Idea principal:Luke describes some of the notable events that took place as the gospel made its way to Samaria through the faithful witness of Philip and the apostles Peter and John.
- The Samaritans: Transformed by the Gospel (8:4-8)
- Simon and Philip: Magic Versus the Gospel (8:9-13)
- The Apostles: Sent by the Gospel (8:14-17)
- Simon and Peter: a confrontation related to the Gospel (8:18-24)
- The Apostles: More Gospel Preaching (8:25)
- gospel apps
After Stephen's death, great persecution breaks out against the early church, and the believers must disperse beyond Jerusalem (v.1🇧🇷 But persecution and the threat of death do not stop the church from growing. Luke then describes how the gospel begins to advance in Samaria. This means that despite Stephen's brutal murder, God continued his mission to redeem a people for himself, a people from every tribe and tongue. In fact, God uses persecution to drive his people to Samaria, of all places! (To seeJuan 4:4,20-21.) Let's see what happened when the gospel spread with great power to the glory of our unstoppable King.
The Samaritans: Transformed by the Gospel
Persecution caused many in the church to scatter, preaching the good news wherever they went (v.4🇧🇷 In the Old Testament, being a scattered people was a sign of judgment (Gn 11:9;Dt 28:64🇧🇷 in this case, the dispersion of the church was actually a sign of judgment on the enemies of the gospel. The message that the pursuers tried to contain and the mouth spread like wildfire on a windy day. How wonderful is God's providence and sovereignty? The enemies of the church tried to kill the message and the messengers of Jesus, but God used his evil for good, for the salvation of many (cf.Gene 50:20).
Before his ascension, the Lord Jesus said to his disciples:
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. 🇧🇷1:8🇧🇷 emphasis added)
This mandate is fulfilled when persecuted Christians leave Jerusalem and take the gospel to everyone they meet! And notice that “ordinary” Christians are spreading the gospel. It was not the apostles who first preached the gospel in Samaria; "those who were scattered" (8:4) made. Remember, every Christian is a missionary!
The early church went out preaching the Word wherever the believing men and women went. Have you ever considered that, even through his ups and downs and setbacks, God sovereignly commanded and allowed changes in his life to give him the opportunity to preach the gospel to his neighbors and acquaintances? The Lord provided opportunities foryouShare Jesus in words and model that message in action to your new friends and colleagues. So if he is struggling with the loss of his job or even having to flee a place due to actual physical persecution, it is time to reflect on how God in his mysterious sovereignty allowed his pain. Think about how you can use it as a way to teach and testify about the grace of Jesus. God is on a great mission, and we are part of it! He is redeeming the world through his Son by the power of the Holy Spirit working through ordinary people like you and me. This is how the gospel spread so effectively in the first century, and it is why the gospel continues to spread so effectively in the 21st century. Consider the words of Michael Green:
as soon asAtos 8we discover that it is not the apostles, but the "amateur" missionaries, the men expelled from Jerusalem as a result of the persecution that followed the martyrdom of Stephen, who took the gospel with them wherever they went. It was they who traveled along the coastal plain to Phoenicia, crossed the sea to Cyprus, or struck north to Antioch. They were evangelists as much as any apostle. In fact, it was they who took the two revolutionary steps of preaching to Greeks who had no connection to Judaism and then launching the Antioch Gentile Mission. It was an unconscious effort. They dispersed from their base in Jerusalem and went everywhere spreading the good news that brought them joy, deliverance, and new life. Often this may not have been a formal preaching, but an informal conversation with friends and casual acquaintances,in houses and wine shops, on walkways and around market stalls. They went everywhere gossiping about the gospel; They did it naturally, with enthusiasm and with the conviction of someone who doesn't get paid to say this kind of thing. Consequently, they were taken seriously and the movement spread, especially among the popular classes. (Evangelism in the Early Church, 243)
The early church “gossiped, gossiped” wherever believers went. What a wise and effective plan for multiplication God created! Neither persecution nor relocation stopped the spread of the gospel. In fact, these things only helped. The good news of Jesus was in the heart of the widow and on the lips of the common man. And this message was "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16).
Lucas focuses on Philip as an example of a person on mission. Lucas introduced us to Philip inAthos 6:5as one of seven selected men of "good repute, full of the Spirit and wisdom" (6:3) chosen to serve widows. Later, this gospel-preaching servant of the Lord would be appropriately called "Philip the Evangelist" (21:8).
The Samaritans who populated the region of Samaria were a mixed people of part Jewish and part Gentile origin. Most Jews considered them unclean and outside the covenant community of Israel. To make matters worse, many Gentiles looked down on them. The Samaritans retained significant aspects of the Israelite religion, but they read their own version of the Pentateuch, had their own temple, and had differing views on the exact role and identity of the Messiah. There was a deep hatred and prejudice between Jews and Samaritans at the beginning of the first century. Remember, however, that Jesus engaged in a life-changing conversation with a Samaritan woman at a well, offering him salvation through himself (Juan 4:7-26🇧🇷 He also healed a Samaritan leper while on his way to Jerusalem (Lucas 17:11-19), and turned a Samaritan into the unlikely hero of a parable (Lucas 10:25-37🇧🇷 These wonderful stories remind us that God's saving mission in Christ was not limited to the Jews but was destined for the whole world. What a great God we have!
Philip follows the pattern set by his Master in spreading the gospel of Christ to his Samaritan neighbors (8:5🇧🇷 Jesus had transformed Philip's life so much that any prejudice against the Samaritans was removed. This is a great reminder that we, too, must reject the categorization of people groups as hopeless in the gospel. In any situation where you perceive a group to be oppressed or considered marginalized, seekways to reach them with the good news of Christ. What a wonderful testimony this can be to your culture!
The Lord was powerfully with Philip when "all the multitudes listened" (verso 6) to what he had to say. The Samaritans were probably ready to hear the gospel, since they had their own concerns and ideas about the coming of the Messiah. It may be that their hearts were prepared to receive it because both John the Baptist and Jesus had already ministered there (Juan 3:23;4:4-42).
Furthermore, the Samaritans were aware of Philip's exorcisms and healings by the power of the Holy Spirit. Like the apostles and Stephen, Philip was also given power to cast out demons and perform miraculous healings to confirm the gospel message. The result was that both the spiritually troubled and the physically wounded were being healed by the presence of the Spirit as Jesus was being proclaimed (8:7🇧🇷 Christ Jesus being brought close to the people was a reason for "great joy". The Samaritans realized that God had visited them and they were overjoyed.
Some of us might be curious about a passage like this. We can ask ourselves: What about exorcisms and healings? Does what happened here mean that we should expect the preaching of the present gospel to be accompanied by the casting out of demons and the healing of the paralyzed and lame? Or does what we read here suggest that it is appropriate to expect some modern Christians to have the power to cast out demons and heal others at will because of some supernatural gift?
Remember, we must read Acts in light of its genre. This is a historical book, which means that Luke wrote it to describe events in the early church without necessarily recommending its practices to us. I don't think we should read about Philip's exorcisms and healings and assume that the primary application of the passage to our lives is that each of our local churches needs to start an exorcism and healing ministry! To be sure, we must read and apply much of Acts directly, but we must also be careful to make one-to-one correlations at each step. We have to allow the rest of the Bible to help us make interpretations and applications for the modern world.
There was something unique about the way God performed signs and wonders through the apostles Stephen, Philip, and others mentioned in the book of Acts. There was a unique nature to the ministry of the early church. However, God can and does heal people today (cf.Tg 5,14-16🇧🇷 So if Jesus decides to intervene, signs and wonders likethose we read about in Acts can manifest in our day. If so, they will give the world even more powerful images of what life will be like in the coming kingdom of Christ.
Simon and Philip: Magic versus Gospel
Luke turns our attention from the evangelical ministry of Philip to the magical art of Simon the sorcerer.
Before the arrival of Philip, this Simon "practiced sorcery in that city and astonished the Samaritan people, pretending to be someone great" (v.9🇧🇷 Therefore, all the Samaritans revered Simon. Her beliefs about him are summarized in her recorded statement about him: "This man is called the Great Power of God" (v.10🇧🇷 However, in truth, Simon was a deceiver and a liar; However, his magic deceived the Samaritan people so much that they trusted him (v.11).
Simon was a false prophet. While true prophets directly praise God, false prophets receive praise as fuel for their own egoists. And for the praise to keep coming, they will lose people's hopes. True prophets, on the other hand, faithfully exalt the cross so that "the faith of the people is not based on human wisdom, but on the power of God" (1Cor 2:5🇧🇷 Simon, like a false prophet, was loud and "astonished" the people (v.11🇧🇷 But the true prophets come in humble dependence on God (cf.1Cor 2:3), faithfully expounding his oracles (cf.1 Ped 4:11🇧🇷 While false prophets like Simon will be exposed, true prophets will be rewarded (cf.2 Timothy 4:8).
In a culture where Simon enjoyed a cult following, Philip spread the message that only Jesus was great and worthy of praise. In fact, the royal reign of Christ was breaking into the world through the mighty name of Jesus. So instead of listening to Simon and his magic, the Samaritans believed Philip's message and surrendered to King Jesus.
Surprisingly, "Simon himself believed" (v.13🇧🇷 But while at first this appears to be an incredible victory for the kingdom of God, it soon appears that Simon is not.trulybelieve. After Simon was baptized, he was visibly amazed at the signs and wonders performed by Philip (v.13🇧🇷 And based on Peter's subsequent rebuke to Simon (vv. 20-21) and his statement about Simon's wicked heart and the need for repentance and forgiveness (vv. 22-23), it is safe to assume that Simon had ainsincerofe.
However, the gospel triumphed. Many in Samaria who were involved in magic and sorcery knelt before Jesus. His response to the good news message reminds us that the gospel can impact anyone. There is much discussion today about how the gospel of Christ can change the hearts of secular elites, transform blue-collar hedonists, and save the poor. But it is equally powerful in liberating the spiritually oppressed and the demon possessed. The good news of Jesus can liberate even those involved in black magic, mysticism, and witchcraft.
Our Lord Jesus can save those blinded by Satan (2Cor 4:4🇧🇷 Through Philip's self-sacrificing preaching of Christ, God was pleased to give light to the blind. That we aspire to be messengers of light, that with Paul we say: “We do not announce ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as his servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness, he is the one who shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."2Cor 4:5-6).
The Apostles: Sent by the Gospel
The good news of the power of the gospel at work in Samaria reached the apostles in Jerusalem. This was a watershed moment in church history as the Samaritan "strangers" were now clearly being incorporated into God's church. The apostles still in Jerusalem sent Peter and John to join the work there. They went and “prayed…that the Samaritans might receive the Holy Ghost, for it had not yet come upon any of them. (They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus)” (vv. 15-17).
Historically, these verses have been difficult for many to understand. Some claim that this text teaches that not all believers receive the Holy Spirit at salvation and therefore must seek additional spiritual experience, often supplemented by speaking in tongues. Proponents of this view generally teach that a person can be genuinely saved and regenerated but be devoid of the Holy Spirit. Some slightly modify this view, teaching that the Samaritans mentioned in this passage were genuinely saved, regenerated, and possessed a measure of the Spirit, but did not yet have spiritual gifts. Still others have understood these verses to teach that the early faith of the Samaritans was faulty; therefore, the Spirit did not come until they had genuine faith. Most of those who support thisI think this text emphasizes the dangers of insincere faith. I believe, however, that each of these views is wrong. We must remember the unique place of this story in the story of redemption.
The Spirit was withheld until the apostles could verify the work of the gospel. In this unique case of the first movement of the gospel beyond Jerusalem, the Lord sovereignly waited to give any manifestation of the Spirit until the apostles could be there to witness it. then they wouldI seeand was able to testify that the Samaritans received the same Holy Spirit given to the Christians in Jerusalem. In this way, there could be no doubt that the gospel was for the nations and that Jews and Samaritans, once bitter enemies, were now brothers and sisters and members of the same family of God because of their shared faith. The believers in Jerusalem received the Spirit at Pentecost (2:1-13), and now, in due time, the apostles of the mother church were there to witness and welcome the incorporation of the Samaritan believers into the church of God. We see a similar action in the case of Cornelius (11:14-17).
Simon and Peter: a confrontation related to the Gospel
After the apostles laid their hands on the Samaritans, they received the Holy Spirit. Simon saw this event and boldly offered the apostlesmoney(v.19) to impart the power of the Spirit. Luke records Peter's fierce response (vv. 20-23) and Simon's response (v.24).
Perhaps Simon theorized that if he could possess the power he witnessed, he could greatly benefit himself. He is clearly ignorant of the nature of the Spirit in this passage, perhaps thinking that the Spirit is an impersonal force that can be manipulated rather than a divine person to whom he must surrender and live by.
Peter sternly scolds him, essentially saying, "To hell with you and your money!" He sees in Simon a complete misunderstanding of God and his grace. So serious was Simon's misunderstanding, in fact, that Peter adds: "You have no part or share in this matter, because your heart is not right before God" (verso 21).
In Acts, Luke uses the wordShareto mean both "ministry" (1:17) or “participation in salvation” (26:18🇧🇷 The last option seems to be the best app here. Peter condemns Simon as someone who does not have the salvation of Christ. But then Pedro, who has just consigned him and hismoney to hell, call Simon to repentance (vv. 23-24), which is a command normally given to the unregenerate (2:38;3:19;17:30;26:20).
Peter knew that Simon was in extreme danger because his heart was so corrupted before God. Instead of possessing a humble faith that receives God's good gifts, Simon thought he could manipulate, control, and repay God. Such wickedness, which was exposed in his question, was received with the kind and severe exhortation of Peter (seevv. 23-24🇧🇷 Peter realizes that Simon is poisoned by hostility ("bitterness", seeDt 29:18) and enslaved by sin ("bound to wickedness"). He tells you to pray, without presuming God's grace ("if possible"), and ask the Lord for forgiveness. Simon then responds in what appears to be sincerity (v.24).
This event teaches us two important lessons.
1. The Holy Spirit is not for sale.The prerogative of giving the Holy Spirit belongs to God. We cannot buy salvation or the gifts of God. He is not our personal genius; he is our omnipotent Lord. This means that our money, social status, and talents cannot save us or cause God to assign us positions in his kingdom. Salvation is the gift of God through faith in Jesus Christ (15:11), and our spiritual gifts, which are to be used to serve the church, are gifts from God that are distributed according to his perfect will (1Cor 12:11🇧🇷 True influence in the kingdom must be sought, but we must do it Jesus' way for the glory of Jesus. It involves humble faith, courageous hope, hard work, sacrificial love, and hearts continually captivated by God's grace.
2. We really should marvel at God's amazing grace.🇧🇷 I have some sympathy for Simon, as he was deeply rooted in paganism and trying, at least on some level, to understand Christianity. It saddens me that he didn't realize that the gospel frees a person from addiction to himself and his possessions. It makes a person honest and generous. But where I don't feel sorry for Simon is when I realize that his lack of understanding was only partly because he was so interested in his own glory and power.
What a gift he received in Peter's rebuke! He was offered the opportunity toto regretis to beforgiven🇧🇷 That's funny.
The case of Simon is different from that of Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-11), in which the hypocritical couple was immediately put on trial. Perhaps the couple's sin was dealt with more severely because it was premeditated, while Simon's sin was committed, at least in part, out of ignorance. Whatever the differentiation, Simon was graciously given a second chance. That is why his story should make us repent and say:"God, have mercy on us. Thank you, Lord, for your patience with us." What a wonderful Savior we have in Jesus!
The Apostles: More Gospel Preaching
After the episode with Simon, the apostles returned to Jerusalem. Along the way, they preached more of the gospel "in many villages of the Samaritans." His approach reminds us to emulate his tireless outreach efforts.
Let me extract some great ideas from this text.
Proclaim the Gospel.Philip, Peter, and John preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16🇧🇷 It is not enough to simply "live the gospel". We must proclaim it and explain it. From the pulpit, in our workplaces, around our tables, wherever we are, we must speak about the goodness of God, explain the truth about sin, and call attention to the glorious redemption we have in Jesus Christ. Remember what Paul told the Corinthians:
Since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God to save believers through the folly of preaching. 🇧🇷1 Corinthians 1:21)
Then preach Christ! Think about how to communicate the gospel in ways that are understandable to your culture.
Proclaim the gospel in various situations.Philip and the persecuted Christians in Jerusalem took advantage of their dispersion for the advancement of the gospel. On the way back to Jerusalem, Peter and John stopped to preach the gospel in "many villages." This is a reminder of our need to live withgospel intentionality🇧🇷 The church is made up of mothers, servants, bankers, vendors, cooks, students, athletes, policemen, and many others, each of whom should take the stance of a missionary. In everything you do, no matter your role, ask yourself: How can I proclaim and teach Christ in this situation?
God wants you to be deliberate about sharing the gospel with your children, coworkers, clients, teammates, and peers. InsideIn some situations, this may mean gradually bearing witness to Christ in the way you live with the goal of sharing the good news when someone asks what makes you different. Or, and in many cases, it could mean that he needs to seek out and take direct opportunities to describe the good news and the impact of Christ in his life to others. Evangelism should be a thread woven through our daily lives. We must be deliberate about how to harness our lives for the advancement of the gospel.
Praise God for his work of salvation among the nations.Thank God for this wonderful account of the power and progress of the gospel in action among the Samaritans. It subtly reminds us to repent of any prejudice against those who some think are less worthy of salvation than others. Let us pray for the faith to believe that no one is beyond the reach of God's saving grace. And may we gladly share this good news with those whose lives intersect with ours.
reflect and discuss
- Describe a time when you experienced persecution because of your Christian faith. How was God's mission advanced or hampered by persecution in the first century?
- How isAthos 8:4-25related to1:8🇧🇷 Why is this significant?
- Why was God slow to pour out his Spirit on the Samaritan believers? Why was this important? What lessons can we learn from this unique event?
- What does this story teach about the preaching of Christ?
- What disappoints you about Simon's character? Because?
- Do you think Simon had genuine faith in Christ? Why or why not?
- Remember how Peter severely called Simon to repentance. Why is repentance important?
- CompareLucas 9:52-54comAthos 8:14-25and consider the change in the apostle John. How did his opinion of the Samaritans change? How can you cultivate love for those who are not loved?
- because it isActs 8:4-25agood illustration ofMateo 28:18-20?
- Pause to pray for opportunities to share the gospel this week. List three specific actions you can take to share the good news of salvation through Christ with others.