Acts 8:1-3 Following Steven’s death arose a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Saul instigated this persecution and dragged off followers of Jesus to prison.
Notes: Stephen had laid the foundation for a worldwide mission. Philip, who like Stephen was a Hellenist, was the first to put Stephen’s vision into practice, witnessing to the Samaritans (vv. 4–25) and to a God-fearing Ethiopian (vv. 26–40).
Acts 8:4-8 Philip, one of the seven Hellenistic disciples chosen with Steven to minister in Chapter 6, went to Samaria and proclaimed the good news. He performed miracles, and the people listened to him causing much joy in the city.
Notes: The Samaritans were a racially mixed group of partly Jewish and partly Gentile ancestry, disdained by both Jews and non-Jews (see notes on John 4:4; 4:20–21). They believed in Israel’s God and in many respects maintained their Jewish heritage but were not considered Jews by those from Judah. The Samaritans would have been prepared for Philip’s message about the Christ (Messiah). They had their own expectation of a prophetic Messiah called the Taheb, who they believed would come to their holy mountain (see John 4:20). John the Baptist and Jesus had previously ministered in this area (John 3:23; 4:4–42). Like the apostles, Philip had received the Holy Spirit’s power to cast out demons and to heal, which served as a sign confirming the truth of his message.
Acts 8:9-25 Simon, a magician, boasted about his greatness, and all the people believed he had the power of God. But now a great many people in the city of Samaria were being baptized, believing Philip’s message, including Simon himself. When Peter and John in Jerusalem heard that Samaria received the Word of God through Philip, they paid the city a visit so that the people could receive the Holy Spirit, for He had not yet fallen (for some reason) on them yet. Simon, seeing how receiving the Holy Spirit was done by the laying of Peter and John’s hands on the new believers, wanted this power also and was willing to pay for it. But Simon’s heart was not in the right place. Peter saw that Simon’s intentions for wanting this power was for selfish reasons, for gain and recognition. Peter told Simon to repent unless something bad happened to him. Before returning to Jerusalem, Peter and John preached in many of the villages of Samaria.
Notes: magic. This word originally referred to the practices of the Medo-Persians: a mixture of science and superstition, including astrology, divination, and the occult
not yet fallen on any of them. This verse does not support the false notion that Christians receive the Holy Spirit subsequent to salvation. This was a transitional period in which confirmation by the apostles was necessary to verify the inclusion of a new group of people into the church. Because of the animosity that existed between Jews and Samaritans, it was essential for the Samaritans to receive the Spirit, in the presence of the leaders of the Jerusalem church, for the purpose of maintaining a unified church. This would show that the Samaritans should be counted full members of the one true church, the new covenant community of God’s people, founded and based at that time in Jerusalem. It would also guarantee that the Samaritans, who for many generations had been hostile toward the Jews, would not establish a separate Christian church or be excluded from the church by Jewish believers. The Spirit was given only at the hands of the apostles, to show convincingly to Samaritan and other later, non-Jewish leaders of the church that both Jews and non-Jews who believed in Jesus now had full membership status among God’s people
Acts 8:23-40 An angel instructed Philip to meet up with an Ethiopian official who was currently reading from the Old Testament. Philip asked the Ethiopian if he understood what he was reading from the Book of Isaiah 53:7-8, which talked about how the Messiah was to suffer and die. Philip explained that the verses were talking about Jesus, and he proceeded to explain the good news of what Jesus had come to do for us. When they came near some water, the Ethiopian asked to be baptized by Philip. After they came up from the water, the Spirit swept Philip away, and the Ethiopian continued his journey home rejoicing. Philip ended up in Azotus, and preached the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.