Acts 8

Acts 8:1

Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death.
And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

(a) Saul; see entry for Acts 7:58.

(b) They were all scattered. Jesus told his followers to go to the world after they received power from on high, that is, after Pentecost (Acts 1:8). But most of them didn’t leave Jerusalem until persecution drove them out.

(c) Except the apostles. Why didn’t the apostles flee when the Lord specifically told them to go and when they themselves had experienced imprisonment and persecution? Perhaps they wanted to be martyrs. Perhaps they thought they could best serve the gospel by staying put? In any case, the church in Jerusalem did not die but thrived under their leadership (see Acts 15:4).

Acts 8:3

But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.

(a) Saul; see entry for Acts 7:58.

(b) Dragging off men and women. Saul was an equal-opportunities persecutor responsible for the arrest and execution of Christian men and women.

Why kill women who as recently as the cross had gone largely unnoticed by the authorities? After Pentecost, women stepped up, and those who became partners in ministry became partners in martyrdom. Men and women both were filled with the spirit, spoke in tongues, and proclaimed the word of God boldly (see Acts 2:17-18, 4:31).

John Chrysostom, the Archbishop of Constantinople, said this about the women of the early church: “The women of those days were more spirited than lions, sharing with the Apostles their labors for the Gospel’s sake. In this way they went travelling with them, and also performed all other ministries” (source: “Homily 31 on Romans”).

(c) Prison. In Biblical times, people did not go to prison for years of incarceration but for a short period to await trial. After their trial they were either punished or released. Saul arrested Christians in the expectation that they would be executed (see Acts 9:1, 22:4).

Acts 8:4

Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.

(a) Those who had been scattered. Jesus had told his followers to go into all the world after they had received the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4, 8). Pentecost had come and gone but the Jerusalem Christians stayed put. It took the pressure of persecution to get them out the door.

(b) Preaching. Announcing the good news. The original word for preaching (euaggelizo) is closely related to the word for gospel (euaggelion). This is one of three words that are commonly translated as “preaching” in the New Testament. See entry for Acts 5:42.

(c) Preaching the word. The early Christians preached the word of God (Acts 8:14) which is to say the preached the gospel of Jesus. If they had preached the old covenant law, they would not have been persecuted by the religious leaders.

Acts 8:5

Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them.

Proclaiming. The original word (kerusso) means to herald as a public crier. This word is sometimes translated as “preaching”. See entry for Acts 5:42.

Acts 8:9

Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great;

Simon the sorcerer was one of nine men named Simon in the New Testament; see entry for Matt. 4:18.

Acts 8:12

But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.

Baptized. The early church regularly baptized new believers in water. See entry for Acts 10:47.

Acts 8:13

Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed.

(a) Simon himself believed. The man who operated in counterfeit signs and wonders marvelled when he saw the real thing. He believed Philip’s message and was water baptized, but he was not filled with the Holy Spirit (see Acts 8:16) and his subsequent actions show he did not have a good grasp of the grace of God (see Acts 8:18).

(b) Signs and great miracles. The gospel of the kingdom is a show and tell gospel (Matt 4:23). When we preach the good news, the Holy Spirit confirms the word with supernatural signs (Mark 16:20).

Acts 8:14

Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John,

(a) Received the word of God. They believed the good news about Jesus.

In the New Testament, there are more than 200 imperative statements linked with faith. Some of these statements exhort us to: receive Jesus (John 1:11-12, 5:43), receive the message of Jesus (John 17:8), obey or heed the message or good news of Jesus (John 17:6) and turn to God in repentance (Acts 26:20).

Other scriptures encourage us to accept the word (Mark 4:20), confess Jesus as Lord (Rom. 10:9), call on the name of the Lord (Act 2:21), eat the bread of life (John 6:50-51), be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20), submit to God’s righteousness (Rom. 10:3), and be born again (John 3:3, 7).

But the one imperative that appears far more than any other, is the instruction to believe. We are to believe in Jesus (see entry for John 3:16).

(b) The word of God is the good news of Jesus. If the early Christians had preached the old covenant law, they would not have been persecuted by the religious leaders.

See entry for Word of God.

Acts 8:18

Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money,

Simon did an unwise thing – he tried to purchase the apostles’ anointing so that he could baptize others in the Holy Spirit (see next verse).

Acts 8:20

But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!

You could obtain the gift of God with money! What a fool Simon was to think he could buy the gracious gifts of God with money. Yet many of us are trying to purchase grace with dead works.

“If I confess, God will forgive me. If I do good, God will bless me.” It’s Simon’s sin all over again and it would make Peter furious. “May your dead works perish with you,” he might say. “You have no share in the Spirit’s ministry because your heart is captive to unbelief.”

Acts 8:22

“Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you.

(a) Repent. To repent means to change your thinking. “Stop thinking you can purchase the blessings of God and believe in grace.”

You don’t need to ask God to forgive you (he already did) or love you (he already does). Instead, ask him to help you receive the word of his grace. Thank him for Jesus through whom all blessings flow.

(b) Be forgiven. As far as God is concerned, you are forgiven, but you won’t be forgiven – that is, you won’t experience the gift of his forgiveness – unless you receive it by faith (Acts 10:43, 26:18).

On the cross the Lamb of God bore the sins of the whole world (John 1:29, 2 John 2:2). All your sins have been forgiven. But only in Christ do we have or possess the forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7, Col. 1:14). Those who scorn Christ, scorn the grace that saves and forgives them.

A bad translation of this verse is “repent and the Lord may forgive.” That’s like asking Jesus to come and die a second time. On the cross, all your sins were dealt with once and for all and no further sacrifice for sin remains (Heb. 9:26, 10:18). God has forgiven us but those who don’t turn to him continue to carry their sins with them. Although God has provided the solution for their sins, they prefer to hold onto their sins rather than receive his forgiveness.

Acts 8:25

So, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.

(a) The word of the Lord is synonymous with the word of God. The gospel, in other words. See entry for Acts 8:14.

(b) Preaching; see entry for Acts 8:4.

(c) The gospel refers to the gospel of Christ or the gospel of God or the gospel of the kingdom. These are all different labels for the gospel of grace. See entry for The Gospel.

(d) Samaritans were hated by the Jews (see entry for John 4:9). When Jesus first sent out the Twelve, he instructed them not to visit any city of the Samaritans (Matt. 10:5). When a Samaritan village refused to receive Jesus, James and John wanted to call down heavenly fire (Luke 9:52–54). But a new covenant meant a new spirit and a new heart. Following Jesus’ earlier example (John 4:39–40), the apostles were more than happy to preach the gospel in Samaria.

Acts 8:36

As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?”

(a) Water. Prior to Christ, John the Baptizer baptized people in water as a prophetic act foreshadowing the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8). After Christ, the early church baptized people in water in response to what the Holy Spirit had done. John was looking forward, but the Christians were looking back.

Every believer has been baptized or immersed into the body and death of Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12–13, Gal. 3:27). Water baptism is an outward act testifying to this supernatural reality.

(b) The eunuch heard the good news of Jesus (see previous verse) and responded in faith. He was not saved because he got water baptized; he got water baptized because he was saved. Faith is always a response to what God has done.

(c) Baptized. The original word implies total immersion. See entry for Baptism.

Acts 8:37

[And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”]

If you believe. The chief takeaway of the new covenant is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (see entry for John 3:16).

Acts 8:39

When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing.

Snatched. The original word (harpazo) is the same word Paul uses when he says the believers will be “caught up” in the clouds to meet the Lord on his return (1 Th. 4:17). The rapture will be something like what happened to Philip in the sense that we will be snatched up by the Holy Spirit.

Acts 8:40

But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea.

(a) Preaching; see entry for Acts 8:4.

(b) The gospel refers to the gospel of Christ or the gospel of God or the gospel of the kingdom. These are all different labels for the gospel of grace. See entry for The Gospel.

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