Study No. 8 “Will the Real Believer please stand up?” Chapter 8
Ac 7:58 And cast [him] out of the city, and stoned [him]: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.
Ac 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.
This is Luke’s first mention of Samaria after quoting the ‘Great Commission’ in chapter 1 verse 8. Samaria is the area just north of Judea, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordon river, and it reaches up to Galilee. It had a capital city of the same name.
Luke makes use of contrasts and comparisons in his writing.
He used this style when mentioning Barnabas as being ‘one of the ones’ who sold property and then laid the money at the apostle’s feet. Then he mentions Ananias and Sapphira. This is a contrast between a ‘good’ man and a ‘bad’ couple,.
He will be showing the connection Saul (Paul) would have with Barnabas. But before he gets to it he paints a rather vivid contrast between a good man and a very dangerous and violent man.
He used this style when mentioning Stephen. He is listed with six others who were selected as servants, then is singled out (introduced) as being full of faith and power and doing miracles.
Then, as Stephen comes into the front and center, Saul is mentioned as a bystander encouraging Stephen’s death. The narrative moves to Saul, leaving him as a ring leader in the persecution against the Christians.
What follows in our chapter today is a contrast between two people, one called Simon and the other, a man with no name.
The ministry of Philip
Philip, the second of the servants chosen earlier now comes into focus.
1. In Samaria
Luke simply says, Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them.
He too, had the gift (or faith) to perform miracles which in turn gave credence to the words he shared. Or perhaps these miracles were attention getters - allowing him to vocalize his message. 8:6
The types of miracles:
- casting out of unclean spirits
- lame and palsied persons healed
Philip’s ministry, preaching and miracles, drew crowds but he was not the only one to draw crowds in that city. Up to this point there was one other by the name of Simon to whom many of these same people had turned for amazing and spectacular entertainment.
While Philip’s message was not intended for entertainment, the miracles he performed were both amazing and spectacular. For this reason many of the Simon followers now turned to Stephen. As they did so, they were soon to discover that Philip was not just amazing and spectacular but that his miracles ministered to their needs.
The people responded to Philip’s message and then were baptized. Simon himself had been following Philip’s message, believed and was baptized.
Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard …
This is how we know that Philip was not one of the twelve. If he were, it would probably not have been necessary to send Peter and John to evaluate what had happened here. How they heard and just how far the city of Samaria was from Jerusalem and how great was the number of believers in this outreach we can only surmise.
The ‘laying on of hands’
While the two apostles are there and are satisfied that ‘this’ is indeed of God, they show their endorsement by laying hands on them, just as they had upon the seven deacons. Did they know or even expect that there would be an evidence of the empowering of the Spirit? Probably not. But when it happened it certainly spoke volumes back to them regarding God’s total acceptance of others besides just Jews.
Simon sees the evidence of the empowering of the Spirit. He does not ask to be empowered himself … because perhaps he was part of this same group who just received it. But he does ask for the power to do what the two apostles just did.
It is interesting to note that he called a believer, is baptized, and yet is thinking about profit.
Peter speaks to him very harshly, making some very powerful statements regarding him. He says, “Your money perish with you”. The assumption is that Simon is going to hell. Is Peter passing judgment on Simon? Does he know that Simon is not really saved? Or does he think that Simon may have been saved but has now just ‘lost it’? What has really been taught by Jesus about eternal security up to this point?
Simon, Luke says, … believed. Believe is the ‘key’ word when we talk about evangelism. Is believing ever ‘not enough’?
The thief on the cross believed.
Lu 23:42 Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom."
In Jesus’ parable regarding the sower and the seed in Matthew 13 notice what He says
about the rocky soil and how it received the seed.
Mt 13:20 "But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;
21 "yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.
Believing must be accompanied by a response … an appropriate response. Joy has been considered an appropriate response.
Repentance is considered an appropriate response.
In all cases, an appropriate response … perhaps the only appropriate response … is bowing before … in total submission and recognition of His Lordship over us. This can be expressed in recognizing the fact that we are purchased by Him.
The demons believe … and they have an appropriate response … they tremble. James 2:19
Simon requests prayer for himself. The two disciples stay in the area preaching and then move throughout other Samaritan villages preaching.
We have no record of the results of their ministry but conclude that it must have been fruitful in light of the huge impact that Philip’s ministry had made upon the capital city.
2. On a desert road in Gaza
In the midst of great things happening in Samaria God speaks to Philip, telling him to go down to the desert. We have no record as to whether Philip has been clearly spoken to by God prior to this. Philip recognizes it to be the voice of God and obeys.
The purpose of Philip’s being directed to Gaza is seen to be to speak to an Ethiopian official from Egypt. This man apparently is a Jew by religion and is returning home after attending recent Jewish holy day celebrations. From the standpoint of God’s expanding missionary emphasis
- it started in Jerusalem.
- Expanded to areas of Judea and Samaria due to the outbreak of persecution.
- What follows is … the gospel begins to go global.
Now, again as a result of Philip’s call from God, a Jew … not of Jerusalem, Judea or Samaria is singled out by God. He is the first gentile … but he is not a ‘heathen’ gentile. He is a Jew.
Involved in this example of a person becoming a child of God is:
- The Word of God, (powerful and sharper than a double-edged sword. Heb 4:12)
- The work of the Holy Spirit. (John 12:32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.",
John 16:7 ¶ Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
- The obedience of an evangelist. Ro 10:15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!"
- The response of faith – James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Romans 10:10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian Eunuch, seems as if a contrast between the two is what Luke wants to emphasize.
Simon – believed. Was baptized.
The Ethiopian – believed. Was baptized.
What is the difference? Genuine believe is evidenced by some kind of appropriate response.
3. From Azotus to Caesarea
This is the first mention of the place Caesarea. It will come up again in Acts 10.
God empowered the church on the day of Pentecost. The power has been evident. The
barrier has been broken, secrets of the heart have been penetrated, the spoken word has been verified by the miraculous. In chapter 8 that power is seen directing Philip to a specific person for a reason that is filled with ‘eternal purpose’ and it is also seen transporting Philip to another geographic location.
God’s power still rests on his servants today for the same purpose.
Matthew 24:14 "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
What do you think it would be like to be ‘called by God’? Please read I Samuel 3:1-10 and comment.
Look at the contrast between Samuel and what Isaiah mentions is Isa. 45:9