Salvation in Samaria (Acts 8:1-25)
Salvation in Samaria (Acts 8:1-25)
Preparing by Scattering and Proclaiming Christ in Samaria (verses 1-8)
Beginning with Stephen, the persecution then spread to all those associated with him through the gospel. The persecution, however, has the exact opposite effect of its intention. Similar to pruning a plant, where cutting back stimulates new growth, so also the making of martyrs in the early church multiplied disciples and intensified commitment. Luke records that “those who had been scattered went about preaching the word” (v4). Naturally, as they are forced out of Jerusalem their lives are still marked by proclaiming the good news of Christ.
Phillip, one of the Seven from Acts 6, was a leader among those who went to Samaria. Samaritans were not Jews, but neither were they Gentiles. Essentially, they were former Jews who had left Israel, and the Jews considered them unfaithful or even defecting half-breeds. Philip’s preaching in Samaria was accompanied by the types of signs that the ministry of the Apostles and Jesus’ own ministry had seen (v7-8). There was a strong response to the call of the gospel, giving evidence to the fact that the persecution that began with Stephen and spread to the church was used by God for good. In the end, Satan’s attempt to smother the gospel aided its success!
- What does this portion of the passage teach us about the sovereignty of God? Specifically, what does it teach us about God’s ability to cause the church to expand? What means or instruments does God use to spread His gospel?
Preaching to Simon the Superstitious Sorcerer (verses 9-13)
Luke backs up and gives us some of the context in Samaria prior to Philip’s preaching, namely regarding Simon the sorcerer. The people of Samaria were deceived by him and called him “the Great Power of God” (v10). But though known for his association with magic, Simon himself was impressed with the true power of God being displayed through Philip and the Apostles. Along with others in Samaria, he believed Philip’s message, which was the same message as that of Christ and the Apostles: “the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ…” (v12). Ironically, Simon, the one by whom the crowds were amazed, is now amazed by the signs and miracles of Philip. The evangelist possess greater power than the magician, since the wonders of Simon’s magic pale in comparison to God’s mighty omnipotence.
- The contrast between Simon and Philip is striking: Simon sought to call attention to his magic and claimed to be divine-like, while Philip was performing far greater miracles and yet pointed only to Christ. When you are recognized by others, do you attempt to direct glory to yourself or to Christ?
Presence of Christ by the Spirit (verses 14-25)
Since this is the gospel’s first entrance into Samaria, Peter and John are sent to assess the new advance. Up to this point, the Spirit had been withheld until Peter and John came so that the Samaritans might be fully incorporated into the Jerusalem community, so that there was no confusion about there being two separate churches: one Jewish and the other Samaritan. Instead, the apostle’s presence at the outpouring of the Spirit gives further confirmation that there was (and there is) one people of God. The believing Samaritans were brought into fellowship with the whole church, and not just some Gentile section of it.
Seeing the evidence of the Holy Spirit being poured out through the laying on of hands, Simon wanted to gain that same power for himself; but he wanted spiritual power for the wrong reasons. He failed to understand that the distribution of God’s Spirit is a sovereign gift of God whom He pours out for His own purposes, and cannot be purchased. Any faith that Simon possessed was temporary faith, like the rocky soil that Jesus talks about in the parable of the sower (Luke 8:13). He is offered the opportunity to repent, but rather than embracing the instruction and warning and simply confessing in repentance, he piously pretends to want prayer.
- Have we drawn lines with regard to the gospel? In practice, have we determined who the gospel is for, or not for? In what ways does your evangelism and outreach reveal the conviction that the gospel is for all people?