Sermon Overview & Discussion Questions: "The Gospel Reaches the Despised"

Overview of Sermon:

Persecution of the early church scatters Christians across ancient Israel, placing Philip in the northern region of Samaria. Though first-century Jews and Samaritans hold much animosity towards one another, Acts 8 finds Philip boldly preaching the gospel to the Samaritan people, giving rise to the gospel’s first recorded proclamation outside of Jerusalem. Many are baptized through Philip’s preaching, though they only later receive the Holy Spirit upon the arrival of Peter and John, an event unique to the early church. The arrival of the gospel is accompanied by miraculous deeds, of which a magician named Simon becomes enamored, expressing interest only in the supernatural abilities of the Spirit and not in the message of the gospel itself. The narrative ends with Peter’s rebuke of Simon’s wrong focus, and the gospel continues to be preached throughout Samaria.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What reason does CJ suggest for why the Samaritan Christians in Acts 8 didn’t immediately receive the Holy Spirit upon conversion and baptism? Why is this detail significant considering the first century’s cultural climate?
  2. In what ways are the characters of Philip and Simon different from one another, as
    particularly stressed in this passage?
  3. What specific type of distortion of the gospel does Simon’s response represent? In what ways is this type of gospel-distortion expressed in a modern setting?
  4. CJ mentioned that one application of this passage is to identify cultural outcasts as especially relevant when sharing the gospel. Who might these individuals or groups be for our culture, and how can we better engage them with the gospel?
  5. CJ encouraged us to pray for specific opportunities to share the gospel with those in our lives that we already have established friendships with. Who, in particular, do you believe the Holy Spirit is leading you to share the gospel with? How do you intend to share the gospel with him or her?