Acts Chapter Eight, The Church
In our study of Acts chapter eight, we see how God uses the
persecution of His people to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Many times we may ask
why God allows awful things to happen to His people. Here, we are reminded that God
works in all things (even the persecution of His people) and He is still in control.
And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a
great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles
were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply
for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off
men and women and put them in prison.
We are told here that, on the day that Stephen was stoned, great
persecution broke out against the church. We may ask ourselves why this happened but I
believe that we can find the answer in the "churches" of today. You see, in many
"churches" today, Christians have become comfortable and very few people are being told
about Jesus. It is a natural tendency for us, as humans, in that we want to be in a
place where we are liked and accepted. The same was true of the early Christians.
Without persecution, the early church would not have reached out to areas outside of
Jerusalem. The people would have stayed where they could be surrounded by other
Christians. God knows the heart of all of us and He knew that as well. If you look at
the world today, the areas where the Kingdom is expanding at the fastest rate are the
areas where the rate of persecution is also the highest.
Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they
You may have asked yourself why did God allow Saul to persecute the
Christians in Jerusalem and drive them out. We get the answer in the verse above. You
see, we as people can get comfortable in our surroundings and I am sure that it happened
with the disciples in the early church. But God allowed them to be scattered and in so
doing, the gospel was spread rapidly. We, like those early disciples, are called to
preach the word wherever we go as well.
Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ
there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid
close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many
paralytics and cripples were healed. So there was great joy in that city.
Because of the persecution, Philip went to this town in Samaria.
Keep in mind that the Jews of Jerusalem looked on the Samaritan people as lower forms of
life. While he was there he proclaimed the gospel as well as met the people's needs
through miracles. The people noticed that Philip was different and paid attention to
what he said. We too are called to go to the people that others may look down on and
boldly proclaim the gospel as well as meeting their physical needs. When they see that,
they will take heed of the gospel that we preach.
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, and all
the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, 'This man is the
divine power known as the Great Power.' They followed him because he had amazed them for
a long time with his magic.
In this passage, we are told of a man that did signs and wonders
but we see a stark difference between him and Philip. We are told that Simon boasted
that he was great and did it all for himself. He thrived on the accolades given him by
the people of Samaria. In sharp contrast was Philip who performed miraculous signs but
it was all to glorify God and to bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. We,
as Christians, must always keep our egos in check and realize that all we are able to do
is only because of the power of God that is alive in us. It is easy to get caught up
when people say good things about you and your actions but we must remember that all we
do is to glorify God not ourselves.
Acts 8:12 & 13
But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the
kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished
by the great signs and miracles he saw.
When the genuine is put alongside the imposter, it s always easy to
tell the real thing. That is what happened here. Simon was using sorcery but Philip had
the very power of God. When the two met, it was easy to tell the difference. Philip kept
his message focused on Jesus and the kingdom of God while Simon had been focused on
himself. The difference is clear and even Simon himself saw it. The same thing happens
today with us as Christians. When you have the Holy Spirit working in and through you,
it is easy to tell. Then, when people pretending to be disciples of Jesus come along, it
is easy for others to see the difference.
When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the
word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them
that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon
any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter
and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
The people of Samaria believed in Jesus thanks to the teaching and
example of Philip. Now, the people receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This gives them
the power to follow and to serve Jesus Christ. The same is true for us today. We can
receive the same power and guidance from that same Holy Spirit.
Acts 8:18 & 19
When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the
apostles' hands, he offered them money and said, 'Give me also this ability so that
everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.'
Simon the sorcerer had money and after he saw the apostles lay
their hands on people, he wanted to buy the gift like some cheap magic trick. He wanted
to purchase the ability to give the Holy Spirit and did not realize that it was a gift
from God. The same sort of thing happens in many churches today but it looks a little
different. There are those who are willing and able to give the local church much money
but do not want to be burdened with the whole following Jesus thing. The relationship
with God is not for sale.
Peter answered: 'May your money perish with you, because you
thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this
ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray
to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I
see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.'
Simon wanted to buy the gift of being able to lay hands on someone
and have them receive the Holy Spirit but he thought that he could buy it. Peter (the
apostle) rebuked him and told him to repent of his sin. His whole answer is based on
looking at the state of Simon's heart. The same is true of each and every one of us. God
also knows and cares about our motives (what's in our heart). We may deceive each other
but cannot deceive God. Do good works but do them for the right reason which is to bring
glory to God not to yourself.
Acts 8:24 & 25
Then Simon answered, 'Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you
have said may happen to me.' When they had testified and proclaimed the word of the
Lord, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan
This first verse should give us all hope. You see, after he was
told of his sin and it's cost, he repented and asked them to pray for him. Forgiveness
is always there and so there is always hope. In the second verse we see that Peter and
John went back to Jerusalem. But, they did not just walk back to Jerusalem, they shared
the gospel along the way. That is an example of what we are to do even today. As you are
on your way here and there, don't forget that your main purpose in life is to tell
others about Jesus.
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, 'Go south to the road- the
desert road- that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.' So he started out, and on his way
he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of
Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his
way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit
told Philip, 'Go to that chariot and stay near it.'
This passage of scripture gives us an awesome example of being led
by the Spirit. Philip was led by the Spirit to the exact place that God wanted him to be
at just the right time. There Philip met a royal official from Ethiopia whom God had put
there too. Isn't it wonderful to know that the same Spirit that led Philip in this
passage is the same Spirit that can lead us each day. For good things to happen we, like
Philip, have to be obedient and follow wherever the Spirit tells us to go.
Acts 8:30 & 31
Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah
the prophet. 'Do you understand what you are reading?' Philip asked. 'How can I,' he
said, 'unless someone explains it to me?' So he invited Philip to come up and sit with
So, Philip was obedient to the Holy Spirit and went to the place
where God could use him. As soon as Philip met the man, he knew why God had sent him
there and why it was at that time. God knew that the Ethiopian official needed someone
to explain to him about the savior. God is the same today as He was then. He can use
anyone as long as they are obedient to His leading. You see, God is big enough to know
where we should be and what we should do at any given time. When we are obedient to the
leading of the Spirit, we get to see these little blessings just as Philip did. We at
Enduring Freedom Ministries like to call situations like these our little "God
The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: 'He was led like
a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open
his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his
descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.' The eunuch asked Philip, 'Tell me,
please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?' Then Philip began
with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
What an example we have here of how we are to share the gospel. The
Ethiopian was reading from the scroll of Isaiah the prophet. You have to understand
that, at this time, there was no "Bible" like we have today. Even having a piece of the
Old Testament such as this would have been a big deal. The eunuch had the scripture and
could read it but did not know that it was referring to Jesus. Philip started with what
the Ethiopian had and told him about Jesus. That is the same thing that we, as
Christians, are called to do. The passage that the Ethiopian was reading is so powerful
and describes Jesus' actions so well yet was written a long time before Jesus came to
the earth. That, my friends, is what God can do!
As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the
eunuch said, 'Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?' And he gave orders to
stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip
In this passage, we see faith put into action. When the Ethiopian
heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, his heart was changed. Then, he immediately followed
with obedience by being baptized. Notice that, in the passage, Philip did not have to
tell him to be baptized. It was the eunuch that said "Why shouldn't I be baptized?" It
is a good example for us in that, when we come to Christ, we should learn that is
followed by obedience.
Acts 8:39 & 40
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.
Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the
towns until he reached Caesarea.
In this passage we see that, after Philip had done what God wanted
him to do in the situation, God took him to the next place where he needed to be. In
this case, the Spirit took him immediately. Then, Philip went about his next task in his
next area. That is much the same way that we should be. We serve where God has us until
He tells us to move on. Then, we simply do what He asks us to in the next place or
situation. In order to do that, we must first pray and listen to what God tells us to