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The Book of ACTS
THEME: Conversion of Ethiopian eunuch (son of Ham)
We now come to the second major division of the Book of Acts. The book is divided according to the Lord's commission in Acts 1:8. First the apostles were to witness in Jerusalem. Now we come to Christ's work by the Holy Spirit through the apostles in Judea and Samaria. This section of the book covers chapters 8 through 12.
Chapter 7 ended with an unusual scene, showing us two young men who had great influence on the early church. Stephen, the deacon gave up his life as the first martyr in the church. That other was a young Pharisee who had a hand in the stoning of Stephen. His name was Saul.
Saul Becomes The Main Persecutor Of The Church, And The Church Is Scattered (Acts 8:1-4)
Acts 8:1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. (KJV)
The hatred that Saul had toward Christ and His followers was so deep, that he delighted in their destruction. There was tremendous persecution against the early church. The Jews refused to believe the doctrine of Christ's resurrection; for that would prove His innocence and their enormous guilt in His death, but the apostles boldly continued to insist upon the resurrection of Christ. Because of the apostles persistence in bringing the Truth, the persecution against them was horrible.
They were all scattered abroad . . . the disciples scattered, not the apostles. Their Lord had commanded them, when persecuted in one city, to flee to another (Mat.10:23; 24:16). That is what the disciples did, but, wherever they went, they proclaimed the same doctrines, even though they risked their health and lives doing it. I think it is quite clear that they did NOT flee from persecution, or from the death that might come, but because of obedience to their Lord's command. IF they had fled because they were afraid of death, they would NOT have spoken the same truths that provoked the persecution in the first instance.
It was Saul who became the great persecutor of the church, which caused the church to scatter. In reality, he did the church a favor. They were all settled in Jerusalem, and they most likely would not have moved out had it not been for the persecution which Saul of Tarsus instigated. Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (KJV) . . . Judea and Samaria are the next territories which the Lord had told them to enter. Judea surrounds Jerusalem, and Samaria lies to the north of Jerusalem.
Acts 8:2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. (KJV)
Godly men carried Stephen to his burial. It was a mark of piety, charity, and mercy to bury the dead. This was never done for those who were condemned by the Sanhedrin.
Acts 8:3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. (KJV)
Havoc means to destroy, devastate, ravage. It represents the act of ferocious animals such as bears or wolves in hunting for and then devouring their prey. This shows the non stop hatred with which Saul pursued the harmless and innocent Christians.
Entering into every house . . . house after house, Saul spared none if they professed Christianity. Haling men and women . . . dragging them out, as by the hair of their heads, dragging them before the Sanhedrin. Committed them to prison . . . the Romans alone had the power of life and death. The Sanhedrin, by whom Saul was employed (Acts 26:10), could do no more than arrest and imprison.
Acts 8:4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. (KJV)
They that were scattered . . . went every where preaching. The very plan devised by Satan to destroy the Church became the very thing that established it. The counsel, might, cunning, rage and malice against the Lord when excited by men or devils will always come to an unexpected end! How often is the rage of Christ's enemies, turned "unto the furtherance of the Gospel" (Phil.1:12-13). The blood of Stephen was the very seed of the church. I do not think that the church can ever be hurt from the outside. It can be hurt only from the inside, as we shall see later in this chapter.
Philip Becomes The Main Witness After The Death Of Stephen (8:5-8)
Now, we are introduced to the second deacon whom God used mightily.
Acts 8:5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. (KJV)
Philip was one of the seven deacons (Acts 6:5) along with Stephen. He will later be called, Philip the Evangelist (Acts 21:8).
The city of Samaria . . . at that time there was no city of Samaria according to Josephus. Hyrcanus had so utterly demolished it, that there was nothing left. Herod the Great did rebuild a city on the same spot, but he called it Augusta, after the Emperor Augustus.
The Samaritans received the same law with the Jews, so they also were expecting the Messiah. As Christ had preached to and converted many Samaritans (John 4:39-42), it was reasonable that the earliest offers of salvation should be made to them, before any attempt was made to evangelize the Gentiles. The Samaritans formed a connecting link between the Jews and the Gentiles; because they were a mixed people, made up of both, they held both Jewish and Pagan rites.
Our Lord intended that the first offers of salvation should be made to the Jewish people; that no stumbling-block might be cast in the way of the Jews (Mat.10:5). They are the ones who by their rejection of their Messiah, our Christ (One and the same), made salvation possible to Gentiles. I have always thought that came about after His speech to the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 12. Matthew 13:1 The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. (KJV) . . . I could be wrong, but I know the "house" is often symbolized as Israel, and the "sea" is a symbol of many people, nations. Sea = many people, restless mass Isa.17:12-13; Rev.13:1
As near as I can find, in all the commentaries I checked with, Vernon J. McGee is the only one who agrees with me on this interpretation. Following is a quote from McGee on Matthew 13:1.
Notice the symbolism here. "The same day went Jesus out of the house," which speaks of the house of Israel. "And sat by the sea side" -- the sea represents the gentile nations (a symbolism used elsewhere in Scripture). Our Lord is leaving the nation of Israel and turning to the world. He is now speaking of what will take place in the world until He returns as King.
This act denotes a tremendous change that has taken place in His method. Great multitudes were gathered together to hear Him, and He went into a ship and began to talk to them as they stood on the shore. Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee.
The Lord Jesus had said they should be witnesses unto Him in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria (Acts 1:8). Now the Word is going to Samaria.
Acts 8:6 And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. (KJV)
Stephen had been given the sign gifts of the early church, and now we see that Philip had those same gifts. NOT everyone had them. I firmly believe that these "gifts" were for the baby church. There came the day when the sign gifts disappeared. They disappeared after the time of the apostles. By the time the New Testament was completed, the credentials of a true man of God was correct doctrine, NOT sign gifts. I know there are many who disagree with me on this, especially the Pentecostals and the Word Faith bunch. But, I will stand firm on my beliefs on this. See our article on: Word Faith Movement is NOT Biblical. www.judgmentcoming.org/j_c_word_faith_not_biblical.htm
Acts 8:7-8 For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. 8 And there was great joy in that city. (KJV)
Philip has the gift of miracles, this is the second recorded instance in the church of the possession of this power by someone who is not an apostle. The nature of Phillip's miracles are very similar to those of Christ: For unclean spirits, palsy (Mat.4:24). The lame (Mat.11:5).
The Gospel has now come to Samaria. Philip is very well received in Samaria, and there, of all places, the Gospel brings great joy.
Now because the church is growing so fast, there are people actually joining the church who do not believe; that sounds like today! Even though they do not believe, they make a profession of faith . . . the same as today! A TRUE Christian has to have Christ in their heart (possess Him) or professing Him is senseless. That sounds like today's hypocrites. SO many today say: "I'm a Christian" . . . but they do NOT have Christ in their heart. Professors NOT possessors! Hypocrites! We will now meet one like that.
Simon The Sorcerer (Acts 8:9-25)
Acts 8:9 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: (KJV)
This guy really does think he is something! There are many of these world today! We all know at least one like this. In today's apostasy, if someone claims to be a faith healer, that sets him apart. IF these people's claims were true, WHY don't they go to the hospitals and heal those there? Answer: because they CANNOT! Again, I do NOT believe today's preachers have the spiritual gifts that were given to the baby church.
Some people say that these supposed faith healers today are humble. I disagree 100%. Those who supposedly heal people are really implying that they are the only person who has that gift. That is giving out that himself was some great one (big braggart) as Simon the sorcerer was doing. My friend, man CANNOT heal anyone! Only God heals. The apostles and the others in the early church who were given the gift of miracles, performed those miracles by the power of the Holy Ghost! THEY did NOT perform miracles in their own power, nor did they take credit for anything they did. They attributed ALL the glory to God, as they should have! They had humility . . . today's wolves in sheep's clothing (Mat.7:15), do NOT have humility! They are proud and arrogant demonic boasters. BEWARE!!!
Acts 8:10-11 To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. 11 And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. (KJV)
They did not think Simon was God; but they did think that he had great supernatural power. The people felt that Simon the sorcerer was like a god. This is just like today! There are multitudes today who are bewitched by demonic heretics! My friend, do not be bewitched by any man or his supposed power.
Even if a man is giving out the Word of God, do NOT look to the man. Go to the Word of God and check the guy out to see if he is presenting it accurately. Look to JESUS! Turn to Him. If you put your eyes on man, you take your eyes off the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what had happened in Samaria. That is what is happening today! Look to JESUS!
Acts 8:12 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. (KJV)
Philip preached the Truth, he preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Samaria, and many men and women believed. Simon came in contact with Philip, and it seems that he made a profession of faith under the ministry of Philip. Was Simon the first religious con artist in the church? Seems that way. But, sad to say, he was just the beginning. He professes to be a believer during the sweeping revival in Samaria under the ministry of Philip, but he is a fraudulent hypocrite like SO many leaders in today's church, out to make a buck, in the Name of Jesus. To me, that is absolute BLASPHEMY!
Acts 8:13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. (KJV)
Simon was amazed with the doctrine and miracles of Philip. He saw and he knew that they were real, whereas he knew his 'miracles' were false. Luke tells us here that Simon believed that Jesus was the Messiah, and was then baptized. And Simon himself also believed. When he was immersed he stayed with Philip, watching with intent the signs and great miracles which were done. Simon simply was astonished, dumbfounded at what Phillip was doing.
Nearly all commentators agree that Simon's faith was NOT real, but hypocrisy. The statement that he believed was probably made according to appearance, not reality. Some people get all excited, emotional, shedding tears, greatly moved, when preachers speak, but their enthusiasm does not last very long (Mat.13:22). Some commentators say that what happens following this, prove that he was NOT sincere in his profession. At the time Philip may have been deceived by him; but this could not be said of Luke, who later wrote what happened. Some commentators admit that Simon did believe, but deny that he was the sincere, like SO many today.
Continued with Philip, and wondered . . . Simon was as much astonished and confused at the miracles of Philip as the people of Samaria were at his demonic hocus-pocus. Simon believed and was baptized, and he continued with Philip . . . I think because Simon was actually bewitched (Acts 8:9) by all the miracles and signs that were done.
There are many people like Simon today. IF people would just study the Bible, they will soon begin to examine their faith. Many shall realize that they have just been following along with someone else and that they were NOT really converted. 2 Cor.13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? (KJV)
Simon had all the outward trappings! He said that he believed in Jesus, so he was baptized. But it seems to me that it was NOT genuine heart-felt and heart-filled with Jesus faith. But only God knows for sure.
Acts 8:14-16 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: 15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: 16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) (KJV)
The apostles . . . heard . . . they had stayed in Jerusalem, and the news reached them of Philip's faithful and obedient work. Christ had directed that the Gospel be carried to Jerusalem, and unto Judea, and unto Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8). It had been carried to Samaria and had been well received. Phillip, the preacher sent there was not an apostle, but he did have miraculous powers, but he could not give these powers to another. It seemed right, now that the Gospel was accepted by a new people, not Jewish, that spiritual gifts, such as had been given to the apostles on the day of Pentecost and imparted through them to others, should be given to this alien nation.
- #1. When the Jews first had the Gospel on the day of Pentecost, these gifts were imparted by the Holy Spirit;
- #2. When the Samaritans were converted the Gifts were imparted by the presence of the apostles.
- #3. When the first Gentiles were converted, an apostle being present, the Gifts were imparted. There is NO record of Gifts being imparted, except IN or BY apostolic presence (Rom 1:11).
So my question is this: HOW can these modern day charlatans say that they have spiritual Gifts? There are NO apostles today. And the Day of Pentecost CANNOT be duplicated! They are LIARS!!! BEWARE people!
The word of God . . . was the doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ. They sent unto them Peter and John . . . there was no individual ruler among the apostles; there was not even a president of the council; and Peter who was far from being chief of the apostles, is one of those sent, with the same commission and authority as John, to confirm the Samaritans in the faith.
Sent unto them Peter and John . . . This is the last mention of the apostle John in the Book of Acts.
Peter and John were sent to Samaria to find out whether or not the Samaritans were really becoming believers. The Jewish Christians, even the apostles, were still not sure if Gentiles (non-Jews) and half-Jews could receive the Holy Spirit. It really was not until Peter's experience with Cornelius (chapter 10) that the apostles were finally fully convinced that the Holy Spirit was for ALL people. It was John who had asked Jesus if they should call fire down from Heaven to burn up a Samaritan village that refused to welcome them (Luke 9:51-55). Now, Samaria is where he and Peter are sent to pray with them. God works in mysterious ways!
Acts 8:17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. (KJV)
Laid . . . hands on them . . . This was just a part of the miraculous and superior power of the apostles . . . BUT is was NOT passed on down to disciples. Only apostles had that power! This was an act of deep prayer, which asked God to impart the blessing of the Holy Ghost to them. How many had hands laid on them is not said. It is certain that it was not on all, because Simon was not one of them. Maybe it was done just on some of the leaders, who would be sent out to bear witness to the Truth of the Gospel. It was customary to lay the hands on any person when a favor was to be conferred, or a blessing imparted (Mat.9:18). Laid they their hands (Acts 6:5-6, Heb.6:2).
Now the Samarians believe the Gospel and they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Now the Spirit of God has entered into them. On the Day of Pentecost the Gospel was given in Jerusalem. Peter and John are to bring it into Samaria and Judea. Paul shall be the apostle to the Gentiles. Jesus had given this commission (Acts 1:8). We are now seeing it fulfilled here in Samaria.
Acts 8:18-19 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, 19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. (KJV)
Simon offered Peter and John money for this awesome Gift. Simon had tremendous influence over the Samaritans, and he wanted the possession of this power, for it would increase his influence with them. He wanted that power! He probably thought: "Oh, what I could do with that Gift!" But friend, just think of all those greedy wolves out there today, who are just like Simon! Making a buck off the Holy Name of Jesus! BLASPHEMY!!! They may get away with it here, BUT their day is coming when they shall stand before the Almighty Judge Jesus at the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev.20:11-15) and TRY to explain what and WHY they did what they did!
Simon wanted to BUY the gift. Why? Because he was a religious crook, like many in today's churches! He wants to use it to increase his wealth. Many preachers are filthy rich! http://www.worldlychaos.org/w_c_cults_rich_preachers.1.htm
What Simon does here shows that his motives were all wrong in becoming connected with the church. 1 Tim.6:5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. (KJV) . . . Stay away from such people!
So many ridiculous claims are made by people today! They claim that great miracles take place in their meetings and humbly say they have nothing to do with them. IF that is so, WHY don't they go to the hospitals and heal the sick there?
Persecution from the outside was not hurting the church. It scattered the believers and actually worked to spread the Gospel. What hurt the church THEN and NOW was that people got on the inside, professing to be believers when they were NOT true believers. The church is ALWAYS hurt from the inside.
I had a man ask me once: "Why do you always stress TRUE believers?" Very simple! As I have said before in this article, there are those who PROFESS Christ but do not have Christ in their hearts. These are NOT really God's TRUE children! Then there are those who POSSESS Christ in their hearts, and then PROFESS Christ with their mouth. Only these people are TRUE believers; TRUE children of God! Romans 10:9-10 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (KJV)
Acts 8:20-21 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. 21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. (KJV)
Thy money perish with thee . . . this is an expression of the horror and indignation used by Peter at the detestable offer made by Simon. There seems to be a belief that Simon would perish. This remark seems he was quickly speeding to his ruin.
The gift of God . . . Gifts of God are given, or bestowed by God Himself as a favor to His people, by His amazing grace. For anyone to think that that which God Himself gives could be bought with filthy lucre (1 Tim.3:3,8; Tit.1:7; 1 Pet.5:2) is utterly absurd. It is the same with salvation. Salvation CANNOT be bought, and neither can salvation be worked for in any way, shape of form.
The gift of God here means the extraordinary influences of the Holy Ghost (Acts 10:45, 11:17). HOW can we possibly pay a price to God for anything He has? All the silver and the gold and the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps.50:10), belong to Him already. We have absolutely NOTHING that we can offer for His favor. But . . . there are multitudes who try to purchase the favor of God. How? Consider: alms, prayers, penance, fasting, by trying to make their own hearts better, by self-righteousness; repentance, tears. NONE of these will purchase His favor. Salvation, like every other blessing, will be His Gift to us because we simply BELIEVE Him! BUT . . . we must be willing to accept it on His terms, in His own time, and in His own way. NONE of us have any merit; and if we are saved, it will be only by the sovereign and amazing grace of God.
Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter . . . Simon had no part of the grace of God; he was completely destitute of it. This phrase commonly means the part of an inheritance which falls to one when it is divided. (Josh.22:25).
Nor lot in this matter . . . this phrase properly means a portion which falls to one when an estate, or when spoil in war, is divided into portions, according to the number of those who are to be partakers, and the part of each one is determined by lot. Placing the two phrases together definitely mean that Simon was in NO way a partaker of the favor of God.
Do we really know Simon the sorcerer was NOT converted? Peter states that his heart is not right with God. Only God knows a person's heart, so we cannot guess one way or the other. But, Peter was one of Christ's called apostles, and he says: thy heart is not right in the sight of God. I think this means Simon is not converted. I think Simon's only interest is in the money he can make using Christ's Holy Name, according to this Passage! That is what was important to Simon!
Some say that Peter judged Simon too soon, when he had seen just this one act of his. But Peter seemed quite satisfied that Simon was a stranger to religion. Sometimes it takes just one act to bring out the total character of a person.
Thy heart . . . your affections, governing motives; your principle of conduct (2 Kings 10:15). Simon loved gold, power and popularity. Simon did NOT love the Gospel for what it is (Ps.78:36-37; Eze.14:3 ).
May I offer a word of caution: may we never jump to conclusions about ANY person! We see a 'good' worldly person and immediately think they are a TRUE believer, a TRUE child of God. We do NOT know that person's heart. They we see someone living a careless and carefree lifestyle and think that they could not possibly be a "Christian." But, perhaps this person has just backslid (like king David), or maybe they are one of God's "lost sheep" . . . we must NOT judge. We do NOT know the person's heart, only God can see that! We must let all the judging stay with Almighty God!
So . . . WHY do I condemn the actions of SO many false teachers? That is what I condemn . . . their actions, their works, NOT the person! It shall be up to God to condemn the person IF they do not change their ways. The Bible condemns ALL false doctrines (2 Cor.11:4; Gal.1:6-9) and damnable heresies (2 Pet.2:1-6) and names names (1 Tim.1:18-20; 2 Tim.2:15-18; 4:14-15;
WHY do I name names? Because they are doing a great injustice to God and His Word, and to all the vulnerable souls who are their prey. They prey on these souls openly, they should be criticized openly!
Do I hate these people? No! I hate what they do. I have to do what I think the Lord wants me to do. I have NO choice but to “earnestly
contend for the faith (Jude 3) and to preach the Word to “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2; 3:16). I have no other alternative.
2 Thes. 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. (KJV)
2 Thes. 3:14-15 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.
15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. (KJV)
2 Cor. 6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, (KJV)
Some Scriptures on False Prophets, False Teachers, False Pastors: Jer.5:31; 10:21; 14:14; 23:1,30-32; 2,16,25,26; 23:1; 27:9-11;
Acts 8:22-23 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. 23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. (KJV)
"Everything has a price" seems to be true in the world of bribes, wealth, and materialism . . . then and now! Peter harshly rebuked Simon for thinking he could buy the Holy Spirit's power. It cannot be made any stronger than the way Simon Peter says it. The only way to receive God's power is to do what Peter told Simon . . . turn from sin in sincerity (repent), and ask God for forgiveness. NO amount of money can buy salvation, forgiveness of sin or God's power. These are gained only by true repentance and belief in Christ as Saviour and Lord.
Acts 8:24 Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me. (KJV)
This is the end of the conversation between Peter and Simon the sorcerer, leaving us to wonder as to the final fate of Simon. Peter had severely rebuked him, told him he had better repent, and pray to God for forgiveness. Simon's response here clearly indicates that the biting speech of Peter had sunk in. Simon's words here indicate that he was terror-stricken. Simon Magus was convinced that he was exactly as the apostles had said he was. And he also knew that the apostles were empowered by the Holy Spirit. He asks Peter to pray for him.
Does Simon pretend to be a true penitent, being terrified with the threatening of Peter, and probably fearing the punishment of Ananias and Sapphira might come upon him? Or was Simon really sincere in his repentance? It is my opinion that only God knows the answer to that. We do not know if this man ever came to Christ. The Bible is silent concerning what he did after this. Did he repent? Or did he relapse into his old life?
Simon never asks to be saved. He does not ask for prayer to be saved. He just asks that none of those terrible things happen to him.
Acts 8:25 And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans. (KJV)
In their visit to Samaria, Peter and John also furthered the efforts of Philip in preaching and teaching. In many villages . . . they went at first directly to the city of Samaria, but on their return to Jerusalem, they traveled more leisurely, and preached in other villages also, a good example for the ministers of the Gospel, and for all Christians, when traveling from place to place. Please don't ever be ashamed of Jesus! You do NOT want Him to one day be ashamed of YOU! (Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26).
Maybe the reason why they returned to Jerusalem, and made it their permanent home, might have been that it was important to bear witness to the resurrection of Christ in the very city where He had been crucified, and where His resurrection had occurred. If the doctrine was established there, it would be more easy to establish it elsewhere.
The Gospel is starting its journey to the ends of the Earth. It started in Jerusalem. The apostles were there and a church was established. Soon the church will move to Antioch, then to Ephesus and later to Alexandria, then to Rome. Today, there is no particular center of the church. It has gone to the ends of the Earth, everywhere.
Philip And The Ethiopian (Acts 8:26-40)
In Acts 8 and 9 and 10, we have the record of three incredible instances of conversion. I think that these three have been lifted out and given to us particularly for a lesson. Chapter 8 gives the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch, a son of Ham. Chapter 9 gives the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, a son of Shem. Chapter 10 gives the conversion of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, a son of Japheth. You will remember that the entire human family is divided into these three categories. This was an ethnological and a geographical division made after the Flood. Ham, Shem, and Japheth were the sons of Noah (Gen.10:1). We find here that the Gospel reaches out to descendants of these three divisions of the human family. You and I are descendants of one of these men.
Something we should notice from these examples that in a conversion three things must be brought into focus BEFORE there can be a conversion. All three of these are quite evident in these three representative conversions.
- #1. The work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had taken this man Philip to Samaria where there had been a great moving of the Spirit of God. Then the Holy Spirit moved him down to Gaza, and again we see His moving in the heart of the Ethiopian eunuch. The Holy Spirit had gone ahead of Phillip to prepare the heart and ALSO to prepare the messenger. The leading of the Holy Spirit is absolutely necessary. Today, there is much too much done WITHOUT the leading of the Holy Spirit. We should talk to the Lord about a person, BEFORE we talk to the person about the Lord. It is not only that we need the Holy Spirit to lead us, but we need the Holy Spirit to go ahead, and prepare the way. This is #1 in a conversion. We find it true in the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch and also in the conversion of Saul and of Cornelius.
- #2. The Word of God. "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17). The Word of God is #2 in conversion. The Holy Spirit will take the things of Christ and will reveal them to an individual. It is the Holy Spirit using the Word of God, but, there must be human involvement.
#3. The child of God. The Holy Spirit uses the children of God, who delivers the Word of God, to then produce another child of God, someone who is born again into God's family (John 1:12-13; 3:3-8). We will see this quite clearly in the record of the conversion of this Ethiopian eunuch.
The second part of chapter 8 brings us to another part of the ministry of Philip. The Gospel had gone to Samaria, and there were many true believers. But we also saw that in Samaria evil came into the church in the person of Simon the sorcerer. Now, in contrast to Simon the sorcerer, we come to the experience of Philip with a eunuch from Ethiopia. Philip led this man to Christ, and he became a genuine believer, a wonderful man of God.
Acts 8:26 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. (KJV)
We now again see Philip (8:5), still at work for the Lord. When the congregation in Samaria had been supplied with spiritual gifts and sufficiently instructed, Philip was called away to other places.
We will now see one of those detailed cases of conversion that is recorded for us, for the main purpose of instruction to turn people to God, and encourage them into the kingdom. This story shows us the steps by which the purpose of God was accomplished, and allows us to know, when God determines upon the conversion of an individual, how He proceeds to achieve it.
The angel of the Lord . . . speaks to Philip just as he did to Joseph (Mat. 2:13).
Samaria is north of Jerusalem. Philip is now told to go way down to the south. Gaza is south, along the Mediterranean. This was the trade route down into Egypt and Ethiopia. He may have gone through Jerusalem to get there, but to me it seems that would have been out of his way. Jerusalem was directly south of Samaria, whereas Gaza was south-west. Gaza was near Askelon, about 60 miles south-west of Jerusalem.
Philip had been speaking to great multitudes in Samaria, but now, things change! He is sent to a lonely desert. He is to leave the place where there has been a great moving of the Spirit of God and go into a place, a desert, where there is no one. But, as we know, God does work in very mysterious ways at times, and He ALWAYS has good reasons for what He does. So, when Philip arrived where he was told to go, he found someone there to whom he was to bring the Gospel.
Acts 8:27-28 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, 28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. (KJV)
Philip promptly obeyed the command of the angel, and was soon close to the intended convert, though, as yet, he knew nothing of him.
An eunuch . . . Mat.19:12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. (KJV) . . . The term eunuch was given to persons in authority at court, to whom its literal meaning did not apply. Potiphar was probably an eunuch only as to his office; for he was a married man (Gen.37:36; 39:1). It is possible that this Ethiopian was of the same sort.
Of great authority . . . he was her treasurer, she trusted this man. He was an official, and a high official of that day. He was not traveling alone. I am sure that he had many servants and other officials with him. He was not just sitting in a chariot with the lines in one hand and a book in the other hand as many think. I think this man was sitting back in a chariot, protected from the sun by a canopy. He had a private chauffeur and was riding in style.
WHO was Candace? She is not found in the common lists of Ethiopic sovereigns, but since neither the Abyssinians nor the Jews admitted women in their genealogies, that is not strange. It is said that Queen Candace was black and ruled in upper Egypt. The Ethiopians mentioned here are those who inhabited the isle or peninsula of Meroe, above and southward of Egypt.
The eunuch had come to Jerusalem to worship, which is a proof that he was a worshipper of the God of Israel; but it is not clear how came he became acquainted with the Jewish religion. He was a citizen of Ethiopia, but he had come to Jerusalem to worship. He had to be a convert to Judaism. He had just been to Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish religion. Although Judaism was the God-given religion, he was leaving the city still quite baffled. He was reading the prophet Isaiah, but he did not understand what he was reading.
Acts 8:29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. (KJV)
The Holy Spirit is leading, as He must in any conversion. Philip is the child of God whom the Holy Spirit is using. The Word of God is already in that chariot, for the Ethiopian is reading from the prophet Isaiah. So we have all the 3 things necessary for conversion, mentioned above.
Acts 8:30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? (KJV)
Philip is going to get a ride in that fancy chariot. As Phillip runs along side the chariot, he hears what the man is reading, and he asks him, "Do you understand what you are reading?" The Ethiopian did not; so he stops and invites Philip to step up and ride with him.
Acts 8:31-33 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. 32 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: 33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. (KJV)
WHERE was he reading? Isaiah 53:7-9 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. 9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. (KJV)
He was reading the seventh and eighth verses, so he must have been reading for some time. So it is also clear that he must have read the preceding verses: "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:3-6). . . . the eunuch was reading, but the Holy Spirit was not shedding light on the Scripture, so he did not understand. . . . Before you attempt to read Scripture, ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand. He will!
Acts 8:34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? (KJV)
It is with great respect with which he addresses Philip. This was prompted by his reverence for One Whom he perceived to be his superior in divine things; his own worldly position NOT standing in the way.
Of whom speaketh the prophet this . . . of himself . . . This was a natural inquiry, for there was nothing in the text that would state just to whom the reference was. The ancient Jews applied the Passage to the Messiah. We should remember that the eunuch probably was not deeply schooled in the Scriptures. We should remember too, that he had just been to Jerusalem, and that the people were angry about the proceedings of the sanhedrin in putting Jesus of Nazareth, who claimed to be the Messiah, to death.
When the Holy Spirit leads, everything seems to open up! He takes the things of Christ and make them clear. Before you start to read or study the Word of God, do one thing first: go to the Lord in prayer and ask that His Holy Spirit help you understand what you read. You CANNOT understand without His help!
Acts 8:35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. (KJV)
Opened his mouth . . . (Mat.5:2). At the same Scripture . . . (Luke 24:27). And preached unto him Jesus . . . (Acts 18:28). Philip preached Jesus to the eunuch. Jesus IS back there in the Old Testament! These 'churches' that disregard the Old Testament are fools! (Mark 12:10; 14:49; 15:28; Luke 4:21; 24:27, 45; John 5:39; 19:24,28,37).
Some Messianic prophecies: (Psalm 2:2; 45:2; 68:18; 69:21; 110:1; 118:22; 132:11; Isa.2:4; 7:14; 9:7; 11:10; 25:8; 28:16; 42:1; 49:6; 52:14; 53:2-12; 61:1; 62:11; 63:1; Jer.23:5; Dan.2:34; 2:44; 7:13; 9:25; Mic.5:2; Hag.2:7; Zech.3:8; 6:12; 9:9; 11:12; 12:10; 13:7; Mal.3:1).
Philip showed the eunuch that Jesus of Nazareth was exactly the Person described by the prophet Isaiah (Lu.4:34; 18:37; Jn.1:45; 19:19; Ac.2:22-24). The prophet Isaiah WAS speaking of the Messiah, and that Messiah WAS Jesus of Nazareth. We do not know what all Philip told the eunuch of the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, but it is certain that he stated the plan and purpose of baptism, and the duty of being baptized, because the eunuch wanted to be baptized.
Acts 8:36-37 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? 37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (KJV)
A certain water . . . it does not say if this was a river, a brook, a pond or pool. We have no way of knowing, but there was no large river, or big stream, in this area. All that can be gathered by the text, is that there was sufficient water enough to baptize the eunuch. We do not know for certain if that was by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion, but the apostles baptized only by immersion, following the example of John the Baptist. If I were a betting person, I would bet it was immersion.
Remember Philip's experience with Simon the sorcerer in Samaria. He is NOT about to have that happen again. When the eunuch asks for water baptism, Philip wants to make sure that he believes with all his heart. The eunuch said: "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.". . . Mat.16:15-17 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. (KJV) . . . When Philip heard the eunuch's answer, he did not hesitate to baptize him.
Acts 8:38 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. (KJV)
And they went down both into the water . . . this Passage has been made the subject of much discussion on the subject of baptism.
Every Passage where "baptism" is used in the New Testament means immersing. Passages speak of baptism "in Jordan" and "in the river Jordan" (Mat. 3:6; Mark 1:5). Jesus went down into the river for He "went straightway out of the water" (Mat. 3:16; Mark 1:10). Philip and the eunuch "went down both into the water" and came "up out of the water" (Acts 8:38-39). John baptized near Salim "because there was much water there," meaning there was enough water for immersion (John 3:23).
The early church Fathers considered immersion as the only way of baptism, and the practice of the early churches was immersion. Therefore, NO modern church has any right to change or modify the New Testament commands on baptism, or to change the literal and commonly known meaning of "baptizo," meaning to bury, immerse, submerge or make fully wet . . . compared to that of sprinkling or pouring.
Some churches use Isa.52:15; Eze. 36:25; Heb. 10:22 to prove sprinkling is a Scriptural method of baptism, but the Isaiah Scripture does NOT refer to water. That verse refers to the nations rejoicing when they come to know Christ. Heb.10:22 refers to the sprinkling of the Blood of Christ, NOT water (1 Pet. 1:2). NO sprinkling of water as baptism is found anywhere in the New Testament.
As I see it, when we are baptized by being placed under the water, we publicly show our personal, living faith in Christ's death, burial and resurrection as payment for our sins. ". . . that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the father . . . " (Rom.6:4-5). By being immersed and coming up out of the baptismal water, it shows our faith in Christ's Resurrection . . . and our own some day. My opinion.
Acts 8:39 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. (KJV)
After they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord is One and the same, the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:29) that had told Philip where to go to meet the eunuch. Now, this one and the Same Spirit (the Holy Spirit) comes again to Philip's aid.
Caught away . . . this many times is understood that there was a forcible or miraculous removal of Philip to another place. Some even say that he was carried through the air by an angel. I think people are reading between the lines, thus causing many foolish interpretations. Couldn't this simply mean that the Holy Spirit, who had told Philip to go to the eunuch, now removes him in a like manner?
The phrase caught away does not imply that there was a miracle. The Spirit had told Philip to go to some other place; such as to take him away from the company of the eunuch. Philip may have found pleasure in continuing the journey with him. But the strong convictions of duty, urged by the Holy Spirit, impelled him to go to some other place. The purpose for which Philip was sent, to instruct and baptize the eunuch, was completed, and now he was called away to some place else.
The eunuch went on his way rejoicing. His mind was enlightened on the Passage of Scripture that confused him. And, he was told the Truth about the Messiah and had accepted it. He was baptized and he felt what we all feel when we embrace the Saviour and are baptized . . . utter JOY!
And too, I think Philip also went on his way rejoicing. A joy coming from the fact of having done his duty obediently and promptly. We find joy and peace when we do the will of God, and do it promptly.
Some say the eunuch carried the Gospel to Ethiopia, and preached it there, but there is strong evidence to believe that the Gospel was not preached there successfully until about 330 AD.
Acts 8:40 But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea. (KJV)
Azotus is Ashdod, which is in the Gaza strip. To reach Caesarea, Philip would have gone through Joppa. Tel Aviv is there today. So he went, preaching the Gospel along the coast up to Caesarea. The Gospel has gone to Judea and to Samaria and is moving out. The eunuch has carried it down to Ethiopia. Philip is carrying it along the coast to Caesarea. This is the last that we hear of this Godly man, Philip until we come to Acts 21:8.
Book of Acts
Ch.1 . . Ch.2 . . Ch.3 . . Ch.4 . . Ch.5 . . Ch.6 . . Ch.7 . . Ch.8 . . Ch.9 . . Ch.10 . . Ch.11 . . Ch.12 . . Ch.13 . . Ch.14 . . Ch.15 . . Ch.16 . . Ch.17 . . Ch.18 . . Ch.19 . . Ch.20 . . Ch.21 . . Ch.22 . . Ch.23 . . Ch.24 . . Ch.25 . . Ch.26 . . Ch.27 . . Ch.28