Acts Chapter 8
Persecution and the Spread of the Gospel:
(Read 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 borders to the Samaritan, then to the Gentiles. Samaritans were considered racial "half-breeds" by Jews. Jews regarded them as not having any part in the promise of God to Israel. Although persecution was deadly, it helped to accomplish the purpose of God of reaching all ethnic groups with the gospel (Acts 1:8). In fact, persecution turned out to be the fuel for the gospel to progress. "The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church". God used Philip to proclaim Christ to Samaritans and many people were healed (Acts 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). People are saved by believing in Christ. There was great joy in Samaria over those who had believed in Jesus Christ (Acts 8:8). The Gospel is the good news of God's love for sinners who believe in Jesus Christ.
Simon the counterfeit Christian:
(Read Acts 8:9-25)
Wherever the gospel is preached, Satan will sow the counterfeit message. When the apostles heard that the people of Samaria had accepted the gospel, they sent Peter and John there. They prayed and laid their hands on the believers, and they received the Holy Spirit. God withheld the giving of the Spirit until the apostles arrived to show the connection between the Jerusalem church and the Samaritan believers. Otherwise, the 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 among believers in the early Church. When a man named Simon who had been a sorcerer for many years saw the miracles, he began to follow Philip. There is no indication that Simon was a believer. The basis of Simon’s faith was not the Word of God, but the miracle Philip performed. He was willing to pay money for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter had to expose his wickedness by saying “May your silver perish with you because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money” (Acts 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 anyone who puts faith in Christ. After this, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem.
Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch:
(Read Acts 8:26-35)
The evangelistic efforts among Samaritans continued. Here we see how the disciple-making mission was progressing. Philip was opened to the leading of the Holy Spirit. This makes all the difference in ministry. Often it comes in the form of desire or burden to share the gospel (Acts 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 times (2 Timothy 4:2). Only the Word of God makes us wise unto salvation not our cleverness or strategy. There is much heat in the 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 from 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 the ministry of evangelism. Philip took the initiative and asked the eunuch “Do you understand what you are reading”. The man replied “How can I, unless someone guides me?”. He requested Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him. This passage he was reading was about the suffering servant of God (Isaiah 53:7-8). 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 (Romans 10:17). Our godly lifestyle is a crucial part of our witnessing, but it will not save souls. Present the gospel prayerfully and keep it simple. Let God's Word and God's Spirit do the work of persuasion.
The Eunuch and the Baptism:
(Read 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 faith and identification with Christ in his death and resurrection. Believers should give clear testimony of their faith in Jesus Christ before baptism. The baptism does not save anybody (Acts 8:13). Immersion-baptism is the picture of our identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Baptism is one of the two important ordinances of the church. Another ordinance is the Lord's Supper. 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. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away and eunuch 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 (Matthew 28:19). Philip passed through the towns preaching the gospel until he came to Caesarea. Pray that God would give you opportunities to share the gospel with others.