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17:23). Next, Assyria took over the city of Samaria, and they brought in various foreigners (2 Kgs. 17:24). Not all the Israelites were taken because some were left to work the vineyards and fields, while others escaped (2 Chr. 30:6). These foreigners would eventually marry these Israelites and each other, and that is where the Samaritans came from (2 Kgs.
They were called Samaritans because they occupied Samaria.
Mixing these different nationalities was a strategy the Assyrians used to cause them to lose their identity so they would be less of a threat to the Assyrians in the future. It is important to remember that it was against God’s Law for Jews to marry foreigners, but they did it anyway. Once these mixed people were living in Samaria, God sent lions to eat some of them because they did not fear God (2 Kgs. 17:25). They wanted to appease God, so they sent for a priest to teach them the ways of God. From that point forward, they worshipped God, but they also continued worshipping their false gods (2 Kgs.
Later, Judah was captured by the Babylonians, and 70 years later they began to come back to their homeland. The Samaritans offered to help Zerubbabel rebuild the temple, but he refused their help. This made the Samaritans angry; so they tried to prevent the Jews from rebuilding the temple (Ezra 4:1-10). They also tried to prevent Nehemiah from rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem (Neh. 2:10 – 6:14). When Ezra commanded the Jews to divorce their pagan wives (Ezra 9 – 11), it divided the Jews from the Samaritans even more. According to Josephus, the final event that would forever separate the Jews from the Samaritans was when they built a temple on Mount Gerizim (Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews xi, vii, 2; viii, 2 ff). They claimed this area, known as Shechem, as being the true Bethel (house of God) instead of Jerusalem (Nelson New Illustrated Bible Dictionary 1120).
At some point, the Samaritans put away their pagan gods, and they regulated their worship by the Torah. They believed the first five books of the Bible were God’s Word, but they did not recognize any of the other books in the Old Testament as being from God.
Philip overcame this typical prejudice, and he preached the soul saving message of Jesus to the Samaritans. To prove his message was from God, he worked signs and miracles. Some of them were possessed by demons, so he cast them out.
Others were paralyzed and lame, so he healed them. Luke tells us that these people rejoiced. They had a lot to be joyful about because, not only did they hear the words that would save their soul, they were being healed, and the demons were being driven away.
But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, "This man is the great power of God."
And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time. But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done (Acts 8:9-13).
Simon was a common name during the first century. The early church fathers wrote many speculative things about this man, but I am mainly concerned about what Luke writes about him. We learn that Simon practiced magic, and he was obviously good at it since he had the Samaritans eating out of his hands. He used his fake magic to take advantage of these people, and they called him the great power of God.
According to Irenaeus, Simon claimed to combine in himself the three persons of the trinity, alleging that he appeared to the Jews as the Son, to the Samaritans as the Father, and among the Gentiles as the Holy Spirit (Against Heresies, I. 23. 1 [Reese.320]).
Even though Simon was good at his fake magic, it failed in comparison to the real miracles and signs Philip was doing by the power of God. Philip’s miracles caused them to stop listening to Simon and to start listening to Philip as he preached the good news about the kingdom of God and about the name of Jesus. Philip was preaching the same basic message that every other disciple of Christ was preaching, which would have been similar to the message taught by the apostles on the day of Pentecost. Even though we do not know the exact message he preached, we can know that he taught them about the necessity of baptism because men and women were baptized after hearing his message. Even Simon believed and obeyed the gospel by being baptized. Simon continued to be amazed by the real miracles and signs that were being done by Philip.
Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17).
The Samaritans had received the implanted Word, which was able to save their souls (Jam. 1:21), just as the Jews did on the day of Pentecost. “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:41). Therefore, receiving the Word of God, which saves a person, includes baptism.
When this news came to Jerusalem about the Samaritans, the apostles sent Peter and John. Please note, Peter was not serving as the head of the church or giving out orders.
Instead, he was sent with John by the unanimous decision of the apostles. One can only wonder if John recalled the time he was ready to call down fire on a Samaritan Village (Lk.
The reason these two apostles were sent was so they could bestow the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit on the Samaritans by the laying on of their hands. Only the apostles had
this ability (2 Cor. 12:12), which is why Paul told the Romans:
“For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established” (Rom. 1:11). If others could have imparted spiritual gifts, there would be no need for Paul to go to Rome. Also, if it were possible for Philip to impart the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit on the Samaritans, then Peter and John could have stayed in Jerusalem. This fact proves that Luke was talking about receiving the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit and not the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that every Christian receives when they are baptized (Acts 2:38-39). We can also know this is not talking about Holy Spirit baptism, which happened on the day of Pentecost and to Cornelius’s household because it did not require the laying on of hands. Since only the apostles could pass on the miraculous gifts, this means that miracles and signs would no longer be possible after the last apostle died.
Also, Paul teaches us that miracles and signs would be done away with once the Word of God was fully revealed (1 Cor.
Understanding this truth is important because it proves that these Samaritans were saved by obeying the gospel, which included being baptized in water in the name of Jesus. Their salvation was not dependent on them receiving the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit or Holy Spirit baptism as some teach. If someone claims the one baptism that saves (Eph.
4:5) is Holy Spirit baptism, then we have Philip, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit, coming to Samaria, preaching to them, baptizing them in water, and then leaving them in a lost state since they had not yet received the Holy Spirit. Would that make any sense? Of course not! Philip taught them and baptized them for the remission of their sins just as Jesus commanded His disciples to do (Mt. 28:19; Mk. 16:16).
And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, "Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit." But Peter said to him, "Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity." Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me” (Acts 8:18-24).
These passages show how quickly someone can be saved, fall away, and be restored. Simon saw how the apostles could pass on the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, and he wanted that ability. In his previous work as a magician, it was a common practice for the squire to pay his teacher to acquire more magic tricks. Simon had turned his mind back to his worldly ways, and he wanted to purchase this ability. His actions that day caused a new word to be created.
Simony - The buying or selling of ecclesiastical pardons, offices, or emoluments.
[Middle English simonie, from Old French, from Late Latin simōnia, after Simon Magus, a sorcerer who tried to buy spiritual powers from the Apostle Peter (Acts 8:9-24)] (American Heritage Dictionary).
Peter quickly condemned Simon’s sin with some strong words and commanded him to repent. The ability to pass on the miraculous gifts could only be done by the apostles, and no one could purchase this ability because it was a gift from God. Our text does not specifically say he repented, but it is implied because he asked Peter to pray for him. Another lesson learned here is that a person only has to be baptized one time the right way. After a person becomes a child of God, all he has to do is repent and confess his sins to God, and those sins will be forgiven (1 Jn. 1:9). Next, we learn about another conversion by Philip.
Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, "Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." This is desert (Acts 8:26).
God used an angel to direct Philip to the right location to meet a man who was ready to hear the gospel. Angels are used in many different ways, but they were never used to proclaim the gospel to the lost (Acts 11:13-14). He is told to go south toward the road that goes between Jerusalem and Gaza. Gaza is one of the oldest places mentioned in the Bible (Gen. 10:19). Some get confused with the term desert because they think of a place where there is no life or water. However,
The term desert is not here to be understood in its stricter sense of a barren waste, but in its more general acceptation, of a place thinly inhabited. Such an interpretation is required by the geography of the country, and by the fact that water was found for the immersion of the eunuch. The only road from Jerusalem to Gaza, which passed through a level district suitable for wheeled vehicles, was that by Bethlehem to Hebron, and thence across a plain to Gaza. According to Dr. Hackett, this is "the desert" of Luke 1:80, in which John the Immerser grew up. Dr. S. T. Barclay, who traversed this entire route in May, 1853, says that he traveled, after leaving "the immediate vicinity of Hebron, over one of the very best roads (with slight exceptions) and one of the most fertile countries that I ever beheld." [City of the Great King, p. 576.] (McGarvey).
So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet (Acts 8:27-28).
Philip does not argue with the angel, he arose and went. We have no way of knowing if this eunuch was a Jew or a proselyte. However, we do know that he was a treasurer of one of the Queens of Ethiopia. All the Queens of Ethiopia were called Candace, which is similar to how the rulers of Egypt were called Pharaoh, and the rulers of Rome were called Caesar.
According to the BDAG Lexicon, eunuchs were: “A castrated male person … Eunuchs served, esp. in the orient, as keepers of a harem (Esth. 2:14) and not infreq. rose to high positions in the state.” Even though this eunuch was not allowed to go into the temple, he still traveled hundreds of miles to worship God in Jerusalem, which shows how dedicated he was. I wish more Christians today had the same zeal to worship God as this eunuch did. He was returning home on his chariot and reading a scroll from Isaiah the prophet out loud.
Then the Spirit said to Philip, "Go near and overtake this chariot." So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?" And he said, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him (Acts 8:29-31).
First, the angel directed Philip toward the road, and now the Holy Spirit was telling him to go and overtake the eunuch’s chariot. Just as the angels did not teach the lost the gospel, the Holy Spirit does not do it either. Instead, He would direct preachers like Philip to the person that needed to hear it.
Philip hears the eunuch reading from Isaiah, and he asked him a great question, “Do you understand what you are reading?” A person could read all kinds of things, but if he does not understand it, it will not be useful to him. The eunuch did not understand what he was reading, and he needed someone to guide him or explain it to him. His lack of understanding does not mean that we cannot read and understand the Scriptures on our own because we can (Acts 17:11; Eph. 3:3-5; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 1:19; Rev. 1:3). However, sometimes a person new to reading the Bible can benefit from a person who has studied it for years. So, the eunuch invited Philip to join him.
The place in the Scripture which he read was this: "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He opened not His mouth. In His humiliation His justice was taken away, And who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth." So the eunuch answered Philip and said, "I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?" Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him (Acts 8:32).