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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
Acts 8

 

 

Verses 1-40

Stephen had been stoned to death; but with his latest breath he prayed for his murderers. Then this chapter begins: —

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.

Saul, having tasted blood in the murder of Stephen, became more and more furious in his persecution of the Church of Christ at Jerusalem, and the brethren had to escape for their lives. They all did so, except the apostles, who were specially cared for by divine providence.

Acts 8:2. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentations over him.

As well they might, for his death was a serious loss to the Church. He was one of the best workers for Christ of that day; and when he was thus put to death by the judicial murder of stoning, the devout men who were spared to mourn his loss “made great lamentation over him.”

Acts 8:3. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

At first, we can hardly believe that this was the very man who afterwards became the greatest preacher of the gospel, and the builder up of the Church of Christ, but it was even so. He was always earnest in whatever he did. When he persecuted, he did it with all his might; and when he became converted, then he preached with all his might. He was a thoroughgoing man. I like these thoroughgoing men; they are worth saving. When they are converted, they bring great glory to God. The next verse tells us one effect of the havoc wrought by Saul: —

Acts 8:4. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.

They might have stopped at Jerusalem, and made a comfortable and strong church there, if they had not been persecuted; but, being scattered abroad, they were like seed in every furrow of the field: “they went every where preaching the word.” Now, out of this church, there is a continual drain of brethren and sisters, who leave their native land to go to distant colonies; such are the exigencies of the times, that many have to go abroad. I charge you, wherever you go, carry the holy seed with you. Be yourselves a seed for Christ in every land.

Acts 8:5-11. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city. But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, this man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.

And there are those in all ages who set up to be prophets, and who seek to draw men after them, of whom it is well to beware.

Acts 8:12-13. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also:

Simon believed after a certain style and fashion. He saw that there was a real power about Philip, which he did not himself possess, and he was obliged to bow down before the manifest presence of God.

Acts 8:13-17. And when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (for as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

That is to say, they received a share of those miraculous gifts which attended the introduction of the gospel of Christ. It has therefore been supposed that certain superior persons should visit the churches, and lay their hands upon people. So they should, if they have the power to bestow such a gift as Peter and John gave; but to lay empty hands on the heads of men and women, is a vain ceremony. When the apostles laid their hands on these converts in Samaria, they received the Holy Ghost.

Acts 8:18-26. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me. And they when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans. And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.

Philip, who had been so useful to the multitude, must now be of service to a solitary individual. My dear brethren, if you can gather a crowd of people together, preach the gospel to them; but if you cannot do that, preach the gospel to one person, if you can only reach one. It was a desert, but the angel of the Lord bade Philip go there.

Acts 8:27. And he arose and went:

Not demurring, but at once obeying. If the Lord should send you to the wilderness, depend upon it that he will send somebody else there for you to bless; go, therefore, without fear.

Acts 8:27-28. And, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.

He was a devout man, a studious man, a Bible-reading man. We do not often find such persons in great authority under queens; but here was one.

Acts 8:29-31. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, how can I accept some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.

See how God honours the Christian ministry by making even his Word to be in some respects insufficient for some men; at any rate, they need that some living voice should come and guide them into the meaning of it. Oh, that he would bless our voice tonight, that some who have gathered with us in this Tabernacle might be brought to understand the Scriptures through our guidance!

Acts 8:32-35. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: in his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.

It seems that, wherever Philip went, he had but one subject. When he went down to the city of Samaria, he preached Christ to them; and now that he talks to this Ethiopian eunuch, he preaches unto him Jesus.

Acts 8:36-37. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

That is the great confession of faith that is to be made by all who have believed in Jesus.

Acts 8:38-39. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.

The Holy Spirit will not permit us to depend too much upon men as our teachers. The Spirit of the Lord did not take away the Bible: that was left to the eunuch. He only caught away Philip after the evangelist had furnished the enquirer with the key with which he could open the Scriptures, then he could unlock the Word himself. That he did so, if history is to be believed, is very clear. He went home to Ethiopia, perhaps to Abyssinia, and the people there heard the gospel from him, and to this day there are some traces of our holy faith in that land.

Acts 8:40. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.

We know quite well what “he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea,” although it is not mentioned here. Wherever he went, he had but one theme: “the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ.” So may it be with us wherever we go.


Verses 4-40

Acts 8:4-6. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spoke, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.

We cannot tell how far the soil had been prepared for the sowing of the gospel seed by our Lord’s visit to Sychar, a city of Samaria. The influence of the converts in that place may have inclined the people of the city of Samaria to give the more heed to the preaching of Philip. The work of a great and good man may seem sometimes to die out, but its effects remain, and extend beyond the place where he laboured.

Acts 8:7-11. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city. But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he bewitched them with sorceries.

He had managed to secure great influence over the people, and he held them under his wicked rule.

Acts 8:12-17. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (for as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

So that miraculous gifts were bestowed upon them. Of course, there was already manifest among them that divine operation of the Spirit of God, by which men are converted, and brought to faith in Christ; but they had not known the special, attesting, wonder-working power of the Spirit until the apostles came amongst them. A good work was thus done, yet everything was not altogether as the apostles could have wished it to be.

Acts 8:18-26. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me. And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans. And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.

He must have wondered at receiving such an order as that. To be directed to go to a city, he could understand; but to be sent to a road which went through the desert, must have seemed strange to him; yet he obeyed his Lord’s orders.

Acts 8:27. And he arose and went:

Always do as you are told by your Lord. The first qualification for a good servant of Jesus Christ is immediate obedience.

Acts 8:27-28. And, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.

He was a devout man, who was seeking rest of heart, but he could not find it. He had joined in all the solemn services of the Jewish law, but as yet he had not discovered the great secret of eternal life. He was still searching for it; and as he rode along the rough road, he was reading the Book of the prophet Esaias.

Acts 8:29-30. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?

That is the main thing; a religion that is not based upon understanding will soon come to an end. An emotional religion—one that is nothing but emotion—will be temporary and transient religion; so Philip enquired of the eunuch, “Understandest thou what thou readest?”

Acts 8:31-34. And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: in his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?

That was a very important question; it went to the very root of the matter. It was useless for him to read about some unknown person; he must know who it was of whom the prophet had written

Acts 8:35. Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the came scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.

You may begin anywhere in the Bible, and preach Jesus. You may begin at the first chapter of Genesis, or at the last chapter of Malachi, at the first of Matthew or the last of Revelation, and still preach Jesus, for he is the sum and substance of the whole Scripture.

Acts 8:36-40. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?

And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached—

(See how he kept to his one business wherever he might be, in Samaria, on the desert pathway, or in the town of Azotus:) “He preached”—

Acts 8:40. In all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.

Oh, for the like earnest spirit to be in all of us who profess to be Christ’s followers, that we may preach him wherever we may be!

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Acts 8:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/acts-8.html. 2011.

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