Acts 8

Saul Persecutes the Church

1 1Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against2 the church in Jerusalem, and they were all3 scattered throughout the regions of Judea and 4 Samaria, except the apostles.
2 Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him.
3 But 5Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and 6dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.

Philip in Samaria

4 Therefore, those 7who had been scattered went about 8preaching the word.
5 9Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them.
6 The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing.
7 For in the case of many who had 10unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been 11paralyzed and lame were healed.
8 So there was 12much rejoicing in that city.
9 Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing 13magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, 14claiming to be someone great;
10 and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, "15This man is what is called the Great Power of God."
11 And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his 16magic arts.
12 But when they believed Philip 17preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being 18baptized, men and women alike.
13 Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed 19signs and 20great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed.
14 Now when 21the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them 22Peter and John,
15 who came down and prayed for them 23that they might receive the Holy Spirit.
16 For He had 24not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been 25baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
17 Then they 26began laying their hands on them, and they were 27receiving the Holy Spirit.
18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money,
19 saying, "Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit."
20 But Peter said to him, "May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could 28obtain the gift of God with money!
21 "You have 29no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not 30right before God.
22 "Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, 31if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you.
23 "For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in 32the bondage of iniquity."
24 But Simon answered and said, "33Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me."

An Ethiopian Receives Christ

25 So, when they had solemnly 34testified and spoken 35the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were 36preaching the gospel to many villages of the 37Samaritans.
26 But 38an angel of the Lord spoke to 39Philip saying, "Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to 40Gaza." (This is a desert road. )
27 So he got up and went; and 41there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he 42had come to Jerusalem to worship,
28 and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah.
29 Then 43the Spirit said to Philip, "Go up and join this chariot."
30 Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?"
31 And he said, "Well, how could I, unless * someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this: "44HE WAS LED AS A SHEEP TO SLAUGHTER; AND AS A LAMB BEFORE ITS SHEARER IS SILENT, SO HE DOES NOT OPEN HIS MOUTH.
34 The eunuch answered Philip and said, "Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?"
35 Then Philip 46opened his mouth, and 47beginning from this Scripture he 48preached Jesus to him.
36 As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, "Look! Water! 49What prevents me from being baptized?"
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."]
38 And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.
39 When they came up out of the water, 50the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing.
40 But Philip found himself at 51Azotus, and as he passed through he 52kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to 53Caesarea.

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 53

  • 1. Acts 7:58; Acts 22:20; Acts 26:10
  • 2. Acts 9:31
  • 3. Acts 8:4; Acts 11:19
  • 4. Acts 1:8; Acts 8:5, 14; Acts 9:31
  • 5. Acts 9:1, 13, 21; Acts 22:4, 19; Acts 26:10; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13; Philippians 3:6; 1 Timothy 1:13
  • 6. James 2:6
  • 7. Acts 8:1
  • 8. Acts 8:12; Acts 15:35
  • 9. Acts 6:5; Acts 8:26, 30
  • 10. Mark 16:17
  • 11. Matthew 4:24
  • 12. John 4:40-42; Acts 8:39
  • 13. Acts 8:11; Acts 13:6
  • 14. Acts 5:36
  • 15. Acts 14:11; Acts 28:6
  • 16. Acts 8:9; Acts 13:6
  • 17. Acts 1:3; Acts 8:4
  • 18. Acts 2:38
  • 19. Acts 8:6
  • 20. Acts 19:11
  • 21. Acts 8:1
  • 22. Luke 22:8
  • 23. Acts 2:38; Acts 19:2
  • 24. Matthew 28:19; Acts 19:2
  • 25. Acts 2:38; Acts 10:48
  • 26. Mark 5:23; Acts 6:6
  • 27. Acts 2:4
  • 28. 2 Kings 5:16; Isaiah 55:1; Daniel 5:17; Matthew 10:8; Acts 2:38
  • 29. Deuteronomy 10:9; Deuteronomy 12:12; Ephesians 5:5
  • 30. Psalms 78:37
  • 31. Isaiah 55:7
  • 32. Isaiah 58:6
  • 33. Genesis 20:7; Exodus 8:8; Numbers 21:7; James 5:16
  • 34. Luke 16:28
  • 35. Acts 13:12
  • 36. Acts 8:40
  • 37. Matthew 10:5
  • 38. Acts 5:19; Acts 8:29
  • 39. Acts 8:5
  • 40. Genesis 10:19
  • 41. Psalms 68:31; Psalms 87:4; Isaiah 56:3f
  • 42. 1 Kings 8:41; John 12:20
  • 43. Acts 8:39; Acts 10:19; Acts 11:12; Acts 13:2; Acts 16:6, 7; Acts 20:23; Acts 21:11; Acts 28:25; Hebrews 3:7
  • 44. Isaiah 53:7
  • 45. Isaiah 53:8
  • 46. Matthew 5:2
  • 47. Luke 24:27; Acts 17:2; Acts 18:28; Acts 28:23
  • 48. Acts 5:42
  • 49. Acts 10:47
  • 50. 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
  • 51. Joshua 11:22; 1 Samuel 5:1
  • 52. Acts 8:25
  • 53. Acts 9:30; Acts 10:1, 24; Acts 11:11; Acts 12:19; Acts 18:22; Acts 21:8, 16; Acts 23:23, 33; Acts 25:1, 4, 6, 13

Footnotes 17

Acts 8 Commentaries