Acts 8

1 That set off a terrific persecution of the church in Jerusalem. The believers were all scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. All, that is, but the apostles.
2 Good and brave men buried Stephen, giving him a solemn funeral - not many dry eyes that day!
3 And Saul just went wild, devastating the church, entering house after house after house, dragging men and women off to jail.
4 Forced to leave home base, the Christians all became missionaries. Wherever they were scattered, they preached the Message about Jesus.
5 Going down to a Samaritan city, Philip proclaimed the Message of the Messiah.
6 When the people heard what he had to say and saw the miracles, the clear signs of God's action, they hung on his every word.
7 Many who could neither stand nor walk were healed that day. The evil spirits protested loudly as they were sent on their way.
8 And what joy in the city!
9 Previous to Philip's arrival, a certain Simon had practiced magic in the city, posing as a famous man and dazzling all the Samaritans with his wizardry.
10 He had them all, from little children to old men, eating out of his hand. They all thought he had supernatural powers, and called him "the Great Wizard."
11 He had been around a long time and everyone was more or less in awe of him.
12 But when Philip came to town announcing the news of God's kingdom and proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ, they forgot Simon and were baptized, becoming believers right and left!
13 Even Simon himself believed and was baptized. From that moment he was like Philip's shadow, so fascinated with all the God-signs and miracles that he wouldn't leave Philip's side.
14 When the apostles in Jerusalem received the report that Samaria had accepted God's Message, they sent Peter and John down
15 to pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit.
16 Up to this point they had only been baptized in the name of the Master Jesus; the Holy Spirit hadn't yet fallen on them.
17 Then the apostles laid their hands on them and they did receive the Holy Spirit.
18 When Simon saw that the apostles by merely laying on hands conferred the Spirit, he pulled out his money, excited,
19 and said, "Sell me your secret! Show me how you did that! How much do you want? Name your price!"
20 Peter said, "To hell with your money! And you along with it. Why, that's unthinkable - trying to buy God's gift!
21 You'll never be part of what God is doing by striking bargains and offering bribes.
22 Change your ways - and now! Ask the Master to forgive you for trying to use God to make money.
23 I can see this is an old habit with you; you reek with money-lust."
24 "Oh!" said Simon, "pray for me! Pray to the Master that nothing like that will ever happen to me!"
25 And with that, the apostles were on their way, continuing to witness and spread the Message of God's salvation, preaching in every Samaritan town they passed through on their return to Jerusalem.
26 Later God's angel spoke to Philip: "At noon today I want you to walk over to that desolate road that goes from Jerusalem down to Gaza."
27 He got up and went. He met an Ethiopian eunuch coming down the road. The eunuch had been on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and was returning to Ethiopia, where he was minister in charge of all the finances of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians.
28 He was riding in a chariot and reading the prophet Isaiah.
29 The Spirit told Philip, "Climb into the chariot."
30 Running up alongside, Philip heard the eunuch reading Isaiah and asked, "Do you understand what you're reading?"
31 He answered, "How can I without some help?" and invited Philip into the chariot with him.
32 The passage he was reading was this: As a sheep led to slaughter, and quiet as a lamb being sheared, He was silent, saying nothing.
33 He was mocked and put down, never got a fair trial. But who now can count his kin since he's been taken from the earth?
34 The eunuch said, "Tell me, who is the prophet talking about: himself or some other?"
35 Philip grabbed his chance. Using this passage as his text, he preached Jesus to him.
36 As they continued down the road, they came to a stream of water. The eunuch said, "Here's water. Why can't I be baptized?"
38 He ordered the chariot to stop. They both went down to the water, and Philip baptized him on the spot.
39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of God suddenly took Philip off, and that was the last the eunuch saw of him. But he didn't mind. He had what he'd come for and went on down the road as happy as he could be.
40 Philip showed up in Azotus and continued north, preaching the Message in all the villages along that route until he arrived at 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