Scripture: Acts 8
Commentary: Part 1 (verses 1-3) starts when Christians are driven out of Jerusalem. With the killing of Stephen, persecution broke out against the Christians in Jerusalem. The Pharisees did not favor the Christians anymore, and Saul led the persecution. The Christians were attacked, imprisoned, or driven violently from the city, but they did not deny their faith. They went to the Temple daily before, however, they saw now the truth of Stephen’s teachings, and were prepared to suffer because of it. Only the Hellenist/Grecian Christians were driven away from the city. The other ones (probably the Aramaic speaking ones) were allowed to stay. This would only make Church growth more difficult.
Part 2 (verses 4-25) speaks about Philip, the Grecian/Hellenist, who appeared to have been the first one to teach or preach in Samaria. Because of his preaching and miraculous works, many Samaritans believed and were baptized. Simon, the local mage/magician, was quite impressed that he was baptized, as well. He did this to learn the secret of Philip’s power. When the Apostles in Jerusalem heard of so many conversions in Samaria, they had sent Peter and John to Samaria to pray that the Samaritans would receive the Holy Ghost. Apparently, the Samaritans did not receive the Spirit immediately on belief in God is because God probably wanted the Apostles to be convinced that the Samaritan believers shared similar privileges as Jewish believers. There was quite a hostility between the Jews and Samaritans, and therefore, they did not want that carried over into the Church. God demonstrated publicly then that the Samaritans were accepted into the Church, by using the Apostles to administer the Holy Ghost unto the Samaritans.
Part 3 (verses 26-40) talks about Christianity’s introduction into Philistia, to which, from Samaria, Philip headed south toward Philistia. On the way there, he had met another non-Jew who liked his preaching. The one who liked his preaching was a government official from Ethiopia, who was already a studious one on God. When Philip had explained the Scriptures to him, the man learned about Jesus’ death, and then became a believer receiving baptism also. He was overjoyed and continued to journey home; probably talking about Jesus along the way. Philip preached around the area of Philistia, and then moved north until he arrived in Caesarea.
“As for Saul…He made havock of the Church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.” This is explained as treating the Christians shamefully, injuring them, take revenge against them as a ferocious animal seeking its prey; dragging them out into the streets wither they be male or female, young or old, and forcing before the magistrates of the land. Romans could put them to death, but the Sanhedrin of which Paul was employed could not imprison them. Some were killed, but only by permission from the Romans. Paul admits his wrongdoing on several occasions.
Philip was one of the Twelve Disciples, and comes forward as the chief witness abroad after the death of Stephen. He journeyed down to Samaria. Revival broke out in Samaria with many miracles, signs and unclean spirits came out, and people with palsies and the lame were healed as well. Great joy came to this city. A Jew was preaching to the Samaritans and racial barriers were removed. In steps Simon the sorcerer/magician, for he used sorcery and bewitched people of Samaria. People gave tribute as if he had great powers of God. Simon decides to convert, however, and as the revival breaks out, they turn from Simon and believe Philip. They are baptized in water, and Simon believes also. Simon was captivated by the miracles and thus he had believed. He followed because of the miracles or magic in that moment. Simon then became baptized and also became a good friend of Philip. He wasn’t truly converted, however, for he wanted to pay for the gift of the Holy Ghost that he might use it for profit and publicity.
It was great to see that the Lord moved so well upon an area, and through time, many things were exposed as working and not working. One thing that obviously didn’t work is trying to buy a free gift, The Holy Ghost – but then to try and use it as profit and publicity was even more crazier. No wonder why it didn’t work.
In Samaria, we see the Holy Ghost being poured out upon people. However, first they were saved, but didn’t receive the Spirit immediately. Apparently, the Samaritans did not receive the Spirit immediately on belief in God is because God probably wanted the Apostles to be convinced that the Samaritan believers shared similar privileges as Jewish believers. There was quite a hostility between the Jews and Samaritans, and therefore, they did not want that carried over into the Church. God demonstrated publicly then that the Samaritans were accepted into the Church, by using the Apostles to administer the Holy Ghost unto the Samaritans.