Acts 8–9

New Testament Teacher Resource Manual, (2002), 143–44


Introduction

In Acts 8–9 we see the beginning of the worldwide mission of the early Christian Church. Before this time missionaries preached the gospel primarily to the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea. Now Philip, one of the seven men chosen to assist the Apostles, preached to non-Israelites in Samaria and in Gaza (see Bible map 11). As you study chapter 8 look for the first principles and ordinances of the gospel being taught and applied.

These chapters also recount the conversion of Saul, one of the greatest missionaries who ever lived. Saul, whom the Lord raised up “to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15), was the same who was renamed Paul and who wrote most of the Epistles in the New Testament. Notice how his zeal for persecuting the Saints changed, after his conversion, to zeal for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Prayerfully study Acts 8–9 and consider the following principles before preparing your lessons.

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

  • The Lord allows His people to be tried in order to accomplish His purposes (see Acts 8:1–4).

  • The Lord directs the work of the Church (see Acts 8:5–40).

  • God has a work for each of us to do in His kingdom (see Acts 9:1–22).

  • Following Christ requires making sacrifices (see Acts 9:16; see also 2 Corinthians 11:23–33).

  • Men who worthily hold the priesthood of God share Jesus Christ’s power (see Acts 9:32–43).

Additional Resources

  • The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, 246–49, 256–61.

Suggestions for Teaching

Choose from the following ideas, or use some of your own, as you prepare lessons for Acts 8–9.

Acts 8:1–4. The Lord allows His people to be tried to accomplish His purposes.

(30–35 minutes)

Come to class with one of your arms bandaged. Ask students to imagine that you suffered a painful injury and won’t be able to use your arm and hand for several weeks. Ask:

  • What are some ill effects that could result from this type of injury?

  • What good might result? (Possible answers include learning to write with the other hand, gaining more empathy for people who suffer physically, meeting a doctor or nurse who is interested in the gospel.)

Have a student read Acts 8:1–4 and look for what trials Church members were experiencing. Ask: What good came from this difficult situation? (Those who were scattered abroad preached in the places they went.)

Explain that Philip was one of those who preached the gospel as a result of being scattered from Jerusalem. Have students quickly read through Acts 8:5–13, 26–40 looking for evidence that Philip’s experience outside of Jerusalem was successful. Read Acts 1:8 and ask: How did this scattering help the Church fill a commandment given by the resurrected Lord?

Tell a personal experience in which a trial or difficulty you experienced turned out in some way to be a blessing. (Or use a scriptural example, such as Nephi’s broken bow experience in 1 Nephi 16:18–32.) Encourage students not to be discouraged when bad things happen to them but to look for the good things that might come from these experiences. Ask if any of them have experienced something like this that they would like to share with the class.

Acts 9:1–22. The Lord has a work for each of us to do in His kingdom.

(20–25 minutes)

Tell students to pretend that in a few minutes someone will come to class who can answer any question they ask about the Church, but that they can ask only two questions. Discuss what questions they would ask.

Have students read Acts 9:1–6looking for the questions Saul asked the Lord when the Lord appeared to him.

  • Why were Paul’s questions so crucial to him?

  • Why are these same questions important for each of us?

Point out that we must each gain a testimony of Jesus Christ for ourselves. Regarding Paul’s second question, read the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“There is no more crucial question that a man should be constantly asking than that which Paul asked: ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’ [Acts 9:6.] There is no more essential answer than that which he received: to go to those who are authorized by the Lord to give directions” (God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties [1974], 162).

Ask: What should you do once you have received an answer from the Lord? Read Acts 9:7–22, and consider asking the following questions:

  • What happened to Saul as a result of this vision?

  • What evidence is there that Saul was obedient to the answer he received?

  • What did the Lord tell Ananias about Saul that prepared him to meet this persecutor of the Church?

  • How was Saul blessed for heeding the answer to the Lord’s question?

  • What blessings can come to us for doing as Saul did?

Ask students:

  • How does the Lord answer our questions today? (Answers might include the scriptures, the Holy Ghost, prayer, parents, priesthood leaders, patriarchal blessings.)

  • What would happen if we chose to ignore the answers the Lord gave us?

  • Why is keeping the commandments so vital as we seek to learn what the Lord wants us to do?

Acts 9:16. Disciples of Christ must be willing to sacrifice.

(15–20 minutes)

Show students two or three pictures of people who make important contributions to society (for example, a medical doctor, a mother, a teacher). For each picture, ask: What sacrifices did this person likely make to become successful? Ask: How do their sacrifices bless others?

Have students read Acts 9:16and 2 Corinthians 11:23–28looking for what Saul (Paul) suffered for the cause of Christ. Tell students that following Christ requires us to be willing to sacrifice all things and that disciples are frequently called on to suffer many things. Ask: Why did Paul make these sacrifices?

President Brigham Young said of the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“Joseph could not have been perfected, though he had lived a thousand years, if he had received no persecution. If he had lived a thousand years, and led this people, and preached the Gospel without persecution, he would not have been perfected as well as he was at the age of thirty-nine years” (Discourses of Brigham Young, 351).

Ask:

  • How did persecution, suffering, and sacrifice affect the Prophet Joseph Smith?

  • How can we successfully deal with suffering and sacrifice when it comes?

  • How can our sacrifices benefit others?

Have students read Romans 8:35–39 looking for what enabled Paul to make great sacrifices. Ask:

  • What are some different ways the “love of Christ” is manifest?

  • How did this help Paul?

  • How can it help us?

Acts 9:32–43. Peter had Christ’s power, and we have this same power in the Church today.

(15–20 minutes)

Have students close their Bibles. On your signal, have them open them and find an account of the priesthood being used to bless someone’s life. As students find accounts, have them share the references with those who haven’t found one yet. When everyone in the class has a reference, select a few students to share what they have found.

Divide the class in two. Have one group read and compare Acts 9:32–35 with Mark 2:1–12. Have the other group compare Acts 9:36–43 with Luke 7:11–17. Use some or all of the following questions to help your discussion:

  • Who performed the miracles in the accounts found in Mark and Luke?

  • Who performed them in the accounts in Acts?

  • From whom did Peter receive his priesthood power?

  • Who restored this power to the earth in our day? (Peter, James, and John; see D&C 128:20).

Ask if any students would like to share an experience in which they were blessed by the power of the priesthood. If no one volunteers, consider sharing such an experience from your own life. Testify that Christ’s priesthood authority or power is with us in the Church today.