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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures
Acts 8

 

 

Verses 1-4

The Persecution and Scattering of the Early Church - In Acts 8:1 b-4we have the testimony of how Stephen's death gave rise to the persecution of the early Church. As a result, the church scattered abroad.

Acts 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.

Acts 8:1"and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria" - Scripture Reference- Note:

Acts 11:19, "Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only."

Acts 8:1"except the apostles" - Comments- Why did they stay at Jerusalem? Perhaps because they were still under the impression that the Gospel was for the Jews only, and not to the Gentiles (Note Acts 11:19). Perhaps Peter"s experience of being rebuked by Paul helped change that idea ( Galatians 2:11-14).

Acts 11:19, "Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only."

Galatians 2:11-14, "But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James , he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?"

However, we do know that James , the brother of the Lord, became the leader of the church in Jerusalem. This was a very strategic location for the leaders of the church. This is probably the reason that the apostles stayed at Jerusalem.


Verses 5-25

The Witness of Philip the Evangelist in Samaria - In Acts 8:5-25 we have the testimony of Philippians , perhaps the first evangelist, as he takes the Gospel to the region of Samaria.

Acts 8:5 — "Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria" - Comments- The Jews normally did not mix with the Samaritans, so that Philip's evangelism in Samaria broke Jewish tradition ( John 4:9). Jesus had commanded the apostles to begin evangelizing the Jews and avoid the Samaritans ( Matthew 10:5). However, after Pentecost, Jesus told the disciples to preach the Gospel "in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." ( Acts 1:8)

John 4:9, "Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans."

Matthew 10:5, "These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:"

Acts 1:8, "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."

Acts 8:5 — "and preached Christ unto them" - Comments- Keep in mind that part of the Gospel message of Christ is deliverance from sickness as well as forgiveness of sins. Therefore, we see miracles in the preaching ministry of Philip.

Acts 8:6Comments- The Greek word ό χλος (G 3793) (people) refers to a multitude of people. Where did this large multitude come from? How did the people know about this meeting? One evangelist concludes that Philip most likely began preaching in a public area to a small group of people. As miracles were demonstrated through the preaching of the Gospel, word spread from house to house and the meeting grew daily until the entire city was impacted.

Acts 8:8Comments- This same joy that the Samaritans experienced was also felt by the eunuch when he was saved ( Acts 8:39).

Acts 8:39, "And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philippians , that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing."

Acts 8:12"when they believed.... they were baptized" - Scripture Reference- Note:

Mark 16:15-16, "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."

Acts 8:14"Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God" - Comments- It is the seed of the Word of God that brings salvation to Samaria ( 1 Peter 1:23). This seed is planted in the hearts of men through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Note that the city of Samaria had received the word of God. It does not say that some individual were saved, but that the city received the Word. In our modern civilized world, people value their freedom to make independent decisions apart from their family and peers. However, in the ancient world, and in many undeveloped nations, people still make decisions largely in groups. Wives and children often follow the husband and father in his decision to embrace a religious faith, and men often follow the village elders in similar decisions. This seems to be the mindset of these Samaritan people. The Samaritans chose to receive the Gospel as a corporate decision.

1 Peter 1:23, "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."

Acts 8:14"they sent them Peter and John" - Comments- Peter and John were pillars in the church of Jerusalem, through whom God was working mighty signs and wonders. They were sent to Samaria for a specific purpose, to pray for these new believers to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit ( Acts 8:15).

Acts 8:15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:

Acts 8:15Comments- They prayed not that God would give the Holy Ghost, for the Spirit of God already dwelt in them; rather, they prayed that the Samaritans might receive the Holy Ghost. God is always ready to pour out His Spirit to those who will receive Him. It is man that must prepare himself to receive Him. We are to also pray that people might receive salvation because God has already done His part at Calvary.

Acts 8:16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)

Acts 8:16Comments- The Spirit of God had already come to dwell within these new believers in Samaria. Now, Peter and John had come to lay hands upon them so that the Spirit would come upon them and empower them for the work of the ministry through the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 8:17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

Acts 8:17"Then laid they their hands on them" - Comments- In Acts 8:17, the gift of Holy Ghost came by the laying on of hands. This is one of the six foundational doctrines of the Scriptures ( Hebrews 6:1-2).

Hebrews 6:1-2, "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment."

Acts 8:17 "and they received the Holy Ghost" - Scripture Reference- Note:

Acts 1:5, "For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence."

Acts 8:14-17Comments- Peter and John Lay Hands on the Coverts of Samaria- The story of Peter and John coming down from Jerusalem in order to lay hands upon these new converts is important in that it shows us that the baptism of the Holy Ghost is a clear and distinct experience from salvation. Evidently Philip was anointed as an evangelist to bring people to salvation. But Peter and John were anointed to lay hands upon those who had received Christ and had been water baptized in order for them to receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost. We see this distinct also in Acts 19:1-7 when Paul prayed for the believers at Ephesus. Paul had asked these disciples if they had "received the Holy Ghost since ye believed" since it was a separate experience.

Acts 8:18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles" hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,

Acts 8:18Comments- What did Simon see with his physical eyes? The answer is that he saw the gift of healings in operation and heard and saw the gift of tongues. He also probably saw other visible manifestations of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. For example, he heard the demonic spirits as they were being cast out. Simon even saw the "joy" being expressed in the lives of the new believers ( Acts 8:8).

Acts 8:8, "And there was great joy in that city."


Verses 5-40

The Witness of Philip the Evangelist - In Acts 8:5-40 Luke records the witness of Philip the evangelist. Philip plays a key role in early Church growth as one of the first disciples to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ outside of Jerusalem.

Outline - Here is a proposed outline:

1. The Witness of Philip the Evangelist in Samaria — Acts 8:5-25

2. The Witness of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch — Acts 8:26-40


Verses 26-40

The Witness of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch - In Acts 8:26-40 we have the testimony of Philip as he brings the Gospel to Ethiopia through the Ethiopian eunuch. Eusebius makes a reference to this story in his Church History. He says that this Ethiopian eunuch went and proclaimed this message to his people. Eusebius tells us that this was the first Gentile to receive and proclaim the Gospel of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

"But as the preaching of the Saviour"s Gospel was daily advancing, a certain providence led from the land of the Ethiopians an officer of the queen of that country, for Ethiopia even to the present day is ruled, according to ancestral custom, by a woman. Hebrews , first among the Gentiles, received of the mysteries of the divine word from Philip in consequence of a Revelation , and having become the first-fruits of believers throughout the world, he is said to have been the first on returning to his country to proclaim the knowledge of the God of the universe and the life-giving sojourn of our Saviour among men; so that through him in truth the prophecy obtained its fulfillment, which declares that ‘Ethiopia stretcheth out her hand unto God.'" (Ecclesiastical History 2113)

Acts 8:26; Acts 8:29Comments- Note how clearly the Holy Spirit can speak to us, even today.

Acts 8:27Comments- Philip Schaff says, "Strabo mentions a queen of Meroè in Ethiopia, under this name, which was probably, like Pharaoh, a dynastic title (The Geography of Strabo 17154). 156]

156] Strabo writes, "Among these fugitives were the generals of Queen Candace, who was ruler of the Aethiopians in my time- a masculine sort of woman, and blind in one eye." See The Geography of Strabo, vol 8, trans. Horace L. Jones, in Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1967), 139; Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol 1: Apostolic Christianity A.D 1-100 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955), 733.

Acts 8:29Comments- Kenneth Hagin believes that Acts 8:29 is an example in the Scriptures where the Holy Spirit spoke with an audible voice. Hagin gives Acts 10:19 as an additional example. 157]

157] Kenneth Hagin, Following God's Plan For Your Life (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Faith Library Publications, c 1993, 1994), 117.

Acts 10:19, "While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee."

We can compare this experience with the one that Paul had in Acts 27:10 where he simply knew by the inward witness, but he did not hear the voice of the Lord. Therefore, Paul says, "I perceive."

Acts 27:10, "And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives."

Acts 8:33 — "and who shall declare his generation?" - Comments- Eusebius (A.D 260 to 340) takes the liberty to interpret the phrase "who shall declare this generation." He says that it is reveals man"s weakness in his attempt to declare the majesty and glory of the eternal Son of God, a knowledge that only the Son and the Father are able to fully share together.

"No language is sufficient to express the origin and the worth, the being and the nature of Christ. Wherefore also the divine Spirit says in the prophecies, ‘Who shall declare his generation?' For none knoweth the Father except the Song of Solomon , neither can any one know the Son adequately except the Father alone who hath begotten him." (Ecclesiastical History 122)

Acts 8:32-33Old Testament Quotes in the New Testament - These two verses are a quote from Isaiah 53:7-8.

Isaiah 53:7-8, "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken."

Acts 8:39"And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philippians , that the eunuch saw him no more" - Comments- Note that Enoch and Elijah were also taken up by God. See:

Genesis 5:24, "And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him."

1 Kings 18:12, "And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the LORD shall carry thee whither I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me: but I thy servant fear the LORD from my youth."

2 Kings 2:16, "And they said unto him, Behold now, there be with thy servants fifty strong men; let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master: lest peradventure the Spirit of the LORD hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley. And he said, Ye shall not send."

Ezekiel and John the apostle were taken up by God to another place. See:

Ezekiel 3:12-14, "Then the spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a voice of a great rushing, saying, Blessed be the glory of the LORD from his place. I heard also the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels over against them, and a noise of a great rushing. So the spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the LORD was strong upon me."

Revelation 21:10, "And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,"

Acts 8:39 — "and he went on his way rejoicing" - Comments- This same joy that the eunuch experienced also filled the city of Samaria ( Acts 8:8).

Acts 8:8, "And there was great joy in that city."

 


Copyright Statement
These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.

Bibliography Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Acts 8:4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ghe/acts-8.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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