Acts 8 - Outline of Acts (Book Notes menu page)
1. And Saul was consenting unto his death.
And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem;
and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria,
except the apostles.
2 And devout men carried Stephen [to his burial], and made great lamentation over him.
3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church,
entering into every house, and haling men and women committed [them] to prison.
4. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.
...there was a great persecution against the church... at Jerusalem... -
This Fourth Persecution was more severe than those that preceded it. It arose out of the witness and martyrdom of Stephen (Acts ch. 7), and was fueled by the misdirected religious zeal of Saul (Php 3:6).
...they were scattered abroad throughout... Judaea and Samaria... they... went... preaching the word.-
The effect of persecution was to spread the Gospel message more widely. Up to this point, the church had enjoyed warm fellowship with fellow believers (Acts 2:44-47; 4:32) and a degree of respect from the common people in Jerusalem (5:12-16). But now, the believers were discomfited and dishonored. It had become dangerous for them to stay in the city.
     As Jesus had foretold (1:8), His witnesses moved out from Jerusalem into the surrounding area within the land of Israel. Judaea is the countryside around Jerusalem. Samaria is the region to the north of Jerusalem. Most of the population in these areas were ethnically Jews, or, in the case of the Samaritans, a mixed breed who were partially Jewish.
     The scattering due to persecution was far from pleasant. But it was according to the Lord's purpose. The word 'scatter abroad' {GK=diaspeiro}, used in v.1 and v.4), usually refers to the sowing of seed. Thus, the work of the Kingdom of Heaven, during the Church Age, had begun (Mat 13:3-23).
5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
6 And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake,
hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
7 For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice,
came out of many that were possessed [with them]:
and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.
8 And there was great joy in that city.
Philip, like Stephen, was one of the original deacons (Acts 6:5).
Like that of Stephen, Philip's ministry had grown beyond caring for the physical needs of the church.
...Philip... preached Christ unto them... The people... gave heed...-
Philip's message was powerfully confirmed by supernatural signs, like those which the prophets foretold would accompany the Messiah's coming (Isa 35:5,6). God was answering the prayer of the church (in Acts 4:29,30).
...many... were healed... there was great joy in that city.-
Their great joy {ie., gladness} was rooted in their release from long standing spiritual and physical bondage (as in Luk 13:11-13,16 and Acts 3:6-10). They were set free from these things, because the Christ had come. But it is possible to rejoice in a religious experience or healing, while lacking a full understanding of the truth concerning Jesus (see Mark 4:16,17, where 'gladness' is the word for 'joy'). It is possible to 'believe,' while lacking the heart transformation of the new birth (Joh 2:23-25).
9 But there was a certain man, called Simon,
which beforetime in the same city used sorcery,
and bewitched the people of Samaria,
giving out that himself was some great one:
10 To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying,
This man is the great power of God.
11 And to him they had regard,
because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.
12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things
concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ,
they were baptized, both men and women.
13 Then Simon himself believed also:
and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip,
and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.
...Simon... which beforetime... used sorcery {ie., magic arts} and bewitched {ie., deceived as to his standing}...-
The people, who 'gave heed' to Philip's message (v.6), had previously 'given heed' to Simon the sorcerer (v.10 and v.11, where 'had regard' is the same word). By means of his magic, he had convinced everyone that he was "the great power of God." His standing, in the sight of the people, was authoritative and messianic. But in reality, he was an antichrist, for there is only One who is the great power of God (1Cor 1:24). Because Simon's occult practices were neither of God nor according to His Word, those who gave heed to him had been enslaved under the lies of unclean spirits (see Isa 8:19,20; 47:9-14).
...But when they believed Philip...-
The preaching, of 'the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ,' leads to freedom from the kingdom of darkness (Col 1:13).
...when they believed... they were baptized...-
Baptism always follows belief. Baptism is an outward symbol of identification with the truth that has been believed. However, it is possible to "believe and be baptized," without having come to saving faith. Because salvation is not of works, but by grace through faith (Eph 2:8,9), it is essential to understand what must be believed in order to be saved (as we shall see, shortly).
Then Simon... believed... was baptized... continued with Philip... wondering [at the] miracles and signs...-
The wording indicates that Simon closely followed Philip, attentively observing to discern the power {'miracles' is GK=dunamis} which produced the miraculous signs.
14. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem
heard that Samaria had received the word of God,
they sent unto them Peter and John:
15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them,
that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them:
only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
17 Then laid they [their] hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
...the apostles which were at Jerusalem... sent unto them Peter and John...-
The Lord's commission to "teach all nations... teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you..." (Mat 28:19,20) was given first to the Apostles. They had a responsibility to ensure that these new believers were grounded "in the apostles' doctrine" (Acts 2:42).
...they prayed... that they might receive the Holy Ghost... for as yet he was fallen upon none of them...-
When the apostles came to Samaria, they found 'baptized believers' who had not received the Holy Spirit.
  • Because they did not have the Holy Spirit, it was evident that they had not believed unto salvation.
    Something was lacking in what they believed (Rom 8:9).
  • Although they had been baptized in water,
    they had not been baptized by the Spirit, into the body of Christ (1Cor 12:13).
There is a similar incident recorded in Acts 19:1-6. In that case, the believers had been baptized "unto John's baptism." They had been taught to repent and wait for the coming Messiah, but they knew nothing of the person and work of Jesus Christ, or of the Holy Spirit.
     Philip's teaching, in Samaria, was "concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ" (v.12). The people believed that Jesus is the Messiah, and they enjoyed the blessing of partial release from the kingdom of darkness (eg., in healing of diseases, and in turning from demonic doctrines). Although these people had been baptized 'in the name of Jesus' (v.16), they were not saved, because they had not adequately understood who Jesus is, and what He did to free us from sin. According to Peter's teaching, in his first sermon, if they had believed aright, they would have received the Spirit (Acts 2:38).
     What does the name of Jesus Christ mean to you? There are many false Christs (Mat 24:5,24), and many false gospels (2Cor 11:4; Gal 1:6,7). The 'name of Jesus' is not a magic formula. It describes who He is: the One who saves His people from their sins (Mat 1:21). In Jesus, God became a man (Mat 1:23, 'Emmanuel'), in order to bear our sins away (Joh 1:29). Israel was looking for a powerful political Messiah, who would bring peace to their nation. But they did not understand that first, He must purge them of sin, for there is no peace to the wicked. As the Christ {Messiah}, Jesus is the One anointed and appointed to accomplish all of the purposes of God, including the salvation of His people.
     For faith unto salvation, you must place your full confidence in Him... believing that Jesus is God the Son, who took human nature upon Himself, in order to die your death for sin, and that, having fully paid the price of your redemption, He arose from the dead to bring you, out of sin and death, and into eternal life with Him (Rom 10:6-10; 1Cor 15:1-4).
     Biblical water baptism is an outward indication of an inward identification with the Savior, in whom the believer trusts. But one must identify with the true Savior. Therefore, in the Great Commission, Christ commanded us to clearly teach His identity. Note that, in Mat 28:19, 'the Name' is singular. In order to reconcile sinners to God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), God the Son became a man, and by Himself (without your help or mine) purchased redemption, through His death and resurrection, for those whose only hope and full confidence is in Him.
Then they laid [their] hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.-
The laying on of hands only rarely accompanied the coming of the Holy Spirit, in the NT record. Usually, the Spirit came upon new believers, spontaneously, at the moment of belief (eg., Acts 10:44-47). In that passage, the evidence that the Holy Spirit had come upon Gentile believers was confirmation, to Peter and his Jewish companions, that the gift of salvation was also for the Gentiles. These Samaritans came to faith, about two years before the first Gentiles. Perhaps, in preparation for the later event, the apostles needed to see for themselves, that salvation was also for the Samaritans, who were regarded, by the Jews, as little better than Gentiles. (Regarding the origin of the Samaritans, see 2Kin 17:24-41.)
     Where the laying on of hands was involved (eg., v.17; 19:6), this action did not convey the Spirit, but rather expressed apostolic recognition of those who believed sound doctrine (ie., the true gospel of the true Christ). The apostles never presented themselves as having power to confer the Spirit, or else they would have been guilty of the same error as Simon the sorcerer (described in the verses that follow). Rather, as the apostles taught God's Word, and prayed for spiritual enlightenment of their hearers (v.15; 2:42; 6:4), the Holy Spirit came upon those who truly believed.
18 And when Simon saw that
through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given,
he offered them money,
19 Saying, Give me also this power,
that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee,
because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.
21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter:
for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.
22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness,
and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and [in] the bond of iniquity.
24 Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me,
that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.
Simon... offered them money, saying, Give me... this power {GK=exousia, authority}...-
Simon was impressed. He wanted to add a potentially lucrative franchise to his line of business.
But Peter said... Thou hast neither part {ie., share} nor lot {ie., inheritance} in this matter {GK=logos, word}...-
Simon was 'perishing,' because he had not received the salvation which is the gift of God (Joh 3:16; Rom 6:23), and therefore, had not received the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 10:45). Furthermore, he failed to understand that spiritual gifts received from God are to be freely given to others (Mat 10:8). He had heard the Word, but it had not taken root in his heart.
...thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.-
The occultic practices, with which Simon had deceived others, had poisoned his heart with evil and entrapped him in the iniquity {evil, unrighteousness} which he had foisted upon others. cp. Deu 29:18-20; 32:32,33; Prov 5:22; 2The 2:10-12; 2Pet 2:13,15,19; Heb 12:15
...repent... of... thy wickedness... and pray God... the thought of thine heart... be forgiven thee...-
There was hope, even for Simon, because there is no limit to the salvation available in Christ (Heb 7:25). The word 'forgiven' {GK=aphiemi, to send away, to set free} implies not only the lifting of guilt, but also the purging away of evil. Rom 6:17-22; 1Cor 6:9-11; Titus 3:3-7
...Pray ye to the Lord for me...-
Being in bondage to the powers of darkness, Simon was wise to ask others to pray for him. Jam 5:16
Yet, in order to be saved, you must personally "come unto God by Him." No one else can do it for you. (Heb 7:25; Rom 10:11-13; Joh 6:37).
...Pray ye... for me... that none of those things which ye have spoken come upon {ie., overtake} me.-
Scripture does not tell us whether Simon came to saving faith. However, his prayer request seems to indicate that he did not realize that he had already been overtaken by the evil spiritual condition which Peter described. His need was to renounce his wicked thoughts and ways, and to beseech God for deliverance from the evil powers to which he was enslaved.
25 And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord,
returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.
26. And the angel
{lit., 'an angel'} of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying,
Arise, and go toward the south
unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.
Confident that the Lord was indeed calling Samaritans to Himself,
the apostles took the opportunity to preach the Gospel in Samaritan villages along the way, on their return to Jerusalem.
The angel of the Lord spake unto Philip... Arise... go... unto... desert...-
From the human viewpoint, the angel's message to Philip did not make sense. He was to leave the work in Samaria, where multitudes were responding to his preaching, and walk 75 miles south, to a place in a desert, where there would be very few people. A servant of the Lord must be ready to receive, and quick to obey, the Holy Spirit's leading. The faithful servant will understand the Lord's purpose soon enough.
27 And he arose and went:
and, behold, a man of Ethiopia,
an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians,
who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,
28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.
29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
30 And Philip ran thither to [him], and heard him read the prophet Esaias,
and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?
31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me?
And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
...behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority... who had charge of all her treasure...-
Philip went where he was sent, and kept the appointment that God had arranged for him, with a very important man. On first reading, we might think that this man was traveling alone (after all, only one chariot is mentioned). However, given the authority and responsibility vested in this officer, he was probably accompanied by a military escort, several other officers and a number of servants, including the chauffeur driving his carriage (allowing him time to conduct business and to read).
...Candace queen of the Ethiopians...-
Some critics claim there was no African queen named Candace. However, 'Candace' is not a personal name, but rather the transliteration of the title "Kandakes," referring to a line of queens who reigned, from around 175 BC to 315 AD, in Nubia, a region along the upper Nile River, in what is now Northern Sudan. (In biblical times, this region was known as Kush or Ethiopia.) The reigning queen at the time of this account would have been Amantitere (or possibly Amanitore). Although the recorded history of the Kandakes is limited, it is clear that they were powerful and wealthy. Tradition suggests that these queens may have descended from Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (1Kin 10:1-13). eunuch... who... had come to Jerusalem to worship...-
It was not uncommon for monarchs to prefer officers who had been made eunuchs (ie., sexually neutered), with the thought that they would be more loyal and focused on their duties (eg., Daniel and his friends, Dan 1:1-7).
     This officer had gone up to Jerusalem to worship, probably for the feasts of Passover and Pentecost. Evidently, he was a worshipper of the God of Israel. Gentile proselytes to Judaism were welcome to worship the Lord at the Temple (1Kin 8:41-43; Isa 56:7; Joh 12:20). However, it is likely that this man was an Ethiopian Jew, and very possibly a descendant of Solomon.
     The return journey to his country would have taken him through Egypt. The highway from Jerusalem to Egypt passed though Gaza (v.26).
...sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet...-
"The Three Essential Elements of Conversion" [JVMcGee] are clearly shown in this account, and also in the accounts of the conversions of Saul (ch. 9) and of Cornelius (ch. 10). These elements are:
  1. The Holy Spirit -
    • Who alone can prepare and lead the witness (Acts 1:8).
    • Who alone must prepare the heart of the hearer (Joh 16:7-11).
  2. The Word of God -
    The new birth cannot occur apart from the Word (1Pet 1:23-25; Rom 10:17).
  3. The Man of God - See Rom 10:13-15 -
    In this case, the messenger was Philip. But it could be any believer, who is 'ready' to share the Gospel, because he or she is filled with the Spirit and with the Word (Eph 5:18,19; Col 3:16; Rom 1:15).
...the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.-
Again, the Spirit led and Philip obeyed without hesitation... though the sight of this royal entourage was probably intimidating.
...Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias...-
The Word of God was already present.
...understandest thou...? ...How can I except some man should guide me? -
The prepared Man of God was invited to tell what he knew.
32 The place of the scripture which he read was this,
He was led as a sheep to the slaughter;
and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:
33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away:
and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.
34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee,
of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
35 Then Philip opened his mouth,
and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
The place of the scripture which he read was...-
The text that Philip heard him reading was Isa 53:7,8. But the officer had been reading for awhile. Read along with him, from the beginning of the chapter (Isa 53:1-).
The officer had the Word of God, but apart from the Holy Spirit, and the Man of God, he was unable to discern the subject of the message: "Of whom does the prophet speak?"
...Philip opened his mouth... began at the same scripture... preached unto him Jesus.-
What an opportunity was opened to Philip. How often do we have similar opportunities, but fail to open our mouths in witness? (Eph 6:18-20).
     The whole Bible speaks of Christ. Philip started with Isaiah, and referred also to other scripture passages, as he explained how Jesus fulfilled the things written concerning Him. Joh 5:39; Luk 24:27,44-48; 2Tim 3:16,17
     The short answer to the Ethiopian eunuch's question (v.34) was "Jesus." But Philip did not stop there. He 'preached' {GK=euaggelizo, evangelize}, sharing the 'good news' concerning who Jesus is, what He did to save us from our sins, and what the sinner must do to be saved.
     [For a more complete answer to the question, "Of Whom Does the Prophet Speak?" See the article by this title on the Resource Menu.]
36 And as they went on [their] way, they came unto a certain water:
and the eunuch said, See, [here is] water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.
And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still:
and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch;
and he baptized him.
39 And when they were come up out of the water,
the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more:
and he went on his way rejoicing.
40 But Philip was found at Azotus
{ie., Ashdod}:
and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.
...what doth hinder me to be baptized?... If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest...-
As the Ethiopian eunuch heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he became convinced of its truth, and of his need of the Savior. He was ready to be publicly identified with Him. As we saw, previously, water baptism is an external declaration of a change within the believer's heart, which involves repenting from sin and placing full confidence in Jesus Christ, who alone is the Savior from sin. (Saving faith is the prerequisite for baptism. 'They that gladly received the word were baptized...' Acts 2:37-41)
     Philip, perhaps remembering those in Samaria who were unsaved though baptized (v.12-16,21), was careful to test the reality of this man's faith.
...he commanded the chariot to stand still: and... Philip... baptized him.-
The entire entourage stood still, when the chariot stopped. There were many witnesses to the officer's decision.
...the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away...-
The Lord's servant was given a new assignment: to preach the Gospel along Israel's Mediterranean Sea coast, from Ashdod in the south, to Caesarea in the north.
...the eunuch... went on his way rejoicing.- Isa 61:10,11; Rom 5:1,2; 1Pet 1:6-9
Tradition tells us that this new believer carried the Gospel into his distant land, resulting in the conversion of many, and the widespread establishment of the church of Christ in that region, in spite of great persecution.

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