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Acts 8:1-25 (web)

Saul Scatters the Christians

8:1 Saul was consenting to his death. 
A great persecution arose against the assembly which was in Jerusalem in that day. 
They were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria,
except for the apostles
8:2 Devout men buried Stephen, and lamented greatly over him. 
8:3 But Saul ravaged the assembly, entering into every house,
and dragged both men and women off to prison. 
8:4 Therefore those who were scattered abroad went around preaching the word. 

Philip's Ministry: Part I

Philip Preaches in Samaria

8:5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and proclaimed to them the Christ. 
8:6 The multitudes listened with one accord to the things that were spoken by Philip, 
when they heard and saw the signs which he did. 
8:7 For unclean spirits came out of many of those who had them. 
They came out, crying with a loud voice. Many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. 
8:8 There was great joy in that city. 

Simon's Conversion

8:9 But there was a certain man, Simon by name, who used to practice sorcery in the city, 
and amazed the people of Samaria, making himself out to be some great one, 
8:10 to whom they all listened, from the least to the greatest, saying, 
"This man is that great power of God." 
8:11 They listened to him, because for a long time he had amazed them with his sorceries. 
8:12 But when they believed Philip preaching good news concerning 
the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 
8:13 Simon himself also believed. Being baptized, he continued with Philip. 
Seeing signs and great miracles occuring, he was amazed. 

Peter imparts the Holy Spirit
and Simon Rebuked

8:14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard 
that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 
8:15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit; 
8:16 for as yet he had fallen on none of them. 
They had only been baptized in the name of Christ Jesus. 
8:17 Then they laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. 
8:18 Now when Simon saw that the Holy Spirit was given 
through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, 
8:19 saying, "Give me also this power, that whoever I lay my hands on may receive the Holy Spirit." 
8:20 But Peter said to him, "May your silver perish with you, 
because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 
8:21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart isn't right before God. 
8:22 Repent therefore of this, your wickedness, 
and ask God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 
8:23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity." 
8:24 Simon answered, "Pray for me to the Lord,
that none of the things which you have spoken happen to me." 
8:25 They therefore, when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord,
returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans. 


vs 1-4 Even before his conversion Saul, who would later become the Apostle Paul, would be used by God to further the Great Commission by scattering the Christians and in doing so bringing the gospel message to the surrounding nations. Except for the Apostles.  It was to the Apostles that God spoke the Great Commission, but others would carry it out. The apostles were reluctant to leave Jerusalem. They were probably exempt from persecution through the advice given by Gamaliel in Acts 5:35-39 who told the Council to leave them alone. Saul, who had been a student of Gamaliel, partly heeded this advice by not arresting them, but persecuted the other Christians instead. 

vs 5-8 Philip was one of those chosen as deacons in chapter 6 to serve in the matter of distributing food to the widows. And once again as in the case of Stephen we see that while the apostles hang around Jerusalem saying, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables", it turns out that others like Stephen and Philip did both. Philip overcame the prejudices inherent among Jews against Samaritans, and followed Jesus' example and command bringing the gospel to them. In this context God gave him miracles in order to affirm the Word of God, just as we have seen before of others. 

Simon Magnus

Here we have what would prove to be merely a nominal conversion of this magician. For he would develop a reputation among early Christian writers as a arch-symbol of heresy. Eusebius calls him the author of all heresy. For according to post-Biblical writers, Simon went on to claim himself God.

But then what does it mean in verse 13 that he "believed"? As I have pointed out before and as I will point out in the future, in Acts Luke is writing in an historical sense speaking of external events. He was speaking of external conversion without making reference to his internal conversion. Simon saw the miracles and so was impressed and followed the crowd in believing in Christ and getting baptized. But was his faith of a quality acceptable to God for salvation? You shall know them by their fruits. 

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." He wanted to continue to play the role of magician. Rather than honoring Christ, he was obsessed with miracles. Yet the same could be said of many in the Christian community today. And there are preachers particularly among Charismatics who claim to do miraculous things but preach themselves rather than Christ. 

Another example is Moses. Though it was not a characteristic of his lifestyle even Moses at one point fell into this kind of sin.

He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, "Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?" Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. Numbers 20:10,11
Moses' error here was twofold. First he portrayed himself as a magician rather than giving glory to God. And secondly in the process struck the rock as if with a magic wand, which he had been commanded not to do. For this he died.

Peter's answer showed little patience to Simon. For he percieved the root of this request was not born of a sincere though ignorant desire to help others receive the Holy Spirit. But rather it was born of a self-serving desire to continue to play the role of magician, as his offering to pay money for such an ability revealed more clearly. If one truly believes, one will have to deal with their sins. But Simon had not come to believe in this way. What attracted him to Christianity was that it appeared to contain stronger magic than he had encounted before. Yes he did have a genuine fear of condemnation which could have eventually led him to saving faith if he repented. But history teaches us that he hadn't come to repentance, but rather became a false teacher, for which his condemnation was worse. 

"If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them." 2Peter 2:20,21

Evangelism from Hell

Though miracles affirmed the message and the messenger, there is a problem if one thinks to rely on miracles to convert people. What you often end up with are nominal believers who are not convicted of their sins, but rather entertained by the miracles instead. In his parable of Lazarus and the rich man, Jesus taught that the rich man in hell suggested an evangelism program to convert his brothers by showing them a miracle. But Jesus taught that "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." (Luke 16:31) Moses and the Prophets dealty primarily with sin. If people are not willing to deal with their sins, then even miracles may not bring them to saving faith.

Why did Peter Need to Come?

Perhaps the answer to this is found in Jesus promise to Peter, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven" Matt 16:19 The Great Commission was to the Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles - these three categories. Peter open the gates for the Spirit to come upon the Jews by his preaching at Pentecost. Now the Spirit was to come upon the Samaritans. Though the gospel had been preached by Philip, it was Peter's job to bring the Holy Spirit upon them. And so also would it be his job in Acts 10 to bring the Spirit upon the Gentiles in his preaching to Cornelius. But I would say that after he used the key to open the gates to these three categories of people, the promise was completed and a dispensation fulfilled. For after that people from all groups of believers would receive the Spirit regardless of Peter's presence. 

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jun 09,2023