Day 10 - Acts 8:4-40 - 40 Days in the Book of Acts

Acts 8:4-40

4 Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. 5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6 And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was much joy in that city.   9 But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. 10 They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11 And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.

There are probably a couple of reasons why Luke wants you to know this story.  First of all, Remember Acts 1:8  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.  We see the church following Jesus' instructions and we also see what probably happened after the persecuted church relocated.  The Samaritan story here would have been a story repeated where ever these disciples went.  Notice how Luke makes sure that we understand that the Holy Spirit not only came on Jesus and the Apostles, but on their disciples too!  What you are reading isn't limited to this time frame - it's for today!

The Samaritians were despised by the Jews.  A Jewish person wouldn't even walk through their country.  The reason was simple.  Samaritians were part Jewish (decedents from 10 tribes of Israel) and Gentile (Assyrians).  They followed the Old Testament law, but probably worshipped a few other gods too.  The built a temple on Mount Gerizim and said that sacrifices must be made there and not in Jerusalem.  There was a lot of bad blood here.  

So for Philip to go to Samaria took a lot of courage.  However, Jesus had done it in John 4 and we can be sure that Philip was being led by the Holy Spirit.  Where has the Holy Spirit taken you lately? Are you serving in places you thought you would never go?  Are you doing things in places you thought you would never do?  That is what it is like to follow God.  So where are you going today? 

Philip does what the Jesus and the Apostles had done.  He followed their example.  Preach the Gospel, pray for the sick and possessed. Let the Holy Spirit do the rest.  Simple faith will change a city, a nation and the world.  In this case, the city was living in joy.  Health was being restored and problems were being solved. 

Now we are introduced to a man who described himself as a great man.  Simon the magician.  The people thought he was a man of God, even though he probably didn't say so - he simply didn't disagree with them.  That is one of the things you have to pay attention to when following men.  Who do they claim to be and who do they claim to follow.  Simon made his living amazing people.  The fact that they linked him to God only served his purpose to make more money.  

But there is a new man in town and it isn't Philip.  It's Jesus.  People believed what they heard and they were baptized in water to that end - even Simon.  

14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone 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 obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” 24 And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”  25 Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.

When word was received in Jerusalem that the Samaritans were accepting Christ, the immediately dispatched Peter and John to assist.  Here is the picture.  There was no discussion whether or not they should go and "associate" with these Samaritans.  The cause of Christ had broken down the racism and they were more than ready to go and serve. 

The first thing that these Apostles address is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.  They begin to lay hands on them and the Bible says that they received it.  Now one of the problems some people have with this Scripture is that it doesn't say, "Speaking in tongues" as in Chapter 2.  But Luke is famous for not stating the obvious.  When it is clear elsewhere he relies on his reader to connect the dots.  They spoke in tongues.  

Now Simon see this and offers money to learn this "trick".  Here is a great example of someone who believes, but in the immaturity of their faith, doesn't understand.  What did he do?   He assumed that the Apostles had the authority to do what they did.  They didn't.  Jesus is the baptizer (Acts 2:33) and the Apostles were just His representatives that encouraged the people to believe.   This is a great illustration on how someone can place their faith in men of God rather than in God Himself.  We can be so enamored with the evidences of faith that we forget who the author of our faith is? 

Peter rebukes Simon immediately for his request.  The request isn't so much about the gift as his status with the people of Samaria.  Remember he was the top dog before Philip showed up.  He's trying to get his status back.  When personalities are the most important thing, politics will come into play.

Peter doesn't rebuke Simon without offering hope.  If he would repent that possible his heart would change.  Peter recognized that there were no quick answers to Simons needs, but then are their any quick fixes to the deep seated needs of our heart?

Simon responds appropriately and asks the Apostles to pray with him for a change of heart.

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth.  33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.  Who can describe his generation?  For his life is taken away from the earth.”  34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Philip now gets a visit from an angel.  I know that most people today would listen to a story with some skepticism if it included an angel.  But angelic visitations have been recorded by people of faith since Philip.  It isn't outside the realm of possibility today. 

The angel tells him to go sound of Jerusalem about 60 miles.  It is a place that is barren and deserted. Thus the phrase, "This is a desert place."  Have you ever wondered where God is leading you?  God what am I doing here?  Why am I in this desert place?  Notice that Philip was never told what he was going to do, just go.  Philip did what everyone should do when they receive their marching orders from God - MARCH!  

There he sees a Ethiopian eunuch who was in charge of her money.  Today we might call this person the Secretary of the Treasury.  Nonetheless he is a high ranking official from Ethiopia.  He is reading from the book of Isaiah when Philip is led by the Holy Spirit to run beside the chariot.  Hearing the eunuch read aloud he asks if he understands what he is reading.  The eunuch says no, that he needs help and asks Philip if he would help him.  Philip jumps at the chance and gets in the chariot.   So let's recap.  Your over 100 miles away in a wonderful ministry doing great things for the Kingdom of God.  And angel from God comes and tells you to go for a walk to a deserted place in the middle of nowhere.  While there you see a high ranking official from another country riding in a chariot going home.  You follow the Holy Spirit leading to run beside the chariot and ask if you can be of assistance.  You get on board and have no idea if this trip is going to be for the next mile or all the way to Ethiopia.  You have to admit.  Follow the Holy Spirit, if anything, keeps life interesting. 

The Ethiopian asks Philip to explain Isa 53.  (One of my favorite Old Testament passages).  There Isaiah speaks of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  Philip jumps on the opportunity to share the Gospel.  The Ethiopian then asks as they approach some water, "What keeps me from being baptized?"  Philip asks for and receives a confession of faith.  Philip baptizes him in water, but when the Ethiopian comes out of the water - Philip is gone.  

We do not know why it was so important that Philip be "transported" north to the area of Azotus.  All we know is the words, "Beam me up Scotty." were not uttered.  

English Standard Version (ESV)

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