By Beverly Conover
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 8 is a wonderful window into seeing God start this process through his people empowered by the Holy Spirit.
1.Saul was one of the witnesses and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen.
A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria
2. (Some devout men came and buried Stephen with great mourning)
3. But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison.
Saul—the violent persecutor of Christians
With the stoning death of Stephen, a wave of intense persecution sweeps over believers, scattering them throughout Judea and Samaria.
Saul is a main actor in this persecution. He had an intense zeal for the traditions of Judaism, a hatred for the followers of Jesus, the power of being connected to the religious elite.
Another translation says he “made havoc of the church”—a word used to describe the devastation caused by an invading army or the tearing prey to pieces by wild animals.
He later says of himself in Acts 26:10-11, “I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme.”
We will learn more later in Acts about God’s astounding work in and through Saul, who became the apostle Paul.
Acts 8: 4-8
4. But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went.
5. Philip, for example, went to the city of Samaria and told the people there about the Messiah.
6. Crowds listened intently to Philip because they were eager to hear his message and see the miraculous signs he did.
7. Many evil spirits were cast out, screaming as they left their victims and many who had been paralyzed or lame were healed.
8. So there was great joy in that city.
Philip is not the apostle Philip (who was still in Jerusalem), but one of those “full of the Spirit and wisdom” chosen to serve the church along with Stephen (Acts 6:2-6)
Once again, the Holy Spirit couples miraculous signs with the bold preaching of the Good News about Jesus Christ, with the end result of “great Joy”.
9. A man named Simon had been a sorcerer there for many years, amazing the people of Samaria and claiming to be someone great.
10. Everyone, from the least to the greatest, often spoke of him as “the Great One—the Power of God”.
11. They listened closely to him because for a long time he had astounded them with his magic.
12. But now the people believed Philp’s message of Good News concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.
As a result, many men and women were baptized.
13. Then Simon himself believed and was baptized. He began following Philip wherever he went, and he was amazed by the signs and great miracles that Philip performed.
So, in the city filled with joy because of the genuine work of God, we are introduced to Simon the Sorcerer. He was a man who claimed to be great, who people idolized, listened closely to, called “the Great One--the Power of God”. He comes face to face with the true power of God, so much greater than his magic, he believes the Good News that Philip is preaching and is baptized.
14. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had accepted God’s message, they sent Peter and John there.
15. As soon as they arrived, they prayed for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit.
16. The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them for they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
17. Then Peter and John laid hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Up until this time those who had accepted God’s message were Jews or those that had converted to Judaism. Now the apostles hear of Samaritans, who were half breeds and heretics to orthodox Jews, accepting the message of God brought by Philip. They send Peter and John to see “what’s up?” and find that the new believers had believed and been baptized in Jesus name, so the Holy Spirit was in them, just as Peter had said at Pentacost (Acts 2:38) “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”. But the Holy Spirit had not “come upon” them, giving them power to witness. So Peter and John (BTW, John was the disciple who wanted to call down fire from heaven and burn up a Samaritan village that did not welcome Jesus) lay hands on them and the Holy Spirit came upon them. God caused Peter and John to reach across the great divide between Jew and Samaritan in His work of uniting them in fellowship as true believers in Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
18. When Simon saw that the apostles laid their hands on people, he offered them money to buy this power.
19. “Let me have this power, too,” he exclaimed, “so that when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!”
20. But Peter replied, “May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought!”
21. You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God.
22. repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive your evil thoughts.
23. For I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin.”
24. “Pray to the Lord for me,” Simon exclaimed, “that those terrible things you’ve said won’t happen to me!”
So Simon had believed, but he was still bound by “stinkin’ thinkin’”. His attempt to buy God’s power revealed that he still craved power, the adoration of people, and he was jealous of the apostle’s God given power. He was humbled by Peter’s direct rebuke, given the opportunity to face his sin and repent—he didn’t even have the confidence to pray himself and asked Peter to pray for him! Praise God that He shines His light on the dark areas in us so we can repent and be free of them with His power.
25. After testifying and preaching the word of the Lord in Samaria, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem. And they stopped in many Samaritan villages along the way to preach the Good News.
What an amazing work God is doing in and through Peter and John, that they would stop in many villages of the once-despised Samaritans and preach the Good News.
26. As for Philip. an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.”
27. So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship and was now returning.
So Philip, in obedience to the Lord’s angelic message, leaves a thriving ministry to the Samaritans, and goes down a desert road where he encounters a high-ranking Ethiopian official—the treasurer to the Kandake (a positional title for the queen of Ethiopia. This queen was usually the mother of the king, who, it was thought, was too holy to deal with mundane affairs of state.
28. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah.
29. The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.”
30. Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked. “Do you understand what you are reading?”
31. The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” and he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.
32. The passage of Scripture he had been reading was this:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter
and as a lamb is silent before the shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
He was humiliated and received no justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”
34. The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?”
35. So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus.
36. As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?”
37. Omitted in the earliest Greek manuscripts.
“You can” Philip answered, “if you believe with all your heart.” And the eunuch replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
38. He ordered the carriage to stop and they went down into the water and Philip baptized him.
39. When they came out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing
The eunuch has been to Jerusalem to worship Israel’s God, he is a seeker who hears the gospel from Philip, believes and is baptized and returns to Ethiopia rejoicing. The gospel is spreading to Ethiopia, to the “ends of the earth”.
40. Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the town of Azotus. He preached the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea.
How amazing it must have been for Philip to have the Holy Spirit transport him from one place to another!
Azotus was called Ashdod in the Old Testament. It was one of the five principal cities of the Philistines. You can read in 1 Samuel chapters 5 & 6 about what God did there to prove that He is the true God. When Philip arrived in former Ashdod, God’s plan is moving forward, even in the place where people had once defied the God of Israel!
Philip ends up in Caesarea, where he is visited many years later by the Apostle Paul (see Acts 21:8-9).
1) God was amazing in how he moved his plan forward.
He is the same God, still moving his Good News to the ends of the earth, still using us, if we are willing to listen to and obey His Holy Spirit.
2) God’s wonderful salvation through Jesus Christ is offered to EVERYONE! EVERYWHERE!
3) Following Jesus is a continually life-changing experience. As it says in Colossians 1:6:
“This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.”
Bible quotes from New Living Translation copyright 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation unless otherwise stated.
The Message of Acts
John R. W. Stott
Be Dynamic (Acts 1-12): Experience the Power of God’s People (The BE Series Commentary) by Warren Wiersbe
The Book of Acts
Acts 8 (Part 1) – The Gospel Comes to Samaria; Pastor Paul LeBoutillier,
Calvary Chapel Ontario (Oregon) video
Joy of Living Bible Study—Acts Part 1 Commentary by Ray C. Stedman pp. 67-70