … Many of you watch and admire linebackers, power forwards, and centers, as well as those who wield wealth, fame, and political and military power. Worldly power often is employed ruthlessly. However, priesthood power is invoked only through those principles of righteousness by which the priesthood is governed” (“Power of the Priesthood,” Ensign, May 1997, 43).

President Gordon B. Hinckley stated:

“Personal worthiness becomes the standard of eligibility to receive and exercise this sacred power” (“Personal Worthiness to Exercise the Priesthood,” Ensign, May 2002, 52).

Acts 8:27–38. Guiding others to Jesus Christ

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught about the importance of helping guide others to the Savior:

“For each of us to ‘come unto Christ’ [D&C 20:59], to keep His commandments and follow His example back to the Father is surely the highest and holiest purpose of human existence. To help others do that as well—to teach, persuade, and prayerfully lead them to walk that path of redemption also—surely that must be the second most significant task in our lives. Perhaps that is why President David O. McKay once said, ‘No greater responsibility can rest upon any man [or woman] than to be a teacher of God’s children’ [in Conference Report, Oct. 1916, 57]” (“A Teacher Come from God,” Ensign, May 1998, 25).

Supplemental Teaching Idea

Acts 8:26–39. God will help us understand the scriptures

After students identify a principle in Acts 8:29–39 about heeding promptings from God, you could ask them to identify another principle from these verses. Although students may identify a variety of truths, help them understand the following principle: As we seek for guidance in understanding the scriptures, God will help us.

Invite a student to read the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to follow along, listening for how we are sometimes like the Ethiopian eunuch:

“We are, in fact, all somewhat like the man of Ethiopia to whom Philip was sent. Like him, we may know enough to reach out for religion. We may invest ourselves in the scriptures. We may even give up our earthly treasures, but without sufficient instruction we may miss the meaning of all this and the requirements that still lie before us. So we cry with this man of great authority, ‘How can [we understand,] except some [teacher] should guide [us]?’ [Acts 8:31]” (“A Teacher Come from God,” Ensign, May 1998, 25).

  • What are some situations in which we might need guidance in understanding the scriptures?

  • What are appropriate sources from which we can seek guidance in understanding the scriptures? (You might consider reminding students about study aids the Church has prepared, as well as the Church’s Gospel Topics website [see lds.org/topics].)

  • How can studying the scriptures lead to revelation?

  • How has God helped you as you have sought guidance in understanding the scriptures?