As a wild beast tasting blood, the Jews were the more inflamed by the martyrdom of Stephen to greatly persecute the Church of God at Jerusalem. For this reason believers were scattered through Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Even the persecution at this time did not exercise them to leave and carry the gospel elsewhere, as the Lord had commanded them (Mark 16:15), but where they failed, the Lord had others to do the work.
Devout men buried Stephen with great lamentation. They may not have been Christians, but at least were God-fearing and honorable. In contrast, Saul excelled in his zealous persecution of believers, forcibly entering houses to take them prisoner. This did not however stop the preaching of the word by those who were scattered from Jerusalem.
Philip (one of the seven chosen as deacons -- ch.6:5) was by no means intimidated either, but went down to Samaria where he preached Christ. Though the apostles were slow to do this, Philip showed the same gracious spirit as his Master (John 4:1-54), not despising the Samaritans, as was common among the Jews (John 8:48). The energy of this man's faith is beautiful, for he evidently acted alone, not "tarrying for the sons of men." How he attracted the interest of the people we are not told, except that he preached Christ to them. We may remember that Christ Himself had awakened a large interest in Samaria (John 4:39-42): now when this same Lord was preached, God had prepared hearts to respond to this blessed message. His preaching also was attended by God's witnessing with the miracles of casting out demons and healing of the sick. Notice, it was not that Philip held a healing meeting; rather his speaking is first emphasized, then the miracles added.
It is of interesting importance that when Peter went later to Gentiles, there is no mention of healing at all (Ch.10:34-48), but Samaritans, though a mixed race, claimed a Jewish status because there was no doubt of Jewish blood among them. "The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks (Gentiles) seek after wisdom" (1 Corinthians 1:22).
Since the Jews of Jerusalem had no dealings with the Samaritans (John 4:9), they were not present to oppose the preaching of Christ or to hinder the great joy of the city. For even when Christ was there, no miracles are recorded: now by the power of the Spirit of God Philip performed many miracles, casting out many demons and healing many who were sick.
Such striking miracles as this impressed a sorcerer named Simon, who had before greatly influenced the people of Samaria by his Satanic sorceries, claiming to be a great man himself, and leading the populace, whether low or high, to consider him the great power of God. This had continued a long time, but the superior power of God in Philip's preaching and miracles wrought in such a way as to produce faith in great numbers, and they were baptized, both men and women.
The evidence was convincing so far as Simon was concerned: he also believed and was baptized, but it was plainly only a superficial type of belief, as subsequent history shows. He continued at first with Philip, but wondered at the miracles and signs. Why should he wonder if he had faith that Jesus was actually the Son of God and actually risen from the dead? Were such miracles not simple enough for Him?
We have seen in Jerusalem that Jews were promised on repentance and baptism that they would receive the Spirit of God (Ch.2:38). Yet here were Samaritans who had repented and been baptized, but had not received the Spirit. This was the reason for the apostles Peter and John coming down when they heard news of God's work in Samaria. Only after they had prayed for them and laid their hands on them did the Samaritan disciples receive the Holy Spirit. This guarded against any possibility that the Samaritans would consider their blessing independent of that which Jerusalem had received. We shall see later also that only on two other occasions was the Spirit received with public signs, and then only with the presence of at least one apostle (Ch.10:44-46 and Ch.19:1-7).
In this way the work was fully connected: the Church of God was one. The laying on of hands speaks simply of identification with these disciples. If God could publicly receive Jews at Jerusalem, He could also graciously receive Samaritans in spite of their having embraced a center contrary to God's center, the temple at Jerusalem: God no longer deals on the basis of law, but of grace.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Acts 8". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany