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Thursday, May 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Acts 8

Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NTLuscombe's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

1 Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

1. Stephen was the first martyr for the cause of Christ. And Saul was there, an active participant in the death.

2. This may have been the beginning of the rise of Saul as a persecutor of Christians.

3. Persecutions arose in all areas around Jerusalem following the death of Stephen. Saul was a moving force (if not THE force) behind this rise in antagonism.

Verse 2

2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.

1. Stephen was buried. There was some kind of funeral service.

2. Typical burials took place ASAP because of the potential for disease and lack of proper ability to preserve the body.

3. The exception to this was the very rich that could afford the necessary spices and ointments to preserve the body.

Verse 3

3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.

1. Havoc - Thayer says - to treat shamefully or with injury, to ravage, devastate, ruin

2. Christians faced the ever present danger of Saul and his "army of God" entering their home and taking anyone (men or women) off to prison.

3. I have to ask, How would you respond, live, worship, teach, share your faith, if you were faced with this kind of real threat?

4. We must be reminded that "we have not resisted unto blood" ( Heb_12:4 )

Verse 4

4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.

1. Scatter - to sow about, to scatter, to disperse

2. Went everywhere - Not that they went to every place on earth. But every place they went - the preached.

1. Literally - As they were going, they were preaching the word.

2. Similar to Mar_16:15 - As you are going into all the world, preach the gospel to every creature.

3. They carried the message to many places that it would not have gone, except for the persecution. While Saul thought he was putting out the fire, he was in fact spreading the flames out of control.

Verse 5

5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them.

1. Philip - One of the seven appointed in Act_6:1-15 . The rest of this chapter will focus on the work of Philip - in Samaria and to an Ethiopian.

2. Samaria -

1. Samaritans were considered by faithful Jews, as dogs, half-breeds, who abandoned all rights to the Temple.

2. They were the "stragglers" from the 10 northern tribes that came out of Assyrian captivity and tried to return to Jewish worship.

3. However, they had inter-married, lost the purity of their blood line, and were considered as gentiles.

3. The city of Samaria served as the capital of the northern kingdom, Israel, when the nation was divided following the death of Solomon.

4. Often on the writings of the prophets, the name Samaria was used to represent anyone who had left the covenant. Samaria represented those who had abandoned any pretense of trying to follow the Law of Moses.

5. The Samaritans considered themselves Jews. But they were not allowed to enter the Temple in Jerusalem, so they worshiped in the mount of blessing, Mount Gerizim. See Joh_4:20-24 .

Verse 6

6 And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.

1. Here we must pay close attention to the wording.

1. They heeded the things spoken - They listened to the message, the preaching, the sermons of Philip. They heard the word and received the gospel of God.

2. They saw the miracles - Philip did work miracles among them. The miracles did not teach, save, convert anyone.

2. The purpose of miracles was to confirm the word. The miracles did not convert them. The miracles caused the people to pay attention to the message. Miracles were the attention getters.

Verse 7

7 For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed.

1. Here Luke lists some of the types of miracles which Philip was doing - casting out unclean spirits, healing the paralyzed and lame.

2. It would seem that the gift of healing was dominant in the work of Philip.

3. The Apostles could work all types of miracles - heal, raise the dead, speak in tongues, interpret tongues, etc. See the list of nine spiritual gifts in 1Co_12:8-10 .

4. Those on whom an Apostle laid hands and distributed a spiritual gift were able to work one type of miracle. The gift given to each Christian was according to their situation, ability to use it and make it an effective tool for the church. 1Co_12:11 says that the Spirit distributes the gift as He wills.

Verse 8

8 And there was great joy in that city.

1. Joy was everywhere in Samaria.

1. Joy is not - laughing at a comedy show on television.

2. Most of our "joy" is surface, momentary, and helpful only as a temporary distraction.

3. Real JOY is:

1. Internal - Joy is not our response to the external - joke, funny TV show. Joy comes from our internal decision about how to deal with our circumstances.

2. Long lasting - Most of our fun, joy, and laughter is very temporary. Joy is deeper, longer lasting, not based on external factors. Paul and Silas were filled with joy in prison in Philippi. ( Act_16:25 ) Jesus faced death with the "joy that was set before Him." ( Heb_12:2 ) Paul urged us to rejoice while facing death in a Roman prison. ( Php_4:4 )

Verse 9

9 But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great,

1. Simon the Sorcerer -

2. Sorcery - Simon used magic, tricks, deception, slight of hand to make a living. Often sorcery involved the mixing of potions and the use of incantations to apply blessings or curses on people. Remember the song, "Love Potion Number 9"? Some forms of sorcery were what we would call witchcraft. Albert Barnes says, "The ancient "Magi" had their rise in Persia, and were at first addicted to the study of philosophy, astronomy, medicine, etc. This name came afterward to signify those who made use of the knowledge of these arts for the purpose of imposing on mankind - astrologers, soothsayers, necromancers, fortune-tellers, etc. Such persons pretended to predict future events by the positions of the stars, and to cure diseases by incantations, etc." Lev_19:31 ; Lev_20:6 clearly forbid involvement with such things.

3. Astonished - He astounded, amazed, and caused them to be beside themselves.

4. Claiming - If he had left it as magic to amaze people as entertainment, there would have nothing wrong with his profession. But he claimed to be someone with special powers from God. He was claiming to have powers from God.

Verse 10

10 to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, " This man is the great power of God. "

1. Many looked to Simon as some great man of God. They had been rejected by Jerusalem and could not enter the Temple. But - they had, they believed, a great man of God among them.

2. Not only did Simon receive fame, honor and position, they listened to him as if he was a prophet speaking the will of God.

Verse 11

11 And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time.

1. Stated again - They heeded him - they listened and obeyed his teaching and instructions, believing they were from God.

2. They were amazed at the tricks he could do. They used his potions. They followed his instructions.

3. They had done this for a long time. He had some deep roots in this area. He had a loyal following.

Verse 12

12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.

1. But there was something very different about Philip. His preaching made sense. His miracles were not just magic tricks, people were being healed.

2. They heard the sermons about the kingdom of God and about Jesus.

3. When they SAW the miracles, the BELIEVED the message.

4. RESULT : Many Samaritans were baptized. Men were obedient. Women were being baptized.

Verse 13

13 Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.

1. Simon did three things:

1. He believed the preaching. Like many other Samaritans, he believed in Jesus.

2. He was baptized. In every case of conversions on the book of Acts, when people believe the message, they put their faith into action by being baptized.

3. He continued with Philip. This was no "flash in the pan." Simon was not just trying to blend in with others who were baptized. He continued with the other converts.

2. He saw the miracles. There was a real difference in the magic tricks he was doing and the real healing of Philip.

3. NOTE : Notice the parallel of this passage with Mar_16:16 .

Mar_16:16 Act_8:13 He that believes Then Simon himself believed And is baptized And when he was baptized Shall be saved ???? Was Simon saved?

Verse 14

14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them,

1. Stephen could work miracles but ONLY the apostles could distribute them.

2. Peter and John are sent because there are new Christians in Samaria who need the extra guidance given by the possession of spiritual gifts (prophecy, healing, tongues, etc).

3. QUESTION: Why send Peter and John? Not to preach or teach. Not to baptize. The reason for sending some apostles is to impart to them the miraculous spiritual gifts that would guide them into all truth.

Verse 15

15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.

1. Peter and John prayed for these new Christians, that they might receive the Holy Spirit (spiritual gifts).

2. They had already received the "gift of the Holy Spirit" promised to all who "repent and are baptized." ( Act_2:38-39 )

Verse 16

16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

1. Why had the spiritual gifts not been given to them? Because only an apostle could do this.

2. This passage is the illustration of what Paul was teaching about spiritual gifts being temporary and would soon pass away in 1Co_13:1-13 .

3. One the last apostle died - all distribution on spiritual gifts would end.

4. When those on whom an apostle had bestowed a gift died - spiritual gifts would fade away, come to an end, cease. Not suddenly, but slowly, gradually as more of these Christians died - the gifts would be seen less and less.

5. By about 150 to 175 all spiritual gifts had disappeared.

Verse 17

17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

1. Peter and John laid hands on them - that is imparted to them the ability to work some spiritual gift.

2. The received the miraculous measure of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 18

18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles ' hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money,

1. Simon saw what was happening. The apostles had a special gift or power.

2. Simon saw that the apostles could impart gifts on others. Philip could not do this. Simon could not do this. Only an apostle.

3. Simon wanted to buy THIS power. He was trying to buy a spiritual gift. He already had this.

4. He wanted the power of the Peter and John.

Verse 19

19 saying, " Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit. "

1. Simon wanted to buy the power to impart spiritual gifts. He wanted to be able to distribute these gifts to others.

2. He was seeking what even Peter and John could not grant him.

Verse 20

20 But Peter said to him, " Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money!

1. The next thing to notice is the concept of "eternal security" also called "once saved, always saved."

2. Notice these facts:

1. Jesus said that those who believe and are baptized will be saved. ( Mar_16:16 )

2. Simon believed and was baptized. ( Act_8:13 )

3. Simon was saved.

3. Now notice his current condition - He is perishing because of his sin.

Verse 21

21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God.

1. Simon's heart is not right with God. Something better change. And quickly.

2. Peter uses different words but is saying, "This is none of your business."

3. Simon is not an apostle. He has not received the promise of Holy Spirit baptism. He does not have the power. It is not Peter's to give. It is not Simon's to obtain.

Verse 22

22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you.

Peter uses another "key to the kingdom" for erring Christians.

1. Peter opened the kingdom to Jews - Act_2:1-47 .

2. Peter opened the door for Samaria - Act_8:1-40 .

3. Now Peter is opening the kingdom for those who leave and seek to return.

4. In Act_10:1-48 Peter opens the kingdom to gentiles.

2. The "key" here has two parts:

1. Repent - change of mind and heart which leads to a change in direction

2. Pray - Ask God for forgiveness. Ask those you offended to forgive you.

3. This model is taught in other parts of the New Testament. See Gal_6:1 and Jam_5:19-20 .

Verse 23

23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity. "

1. What he had done was called "wicked" by Peter.

2. His heart was not right with God - AND

1. He was poisoned by bitterness

2. He was bound by iniquity

3. Simon is now in a condition where, if he died, he would not spend eternity in heaven.

Verse 24

24 Then Simon answered and said, " Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me. "

1. How would you respond? In the mindset of many today, if the preacher used the words of Peter to someone about their sinful condition, they would: a) become angry; b) tell the preacher he was judging them; c) tell him they will leave and attend another congregation; d) just "quit the church".

2. Simon's response was different.

1. Pray for me. Simon asked the apostles to pray on his behalf.

2. He asked for a specific prayer - that these things would not happen; that his change of heart and repentance would be acceptable to God.

Verse 25

25 So when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.

1. This is a transition verse. The teaching, baptism, and the situation with Simon are now resolved.

2. Peter and John return to Jerusalem.

3. Notice: Along the way back to Jerusalem they preached in many villages of the Samaritans. They were doing exactly what the great commission required.

1. Many think Jesus is commanding us to sell our house, move to another country and become missionaries.

2. The command of Jesus literally says, "As you are going, preach the gospel." It does not say go to another nation and preach.

3. The command is to preach as you go - - to the store, to the bank, to the gas station. As you are going to ______ , preach the gospel.

4. This is what early Christians did. See Act_8:4 . As they were scattered they preached the gospel.

Verse 26

26 Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, " Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. " This is desert.

1. Philip is now finished in Samaria. God has a new mission for him.

2. Philip is now told to go to a lonely, deserted, isolated place. This is not desert like we normally think of miles of sand. This a place of little or no population.

3. He was in a city with many people. Now his mission is an area that was good for grazing cattle, lots of open land.

Verse 27

27 So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship,

1. He went. Like Abraham, he just went. No questions asked. Just go.

2. A man of Ethiopi a - while the borders have changed - Ethiopia is still a part of northern Africa. The word - Ethiopia - means black. It is supposed that this man was of a black or darker race.

3. Candace - This is not a proper name, but a title. Like Pharaoh or Caesar, this the title of the queen of this nation.

4. Eunuch - It was common among royalty to have servants made eunuchs. Because they were not able to produce children, they were "safe" to be around the many wives and many children of they royal house.

5. Treasury - Most think of him as head book keeper, accountant, collecting taxes and paying government bills. However, it appears that he was rather the guardian of the jewels and valuable treasure of the queen.

6. Interesting note: The Greek word for "treasurer" is "gaza" and is the same word for the place Philip is being sent. Philip is sent to Gaza (treasure) to find a man who guards the treasure (Greek - gaza).

7. To worship - Eunuchs were not allowed into the Temple itself. ( Deu_23:1 ) He traveled a long way just be near the Temple and worship God.

Verse 28

28 was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet.

1. Now he is on his long journey back to Ethiopia.

2. He is reading from Isaiah.

3. There is some dispute concerning the mode of transportation - the chariot.

1. It could have been carried by several men.

2. More likely it was horse drawn.

3. Either way, he was free to read while others tended to the driving of the chariot.

Verse 29

29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, " Go near and overtake this chariot. "

1. Philip is now told - this chariot is his mission.

2. Go near and join this chariot.

Verse 30

30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, " Do you understand what you are reading? "

1. Philip ran - He did not reluctantly walk. He did not jog. He ran!

2. Heard him reading - He was not reading to himself. He was reading out loud, apparently so his servants, those driving the chariot, could hear and learn.

3. Knew the passage - One of the laments of this preacher is that fewer know their Bible. Not as many today have learned to memorize or even remember the location of important passages. "I know it is in there somewhere," is a common statement made to me. If you heard this passage being read, would you know that it was from Isa_53:1-12 ?

4. Insult - In our way of thinking, the question of Philip was an insult. This man is high ranking position, has some wealth, power, and skill. "Do you understand what you are reading?" would be taken with offense by many.

Verse 31

31 And he said, " How can I, unless someone guides me? " And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.

1. This man was not offended. He was open and willing to admit he did not fully understand the passage.

2. I need some guidance to understand.

Verses 32-33

32 The place in the Scripture which he read was this: " He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He opened not His mouth.

33 In His humiliation His justice was taken away, And who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth. "

1. Isa_53:7-8 is the passage being read and studied.

2. Comment : I have nothing against daily Bible reading. But, I would prefer daily Bible study. A daily Bible reading says that we should read so many chapters or verses to read the entire Bible in one year. I would opt for someone to read one verse, learn its meaning and apply it their lives. This man was not just doing his Bible reading. He was seeking to find the meaning and understand the passage.

Verse 34

34 So the eunuch answered Philip and said, " I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man? "

1. Several questions are in his mind.

1. Is Isaiah talking about himself as this suffering servant?

2. Is some other person in the past being discussed? Maybe Moses or Jeremiah.

3. Is this speaking of a person in the past or a future event?

2. Many Old Testament prophecies were written about future events, but written as if they had already occurred. "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter." Written in the past tense, as if this has already taken place.

Verse 35

35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.

1. There is a parallel passage in Mat_5:1 about Jesus and the sermon on the mount.

1. He opened his mouth - He did not just shrug his shoulders and smile. He spoke up. He talked. When asked a question - he was ready to speak up.

2. Taught them - Preachers today are often accused of talking for 25 minutes but not saying anything. That is, there is no content to their speech.

2. Philip followed the example of Jesus. He opened is mouth. And what came out was the preaching of Jesus.

3. NOTE: If you want to learn the proper interpretation of an Old Testament prophecy, let an inspired man do the interpreting. Remember Peter, in Act_2:1-47 , said, "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel." That settles the matter. If there is any dispute about the meaning of Isa_53:1-12 - let Philip tell you. It is speaking, not about Isaiah or Jeremiah, but about Jesus.

Verse 36

36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, " See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized? "

1. What does it mean to "preach Jesus" to someone?

1. First, preach does not always mean a public oration. Philip did not stand up, speak in a loud voice and deliver a sermon (3 points and a poem).

2. The Greek word here means to "spread good news."

2. Preaching Jesus means teaching about baptism. This is clear from this passage. Jesus was preached and the response is about baptism. How did this man know to ask about baptism? Because preaching Jesus includes our response through faith and obedience to His commands.

3. What hinders me from being baptized? There are several things that could "hinder" one from being baptized.

1. Faith - Baptism is for believers. An athiest is hindered from baptism.

2. Repentance - Baptism is for those who have decided to "turn around", change their way of living, turn from sin, and strive to live a pure life.

3. Confession - Baptism is for those who willingly, freely, and publicly admit (confess) their faith. No secret believers are allowed.

4. Opportunity - There must be a place for such baptism to occur. It could be a pond, lake, river, swimming pool, whirlpool, bathtub or any other place with enough water to be immersed.

5. False teaching - Some are hindered because of being taught wrongly. They believe that being sprinkled as an infant was baptism. The men in Act_12:1-25 were "baptized" with wrong teaching and needed proper baptism.

6. Family - "If I am baptized, that will mean that my grandmother is lost." For many, obeying the gospel means rejecting their family. Here is my response. "Your grandmother's salvation not change if you do what the Bible teaches. What if your grandmother were here and learned what you have learned? Did your grandmother try to be faithful to what she knew God commanded? If she had learned what you now know, would she have tried to obey?"

Verse 37

37 Then Philip said, " If you believe with all your heart, you may. " And he answered and said, " I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. "

1. In every situation of teaching the lost, we must begin where they are.

1. To the Jews - Peter said - Repent and be baptized.

2. The Jailer - Paul said to "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ."

2. Here the question is one of expressing his faith. If you tell me you believe and want to obey God, then nothing hinders you from being baptized.

3. He made the public confession of his faith. See Rom_10:9-10 and Mat_10:32-33 for the command to orally confess our faith.

4. NOTE : For years I was troubled by the practice of the preacher saying to someone, "Do you believe?" and they nod their head. Is this "confess with our mouth" as we are commanded? Here is what I do. When someone seeks to be baptized, I ask them, "Tell me what you believe about Jesus." They will put in their own words what they understand and believe about Jesus. I have heard some powerful statements in these confessions.

Verse 38

38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.

1. The chariot had to stop. Baptism could not take place in a moving vehicle.

2. Marshall Keeble had a sermon titled, "The Chariot Wheels kept Rolling." As they learned about Jesus suffering the wheels kept rolling. As he learned about the death and resurrection the wheels kept rolling. When he wanted to be baptized - the wheels stopped rolling.

3. BOTH - We must pay attention to the actions of "both" in this passage. Both Philip and the eunuch went to the water. They both went into the water. This is where the baptism took place.

Verse 39

39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.

1. They both came up. They both came out of the water.

2. Baptism involves:

1. Water

2. Going to the water

3. Going into the water

4. Baptism

5. Coming up and out of the water

3. Philip vanished from view. He never saw this preacher again.

4. The chariot started rolling again. This time there was rejoicing.

5. NOTE : This is the first recording of a convert from northern Africa. But 150 years later, northern Africa was a major center of Christianity. Alexandria became known as one of 5 major centers of Christianity.

Verse 40

40 But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea.

1. Philip moved on the Ashdod. The word "Azotus" is the Greek spelling for the city of Ashdod.

2. Philip came the city of Caesarea. This is the last we hear of him until Act_21:8 where Philip is still in Caesarea.

3. Any discussion about "located preachers" has to consider Philip. He remained in the same city and was still and evangelist 25 years later.

Bibliographical Information
Luscombe, Manly. "Commentary on Acts 8". Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mlc/acts-8.html. 2021.
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