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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

Acts 8

Verses 1-25

  1. Intro:
    1. Illus: During the reign of Oliver Cromwell, the British government began to run low on silver for coins. Lord Cromwell sent his men on an investigation of the local cathedral to see if they could find any precious metal there. After investigating, they reported, "The only silver we could find is in the statues of the saints standing in the corners." To which the radical soldier and statesman of England replied, "Good! We'll melt down the saints and put them into circulation!"
    2. The 1st church wide persecution (believers in general, not just a designated few) following the death of Stephen, led to the scattering of Jerusalem Christians; & thus the 1st evangelistic tour; with Philip as the 1st evangelist; resulting in the 1st mass evangelism.
    3. Exit the churches 1st martyr…Stephen; Enter Saul of Tarsus.
  2. MESSIANIC SAMARITANS! (1-8)
    1. SAUL’S HOLY CRUSADES! (1-3)
    2. Read vs.7:58 “laid down their clothes at Saul’s feet”. I wonder if Stephen’s mantle were there? [He didn’t pick it up right away, but he sure did later!] (Spurgeon At His Best; Acts 7:58; pg.311)
      1. Stephen’s witness made a tremendous impression on Saul as we read later in Acts 22:20.
      2. The death of Stephen seemed to be a defeat for the church, but it resulted in some great victories for the Lord.
      3. “Never give up when the enemy seems to be winning. It may be your finest hour of victory!” (Warren Wiersbe; With the word; pg.712)
    3. It even seems just before one gets saved the devil points his whole arsenal at the individual.
      1. And the response is often that individual venting all his fears & frustrations, either trying to run from it or attack strong against it.
      2. His desire to stamp out the movement only helped to advance it!
    4. I wonder if Augustine was correct when he said, “If Stephen had not prayed, Paul had not preached.” (i.e. 7:60)
    5. (3) The picture is one of “midnight raids, good people poorly treated, & human rights disregarded in the name of religion…for the sake of God!” (Shepherd’s Notes; pg.29)
      1. Wow, sounds like most of Africa today!
    6. For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. (Gal.1:13)
    7. Saul the persecutor, “entering every house” as Satan’s instrument; Later… Paul, the pastor, teaching “from house to house” as Christ’s servant. (20:20)
    8. MESSIANIC SAMARITANS! (4-8)
    9. (4) And…“the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church!”
      1. (Swindoll) Such persecution could have smothered the flame of Christ. Instead, like pouring gasoline on a burning match, the suffering fueled a fire that exploded into even greater evangelism! (Chuch Swindoll, Acts, pg.126)
    10. (5) Went down to Samaria – a Test of Sympathy because of Jewish attitude towards Samaritans.
    11. (5b) Philip…preached Christ!
      1. Not a creed, not a church, but Christ!
      2. Wasn’t negative, i.e. denouncing Samaritan error.
      3. Simply that he is the Christ, the Messiah!
    12. (6) Some think the success of Philip in Samaria was largely due to the influence of his Master there not many years before. [woman at well, & men from city]
      1. How’d you like Jesus going before you in your missionary or evangelist efforts? {Jesus…your front man…paving the way}
        1. Well, He is, & always does!
    13. Persecution is like a storm that scattered the seed of the Word, & dispersed the sowers & reapers over many fields.
      1. This is God’s way of: [1] Extending His kingdom; [2] Bringing good out of evil; & [3] Making the wrath of man to praise him!
      2. “There is one who scatters, yet increases more!” (Prov. 11:24)
        1. So, the Huguenots were driven from France (French Calvinst by R.C.); & the Protestants from Spain; & the Puritans from England.
    14. We may not see the physical miracles, but we may look confidently for spiritual miracles in transformed lives & these are equally strong proofs of true evangelism!
    15. Great Joy in that city – Joy from Christ’s perfect pardon, persuasive power, & prized preciousness!
    16. SORCERER’S FOR THE SAVIOR! (9-13)
    17. (9-11) Magic was a significant form of religious expression in the ancient world.
      1. Evidently he was no trickster, but used some satanic arts.
      2. Like spiritism today, it is a mixture of fraud & demonic power under the guise of religion.
    18. (12) They place their trust in Omnipotence.
      1. Yet Great power is met by Greater power!
      2. Like Lk.11:21,22 “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace. But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils.”
    19. Both men & women were baptized – indicating new allegiance.
      1. Simon’s influence was evidently weakened & neutralized by preaching of the Gospel.
        1. This gives great hope for places where they are very superstitious, or have strong demonic influences.
    20. (13) Simon believed & was baptized.
      1. I can see Simon sporting his new “Sorcerer’s for the Savior” Tee shirt!
    21. BABY’S 1ST STEPS! (14-25)
    22. FIRE FROM HEAVEN! (14-17)
    23. No one had yet told them of the H.S.
      1. Peter informs them of this great possibility & they eagerly open the windows to their souls to receive God’s gift of the Holy Spirit.
    24. Thinking point: What was going through John the son of thunder’s mind returning to the place where previously he had asked Jesus if he should call down fire from heaven?
      1. He now returns to this place with reports of men’s lives being saved!
      2. See Luke 9:51-56 [This must have been a long walk, the kind where God talks, & you just listen!]
      3. But, I guess John finally got to call down fire from heaven(H.S. fire)!
        1. John, you were only off by “what kind of fire to call down” & “when to call it”!
    25. They received the Holy Spirit – a special acknowledgment of God working in Samaria, recognizing them as part of the universal church.
    26. STUMBLE, OR NEVER SAVED? (18-25)
    27. Tradition gives him a permanent place as a heretic.
      1. We even get our word “Simony” from this man [Encarta: the buying or selling of sacred or spiritual things]
      2. But, was Simon a heretic? (somebody who holds to a belief that contradicts established religious teaching); or was he a hypocrite? (somebody who gives a false appearance of having admirable principles, beliefs, or feelings); or was he a backslider? (a believer who relapses into a bad behavior)? [I believe the 3rd]
      3. Vs.13 said, “he believed & was baptized”. [same 2 words used in vs.12]
        1. So why do we read in falsity, insincerity, or hypocrisy?
        2. Also, he continued with Philip.
        3. No mention yet of anything wrong.
    28. (18,19) Simon learns an important lesson for a new believer!
      1. I believe Simon is suddenly tempted along old lines.
    29. (21) In this matter – What matter? Salvation? No, the matter of being able to have this power the apostles had.
    30. Your heart is not right - i.e. not straight, not upright.
    31. (22) Repent…& pray – Would this be said to the unconverted, with no mention of faith in Christ’s saving power?
      1. The counsel of Peter is more appropriate to a backslider than to a hypocrite.
      2. Look at the stern language Paul uses to another sorcerer who really was a scoundrel in Acts 13:8-12. (esp.10)
    32. The thought – this one singular thought of which Simon was guilty.
      1. Did he not slide back into his old mode of life, or into applying his old standards to his new life?
        1. What old way did you fall back into when you 1st were saved?
      2. Often old temptations resurface. Old habits are often powerful!
        1. i.e. converted drunkards; homosexuals or fornicators; liars; lust for power; longing for popularity; etc.
      3. Regeneration is not necessarily renovation A young Christian is a babe in Christ, & needs growth in grace in order to withstand temptations.
        1. Gal. 6:1 “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”
      4. Story: A Christian father had a daughter w/an uncontrollable temper, & when asked for her hand in marriage he told the young man she was not worthy of him. “But,” he asked in surprise, “she is a Christian, is she not?” “Yes,” was the reply, “she is a Christian, but the grace of God can live with some people with whom no one else could ever live
    33. If perhaps – The adverb perhaps does not mean God is reluctant to forgive sin. The question was whether Simon would repent of his heart’s intention.
      1. Peter hopes to strike a healthy fear & dawning desire for better things!
    34. (24) Good response.
      1. Share: Gods sweet forgiveness; liberating grace; 2nd chances!
    35. How do I keep from backsliding? Allow…
      1. The Spirit of Truth to instruct you; The Spirit of Holiness make sensitive your conscience; The Spirit of Power triumph over your old nature;The Spirit of Love expel everything else from your heart! (Griffith Thomas; pg.149)
    36. (25) So when they had taught “verse by verse” (oh no) when they had testified
      1. Peter & John telling their own stories of their Christian experience. 2.36.1.1. This is always helpful to follow up work with new converts.
    37. And preaching the word – The new Messianic Samaritans ready for Bible study & instruction in their new faith.
    38. And so, the linkage of the apostles in Jerusalem & the new believers in Samaria…& the ancient division is healed!
      1. ​​​​​​​Remember, the way to turn enemies into friends is to make them brothers & sisters in Christ! [Try that with your next enemy!]
      2. Illust: A reporter was interviewing an old man on his 100th birthday. “What are you most proud of?” he asked. “Well,” said the man, “I don’t have an enemy in the world.” “What a beautiful thought! How inspirational!” said the reporter. “Yep,” added the centenarian, “outlived every last one of them.”
    39. A holy man was engaged in his morning meditation under a tree whose roots stretched out over the riverbank. During his meditation he noticed that the river was rising, and a scorpion caught in the roots was about to drown. He crawled out on the roots and reached down to free the scorpion, but every time he did so, the scorpion struck back at him.

      An observer came along and said to the holy man, “Don’t you know that’s a scorpion, and it’s in the nature of a scorpion to want to sting?”

      To which the holy man replied, “That may well be, but it is my nature to save, and must I change my nature because the scorpion does not change its nature?”

Verses 26-40

  1. Intro:
    1. Story: When I was a boy, my grandma Dear worked in Hunting Park as a seamstress. Sometimes she took us to work (upstairs, wooden floors, full of pins)
      1. One thing we got to do was go around with a large magnet on a string & pick up all the pins/needles the seamstresses had dropped.
      2. But there were always some items it wouldn’t pick up (not magnetized)
        1. There was nothing in their nature to respond to the magnet.
        2. Jesus said, “if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” Jn.12:32
        3. Jesus also said, “These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” Jn.5:39,40
      3. Let’s watch one more come to the magnetic draw of Christ!
    2. After Philips public ministry in Samaria, we now have his private ministry in Gaza.
  2. HIS MESSAGE FROM AN ANGEL! (26)
    1. From ministering to multitudes (vs.6,7) to now, the gospel to one.
      1. Philip was the kind of evangelist who was willing to leave the public meeting (with its excitement) to help one soul find peace in a private place, where only God could see.
    2. Philip was obedient to the Spirit, going where God led him.
    3. God’s method for winning others does not use organizational machinery, worldly attractions, or high-powered promotion.
      1. God uses people, dedicated men/women who will simply obey the Spirit
    4. This is Philips story…how will your story read?
      1. This time of year we read the Nativity story.
        1. A compilation of: Josephs story, Mary’s, the Wise Men’s story, the shepherd’s story, the angels story, ultimately God’s story.
      2. How will your story read? – You’re writing a chapter today!
        1. More like a BLOG (a running online diary)
      3. If you think, “life is boring”. Understand, Life is Exciting…its just your story that’s boring!
      4. Your life can be a page turner! - It can have a Gripping Plot; be an Adventure story; a Thriller; a Whodunit!
        1. It all starts with vs.27 “so he arose & went!” (obedient to God’s bidding)
  3. HIS MEETING WITH A EUNUCH! (27-39)
    1. ​​​​​​​(27) Ethiopian - from 2 Greek words meaning “to burn” & “face” (a burnt-face)
      1. The NT takes special note of this prominent black man.
    2. Eunuch - Because he was a eunuch he was prohibited from worshipping in the congregation of God’s people (Deut 23:1 He who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the assembly of the LORD) (see ESV for graphic details)
      1. But note: He travels so far to worship, even though debarred. It attests to his godliness! ☺
      2. In later Scriptures God took special note of godly eunuchs:
        1. Read Isaiah 56:4,5
    3. Candace – The name was not a proper name of an individual, but that of a dynasty of Ethiopian queens. (Strong, J. (1996). The exhaustive concordance of the Bible : (electronic ed.) (G2582). Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship.) [Lie Pharaoh, or Caesar]
    4. Jerusalem to worship – Why the interest in worshiping at the Temple all the way down in Ethiopia?
      1. The monarchy of Ethiopia claims to trace its genealogy from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (1 Kg 10) through their son Menelik I to King Haile Selassie, who was deposed in 1974 some 3000 yrs later (Stern, D. H. (1992). Jewish New Testament commentary)
      2. In those days some people who were weary of the many gods and the loose morals of the nations.
      3. They came to Judaism and there found the one God & the strict moral standards which gave life meaning.
      4. If they accepted Judaism & were circumcised they were called proselytes;
      5. If they didn’t go that length, but continued to attend the Jewish synagogues, & to read the Jewish scriptures they were called​​​​​​​ God-fearers.
        1. This Ethiopian must have been one of these searchers who came to rest in Judaism either as a proselyte or a God-fearer. (The Acts of the Apostles. 2000, c1976 (W. Barclay). The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. (68). Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.)
    5. (31) How can I unless I have someone guides me, or, explains it to me.
      1. My purpose for doing what I do on Sun mornings, Wed nights.
      2. Neh.8:8 So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; & they gave the sense, & helped them to understand the reading.
        1. Observation; Interpretation; Application. [What does it say; What does it mean; How do I apply it to me]
    6. (32-34) God is having this man read from one of the key Messianic prophecies pointing to Yeshua.
      1. Faith comes by hearing, & hearing by the Word of God. Rom 10:17.
      2. Isaiah 53 was the chapter Philip used, that wonderful picture of the Lamb of God.
      3. Look at the question in 33b – He died, so who will pass on his name & heritage? [Philip probably said, “It’s a lament, but unwarranted, because Messiah came back from the dead!”]
    7. (35) Philip is called an evangelist (21:8), & like any wise evangelist, he began communicating the Good News about Jesus at the point of interest and concern of his hearer!
      1. Unwise evangelists, like unwise salespeople, sometimes use a prepared “pitch” that does not speak to the concerns of their “customer”; their message proves irritating, like scratching where it doesn’t itch.
    8. (36) The Holy Spirit is the Lord of the Harvest, and it’s through Him that we have the power to witness (Acts 1:8).
      1. The Spirit opened the way for Philip to come to the man;
      2. The Spirit opened the Scriptures to the seeking sinner;
      3. The Spirit opened the sinner’s heart to the Savior.
        1. A man can’t be saved who doesn’t understand what he’s doing
        2. And only the Spirit can teach the sinner the truths of the Gospel
      4. When the Spirit brings a prepared servant and a contrite sinner together, there will be a harvest! ☺ (Warren Wiersbe)
    9. The Ethiopian proved his faith by his baptism.
      1. It was by baptism and circumcision that the Gentile entered the Jewish faith.
      2. In New Testament times baptism was largely adult baptism.
        1. The 1st record of “infant baptism” was when the Roman Emperor Valens insisted his dying son be baptized in AD 370.
        2. The Catholic Council of Mela made infant baptism law in AD 416.
        3. Infant Baptism is sometimes referred to as paedobaptism from the Greek pais meaning "child."
        4. It’s contrasted with what is called "believer's baptism," or credobaptism, from the Latin word credo meaning "I believe", (i.e. only baptizing individuals who personally confess faith in Jesus, therefore excluding small children)
      3. It symbolized 3 things:
        [1] It symbolized cleansing. As a man’s body was cleansed by the water, so his soul was bathed in the grace of Christ.
        [2] It marked a clean break. We are told how 1 missionary when he baptized his converts made them enter the river by one bank and sent them out on the other, as if at the moment of baptism a line was drawn in their lives which sent them out to a new world.[we should incorp]
        [3] Baptism was a real union with Christ. As the waters closed over a man’s head he seemed to die with Christ and as he emerged he rose with Christ. (The Acts of the Apostles. 2000, c1976 (W. Barclay). The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. (69). Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.)
        1. Q: Have you been baptized…if not, why not?
    10. (39) Philip was caught away for a ministry elsewhere(his mini-Rapture); but the treasurer went on his way rejoicing!
      1. When Philip preached Jesus in Samaria, there was great joy (8).
      2. And when he presented Jesus in the desert, he sent the new believer on his way rejoicing.
        1. Joy is one of the evidences of true conversion.
      3. It was said of the Rich Young Ruler, that he went away sad; It is said about this Eunuch he went away rejoicing!
      4. Lk.15:4,5 – It was said of a shepherd who finds his lost sheep, “when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.”
      5. Lk.15:9,10 - The woman who found the lost coin said, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!
      6. Lk.15:23,24 – The father of his lost prodigal son said, “bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. And they began to be merry.”
    11. C. S. Lewis said it best regarding Joy, “Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
      1. In Your presence is fullness of joy! – Ps.16:11
  4. HIS MINISTRY IN AZOTUS! (40)
    1. ​​​​​​​(40) Azotus/Ashdod today(of the Gaza Strip), is 1 of 3 port cities(Haifa & Elat) & is 25 miles south of Tel Aviv.
    2. Until he came to Caesarea – some 40 miles north of Tel Aviv.
      1. There he married & settled down (21:8,9).
    3. What did we learn from Philip? Philip was not a man to act on his own authority; Nor one who sought to carry out a mission in his own power; He was a God-sent servant; And a spirit controlled worker; When the "Spirit of the Lord" directed Philip to go to a certain place he arose and went; When the "Spirit of the Lord" told Philip to speak to a certain person, he obeyed with a cheerful willingness.
    4. This is Philips story…how will your story read?
      1. Throw your mind-windows wide open…it can be an awesome story!
      2. Now that you’ve “discovered God” you’ll find out it’s a continuous discovery.
        1. Each day is rich with new aspects of Him & His working.
      3. God wants to write a good story…of your life!
        1. Bad decisions make bad stories!
        2. You mess up, God says, “ok” “let’s make a story out of this.”
        3. Decisions come into your life like Joseph & Potiphar’s wife & he decides, “I don’t want this to be my story, or my wife’s, or my kids.”
      4. God is still love-hungry.
        1. And desiring to pour out His love upon new “Philips”.
      5. Find souls dead to God, looking sadly out of hungry eyes. [Frank Laubach]
        1. And bring them to Jesus!
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Acts 8". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/acts-8.html. 2017.