Acts chapter 8         Next chapter           Back to Bible Studies   

This chapter begins with a description of Saul's persecution of the church and reveals his deep hatred for Christians. The Greek word used to describe his actions is "ravaged" - a word associated in Greek with the actions of wild animals. This persecution however, ironically becomes a blessing to many, as the Christians scatter into the surrounding districts, carrying the Gospel message with them.

In v 6 we find a reference to another instance where Samaria is specifically mentioned - Matthew 10: 5-8: "5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give." This is in stark contrast to what is happening in this chapter of Acts where Philip goes 'down into Samaria'. Read also Acts 1: 8 in this regard. The Jewish nation was very blessed indeed in being the first to receive the Gospel.

Philip's work in Samaria gives us a wonderful illustration of the completeness of the work of God in the human life. So often I hear people say 'No, I have a mental problem, not a spiritual one, so God is not the one who can help me, I must look to drugs'. I find it strange that we associate God's help and power only with what we classify as 'spiritual' problems. In the passage before us it is clear that God did not only work through Philip to heal spiritually, but physically as well (v7). We also need to take note as regards Philip that he was a 'normal' Christian, and not an Apostle, and so were many who were scattered throughout the region. This should speak to us in our own day to day lives and the work that God has for each one of us. It is significant that Scripture records that there was great joy in that city. Where God's Spirit is truly at work, there is always freedom and great joy! 1 Peter 1: 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

The section that deals with Simon the sorcerer (from v 9) gives us an insight into the fact that things have not changed much from then to our present time. We are told that the people of Samaria were amazed at what the sorcerer could do and associated him with God as a result. However, in the rest of the passage we see that he was very far from God indeed. He was attracted to the Apostles sent form Jerusalem because of the wonders and miracles they did and even offered them money to bestow the same abilities on him. There is a great lesson for us in this particular section. An interest in sorcery, fortune telling and the like, always reveals an intense preoccupation with self and self preservation. We see that clearly when Peter admonishes Simon the sorcerer as regards what is in his heart. Instead of responding to that in repentance, Simon the sorcerer responds with: '...Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me'. In this we see a huge preoccupation with self and 'warding off' misfortune from his own life. Whenever we find ourselves straying in that direction of wanting to use God to safeguard ourselves, our lives and our posessions as if he is some kind of lucky charm, we must remember this passage. There is even a name for it - 'Simony' - wanting to use God for your own purposes. May none of us ever be guilty of this. We are no longer our own but yours Lord, do with us as you will...

The story of Philip and the Ethiopian is delightful and contains many lessons for us. First of all we are struck by the clear directions that Philip is given by God. This calls to mind other passages which are similar - Acts 9:11 and Acts 10:5-6. It is amazing that the Ethiopian eunuch has a scroll of Isaiah and is reading it on his journey. There are several theories about how Judaism spread into Africa - one being that the queen of Sheba had borne king Solomon a son and a link had been established that way. Nevertheless, Philip hears the man reading and a conversation between them follows. How often in the last few studies have we seen how the Old Testament (Old Testament from our perspective) forms the basis of the sharing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the same is true here of Philip and the Ethiopian. Philip subsequently baptizes him and he goes on his way joyfully. It is extremely significant for us to note that when Philip is taken away by God, the Ethiopian is not suddenly in great distress, but goes on his way rejoicing. You see, it was not Philip that he was holding on to, but he had come to meet the person of Jesus Christ. Philip had quite literally receded into the background and the Ethiopian had met with Christ. May this be so with us...  

© 2011 Werner Schreiber

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