About Jesus Steve Sweetman
This Section - Chapters 8
day Stephen was killed was a watershed day in the life of the church.
The church's situation changed drastically after Stephen’s death.
Earlier we noted that the church had favour among the people, and so they
did, but not among the Sanhedrin. What
Stephen had to say, totally infuriated the Jewish leaders.
A full scale war would now be initiated by the Jewish establishment.
This clearly tells us that even though Jesus promised abundant life in
John 10:10 to those who followed Him, this life would be full of problems and
was a large gap between the ordinary Jew and their leaders.
The leaders were wealthy and intellectual.
The ordinary people weren't so wealthy and weren't so educated.
They did not have the opportunity to advance intellectually.
Such a gap between leadership and the people seems to be the way it is in
all cultures, including the church. As
a matter of fact, during the dark days of pagan Catholicism, church leaders
forced their people to be uneducated in Biblical matters.
The ordinary person was not permitted to have a Bible.
What they learned about the Bible was taught them by an apostate
1 says, "on that day, (the day of Stephen’s stoning) a great persecution
broke out against the church at
why didn’t the apostles leave the city along with the other Christians?
I have often heard that God allowed this persecution a means to get
Christians moving out of town in order to spread the gospel elsewhere.
Those who say this suggest that the apostles were slow in following the
Acts 1:8 mandate, and that they were actually slower than the ordinary Christian
who seemed to obey the mandate, may need to rethink their thinking.
I might suggest that the fleeing of these people had more to do
with saving their lives and obeying Acts 1:8.
thinking may or may not be true. I
just don't know because the text doesn't say.
A, the ordinary Christian was most likely simply fleeing out of fear for
their lives. They weren't
necessarily motivated from a stance that they felt they needed to spread the
gospel, although they did. The
twelve apostles, as we have already seen, had little or no fear, thus for this
reason they may not have fled. They
were there to evangelize their Jewish brothers and sisters, and that is what
they would do until the Lord told them otherwise.
There should be no put-down of the apostles for not leaving
Bible teachers suggest that they apostles were still very much tied to their
Judaism and for this reason they stayed in
see Judea and
verse 2 Luke tells us that Godly men buried Stephen.
The Jewish practice in those days was to bury the dead the same day they
died. Usually there was great
moaning and cries associated with the burial.
In those days people actually hired professional mourners who would cry
at funerals. We don’t know who
these men were that buried Stephen. I
suppose if they were the apostles Luke would have told us so.
So I speculate that these men were ordinary Christians, or even perhaps
some of the six administrators of food to the poor that Stephen would have
worked with, since he was one of them
these Godly men, in verse 3 Luke mentions Saul, beginning to "destroy the
church". He seemed greatly
motivated by watching Stephen die. He
went from house to house dragging out as many Christians as he could find and
locked them up in prison. In this
second mention of Saul, you can see his great zeal, something that would one day
be redeemed and used by our Lord.
thing to note here is that Saul, later to be known as Paul, did not play
favourites. He dragged out both men
and women, and put them both into prison. This
shows you how fierce Paul was in his attempt to destroy the church. We should
realize that pre-conversion Paul was a very violent man.
This might be one reason why Jesus had to be so dramatic when He met Paul
on the road to Damascus.
NIV uses the word "dragged". The
Greek word translated as "dragged" here literally means to drag.
Luke isn't speaking symbolically here.
verse 4 Luke records that "those who were scattered preached the word
wherever they went". We must remember that the twelve apostles stayed in
5 says that Philip "went down to preach the word in Samaria. First
of all, note the word down.
Don't be confused.
is thought by most Bible scholars that the Philip mentioned here is the Philip
who was one of the seven men who were chosen to distribute food back in chapter
was not one of the twelve apostles.
The reason why this conclusion is made is because the twelve apostles
also see this Philip mentioned in Acts 21:8 where Luke calls him an evangelist,
having four daughters who prophesied.
He lived in Caesarea, a coastal town on the
this Philip was one of the seven food distributers then it is clear that he
didn't spend all of his time handing our food.
One obvious reason is that these food distributers were appointed to hand
out food in
verses 7 and 8 we see that Philip, like Stephen and the Twelve, was used by God
in performing many miracles, which included casting demons out of people.
For this reason Luke says that the people "paid close
attention" to him; and why not.
These were spectacular events.
again, we should note that these miracles were "a sign" to draw
people’s attention to the preaching of the gospel.
8 says that there was "great joy in that city".
This would only be natural since many sick and demon possessed people
were made well.
Because of these miracles there was an open door for the gospel in Samaria.
see in verse 9 that in
verse 12 when Philip came to the area "preaching the
verse 12 we see that the people were so taken with Philip and his preaching that
they both believed and were baptized.
It's clear that the miracles got the attention of the people, but I'm
sure Philips preaching was carried to the hearts of those listening by the Holy
need to note something here that I will come back to later, and that is, these
people believed and then they were baptized.
We will see that even though they believed and were baptized, they had
not received the Holy Spirit into their lives.
Pentecostals often use the book of Acts to build their doctrine on the
Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
This can't really be done because the situations they use from Acts are
never the same.
There is no regularity, especially concerning receiving the Holy Spirit.
think I can safely say that even though, as we will see, these people had not
received the Holy Spirit as yet, their belief in Jesus was real.
I don't think Philip would have baptized these people if he didn't think
their faith was real.
12 tells us that Philip preached the good news of both Jesus and the
says that even Simon himself believed Philip and was water baptized.
Luke states that Simon was so taken by Philip and the miracles that he
followed him around in astonishment.
Later we will really see what was in the heart of this man.
We might want to question the validity of Simon’s conversion.
I really don't think Simon gave his life to Jesus in true faith.
I think what Peter says later shows that Philip didn't think Simon was a
true believer as well.
might want to think about this.
If Simon had a false faith, there might well have been others with a
false faith in this crowd of new believers.
I don't think we can rule that out.
If this is so, the mixture of false and real faith might well have
prevented the Holy Spirit from falling into these people as we saw in Acts 2.
I'm not saying this as a fact, I'm simply suggesting it.
what is to follow is very interesting.
Let’s back-track a bit and state what has happened so far in
verse 14 we note that when the apostles in
is one thing I believe we can learn here.
One can believe, or, give his life to Jesus, and even be water baptized,
without receiving the Holy Spirit.
This is similar to the Acts 2 experience in that in both cases the
believers believed and were baptized but had not yet received the Holy Spirit.
17 states that when Peter and John laid hands on these people "they
received the Holy Spirit". This
differs from Acts 2 in that Peter and John laid hands on the people to receive
the Holy Spirit.
No one laid hands on the one hundred and twenty in Acts 2.
makes this event interesting is that there was a time period between these
people believing and receiving the Holy Spirit.
Some suggest that these people actually did receive the Holy Spirit when
they first believed Philip’s preaching, but this is not the case.
These same people suggest that what happened when Peter and John came was
the second experience with the Holy Spirit called the Baptism in the Spirit.
That's not the case either.
clearly states that these people did not receive the Spirit at first. They only
believed and were water baptized. The Spirit had not yet "come on
the term "not yet come on them".
This term, along with other similar phrases, mean the same thing.
Other such phrases are, "filled with", "shall be
baptized", and "poured out".
It's important to understand that these terms show how one receives the
Holy Spirit, or, is filled with the Spirit at some point after receiving the
is no hint in this passage that what happened when Peter and John laid their
hands on these people was a second work of grace called the Baptism in the
was no second work of grace.
It was a first work of grace when it comes to the Holy Spirit. Therefore,
one cannot prove the Baptism in the Spirit as a second work of grace by using
this passage. Again,
what I mean by the second work of grace is this.
One receives the Holy Spirit at initial salvation, then, at some later
date, gets filled with the Spirit and power.
Thus, it's a second work of grace.
believe the conclusion here is that one can be a believer without the Holy
this was not the case, then you can’t call these people true believers when
they were water baptized.
It is clear from the text that these people, except for Simon, and maybe
a few others, were true believers when they were water baptized but did not have
the Spirit of God residing within them.
me, initial salvation is a package made up of 3 parts, repenting, believing, and
receiving the Spirit.
This may take place all at once or over a period of time.
Yet one’s salvation package, as I call it, is not fully complete until
the Spirit comes to live in the person.
Prior to this point, if one is a believer only, he is on shaky ground,
because you cannot live the Christian life outside of the Holy Spirit.
This is most likely why Peter and John had to come to these people.
They had to make sure they received the Holy Spirit, and not a second
work of grace called the baptism in the Spirit.
even as I say these words I am reminded of what Paul says in Romans 8:9, where
he says that if you do not have the Spirit of God, you do not belong to God.
This is a large subject and all Scriptures must be incorporated into our
For this reason I see that salvation, or initial salvation as I call it,
is a package. You
repent, you believe, and you receive the Holy Spirit.
This may be spontaneous for some, or take a while for others.
the Holy Spirit was not given when Philip preached is beyond my understanding.
Philip was a man who lived by the power of God.
Why did Peter and John have to come and lay hands on these people to
receive the Spirit?
I can only guess.
We must conclude from this that if this happened once, it can happen
not everyone who believes necessarily receives the Spirit at the moment of first
confuse the matter even more, let me say this.
There are some Pentecostals that differ from the above stated thinking
concerning the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
These people say that one does not receive the Holy Spirit at initial
receive Him at the experience called the Baptism in the Spirit.
This is actually more credible when you consider Acts 2 and Acts 8
because that is exactly what happened in both of these circumstances.
That being said, the Acts 2 believers could not have received the Holy
Spirit prior to Acts 2 because Jesus had not yet ascended into heaven to give
Him to the believers.
For that reason, the believers in Acts 2 had no way of receiving the Holy
Spirit at what I call initial salvation, that is, when they first believed./
were Jews who had intermarried with Gentiles.
So you might call them half Jew and half Gentile.
We don't know for sure if all these people fit into this category.
There might well have been some full fledged Jews among them.
I say this to note the progress of how the Holy Spirit was given in the
young church. First,
in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit was given to Jews.
Here in Acts 8 He is given to Samaritans, who were half Jews.
Later, in Acts 10, He was given to Gentiles.
There seems to be some kind of progression here concerning the giving of
the Spirit. This
fits into the Biblical thinking that says, "to the Jew first, and then to
18 says that "when Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of
the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, and said, ‘give me also this
ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy
are a couple of points to be made concerning Simon’s response and request.
First of all he saw something dramatic when the Holy Spirit came to these
nothing visible had happened, he would not have seen anything to make such a
is my opinion that an Acts 2 experience came to these people.
For the first time in their lives they received the Holy Spirit in
dramatic fashion. What
dramatic things happened here we don't know.
They might have spoken in tongues as the one hundred and twenty did in
Acts 2 or they might not have spoken in tongues.
We just don't know so we cannot give a definitive explanation.
All that we know is that Simon saw something dramatic.
My guess is that these people might well have spoken in tongues.
you might want to question the validity of Simon’s faith.
Why did he believe Philip’s preaching in the first place?
Was he like those who followed Jesus for the loaves and fish?
Was he only believing to get some kind of power to maintain his
popularity among the people?
It certainly looks like that to me.
Therefore, if I am right, his faith was a false faith.
This is the kind of faith that James speaks about in his letter.
A false faith does not produce good works.
You can tell that someone has real faith by the way they live.
faith, true belief, will result in real godly works.
Such works were not evident in Simon’s life.
This tells me that not everyone who claims faith has true faith.
Unless you see good works that are a direct result of faith, there most
likely is not real faith in the one who claims faith.
One can do good things apart from faith in Jesus.
The Bible calls these faithless works filthy rags.
at this very early stage in the lives of these new believers Peter expected to
see a change in people due to the faith they claimed to have.
I say this because Peter did not recognize Simon's faith to be real.
I often hear Christian say that "he is a young Christian.
He needs time to change".
There is some truth in this, but when we look at Peter's response to
Simon; I believe that there should be some visible proof that one has real faith
at the moment of their conversion.
response in verses 20 to 23 is interesting.
He says, "May your money perish with you, because you thought you
could buy the gift of God with money!
You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not
right before God.
Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord.
Perhaps He will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.
For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin".
Peter’s words, it is quite clear that he felt Simon did not have true faith.
Peter says that Simon’s "heart was not right with God".
He also told Simon to repent.
One must repent before one can truly believe in Jesus.
There is no logic in the idea that there can be faith without repentance.
Simon never repented.
His words and actions proved that sufficiently for Peter.
appears to be a little sarcastic when he uses the word “perhaps”.
We know that there is no “perhaps” about it.
If one truly repents and then trusts Jesus, Jesus will forgive him. I
do need to stress the word repent here because this is a word that is fast being
laid aside in our generation.
Repentance is part of the initial salvation package, as I have called it
cannot believe unless he first repents.
This is the case with Simon.
I believe we have many Simon's today, and that's partly due to the fact
the church is forsaking the basic elements of the gospel.
note that mixing the ministry of the Holy Spirit with money for financial gain
is a very wicked sin.
I suggest that some of our modern day TV evangelists with a so-called
healing ministry should think about this.
Some of them are close to being a Simon in my opinion.
the words "this ministry".
The ministry that Peter is speaking of here is the giving of the Holy
Spirit through the lives of men like Peter and John.
I don't think "this ministry" means the preaching of the gospel
response in verse 24 appears to be somewhat sincere, but probably based on fear.
He says, "Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you said will
happen to me".
Even if Simon’s response was a little sincere, it was without
could have prayed, but Peter asked Simon to do the praying.
Simon seemed to have missed the point that he needed to repent and ask
for his own forgiveness.
Peter could not do that for him.
story of Simon abruptly ends at this point.
We don’t know what ever happened to him.
This section closes by Luke telling us that after the baptismal service
Peter and John proclaimed the gospel and returned to
I've said earlier, you cannot prove from this passage the traditional thinking
concerning the second work of grace called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
When it comes to the Holy Spirit, this was not a second work of grace.
It was a first work of grace.
miracles of the Holy Spirit continue to be seen in the early church when
an angel spoke to Philip and told him "to go south … to Gaza".
walking on this road Philip met a very influential eunuch from
term "eunuch" has two meanings.
Either this man had been castrated, because this is the basic
meaning to the word, or, he was an important official, which we know he
point is that a eunuch in these days either meant a castrated man or an
I suggest that there is a good chance this man was not castrated.
said that this man was either a god fearer or a Gentile convert to Judaism
for a reason.
The Law of Moses, Deuteronomy 23:1, states that a castrated eunuch
could not be a part of the people of God.
If this man was castrated then he was a God fearer.
If he wasn't castrated but simply a government official, he could
have been a convert to Judaism.
obviously was very religious.
He went up to
the name "Candace".
Candace was not a personal name.
It was a title for a queen.
verse 29 the Holy Spirit told Philip to go up to this man’s chariot as
he was passing by.
Just how the Holy Spirit told Philip this we don’t know.
It could well have been an inner voice.
verses 29 and 30 Philip heard the man reading from the book of Isaiah and
asked him if he understood what he was reading. In
verse 31 the man answered by saying, "How can I, unless someone
explain it to me".
At this point Philip was invited up into the chariot.
portion of Scripture that the man was reading was found in Isaiah 53,
beginning with the words, "he was led like a sheep to the
You and I realize that this portion of Scripture was speaking about
Jesus, but this man didn't have any clue about that.
This was one tremendous lead in for Philip to preach the gospel to
When the Lord opens a door to preach, the door is always wide open,
as it was in this case.
predicted that Jesus would be like a silent sheep led to the slaughter.
You may recall that Jesus for the most part was silent throughout
his arrest and mock trial.
He did not defend Himself.
He knew His ministry would lead to His sacrificial death.
33 quotes Isaiah saying that "in His humiliation He was deprived of
These are interesting words.
The death of Jesus was in fact an act of God's justice.
Man must be punished for his sin.
Jesus stepped in and took man's place of punishment on man's
the justice due man was done to Jesus.
It's ironic to think that in the process of demonstrating God's
justice, man gave Jesus no justice.
33 says that "who can speak of His descendents for His life was taken
It's my thinking at present, and I could easily be wrong on this
point, the logical thing to conclude after one dies without having
children is that he will never have descendents.
That being said, in the case of Jesus, His death did produce
relatives instead of descendents.
I say this because the New Testament states that true believers arre
Jesus' brothers and sisters.
verse 34 the Ethiopian man makes it really easy for Philip.
He asks, "Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about,
himself or someone else?"
Philip then responds by telling this man about Jesus.
the conversation actually went we don’t know.
But Philip must have preached very clearly the gospel of repentance
and faith in Jesus, because as they passed by some water the man asked
Philip in verse 36, "Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be
It is clear that Philip must have told this man about water
Philip’s mind being water baptized was just a natural thing to do once
one had repented and trusted Jesus for his or her salvation.
So the two men stepped down from the chariot and Philip baptized
him right away.
Many in the church today get baptized months or years after their
We often put the baptismal candidate through hours of classes on
just what baptism means.
But this does not appear to be the case in the infant church.
There was no long and drawn explanation of the merits of baptism. There
were a few words of explanation, then the baptizing.
back then was not simply a Christian practice.
Many sects baptized their people as they became part of the sect.
It might be possible that little instruction was given concerning
baptism because it was somewhat commonplace.
in verse 26 we note that all this took place "in a desert", on a
that in verse 38 the text states that the two men went "down into the
Then note that in verse 39 the text states that they "came out
of the water".
To me, this suggests that there most probably was enough water to
get into and be immersed in.
I don't feel you can use this verse to support sprinkling as a form
of water baptism.
You would be arguing from silence.
soon as Philip was finished baptizing this man, “the Spirit of the Lord
suddenly took Philip away”.
We often call this being "transported in the Spirit', although
there is no such phrase mentioned here.
One moment Philip was standing in the water with this man, and then
the next moment he was gone, never to be seen again by this man.
Once again this tells us that Philip was living and being
powerfully influenced by the Holy Spirit. This
is a good example of how important the Holy Spirit is in the process of
preaching and witnessing to the gospel.
We often are too humanistic in our approach to sharing Jesus,
mainly because we are not in tune with the Holy Spirit.
don’t know for sure what all transpired at this baptism, but it is my
thinking that the Holy Spirit was definitely present and that this man
experienced Him, maybe in an Acts 2 type experience.
I say this because the Holy Spirit had to have been with Philip,
since He took Philip away in a miraculous way.
We also note that this man went away rejoicing.
Putting these 2 thoughts together tells me that this was a dramatic
experience with the Holy Spirit.
event is worthy to note since this man brought the gospel into
is also interesting to note that this man had no person to shepherd him in
Philip was gone.
He only had the Holy Spirit.
I believe that in our day, with the stress of discipleship, and
there is truth in discipleship, that we don’t depend enough on God’s
Spirit to help the new Christian.
We want to provide everything for this new Christian, yet without
this person knowing and understanding the role of the Spirit, he or she
will not grow into maturity.
The early church understood the role of the Spirit in the new
We should note a discrepancy between the KJV and the
NIV. The KJV has an extra
verse. You will note that in
the NIV the numbering of verses skip verse 37.
It goes from verse 36 to 38. The
reason for this is because in most Greek manuscripts verse 37 cannot be
re-appeared in the coastal city of
lose sight of Philip in the Bible for about twenty years.
The next time we see him is in Acts 21:8.
Paul spent some time with him on this occasion.
Little is said about Philip in Acts 21.