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Lesson 12: Gifted for Service: Philip *

Introduction: How do you solve problems in the church? Is it with gifted plans or gifted people? If you had to choose, which would be more important? This week we study a man who was part of the solution to one of the most explosive problems in the early church. He apparently did well in his service to the church for God made him a powerful evangelist. Let's jump into our study of Philip and learn about the ideal life in service for God.

  1. Deacon Philip

    1. Read Acts 6:1. Assume I came to you with this problem. What would be your first suggestion as to the source of the problem and how to solve it?

      1. Would you first find out if the charges were true?

        1. Does it matter if they are true? Or, is perception more important?

      2. Since they mention cultural distinctions, my first reaction would be that this was discrimination based on culture. Would the solution be education or replacement of personnel?

        1. Let's run this through in our minds. Assume that you begin to solve the problem by determining whether the food distributors are discriminating or whether the complainers are guilty of falsely claiming discrimination. Either way, one side is showing that they discriminate based on ethnicity. When you figured out who was in the wrong, what would you be facing? (One side is going to be upset and probably claiming more discrimination!)

    2. Read Acts 6:2-4. How do the early leaders handle the problem? (They assume the problem arises from not paying close enough attention. They don't assign blame. They don't challenge the complainers. They say they have more important things to do. No one is found to be culturally insensitive.)

      1. What if the problem is cultural discrimination? (Whatever the source of the problem, this will fix it.)

      2. Have they created a committee to deal with the problem?

    3. Read Acts 6:5-6. What do you notice about the names of the new deacons? (Most of them have Greek names.)

      1. What do you conclude from this? (The apostles refuse to admit there was any intentional discrimination against the Greek Jews. However, when the church chooses the new deacons, it chooses mostly Greek Jews.)

        1. What does the handling of this explosive problem teach us for our missionary activities today?

        2. To go back to our introduction, which turns out to be most important: gifted plans or gifted people? (They are both important. This is a false dichotomy.)

    4. Look again at Acts 6:3. Our lesson this week is about Philip. What do we learn about him from our first introduction? (That he is "full of the Spirit and wisdom.")

  2. Healer Philip

    1. Read Acts 8:1-5. What has happened to the church in Jerusalem? What has happened to Philip? Is he now out of a job? (With the persecution, the leaders and members fled to other cities. Philip went to a city in Samaria. He is now out of the food distribution business.)

      1. Recall our lesson two weeks ago (Lesson 10)about Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well? Why would Philip choose to go to Samaria? (Certainly the Jewish authorities had little influence there. Jesus pioneered sharing the gospel with the Samaritans.)

    2. Read Acts 8:6-8. The office of deacon means different things in different churches. What did it mean in Philip's case? (He performed miracles and brought "joy in that city.")

      1. What connection do the miracles have to the message? (It caused the people to "pay close attention.")

        1. What lesson do we find in this or our missionary activities today?

    3. Read Acts 8:9-11. If you were an outside observer, how is Simon like Philip? (He did amazing things. The people gave him their attention.)

      1. How are Philip and Simon not alike? (Simon took the credit for himself. He was "the Great Power." Philip gave the glory to God.)

      2. Read Mark 16:20 and Acts 14:3. These texts say the gospel is "confirmed" by miracles. Notice the different sources of power for Simon and Philip. How could you know the source of the power when the results seem similar?

        1. Is sorcery confirmed by Simon's amazing work? (Read Matthew 7:22-23. Doing amazing things is not the test of righteousness.)

      3. Read 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12. How does this say we can distinguish the true from the false? (We must look at the message of the miracle worker. Simon's message was personal power and glory.)

    4. Read Acts 8:12-13. What attracted Simon to the gospel? (He was astonished by the signs and miracles.)

    5. Let's skip down to Acts 8:18-23. Wait a minute! This is Philip's new convert. How can Peter say Simon's heart is "not right" and is "full of bitterness and captive to sin?"

      1. Is there a lesson in this for our missionary activities? (Read Acts 8:24. Simon comes into the church for the "wrong reasons." His heart is still not right, even though he is baptized. He reacts to Peter based on fear. Yet I believe he is on the road to righteousness. People who want to be baptized should be baptized. We need not wait until they are perfect!)

  3. The Holy Spirit

    1. Let's go back to those verses that we skipped over. Read Acts 8:14-16. How can Philip, a man who does great miracles and is himself ( Acts 6:3) "full" of the Holy Spirit, baptize without the Holy Spirit? Is this some sort of technical failure on Philip's part? Did he forgot part of the required message because he is new to this?

      1. Look again at Acts 8:15-16. The first step in receiving the Holy Spirit is to pray for the Spirit.

    2. Read Acts 8:17. What additional step do we see?

    3. Read Acts 9:17. What procedure was used to have Saul filled with the Holy Spirit? (In both cases we see that laying hands on the person is the method by which the Holy Spirit is conferred.)

    4. Read Acts 10:44-47. How did this group receive the Holy Spirit? Did it precede or follow baptism? (It came before baptism!)

    5. What do these texts teach us about receiving the Holy Spirit? (It can clearly be something separate from baptism. It comes in different ways. But, it is clearly manifest in the believer. In Acts 8:14-16 it was clear the Holy Spirit had not come on the believers.)

      1. What does this teach us about our missionary efforts? (We need to pray to have the Holy Spirit be manifest in those we baptize.)

  4. The Ethiopian

    1. Read Acts 8:26-29. How would you like to have such a relationship with God that He points out a specific road and a specific car for you to contact? Is such a relationship possible today?

      1. We are always interested in bringing in influential new members. How important was this Ethiopian? (He was the treasurer of the country. If this were America, he would be Secretary of the Treasury.)

        1. What does this tell us about his relationship with the Queen of Ethiopia? (You are going to find the most trustworthy person to be in charge of your money!)

      2. What else do we know about this Ethiopian? (He was interested in spiritual matters. He not only had been to Jerusalem to worship, but he was reading the Bible on his trip home.)

    2. Read Acts 8:30-31. What else do we learn about God's interest in the affairs of humans? (He brought Philip and the Ethiopian together at the very point where the Ethiopian was having trouble understanding the Bible!)

    3. Read Acts 8:32-34. If you wanted to convert a Jew, with what Old Testament text would you start? (God has arranged for the Ethiopian to be reading the perfect text to introduce Jesus the Messiah.)

    4. Read Acts 8:35-38. How does Philip begin his evangelist efforts with this man? (He follows the lead of the Holy Spirit. He answers the questions presented. He does not start with a "prepared" witnessing speech.)

    5. Read Acts 8:39-40. Would you like to live a life in the Spirit like Philip?

    6. Friend, if you would like a life in the Spirit, why not ask God right now to use you like this?

  5. Next week: "Here Am I! Send Me:" The Prophet Isaiah.
* Copr. 2008, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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