Acts 8

And Saul approved of their killing him.

The Church Persecuted and Scattered

1 On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.
2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him.
3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.

Philip in Samaria

4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.
5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there.
6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said.
7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed.
8 So there was great joy in that city.

Simon the Sorcerer

9 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great,
10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.”
11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery.
12 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria.
15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit,
16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money
19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!
21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God.
22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.
23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”
24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”
25 After they had further proclaimed the word of the Lord and testified about Jesus, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.

Philip and the Ethiopian

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.”
27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian[a] eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship,
28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet.
29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”[b]
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”
35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?[c]
38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.
39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.
40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

Acts 8 Commentary

Chapter 8

Saul persecutes the church. (1-4) Philip's success at Samaria. Simon the sorcerer baptized. (5-13) The hypocrisy of Simon detected. (14-25) Philip and the Ethiopian. (26-40)

Verses 1-4 Though persecution must not drive us from our work, yet it may send us to work elsewhere. Wherever the established believer is driven, he carries the knowledge of the gospel, and makes known the preciousness of Christ in every place. Where a simple desire of doing good influences the heart, it will be found impossible to shut a man out from all opportunities of usefulness.

Verses 5-13 As far as the gospel prevails, evil spirits are dislodged, particularly unclean spirits. All inclinations to the lusts of the flesh which war against the soul are such. Distempers are here named, the most difficult to be cured by the course of nature, and most expressive of the disease of sin. Pride, ambition, and desire after grandeur have always caused abundance of mischief, both to the world and to the church. The people said of Simon, This man is the great power of God. See how ignorant and thoughtless people mistake. But how strong is the power of Divine grace, by which they were brought to Christ, who is Truth itself! The people not only gave heed to what Philip said, but were fully convinced that it was of God, and not of men, and gave up themselves to be directed thereby. Even bad men, and those whose hearts still go after covetousness, may come before God as his people come, and for a time continue with them. And many wonder at the proofs of Divine truths, who never experience their power. The gospel preached may have a common operation upon a soul, where it never produced inward holiness. All are not savingly converted who profess to believe the gospel.

Verses 14-25 The Holy Ghost was as yet fallen upon none of these coverts, in the extraordinary powers conveyed by the descent of the Spirit upon the day of Pentecost. We may take encouragement from this example, in praying to God to give the renewing graces of the Holy Ghost to all for whose spiritual welfare we are concerned; for that includes all blessings. No man can give the Holy Spirit by the laying on of his hands; but we should use our best endeavours to instruct those for whom we pray. Simon Magus was ambitious to have the honour of an apostle, but cared not at all to have the spirit and disposition of a Christian. He was more desirous to gain honour to himself, than to do good to others. Peter shows him his crime. He esteemed the wealth of this world, as if it would answer for things relating to the other life, and would purchase the pardon of sin, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and eternal life. This was such a condemning error as could by no means consist with a state of grace. Our hearts are what they are in the sight of God, who cannot be deceived. And if they are not right in his sight, our religion is vain, and will stand us in no stead. A proud and covetous heart cannot be right with God. It is possible for a man to continue under the power of sin, yet to put on a form of godliness. When tempted with money to do evil, see what a perishing thing money is, and scorn it. Think not that Christianity is a trade to live by in this world. There is much wickedness in the thought of the heart, its false notions, and corrupt affections, and wicked projects, which must be repented of, or we are undone. But it shall be forgiven, upon our repentance. The doubt here is of the sincerity of Simon's repentance, not of his pardon, if his repentance was sincere. Grant us, Lord, another sort of faith than that which made Simon wonder only, and did not sanctify his heart. May we abhor all thoughts of making religion serve the purposes of pride or ambition. And keep us from that subtle poison of spiritual pride, which seeks glory to itself even from humility. May we seek only the honour which cometh from God.

Verses 26-40 Philip was directed to go to a desert. Sometimes God opens a door of opportunity to his ministers in very unlikely places. We should study to do good to those we come into company with by travelling. We should not be so shy of all strangers as some affect to be. As to those of whom we know nothing else, we know this, that they have souls. It is wisdom for men of business to redeem time for holy duties; to fill up every minute with something which will turn to a good account. In reading the word of God, we should often pause, to inquire of whom and of what the sacred writers spake; but especially our thoughts should be employed about the Redeemer. The Ethiopian was convinced by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, of the exact fulfilment of the Scripture, was made to understand the nature of the Messiah's kingdom and salvation, and desired to be numbered among the disciples of Christ. Those who seek the truth, and employ their time in searching the Scriptures, will be sure to reap advantages. The avowal of the Ethiopian must be understood as expressing simple reliance on Christ for salvation, and unreserved devotion to Him. Let us not be satisfied till we get faith, as the Ethiopian did, by diligent study of the Holy Scriptures, and the teaching of the Spirit of God; let us not be satisfied till we get it fixed as a principle in our hearts. As soon as he was baptized, the Spirit of God took Philip from him, so that he saw him no more; but this tended to confirm his faith. When the inquirer after salvation becomes acquainted with Jesus and his gospel, he will go on his way rejoicing, and will fill up his station in society, and discharge his duties, from other motives, and in another manner than heretofore. Though baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, with water, it is not enough without the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Lord, grant this to every one of us; then shall we go on our way rejoicing.

Cross References 45

  • 1. Acts 7:58
  • 2. ver 4; Acts 11:19
  • 3. Acts 9:31
  • 4. Acts 7:58
  • 5. Ac 9:1,13,21; Acts 22:4,19; Acts 26:10,11; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13,23; Philippians 3:6; 1 Timothy 1:13
  • 6. ver 1
  • 7. Acts 15:35
  • 8. Acts 6:5; Acts 21:8
  • 9. S Mark 16:17
  • 10. S Matthew 4:24
  • 11. Acts 13:6
  • 12. Acts 5:36
  • 13. Acts 14:11; Acts 28:6
  • 14. S Matthew 3:2; Acts 1:3
  • 15. S Acts 2:38
  • 16. ver 6; Acts 19:11
  • 17. ver 1
  • 18. S Hebrews 4:12
  • 19. S Luke 22:8
  • 20. S John 20:22; Acts 2:38
  • 21. S Acts 10:44; Acts 19:2
  • 22. Matthew 28:19; S Acts 2:38
  • 23. S Acts 6:6
  • 24. S John 20:22
  • 25. 2 Kings 5:16; Daniel 5:17; Matthew 10:8; Acts 2:38
  • 26. Nehemiah 2:20
  • 27. Psalms 78:37
  • 28. Acts 2:38
  • 29. Exodus 8:8; Numbers 21:7; 1 Kings 13:6; Jeremiah 42:2
  • 30. S Acts 13:48
  • 31. ver 40
  • 32. S Acts 5:19
  • 33. Acts 6:5
  • 34. Psalms 68:31; Psalms 87:4; Zephaniah 3:10
  • 35. Isaiah 56:3-5
  • 36. 1 Kings 8:41-43; John 12:20
  • 37. Acts 10:19; Acts 11:12; Acts 13:2; Acts 20:23; Acts 21:11
  • 38. Isaiah 53:7,8
  • 39. Matthew 5:2
  • 40. Luke 24:27; Acts 17:2; Acts 18:28; Acts 28:23
  • 41. S Acts 13:32
  • 42. S Acts 2:38; Acts 10:47
  • 43. 1 Kings 18:12; 2 Kings 2:16; Ezekiel 3:12,14; Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 11:1,24; Ezekiel 43:5; 2 Corinthians 12:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Revelation 12:5
  • 44. ver 25
  • 45. Acts 10:1,24; Acts 12:19; Acts 21:8,16; Acts 23:23,33; Acts 25:1,4,6,13

Footnotes 3

  • [a]. That is, from the southern Nile region
  • [b]. Isaiah 53:7,8 (see Septuagint)
  • [c]. Some manuscripts include here "Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The eunuch answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”"

Acts 8 Commentaries