Acts~8:5-25

Luke has told us in general that as the dispersed Christians went about, they took the chance to preach the word. Here we see a specific example of that happening in Philip, one of the seven who were chosen to be in charge of distributing food.

He had an amazing ministry in “the city of Samaria”, performing healings and exorcisms to back up what he was saying. The response was “great joy”, though it seems that thus far (v8) the joy was over the miracles themselves rather than Philip’s message. Before he records their conversion, Luke cuts to Simon, “But [cf 5:1] there was a man…”. Simon was already in town and he was also able to perform supernatural tricks and amaze everyone. Luke seems to introduce Simon here to set up a contest and emphasise the power of the gospel – will the people stick with Simon or turn to Philip’s message? But, despite the appeal of Simon, the people believed and were baptised. Even Simon followed them, but there is more on him later.

First, though, Peter and John were dispatched from the apostles to Samaria, to pray “that they might receive the Holy Spirit”. The separation of belief and receiving the Holy Spirit is not normal in Acts, or the Bible. It may be that the faith of the Samaritans was defective, perhaps intellectual belief rather than commitment. In this case, the apostles’ prayer would have been that they would come to genuine saving faith at which point the Holy Spirit would be given to them. I think it more likely, though, that this was in recognition of the significance of this event – it was the first time that the gospel had spread into Samaria (the next step of the road map of 1:8). “Search the Scriptures” says, “as this was the first extension of the church beyond the borders of the Jewish people, it was fitting that the seal of the Spirit should be given through Peter and John, as representatives of the apostles. In a similar way Peter was chosen to go to Cornelius (10:5), though Philip was probably in Caesarea at the time [8:40, 21:8]”.

The gift of the Spirit may have been accompanied by charasmatic gifts (v18 gives that impression) but again this would have been because this was a landmark event. The church needed assurance that the Spirit could really be given to Samaritans, and this was it.

Apparantly the literal translation of v20 is “to hell with you and your money” (Tyndale, “Acts” p159) showing that Simon’s sinful attitude in desiring to control God for his own ends will leave him cut off from God. This, says Peter in v21, prooves that Simon has not believed the gospel (you have no lot in this matter) and the appropriate response is to repent. The “if possible” in v22 is tricky – it may be a warning that God’s mercy is not to be taken for granted, or that true repentance can only be granted by God, or something else entirely. The event seems to reflect God’s warning in Deuteronomy 29:16-20 about pretending to serve him but really walking in the “stubbornness of my heart” (note “bitter” again in v18) and again, “The LORD will not be willing to forgive him”. I don’t know enough about the Bible’s teaching on these areas to comment well but certainly Simon’s sin was serious, and he was to repent.

The apostles returned to Jerusalem, and as they went, they preached the gospel to the villages they passed through. This seems reminiscent of 8:4, every oppertunity is taken to preach.

Heavenly Father, I thank you that your kingdom extended beyond Jerusalem to Samaria, and eventually to “the ends of the earth”. I thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit, and ask that you keep me mindful of the privaledge and responsibility of having that gift. I’m sorry for any times when I have sought for you to serve me and not the other way round, and I pray that you will weed that tendency from my life. Thank you for your forgiveness and mercy. Amen.

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One Response to “Acts~8:5-25”

  1. diana Says:

    Hey I’m really glad I found your blog, I look forward to reading your notes on the other books of the Bible (still exploring, haven’t read all your posts yet). I am reading the gospels these days (I really really love the gospel books) and the question of the Holy Spirit is one asked often around me. I agree with your view on this chapter a lot. And I like the way you write.

    To your prayer, Amen :-)

    Blessings
    Diana

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