Persecution and the Spread of the Gospel: Acts 8:1-8.
The church faced severe persecution after the death of Stephen. The disciples were forced to flee Jerusalem as the persecution intensified. In the next four chapters Luke gives the account of the gospel spreading across boarder to the Samaritan, then to the Gentiles. Samaritans were considered "half" Jewish and the Jews regarded them not having any part in the promise of God to Israel. Although persecution was deadly, it accomplished the purpose of God (1:8). In fact persecution turned out to be the fuel for the gospel to progress. God used Philip to proclaim Christ to Samaritans and many people were healed (8:4-8). Only the apostles stayed in Jerusalem in the wake of intense persecution. Soul tried to destroy Christianity believing that it is a cult. What was intended to crush the movement turns into fuel for the gospel to spread. Nobody was ever saved simply because of miracles (John 2:23-25). There was great joy in Samaria over those who had believed in Jesus Christ (8:8). Gospel is the good news of God's love for sinners in Christ Jesus.
Simon the counterfeit Christian: Acts 8:9-25.
Wherever the gospel is preached, Satan will sow the counterfeit message. When the apostles back in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had accepted the gospel, they sent Peter and John there. When they prayed and laid their hands on the believers they received the Holy Spirit. God withhold the giving of the Spirit until the apostles arrived to show the connection between the Jerusalem church and the Samaritan believers. Otherwise Jerusalem church may not have accepted them as believers in Christ. Thus Peter opened the door of faith to Samaritans and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. The extraordinary sign confirmed the truth that the Samaritan believers are now included in the church like the Jerusalem believers. This pattern was repeated in the transition period of the church. This was also the sign of unity and fellowship of believers in the early Church. When a man named Simon who had been a sorcerer for many years saw the miracles and began to follow Philip. There is no indication that Simon was believer. The basis of Simon’s faith was not the word of God but the miracle Philip performed. He was willing to pay for the gift of the Holy Spirit to perform miracles. Peter had to expose his wickedness by saying “May your silver perishes with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money” (8:20). It shows how close a person can come to salvation and still not be saved. The grace of God is not reserved for any ethnic group or nationality but to any one who put faith in Christ. After this, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem.
Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch: Acts 8:26-35.
The evangelistic efforts among Samaritans continued. Here we see how the disciple-making mission took place. Philip was opened to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Often it comes in the form of desire to share the gospel (8:29). Secondly Philip obeyed God’s command without delay. When the angel of the Lord said to Philip “Arise and go toward the south”, he obeyed. He began with the scripture and shared the gospel about Jesus. We must be ready to preach the gospel at all time (2 Tim 4:2). Only the Word of God makes us wise unto salvation. There is much heat in argument but no light. God is not looking for our ability but our availability. Philip went to Gaza, a narrow desert road and encountered a man of Ethiopia. He was the eunuch of authority under the queen. He was a God fearing proselyte returning from Jerusalem. He was reading, Isaiah 53 in his chariot and the Spirit of the Lord asked Philip to go over and walk beside the chariot. Here we see how God’s providence and power work in evangelism. Philip took the initiative and asked the eunuch “Do you understand what you are reading”. The man replied “How can I, when there is no one to instruct me?”. He requested Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him. This passage was about the suffering servant of God. Philip explained to him the good news of Jesus Christ. The Ethiopian understood that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. He believed in Jesus and was saved. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Rom 10:17). Our godly lifestyle is a crucial part of our witnessing but our deeds are not able to save souls.
The Eunuch and the Baptism: Acts 8:36-40.
Philip must have explained to the eunuch the importance of baptism while sharing the gospel. Only believers should be baptized. It is the public confession of their identification with Christ. Baptism is symbolic of the believer’s identification with Christ’s death and resurrection. Believers should give clear testimony of their faith in Jesus Christ before baptism. The baptism does not save anybody (8:13). Immersion-baptism is the picture of our identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. Baptism is an important ordinance of Christian faith. New converts are admitted to church fellowship by baptism in the early church. Philip and the eunuch descended into the water and Philip baptized him. He went on his way rejoicing. Obedience is the secret of joy in Christian life. Believers are baptized “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19). Immediately after the baptism the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away. He passed through the towns preaching the gospel until he came to Caesarea. Pray that God would give you opportunities to share the gospel to others through your action and word.