Acts, Lesson 9: Simon, Philip, and Saul

Mosaic of Sauls conversion (610x351)In the last lesson, we saw God choosing to act in ways He has not promised to do so. In particular, we saw God the Holy Spirit coming to a new group of people only through the hands of the Apostles. It’s almost as if God was chastising the Apostles for not leading the way with the Gospel. For Jesus was speaking specifically to them to bring the Gospel to Jerusalem and Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). 

Eventually, the Apostles will lead the way. But as of now, they are still following.

We also learned about a man named Simon. The miracles and healing by the Apostles had really impressed him. And it’s here that the story of Acts continues.


The Story of Simon Continues

Read Acts 8:18-19

  • What did Simon want to do?


  • Discuss the difference between magic and God giving His gifts.


  • How did Simon view what Peter and John were doing?


Read Acts 8:20-24

  • How did Peter respond?


  • If someone could buy the gift of God, what would that mean?


  • How does Simon respond to Peter’s censure?


Read Acts 8:25

  • What do “they” now do?


  • Along the way, what do they do in the Samaritan villages?


  • Discuss the connection between “the word of the Lord” and the “gospel.”


Philip and the Ethiopian

Read Acts 8:26-29

  • Who was Philip?


  • Discuss the relation between the Angel of the Lord and the unveiling of the New Covenant and the Angel of the Lord and the unveiling of the Old Covenant in Exodus.


  • But who specifically directed Philip to go see the Ethiopian in his chariot?


Read Acts 8:30-35

  • What does the Ethiopian have trouble understanding?


  • How does this testify to the need for Christian instruction?


Guide (hodegeo): Philip said, “How can I understand [this passage from Isaiah], unless someone guides me.” Hodegeo literally means to lead along the road. Without such a guide, one would get lost. We see hodegeo used in the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, in several passages, such as:

  • Psalm 5:2: Lord, lead me in Your righteousness because of my enemy.
  • Psalm 27:11: Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me on a level path because of my oppressors.
  • Wisdom 10:10: When a righteous man fled from his brother’s wrath, she [wisdom] guided him on straight paths; she showed him the kingdom of God and gave him knowledge of holy things.


  • How does Philip specifically understand that Old Testament passage from Isaiah and “guide” the Ethiopian?


Read Acts 8:36-38

  • What did the Ethiopian say to Philip?


  • How would the Ethiopian have known about baptism and the role it played in salvation?


  • Extrapolating Philip’s “evangelism method,” Christian evangelism leads to what?


Excursus: Baptism’s Role in Evangelism

In the book of Acts, we see that the spoken Word that someone brought to another was not separated from the Word and water of baptism. In the sermon that the Apostle Peter preached on Pentecost day, the hearers were convicted of their sin. Responding in the normal, human way of thinking, the hearers thought they had to do something to be saved. They cried out, “Brothers, what should we do?” (Acts 2:37). Instead, Peter directed them to what God the Holy Spirit would do: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Luke further provides the connection between the spoken Word and baptism with this assessment: “So those who received his word were baptized” (Acts 2:41).

In today’s lesson, we learn that Philip brought Jesus to the Ethiopian as he explained to him how the Prophet Isaiah had foretold of Jesus. Philip obviously had also spoken to him the role that baptism played in one’s conversion. For when the Ethiopian saw some water along the way, he said, “Look, there’s some water! What would keep me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36).

Later, Jesus spoke to Saul as he was traveling to Damascus, which also led to Saul’s baptism at the hands of Ananias (Acts 9:18). The gentile Cornelius and his whole household were brought to baptism after Peter preached and the Holy Spirit descended, showing that they also were to be baptized (Acts 16:15). The Philippian jailer and his whole family also received baptism as a result of Paul’s proclamation of the Word (Acts 16:30-33).

Bringing Jesus to another through the spoken Word was not an end in and of itself. When bringing Jesus to non-believers, the hearers were then led the waters of baptism. As shown in the book of Acts, Christian evangelism leads to baptism. The spoken Word was not disconnected from the water of baptism, which Peter said was salvific (1 Peter 3:21).

  • Discuss: What do we not see being done in Acts, which is often done today as the way to bringing someone into God’s Kingdom?


Read Acts 8:39-40


Saul’s Conversion

Saul, whom Luke introduced us to during the stoning of Stephen, now makes another appearance. Saul is planning to travel 150 miles to Damascus to do what he thinks is right.

Read Acts 9:1-2

  • What was Saul actively trying to do?


  • What was Christianity called before it was called Christianity (Acts 8:2; 18:25-26; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24: 14, 22)?


  • Discuss what implications that the term “the Way” had in being a Christian.


Read Acts 9:3-9

  • When one persecutes the Church, who else does he persecute? (vs. 4)


  • How does Paul’s physical blindness testify to his spiritual blindness?


  • How long was Saul blind? (vs. 9)


  • How did the length of his blindness testify to Jesus?


Read Acts 9:10-14

  • What does the Lord tell Ananias to do?


  • Why does Ananias object?


Read Acts 9:15-19

  • What does the Lord say will happen to Saul? (vs. 16)


Excursus: Christian Suffering

The life of a believer is to be patterned after that of his Lord and Savior: first the cross, then the crown. That is what St. Paul meant when he defined knowing Christ in this world as a “participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10).

The Lord told Ananias about Saul: “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:16). Paul’s role was now changing from persecutor into becoming one of many persecuted.

Jesus taught, again and again, of the suffering that one would have to endure because he was a follower of Jesus (Matthew 5:10-12, 16:24-26, 20:22-23; John 15:18-21). Paul lived and affirmed Jesus’ teachings. A list of his sufferings made it clear that what the Lord told Ananias would become a reality for Paul (2 Corinthians 11:23-33).

The Apostle Peter also taught as much: “Dear friends, don’t be surprised by the fiery trials that have come among you to test you, as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13). Peter’s words sound similar to Paul’s: “For I consider that our present sufferings cannot even be compared to the coming glory that will be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

For Christians, the full glory comes later on the Last Day. But now we may have to suffer, for as the world reviled Jesus, so also will the world revile us, His followers.


  • What does Ananias do?


  • Although never commanded by Jesus for the Church to do, what do we see Ananias do when Saul was also baptized?


  • What happened to Saul’s eyes?


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