Acts 8

1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the congregation {Gr. ekklesia – called out ones} 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 havoc of the congregation {Gr. ekklesia – called out ones}; entering into the houses and dragging out men and women, he committed them to prison.
4 But those that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word of the gospel.
5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached the Christ unto them.
6 And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spoke, hearing and seeing the signs which he did.
7 For many unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of those who were possessed with them, and many paralytics and that were lame were healed.
8 And there was great joy in that city.
9 But there was a certain man called Simon, who before this in the same city used magic arts and amazed the people of Samaria, giving out that he himself was some great one,
10 to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This is the great virtue of God.
11 And to him they had regard because for a long time he had amazed them with magic arts.
12 But when they believed Philip preaching the gospel of 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 being done.
14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John unto them,
15 who, when they were come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.
16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them; they were baptized only in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
17 Then they laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money,
19 saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Spirit.
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 this thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness and in the prison of iniquity.
24 Then Simon answered and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.
25 And they, when they had testified and preached the word of God, returned to Jerusalem and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.
26 And the angel of the Lord spoke unto Philip, saying, Arise and go toward the south unto the way that goes down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.
27 Then he arose and went, and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure and had come to Jerusalem to worship,
28 was returning and sitting in his chariot reading Isaiah the prophet.
29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near and join thyself to this chariot.
30 And Philip ran there to him and heard him read the prophet Isaiah and said, Dost thou understand what thou readest?
31 And he said, How can I, except someone should guide me? And he besought Philip to come up and sit with him.
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 does the prophet speak this? of himself or of some other?
35 Then Philip opened his mouth and began at the same scripture and preached unto him the gospel of Jesus.
36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water; and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what hinders me to be baptized?
37 And Philip said, If thou dost believe with all thine heart, thou may. 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 both down 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, so that the eunuch saw him no more, and he went on his way rejoicing.
40 But Philip was found at Azotus, and passing through, he preached the gospel in all the cities until he came to 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.

Acts 8 Commentaries