Acts Chapter Eight
Saul was present at Stephen's death, and consenting to it.  This is the end of the first phase of the assembly of God-its history in immediate connection with Jerusalem and the Jews, as the centre to which the work of the apostles related, "beginning at Jerusalem"; carried on, however, in a believing remnant, but inviting Israel, as such, to come into it, as being nationally the object of the love and care of God, but they would not. Some accessory events follow, which enlarge the sphere of labour and maintain the unity of the whole, previously to the revelation of the call of the Gentiles, as such, properly speaking, and of the assembly as one body, independent of Jerusalem, and apart from the earth. These events are-the work of Philip in the conversion of Samaria and of the Ethiopian; that of Cornelius, with Peter's vision that took place after the vocation of Saul, who himself is brought in by a Jew of good report among the Jews as such; the labours of Peter in all the land of Canaan; and, finally, the connection established between the apostles at Jerusalem and the converted Gentiles at Antioch; the opposition of Herod, the false king of the Jews, and the care which God still takes of Peter, and the judgment of God upon the king. Afterwards comes the direct work among the Gentiles, having Antioch for its starting-point, already prepared by the conversion of Paul, through means and with a revelation that were quite peculiar. Let us follow the details of these chapters.
After the death of Stephen persecution breaks out. The victory, gained by a hatred the accomplishment of whose object was allowed by Providence, opens the floodgates to the violence of the Jewish leaders, enemies to the gospel. The barrier that restrained them once broken, the waves of passion overflow on all sides. People are often held back by a little remaining conscience, by habits, by a certain idea of the rights of others; but when the dykes are broken, hatred (the spirit of murder in the heart) satiates itself, if God permit, by actions that shew what man is when left to himself. But all this hatred accomplishes the will of God, in which man would perhaps otherwise have failed, and which in some respects he could not or ought not even to have executed, that is to say, the will of God in sovereign judgment. The dispersion of the assembly was Israel's judgment-a judgment which the disciples would have found it difficult to declare and to execute by the communication of greater light to them; for whatever may be the blessing and energy in the sphere where the grace of God acts, the ways of God in directing all things are in His own hand. Our part, too, in His ways as to those without, is in grace.
The whole assembly then, except the apostles, is scattered. It is questionable also, that the apostles did right in remaining, and whether a more simple faith would not have made them go away, and thus have spared the assembly many a conflict and many a difficulty in connection with the fact that Jerusalem continued to be a centre of authority.  The Lord had even said with Israel in view, "When they persecute in one city, flee into another"; and after His resurrection He commands them to go and disciple all nations. This last mission we do not find executed in the history of the Acts and the work among the Gentiles, and, as we see in Galatians 2, by a special agreement entered into at Jerusalem, it fell into the hands of Paul, being placed on an entirely new footing. The word tells us nothing of the accomplishment of this mission of the twelve towards the Gentiles, unless it be the slight general intimation in the end of Mark. God is mighty in Peter toward the circumcision and in Paul towards the Gentiles. It may be said that the twelve were not persecuted. It is possible, and I say nothing decided on the point; but it is certain that the passages which I have quoted have no fulfilment in the Bible history, and that another arrangement, another order of things, took place in lieu of that which the Lord prescribed, and that Jewish prejudices had in fact an influence, resulting from this concentration at Jerusalem, from which even Peter had the greatest difficulty to free himself.
Those who were scattered abroad preached the word everywhere, but only to the Jews, before some of them arrived at Antioch (chap. 11:19).
Philip however went down to Samaria, and preached Christ to them, and wrought miracles. They all give heed to him and are even baptised. A man who until then had bewitched them with sorcery, so that they had said he was the great power of God, even he also submits to the power which eclipsed his false marvels, and convinced him so much the more of its reality as he was conscious of the falseness of his own. The apostles make no difficulty with regard to Samaria. The history of Jesus must have enlightened them in that respect. Moreover, the Samaritans were not Gentiles. Still it was a Hellenist who preached the gospel there.
A new truth comes out here in connection with the regular process of the assembly-namely, that the apostles conferred the Holy Ghost by means of prayer and the laying on of hands: a very important fact in the history of God's dealings. Moreover Samaria was a conquest which all the energy of Judaism had never been able to make. It was a new and splendid triumph for the gospel. Spiritual energy to subdue the world appertained to the assembly. Jerusalem was set aside: its day was over in that respect.
The presence of the power of the Holy Ghost acting in Peter preserves the assembly as yet from the entrance of hypocrites, the instruments of Satan. The great and powerful fact that God was there manifested itself and made the darkness evident which circumstances had concealed. Carried along by the strong current, Simon had yielded, as to his intelligence, to the authority of Christ whose name was glorified by Philip's ministry. But the true condition of his heart, the desire of his own glory, the complete opposition between his moral condition and all principle-all light from God-betrays itself in presence of the fact that a man can impart the Holy Ghost. He desires to buy this power with money. What a thought! It is thus that the unbelief which appears quite to pass away, so that the things of God are outwardly received, betrays itself by something which, to one who has the Spirit, is so grossly contrary to God that its true character is manifest even to a child taught by God Himself.
Samaria is thus brought into connection with the centre of the work of Jerusalem, where the apostles still were. Already the Holy Ghost's being bestowed on the Samaritans was an immense step in the development of the assembly. Doubtless they were circumcised, they acknowledged the law, although the temple had in a certain degree lost its importance. The body of believers was more consolidated, and, so far as they still held to Jerusalem, it was a positive gain; for Samaria, by receiving the gospel, entered into connection with her ancient rival, as much as the apostles themselves were so, and submitted to her. Probably the apostles, during that time of persecution, did not go to the temple. God had opened a wide door to them outside, and thus made them ample amends in their work, for the success of the rulers of Israel who had stopped it in Jerusalem; for the energy of the Spirit was with them. To sum up: that which is presented here is the free energy of the Spirit in others than the apostles, and outside Jerusalem which had rejected it; and the relations maintained with the apostles and Jerusalem by their central action, and the authority and power with which they were invested.
Having accomplished their work, and themselves evangelised several villages of the Samaritans, Peter and John return to Jerusalem. The work outside goes on, and by other means. Philip, who presents the character of prompt unquestioning obedience in simplicity of heart, is called to leave his prosperous work with which all his personal importance (if he had been seeking it) was connected, and in which he was surrounded with respect and affection. "Go," said the angel of the Lord, "toward the south, unto the way that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza." It was a desert. Philip's ready obedience does not think of the difference between Samaria and Gaza, but of the Lord's will: and he goes. The gospel now extends to the proselytes from among the Gentiles, and makes its way to the centre of Abyssinia. The Queen's treasurer is admitted among the disciples of the Lord by baptism, which sealed his faith in the testimony of the prophet Isaiah; and he goes on his way, rejoicing in the salvation which he had taken a toilsome journey from a far country to seek in legal duties and ceremonies, but with faith in God's word, in Jerusalem. Beautiful picture of the grace of the gospel! He carries away with him, and to his home, that which grace had bestowed on him in the wilderness-that which his wearisome journey to Jerusalem had not procured him. The poor Jews, who had driven away the testimony from Jerusalem, are outside everything. The Spirit of the Lord carries Philip far away, and he is found at Azotus; for all the power of the Lord is at the service of the Son of man for the accomplishment of the testimony to His glory. Philip evangelises all the cities unto Caesarea.
 We may remark here, that the sanctuary, so to speak, is open to all believers. The veil indeed was rent by the death of Christ, but the grace of God was still acting towards the Jews, as such, and proposed to them the return of Jesus to the earth; that is to say, outside the veil, in the event of their repentance, so that the blessing would then have been upon the earth-the times of refreshing by the coming of Christ, which the prophets had announced. But now it is no longer a Messiah, the Son of David, but a Son of man in heaven; and, by the Holy Ghost here below, an opened heaven is seen and known, and the great High Priest (standing as yet) at the right hand of God is not hidden behind a veil. All is open to the believer; the glory, and He who has entered into it for His people. And this, it appears to me, is the reason why He is seen standing. He had not definitely taken His place as seated ('eis to dienekes'; in perpetuity) on the heavenly throne, until the testimony of the Holy Ghost to Israel of His exaltation had been definitively rejected on earth. The free testimony of the Spirit which is developed, here and afterwards, is highly interesting, without touching apostolic authority in its place, as we shall see. As to the Jews, till the High Priest comes out, they cannot know that His work is accepted for the nation; as, in the day of atonement, they had to wait till he came out that they might know it. But for us the Holy Ghost is come out while He is within, and we know it.
 This is no wise prevents the manifestation of the sovereign wisdom of God. The development of the doctrine of the assembly in its oneness, and as the body of Christ, was but so much the more perfect and unmixed, as we find it taught by Paul; who was called outside of Judaism by the revelation of a heavenly Christ. Neither do these ways of sovereign wisdom in God make any change at all in the responsibility of man. The outward unity of the assembly was also preserved by this means, by the connection kept up between the other places and Jerusalem, until the work among the Gentiles outside Judaism made these connections extremely difficult and precarious. This, however, rendered the grace and the wisdom of God but so much the more apparent.
── John Darby《Synopsis of Acts》
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)
Commentary on Acts 8:1-4
(Read Acts 8:1-4)
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.
Commentary on Acts 8:5-13
(Read Acts 8:5-13)
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.
Commentary on Acts 8:14-25
(Read Acts 8:14-25)
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.
Commentary on Acts 8:26-40
(Read Acts 8:26-40)
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.
── Matthew Henry《Concise Commentary on Acts》
 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
Devout men — Who feared God more than persecution. And yet were they not of little faith? Else they would not have made so great lamentation.
 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
Saul made havoc of the Church — Like some furious beast of prey. So the Greek word properly signifies.
Men and women — Regarding neither age nor sex.
 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.
Therefore they that were dispersed went every where — These very words are reassumed, after as it were a long parenthesis, chap. xi, 19, Acts 11:19 and the thread of the story continued.
 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
Stephen — Being taken away, Philip, his next colleague, (not the apostle,) rises in his place.
 But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one:
A certain man — using magic - So there was such a thing as witchcraft once! In Asia at least, if not in Europe or America.
 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
But when they believed — What Philip preached, then they saw and felt the real power of God, and submitted thereto.
 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.
And Simon believed — That is, was convinced of the truth.
 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
And the apostles hearing that Samaria — The inhabitants of that country, had received the word of God - By faith, sent Peter and John - He that sends must be either superior, or at least equal, to him that is sent. It follows that the college of the apostles was equal if not superior to Peter.
 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
The Holy Ghost — In his miraculous gifts? Or his sanctifying graces? Probably in both.
 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
Simon offered them money — And hence the procuring any ministerial function, or ecclesiastical benefice by money, is termed Simony.
 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.
Thou hast neither part — By purchase, nor lot - Given gratis, in this matter - This gift of God.
For thy heart is not right before God — Probably St. Peter discerned this long before he had declared it; although it does not appear that God gave to any of the apostles a universal power of discerning the hearts of all they conversed with; any more than a universal power of healing all the sick they came near. This we are sure St. Paul had not; though he was not inferior to the chief of the apostles. Otherwise he would not have suffered the illness of Epaphroditus to have brought him so near to death, Philippians 2:25-27; nor have left so useful a fellow labourer as Trophimus sick at Miletus, 2 Timothy 4:20.
 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
Repent — if perhaps the thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee - Without all doubt if he had repented, he would have been forgiven. The doubt was, whether he would repent.
Thou art in the gall of bitterness — In the highest degree of wickedness, which is bitterness, that is, misery to the soul; and in the bond of iniquity - Fast bound therewith.
 And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.
The way which is desert — There were two ways from Jerusalem to Gaza, one desert, the other through a more populous country.
 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,
An eunuch — Chief officers were anciently called eunuchs, though not always literally such; because such used to be chief ministers in the eastern courts.
Candace, queen of the Ethiopians — So all the queens of Ethiopia were called.
 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.
Sitting in his chariot, he read the Prophet Isaiah — God meeteth those that remember him in his ways. It is good to read, hear, seek information even in a journey. Why should we not redeem all our time?
 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?
And Philip running to him, said, Understandest thou what thou readest? — He did not begin about the weather, news, or the like. In speaking for God, we may frequently come to the point at once, without circumlocution.
 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
He desired Philip to come up and sit with him — Such was his modesty, and thirst after instruction.
 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:
The portion of Scripture — By reading that very chapter, the fifty-third of Isaiah, many Jews, yea, and atheists, have been converted. Some of them history records. God knoweth them all. Isaiah 53:7
 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.
In his humiliation his judgment was taken away — That is, when he was a man, he had no justice shown him. To take away a person's judgment, is a proverbial phrase for oppressing him.
And who shall declare, or count his generation — That is, who can number his seed, Isaiah 53:10; which he hath purchased by laying down his life?
 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
And as they went on the way they came to a certain water — Thus, even the circumstances of the journey were under the direction of God. The kingdom of God suits itself to external circumstances, without any violence, as air yields to all bodies, and yet pervades all.
What hindereth me to be baptized? — Probably he had been circumcised: otherwise Cornelius would not have been the first fruits of the Gentiles.
 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
And they both went down — Out of the chariot. It does not follow that he was baptized by immersion. The text neither affirms nor intimates any thing concerning it.
 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
The Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip — Carried him away with a miraculous swiftness, without any action or labour of his own. This had befallen several of the prophets.
 But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.
But Philip was found at Azotus — Probably none saw him, from his leaving the eunuch, till he was there.
── John Wesley《Explanatory Notes on Acts》
Acts 8:1 represents an important principle of thermodynamics: “The greater the heat, the greater the expansion.”
Chapter 8. Somaria
What You Are
Do you Understand?
I. The Church Persecuted and Scattered
II. Philip Proclaim the Christ
III. The Salvation of the Ethiopian Eunuch
── Chih-Hsin Chang《An Outline of The New Testament》
Chapter Eight General Review
OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER
1) To note the spread of the gospel into Judea and
, as foretold Samaria
by Jesus (cf. Ac 1:8)
2) To review the conversions of the Samaritans and the Ethiopian eunuch
3) To examine the apostolic ministry of imparting the Spirit through the
laying on of hands
Following the martyrdom of Stephen, the church in
was severely Jerusalem
persecuted. Prominent in leading the persecution was young Saul, going
so far as to enter homes and dragging men and women off to prison (1-3).
This led to the dispersion of the church throughout Judea and
though the apostles remained in
. Those who were scattered Jerusalem
went everywhere preaching the Word, including Philip (one of the seven
men selected to help needy widows, cf. 6:5). Preaching Christ and
performing miracles, many Samaritans believed and were baptized,
including a sorcerer named Simon. When the apostles heard that the
Samaritans had received the Word, they sent Peter and John to impart the
Spirit through the laying on of hands. When Simon tried to buy the
ability to impart spiritual gifts, Peter strongly rebuked him and told
him to repent and pray for forgiveness. Peter and John eventually made
their way back to
, preaching the gospel in many villages of Jerusalem
the Samaritans (5-25).
Philip was then told by an angel to go along the road between
where he saw a man reading in his chariot, who happened to be a Gaza
eunuch and treasurer of Queen Candace of
. Told by the Spirit Ethiopia
to overtake the chariot, Philip heard him reading from the prophet
Isaiah. Invited to explain the passage in Isaiah (cf. Isa 53:7-8),
Philip proceeded to preach Jesus to him. When they came to some water,
the eunuch requested to be baptized and Philip did so upon hearing his
confession of faith. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit
caught Philip away and the eunuch resumed his journey with great joy.
Philip was later found at Azotus, and continued to preach in the cities
until he came to
I. AFTERMATH OF STEPHEN'S DEATH (1-4)
A. THE CHURCH PERSECUTED (1-3)
1. Saul consents to Stephen's death
2. A great persecution arose against the church in
a. Christians scattered throughout Judea and
b. Except the apostles
3. Stephen buried and lamented by devout men
4. Saul makes havoc of the church, imprisoning men and women
B. THE CHRISTIANS PREACHING (4)
1. Those scattered abroad went everywhere
2. Preaching the word
II. CONVERSION OF THE SAMARITANS (5-25)
A. PHILIP AT
1. Preaches Christ to them
2. Multitudes give heed to the word, seeing the miracles he did
a. Casting out unclean spirits
b. Healing the paralyzed and lame
c. Creating great joy in the city
3. Background on Simon the sorcerer
a. Previously practiced sorcery, astonishing the people,
claiming to be great
b. To whom people gave heed, calling him "the great power of
4. Many Samaritans converted
a. Believed Philip preaching concerning the
and kingdomof God
the name of Jesus
b. Were baptized, both men and women
5. Simon also believes and is baptized
a. Continued with Philip
b. Amazed with the signs and miracles that were done
B. PETER AND JOHN AT
1. Peter and John sent to
a. By the apostles at
b. Who heard the Samaritans received the word of God
2. Peter and John impart the Holy Spirit
a. Praying for the Samaritans, for they had only been baptized
in the name of Jesus
b. Laying hands on them, whereby they received the Holy Spirit
3. Simon tries to buy the gift of imparting the Spirit
a. He saw that it was imparted by the laying on of the
b. He offered Peter and John money for the same gift
c. Peter strongly rebukes Simon
1) For thinking the gift of God could be purchased with
2) He had no part in this matter, for his heart was not
right in the sight of God
d. Peter counsels Simon
1) To repent and pray for forgiveness
2) For he is poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity
3) Simon pleads with Peter to pray for him
4. Peter and John return to
a. After testifying and preaching the word of the Lord
b. After preaching the gospel in many of the villages of the
III. CONVERSION OF THE ETHIOPIAN EUNUCH (26-40)
A. PHILIP SENT TO THE EUNUCH (26-29)
1. An angel of the Lord tells Philip to go south toward
2. In a desert area he sees a man in a chariot
a. A man of great authority
1) A eunuch from
2) In charge of the treasury of Candace, queen of
b. A religious man
1) Had traveled to
to worship Jerusalem
2) Reading from Isaiah on his return home
3. The Spirit tells Philip to overtake the chariot
B. PHILIP PREACHES JESUS TO THE EUNUCH (30-40)
1. Philip approaches the eunuch
a. Hears him reading from Isaiah - Isa 53:7-8
b. Asks him if he understands what he is reading
c. The eunuch desires help in understanding the subject of the
2. Philip preaches to the Eunuch
a. Beginning with that scripture, He preached Jesus to him
b. Coming to some water, the eunuch requests baptism
c. Baptism requires faith in Jesus, which the eunuch confesses
d. Both go into the water, and Philip baptizes the eunuch
3. Following the baptism
a. The Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away so the eunuch saw
him no more
b. The eunuch went on his way rejoicing
c. Philip was later found at Azotus, and preached in all the
cities till he came to
REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER
1) What are the main points of this chapter?
- Aftermath of Stephen's death (1-4)
- Conversion of the Samaritans (5-25)
- Conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch (26-40)
2) Who consented to Stephen's death? (1)
3) What happened at that time? What was the result? (1)
- A great persecution against the church
- The church was scattered throughout Judea and
, except the Samaria
4) What was Saul doing? (3)
- Making havoc of the church, dragging men and women off to prison
5) What did those who were scattered do? (4)
- They went everywhere preaching the word
6) Who went to
and preached Christ to them? (5) Samaria
- Philip (cf. Ac 6:5)
7) How did the multitudes respond? Why? (6)
- They heeded the things spoken by Philip
- Because of the miracles he did
8) What kind of miracles did Philip perform? (7)
- Casting out unclean spirits, healing the paralyzed and lame
9) Who had the Samaritans previously heeded? (9-11)
- Simon the sorcerer
10) What things did Philip preach that the Samaritans believed? (12)
and the name of Jesus Christ kingdomof God
11) How did the Samaritans respond to Philip's preaching? (12)
- With faith and baptism
12) Who else believed and was baptized? (13)
- Simon the sorcerer
13) Who was sent to
by the apostles? Why? (14-16) Samaria
- Peter and John; that the Samaritans might receive the Holy Spirit
14) How was the Holy Spirit imparted to the Samaritans? (17-18)
- By the laying on of the apostles' hands
15) What did Simon try to do? (18-19)
- Purchase the ability to impart the Spirit by the laying on of hands
16) Why did Peter refuse and then rebuke Simon for his offer? (20-23)
- Thinking that the gift of God could be purchased with money
- His heart was not right; he was poisoned by bitterness and bound by
17) What did Peter tell Simon to do in order to be forgiven? What did
Simon ask? (22)
- To repent and pray; for Peter to pray for him
18) As Peter and John returned to
, what did they do? (25) Jerusalem
- Preached the gospel in many of the villages of the Samaritans
19) Where was Philip told to go next? Who told him? (26)
- To go south along the road from
Jerusalemto ; an angel of the Gaza
20) Who did Philip see? What was the man doing? (27-28)
- An Ethiopian eunuch, the treasurer of Queen Candace
- Returning from
where he gone to worship, sitting in his Jerusalem
chariot and reading from Isaiah
21) Who told Philip to overtake the chariot? (29)
- The Spirit
22) When Philip heard him reading, what did he ask? How did the eunuch
- "Do you understand what you are reading?"
- "How can I, unless someone guides me?"
23) Where in Isaiah was the eunuch reading? (32-33)
- Isaiah 53:7-8
24) What did the eunuch want to know? (34)
- Was Isaiah writing of himself, or some other man
25) Beginning from that passage, what did Philip preach? (35)
26) When they came to water, what did the eunuch ask? How did Philip
- "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?"
- "If you believe with all your heart, you may."
27) How did Philip baptize the eunuch? (38-39)
- They both went down into the water, Philip baptized him, they both
came up out of the water
28) What happened when they came up out of the water? What did the
eunuch do? (39)
- The Spirit caught Philip away, so the eunuch saw him no more
- He went on his way rejoicing
29) Where was Philip found? What did he then do? (40)
- Azotus; preached in all the cities until he came to
The Samaritans (8:4-25)
1. With the preaching of the gospel and its reception by many, the
Lord's church grew rapidly in
a. 3000 souls were added after the first gospel sermon - Ac 2:41
b. Following the second sermon, the number grew to about 5000
- Ac 4:4
2. What was the gospel message that sparked the conversion of so many?
a. One that centered on Jesus Christ, proclaiming His death,
resurrection, exaltation, and eventual return!
b. A message that expected the following response from those who
1) Faith in Jesus as both Lord and Christ - e.g., Ac 2:36
2) Repentance from sin - e.g., Ac 2:38; 3:19
3) Turning to God, with baptism for the remission of sins as the
first step - e.g., Ac 2:38,41; 3:19
3. Preaching this message was not without controversy...
a. Some took issue with the message of Christ's resurrection
- Ac 4:1-3
b. Persecution against the church in
became progressively Jerusalem
1) Peter and John were at first simply threatened - Ac 4:21
2) Soon after all the apostles were beaten - Ac 5:40
3) Then Steven was stoned to death - Ac 6:8-7:60
c. Steven's death led to widespread persecution, and the dispersal
of many Christians from
- Ac 8:1-3 Jerusalem
4. But as Christians were scattered abroad, so was the gospel!
a. The Christians went everywhere, "preaching the word" - Ac 8:4
b. Among those was the evangelist Philip, whose preaching provides
us with two examples of conversion
1) "The Samaritans" - Ac 8:4-25
2) "The Ethiopian Eunuch" - Ac 8:26-40
[In this study, we shall examine "The Samaritans", whose example of
conversion and follow-up is one of the more challenging ones found in
I. THE CONVERSION OF THE SAMARITANS
A. PHILIP'S MINISTRY AT
- Ac 8:4-13 SAMARIA
1. He preached Christ to them - Ac 8:5
2. Multitudes heeded the things he spoke - Ac 8:
a. Having heard and seen the miracles which he did
1) Such as casting out unclean spirits, healing the
paralyzed and lame
2) Though previously they had been impressed by a sorcerer
b. They believed Philip as he preached about the kingdom of
God and the name of Jesus Christ
c. They were baptized, both men and women
3. Even Simon the sorcerer was converted - Ac 8:13
a. He too believed and was baptized
b. He continued with Philip, amazed at the miracles and signs
Philip was doing
B. THE FOLLOW-UP BY PETER AND JOHN - Ac 8:14-25
1. The apostles sent Peter and John upon hearing of the
conversion of the Samaritans - Ac 8:14
2. Peter and John imparted the Spirit to the Samaritans - Ac 8:
a. While the Samaritans had been baptized, they had not
received the Spirit
b. Through prayer and the laying on of the apostles' hands,
they received the Spirit
3. This power to impart the Spirit became a stumblingblock for
Simon - Ac 8:18-24
a. He sought to buy the ability to impart the Spirit - Ac 8:
b. Peter rebukes him strongly, and calls upon him to repent
- Ac 8:20-23
c. Simon asks Peter to pray for him - Ac 8:24
4. Peter and John preached the gospel in many villages in
on their return to
- Ac 8:25 Jerusalem
[The example of the Samaritans' is really quite remarkable, and for
several reasons. This is the first preaching of the gospel to those not
fully Jews (Samaritans were half-breeds, and disdained by most Jews;
cf. Jn 4:9). But also because of the questions that are raised, some
of which I hope to address as I offer...]
II. SOME OBSERVATIONS
A. CONCERNING THE CONVERSION OF THE SAMARITANS...
1. The gospel message preached by Philip
a. We are told that he preached "Christ" - Ac 8:5
1) This undoubtedly included Christ's death, resurrection,
2) I.e., the same things Peter preached about Christ in
Acts 2 and 3
b. We are told that he preached "the things concerning the
and the name of Jesus Christ" - Ac 8:12 kingdomof God
1) What things concerning "the
"? kingdomof God
a) John, Jesus, and the apostles had earlier taught the
kingdom was "at hand" - cf. Mt 3:1; 4:17; 10:7
b) Later, Paul and John wrote of the kingdom as present
- Co 1:13; Re 1:9
-- As the expression "
" literally means kingdomof God
the "reign of God", it is likely that Philip spoke of
the rule and reign of God now present in the Person
of His Son Jesus Christ - cf. Mt 28:18; Ac 2:36; 5:31
2) What things concerning "the name of Jesus Christ"?
a) Most likely that repentance and remission of sins
were now being proclaimed in His name - Lk 24:47
b) And from the response of the Samaritans, we conclude
that included whatever Jesus commanded - cf. Ac 8:12
with Mk 16:16
2. The response of the Samaritans
a. Note first that they "heeded the things spoken by Philip",
implying obedience on their part - Ac 8:6; cf. He 5:9
b. Later we are told that they "believed" and "were baptized"
- Ac 8:12
1) Like Peter, Philip faithfully fulfilled the Lord's
commission - Mk 16:15-16
2) Heeding the things spoken by Philip therefore included
B. CONCERNING THE CONVERSION OF SIMON THE SORCERER...
1. Was Simon truly converted?
a. Many deny that he was, because of what happened afterward
b. But Luke (the author) says Simon "also believed"
1) I.e., he believed just as the others did
2) Therefore his faith was just as real as the rest of the
c. While there may be many fanciful traditions concerning
Simon outside of the Bible, the indication of Scripture is
that his conversion was sincere
2. Simon is an example of how fallen Christians can be restored
a. He was told to "repent" and "pray" - Ac 8:22
b. When a Christian sins, therefore, he needs not to be
baptized again, but to repent and pray, confessing his
sins- cf. 1 Jn 1:9
-- Simon reveals how quickly Christians can be overtaken in sin,
but also how they can obtain forgiveness and be restored!
C. CONCERNING THE FOLLOW-UP BY PETER AND JOHN...
1. Many questions are raised by what we read...
a. Why is it that the Samaritan's received baptism by Philip,
but not the Spirit?
b. What does it mean "that they might receive the Holy
c. What did the apostles have that Philip did not?
-- The challenge is to reconcile what we read here with what
is revealed elsewhere
2. As I seek to understand this passage, the following
observations are made...
a. Whatever Luke meant to "receive the Holy Spirit"...
1) It required the apostles' laying on of hands
a) Philip could not impart it, making it necessary for
the apostles to come
b) Simon could see that it was through the apostles'
laying on of hands the Spirit was given - Ac 8:18
2) It was something visible or audible
a) It caught Simon's attention, who sought to buy the
ability to impart it
b) It was clearly something miraculous (perhaps speaking
-- But was it actually the Spirit Himself, or something the
b. Elsewhere we learn that one receives the Spirit upon
obedience to the Gospel
1) As indicated in Ac 2:38; 5:32; 1 Co 12:13; Ep 1:13-14;
2) Whose indwelling is necessary to being a Christian - Ro
-- Since the Samaritans had been baptized (Ac 8:12,16), I
believe it is fair to assume that they had received the
Spirit Himself as any Christian would
3. Therefore I offer the following explanation...
a. The expression "receive the Holy Spirit" is a metonymy for
receiving a miraculous gift from the Spirit
1) Metonymy - A figure of speech in which one word or
phrase is substituted for another with which it is
2) E.g., as in Washington for the United States government
or of the sword for military power
-- What the Samaritans had not received, then, were any
miraculous spiritual gifts that the Spirit bestowed
- cf. 1 Co 12:1-11
b. The apostles had the ability to impart spiritual gifts
1) Paul hoped to impart such a gift to the Romans - Ro 1:11
2) He had imparted such a gift to Timothy - 2 Ti 1:6
c. The ability to impart spiritual gifts was limited to the
apostles, which explains:
1) Why Philip could perform miracles, but not pass the
ability on to others
a) The apostles had laid hands on him earlier - Ac 6:5-6
b) Like Steven, Philip could then do miracles - Ac 6:7;
2) Why it was necessary for Peter and John to come
a) If spiritual gifts came simply by praying, why send
for Peter and John?
b) It took an apostle for the spiritual gifts to be
d. It was this ability to impart spiritual gifts that Simon
wanted to buy!
1) He was not content to receive a spiritual gift
2) He wanted that apostolic ability to impart spiritual
gifts! - Ac 8:19
1. The conversion of the Samaritans is simple and straightforward...
a. We learn that when Christ is preached, believed, and heeded,
people will be baptized - cf. Ac 8:5-6,12
b. What we read in verse 12 is as simple and direct as the
commission under which Philip preached:
"But when they believed Philip as he preached the things
concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ,
both men and women were baptized." - Ac 8:12
"He that believes and is baptized shall be saved" - Mk 16:16
2. The follow-up of the Samaritans may be challenging...
a. It has been described as one of the most extraordinary passages
1) It has been used to teach all sorts of conflicting doctrine
related to confirmation, sanctification, and spiritual gifts
2) We must be careful not to draw conclusions that are contrary
to the rest of the Scriptures
b. But we can still glean important lessons concerning conversion
1) Conversion requires that one "heed" (obey) the Word of God
2) Such obedience involves believing and being baptized
3) Conversion does not remove the temptation to sin
4) When we fall, restoration does not require re-baptism, but
repentance and prayer
In our next study, we shall follow Philip as he is led by the Spirit to
teach just one individual, a queen's treasurer who is on his way home
from a journey to Jerusalem...
The Ethiopian Eunuch (8:26-40)
1. The conversions we have noted so far have involved large numbers of
a. The 3000 at Pentecost - Ac 2:1-41
b. The 2000 on Solomon's Porch - Ac 3:1-4:4
c. The multitudes in Samaria - Ac 8:5-13
2. In each case, the gospel message was basically the same...
a. Christ is proclaimed
b. Responses called for included faith, repentance and baptism
3. Now we have the opportunity to examine the conversion of just one
a. A queen's treasurer, a eunuch from Ethiopia
b. A very religious man, who had traveled a great distance to
4. With the account of the conversion of "The Ethiopian Eunuch"...
a. We not only have the opportunity to confirm what we have already
b. We can also glean a few more points regarding Biblical
[Let's start with a reading and review of the basic facts related to
I. THE CONVERSION OF THE ETHIOPIAN EUNUCH
A. PHILIP IS SENT TO THE EUNUCH - Ac 8:26-29
1. An angel of the Lord tells Philip to go toward Gaza - Ac 8:26
2. On the way there is a man sitting in his chariot - Ac 8:27-28
a. A eunuch of Ethiopia, in charge of the treasury of Queen
b. Returning home from having gone to worship in Jerusalem
c. Reading from the prophet Isaiah
3. The Spirit tells Philip to overtake the chariot - Ac 8:29
B. PHILIP PREACHES JESUS TO HIM - Ac 8:30-35
1. Hearing the eunuch reading Isaiah, Philip asks if he
understands - Ac 8:30
2. The eunuch asks Philip to help him - Ac 8:31-34
a. He expresses a need for someone to guide him, and invites
Philip to sit with him
b. The scripture under consideration is Isa 53:7-8
1) Which speaks of one led as a sheep to the slaughter
2) Which describes one whose life is taken from the earth
c. The eunuch asks if Isaiah was speaking of himself, or of
3. Beginning with that Scripture, Philip preaches Jesus to him
- Ac 8:35
C. THE EUNUCH IS BAPTIZED - Ac 8:36-40
1. The eunuch expresses a desire to be baptized - Ac 8:36-37
a. Seeing some water along the way, he wonders what would
hinder him from being baptized
b. Philip replies that if he believes with all his heart, he
c. The eunuch confesses his faith in Jesus as the Son of God
2. Philip baptizes the eunuch - Ac 8:38-40
a. Stopping the chariot, both Philip and the eunuch go down
into the water
b. Philip then baptizes him
c. When they come up out of the water, the Spirit catches
d. Though seeing Philip no more, the eunuch goes on his way
e. Philip is found at Azotus, and continues preaching in the
cities until he arrives at Caesarea
[One might properly wonder why the Spirit saw it fit to lead Luke to
spend so much time describing the conversion of just one person.
Clearly there must be important lessons or principles that we can glean
from this historical account.
With that in mind, let me offer..]
II. SOME OBSERVATIONS
A. CONCERNING PROSPECTS FOR THE GOSPEL...
1. The Ethiopian eunuch was a very religious man
a. He had traveled a great distance to worship in Jerusalem
b. He was reading from the Scriptures when Philip found him
2. In fact, most examples of conversions involved very devout
a. The 3000 at Pentecost, who had traveled to observe the
b. Later, we will study the conversions of such people as:
1) Paul, the Pharisee zealous for the Law
2) Cornelius, the devout Gentile who feared God and prayed
3) Lydia, a woman who met every Sabbath to pray with others
3. From this we can glean the following...
a. Just because one is religious does not mean they are saved!
b. Religious people are often good prospects for the gospel!
1) They already fear God and respect His authority
2) As such, they simply need to be shown "the way of God
more accurately" - cf. Ac 18:26
c. Those who are truly seeking God's will, will one day have
an opportunity to hear the gospel and obey it!
-- This does not discount the fact that rank sinners are often
receptive (cf. the Corinthians, 1 Co 6:9-11), but good people
are usually more open to the Word
B. CONCERNING WHAT IT MEANS TO PREACH JESUS...
1. From Isaiah's "quotation" (Isa 52:13-53:11), we know it
a. How Jesus died for our sins - cf. 1 Co 15:1-3
b. How Jesus has been exalted by God - cf. Ac 2:36; 3:13;
2. From the Eunuch's "question" (Ac 8:36), we know it includes
a. The importance of baptism
1) Why did the eunuch ask, "What hinders me from being
2) Perhaps because Philip told him...
a) What the Lord had said - Mk 16:15-16
b) The purpose of baptism, as expressed by Peter and
Paul - Ac 2:38; Ro 6:3-4; 1 Pe 3:21
-- As we have seen and will see, baptism is the expected
response when one believes in Jesus
b. The immediacy of baptism
1) Why did the eunuch asked to be baptized right then
("See, here is water.")?
2) Perhaps because baptism's purpose is such that one does
not want to delay
a) It is "for the remission of sins" - Ac 2:38
b) It is to have one's sins "washed away" - Ac 22:16
c) It is an appeal for a clear conscience - 1 Pe 3:21
-- Indeed, in every example of conversion found in Acts,
people were baptized immediately, after just one lesson!
3. From Philip's "qualification" (Ac 8:37), we know it requires
a. The necessity of faith in Jesus
1) One must believe in Jesus as the Son of God - Jn 8:24;
2) Without faith, God won't do His work in our baptism
- cf. Co 2:12
b. The necessity of whole-heartedness in our faith
1) God has always required whole-heartedness - cf. Mt 22:37
2) Without it, even those saved are in danger of falling
away - cf. He 3:12-14
-- Unless "you believe with all your heart", you are not a
proper subject for baptism!
C. CONCERNING BAPTISM...
1. We see that baptism involves water
a. When the eunuch was baptized...
1) "...both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water"
- Ac 8:38
2) "...he baptized him" - Ac 8:38
3) "...they came up out of the water" - Ac 8:39
b. Later, we see the same truth expressed by Peter - cf. Ac
2. We see that baptism involves a burial in water
a. Both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water - Ac
1) If sprinkling satisfies the meaning of baptism, it seems
strange that Philip would need to go down into the water
2) Why get wet, when all he needed to do was get a handful
b. Baptism means "to immerse", and such requires the baptizer
to get in the water with the one being baptized
c. Later, Paul describes baptism as a "burial" - cf. Ro 6:3-4;
3. We see that baptism is NOT a public confession of one's faith
a. Some say that the purpose of baptism is to publicly confess
one's faith in Christ
1) Especially those who deny that baptism is for the
remission of sins
2) Seeking to provide a reason for baptism, they offer this
as an alternative
3) But the Bible nowhere says this is the purpose for
b. If the purpose of baptism is to publicly confess one's
1) Why did Philip baptize the eunuch?
a) There was no one else around to witness the baptism
b) They were all alone in the desert
2) Why didn't Philip answer the eunuch's question
a) He wanted to know what would hinder him from being
b) If baptism is a public confession of one's faith, we
would expect Philip to say he must wait until they
get to town, find a church, etc.
c. But the purpose of baptism is such that it can be done...
1) In public or in private
2) With thousands present, or with just the one doing the
-- Later, we will see that the conversion of the Philippian
Jailor also involved a baptism in relative privacy
1. With the conversion of "The Ethiopian Eunuch", we are impressed
with the simplicity of salvation...
a. With a simple presentation of the gospel, one can be saved after
just one lesson
b. Whether it is preached to large crowds or to just one person, the
gospel is indeed God's power to save! - cf. Ro 1:16
2. When the gospel of Jesus is truly preached...
a. The death of Jesus for our sins will be stressed
b. The importance of baptism as commanded by Jesus will be mentioned
1) Such that people will want to know "what hinders me from being
2) Such that people will want to baptized immediately
c. The purpose of baptism will be properly understood, knowing that
one can be baptized in private just as well as in public
d. The necessity for a whole-hearted faith in Jesus will be
emphasized, otherwise one simply gets wet in baptism!
Was your conversion anything like that of "The Ethiopian Eunuch"? When
someone "preached Jesus" to you, were you compelled to ask:
"See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" - Acts 8:36
If not, have you considered why not? Could it be that the gospel of
Jesus Christ was not shared with you in its fullness...?