In Acts 8 we have a paradox. A paradox is two contradictory properties coming together. Here we have gather and scatter. The group of believers in Jerusalem was growing quickly and they gathered together for worship like we learned in Acts 2. However, Jesus told His disciples to GO and make more disciples of every nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20). Go means go! Scatter! Persecution scatters the believers. Our friend, Saul, is mentioned here and we’ll get to what happens to him in the next chapter. Here we have the story of Philip’s adventures in Samaria. (By the way, that’s a picture of Samaria, Israel at the top.)
Understand, the Jews didn’t get along with the Samaritans at all. The Samaritans were descendants of Jews who had mixed with the local Canaanites. Something that Moses told them NOT to do. So, imagine the challenge Philip had trying to get these people to understand what the Good News of Jesus’ true salvation was. (Further reading: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman & The Good Samaritan.) Let’s dig in…
Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen.
Persecution Scatters the Believers
A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria. 2 (Some devout men came and buried Stephen with great mourning.) 3 But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison.
Philip Preaches in Samaria
4 But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went. 5 Philip, for example, went to the city of Samaria and told the people there about the Messiah. 6 Crowds listened intently to Philip because they were eager to hear his message and see the miraculous signs he did. 7 Many evil spirits were cast out, screaming as they left their victims. And many who had been paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.
9 A man named Simon had been a sorcerer there for many years, amazing the people of Samaria and claiming to be someone great. 10 Everyone, from the least to the greatest, often spoke of him as “the Great One—the Power of God.” 11 They listened closely to him because for a long time he had astounded them with his magic.
12 But now the people believed Philip’s message of Good News concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. As a result, many men and women were baptized. 13 Then Simon himself believed and was baptized. He began following Philip wherever he went, and he was amazed by the signs and great miracles Philip performed.
14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had accepted God’s message, they sent Peter and John there. 15 As soon as they arrived, they prayed for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit. 16 The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, for they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John laid their hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit.
18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given when the apostles laid their hands on people, he offered them money to buy this power. 19 “Let me have this power, too,” he exclaimed, “so that when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!”
20 But Peter replied, “May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! 21 You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God. 22 Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive your evil thoughts, 23 for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin.”
24 “Pray to the Lord for me,” Simon exclaimed, “that these terrible things you’ve said won’t happen to me!”
25 After testifying and preaching the word of the Lord in Samaria, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem. And they stopped in many Samaritan villages along the way to preach the Good News.
God’s Gift Cannot Be Bought!
You can’t buy the power of the Holy Spirit! You can’t buy salvation! It is a gift from God. The Roman Catholic Church got this horribly wrong! (Dig deeper: Purgatory, Indulgences, Sacraments). Catholics are held captive by sin! And, confessing to a priest every week doesn’t save you!) Continuing…
Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch
26 As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah.
29 The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.”
30 Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
31 The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.
32 The passage of Scripture he had been reading was this:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter.
And as a lamb is silent before the shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
33 He was humiliated and received no justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.” [Isaiah 53:7-8]
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?” 35 So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus.
36 As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?” 38 He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.
39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the town of Azotus. He preached the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea.Acts 8 NLT
I love it when Philip asked him…
“Do you understand what you are reading?”
31 The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?”
That’s the hurdle I’m trying to help you overcome. Just sitting in church isn’t really “studying the Bible“. Besides that, you need to be certain that what you’re hearing is the Gospel Truth and not some twisted or watered-down, feel-good version. That takes the help of the Holy Spirit who helps you discern — tell the difference — between what’s truth and what are false teachings.
Free Bible apps can also help tremendously. I recommend…
They can get you into the habit of not just reading, but studying the Bible daily. The closer you get to Jesus, the stronger your faith will be.
But first, it really helps to have the Holy Spirit in your heart.
If you’re not sure if you’re saved or not, if you truly want to be born again and have the assurance of salvation, receive the Holy Spirit, and get a 1-way, non-stop ticket to Heaven after you die, or that you won’t be left behind at the Rapture, which can happen at any moment, this is what you have to do…