Acts 8:1-25

The Church begins to expand geographically.

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.

[And Saul was consenting] Saul was a young man, probably still in or just out of rabbinical school, impressionable and filled with youthful zeal. Unfortunately, the example which was set before him was miguided. Acts 7:58, Acts 22:20.

[And they were all scattered abroad] The angel had predicted that the church would carry the gospel of Jesus Christ, not only to Jerusalem, but progressively to the uttermost parts of the world. The apostles remained in Jerusalem as God willed it and served as the nucleus of the geographically expanding church. At this point they still considered the Gospel to be uniquely for Israel. Acts 1:8, Acts 11:19.

2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.

[Great lamentation] Probably at some risk to their own lives. Point to ponder: The express duty of Christians is to witness for Chriist, yet we are often so intimidated that we choose to keep quiet. If we cannot speak up now when the environment is somewhat permissive, what will we do when the choice, even here in America, will be, "Convert to our anti-Christian religion or die"? Recently it was stated on worldwide TV that, "More people were killed for their Christian faith during the 20th century than in all of the preceeding centuries combined." * John 15:17-21.

3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

[Saul...made havock of the church] Though no part of the false claims of blasphemy was true, the cause was popular and those responsible for enforcing justice turned a blind eye. The Roman government reserved execution to itself so Saul and his supporters were limited to sentencing purported offenders to prison. Undoubtedly everything evil that could occur in prison, did. John 16:1-3.

4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.

[Went every where preaching the word] Satan once again found himself inadvertently helping the very cause he was trying to defeat. The persecution scattered believers as the wind scatters sparks from a fire, igniting fresh fires wherever they land..

5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.

[Philip] One of the seven deacons selected in Acts 6:5.
This is not Philip the apostle. The apostles remained in Jerusalem while Philip the evangelist took up residence in Caesarea. Acts 8:40, Acts 21:8.

[Down to the city of Samaria] Geographical note! The region of Samaria is north of Jerusalem and by current map reading convention we would ordinarily refer to travel from a given point to a place more northerly as "UP" and to a place.south of the same point as "DOWN". A colloquialism of New Testament times was to think of the more major city as "up" and the more minor place as "down" without regard to direction or altitude. Some examples:

[Samaria] In Old Testament times, following the death of King Solomon, the nation of Israel divided into northern and southern kingdoms. The southern kingdom, consisting of the tribe of Judah and part of the tribe of Benjamin, continued to follow Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, and was known as Judah. The remaining tribes rebelled and set Jeroboam over themselves as king.of the northern kingdom, continuing to use the name Israel. The northern kingdom subdivided into two regions, Galilee on the north and Samaria lying between Galilee and Judah.
Later Assyria conquered Samaria and removed much of the populace, replacing them with pagan people from other areas. The inhabitants of Samaria became a religiously mixed multitude greatly despised by the jews of both Galilee and Judah. However, since the samaritans were familiar with the Old Tesatament, they were rather open to the Gospel and became a natural bridge between the jews and the gentiles. For further study

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.

[Gave heed unto those things which Philip spake] Philip preached Jesus as the promised Messiah. Philip was certified as authentic by his God-given gift of releasing men and women from demonic posession and of healing the palsied and lame. The samaritans took his preaching seriously.

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.

[Simon] Then, as today, there were false prophets who made their living by promoting themselves as special representatives of God, using trickery and magic to deceive people into following their leadership and donating large sums of money to the "prophet."
2 Peter 2:1-2, Acts 13:6-8, 1 John 4:1-3.

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.

[They believed] The people of Samaria were primed and ready to believe on Jesus because Jesus himself had an encounter with the inhabitants of Sychar. You may read about it in John 4:1-30, and John 4:39-42.
Even Simon the sourcer believed and, since "Miracles" were his stock in trade, his interest led him to follow Philip closely and observe. The believers, including Simon, were baptized in water to exhibit their newfound faith. At this point none, except Philip, were filled with the Holy Spirit even though they were genuine believers. Verse 16.

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 ... heard that Samaria had received the word of God,] This was something that needed to be checked out. Even though the angel (Acts 1:8) had specifically indicated that the witness of Christ would be to Samaria and to the uttermost part of the earth, we suspect that jewish thinking was along the line of,"Maybe in the far off future, after true Jewish worship has been restored to Samaria." We will discover later in this book that some well meaning but mistaken jewish Christians taught that to become a Christian one must first become a convert to the jewish faith. Acts 15:1-6.

[Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.] It appears that whenever a new category of person; (First jews, then samaritans, then gentiles) were admitted to the faith of Jesus Christ, there was a special event granting the Holy Spirit to the initial believers. Acts 2:1-4, Acts 8:14-17, Acts 10:43-48,

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.

[Give me also this power] Simon was a new Christian and had a lot to learn. When he saw the apostles conveying the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands he supposed it was through some magical power which they posessed and attempted to purchase rights to it for himself also. This would make a great addition to his repertoire of magical skills.

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.

[Thy money perish with thee,] Peter's sharp rebuke is reminiscent of Jesus' rebuke of Peter when Satan had planted an inappropriate idea in his mind. Matthew 16:23.
Peter was not banished as a disciple because of his inappropriate thought and Simon was not banished from God's love because of his. Along with the rebuke Peter offered the remedy for inadvertant sins, repentance.

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.

[Pray ye to the LORD for me,] Simon's immaturity as a Christian is demonstrated by his request for an intermediary between himself and God. All mature Christians, as they study the Word of God, learn that they have direct access to God beause the Holy Spirit (God) dwells within them and Jesus Christ (God) sits at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us. Priests (intermediaries between God and man) are no longer necessary. Romans 8:26-27, Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:24-28.

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.

* Rexella VanImpe on Jack VanImpe Presents; March 16, 2008


This page updated 03/23/2008

Copyright (C) 2008 Robert C. Denig. All rights reserved