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Bible Commentaries
Acts 8

Bridgeway Bible CommentaryBridgeway Bible Commentary

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Verses 1-3

Christians driven out of Jerusalem (8:1-3)

With the killing of Stephen, fierce persecution broke out against the Christians in Jerusalem. No longer did the Pharisees favour the Christians; in fact, it was a Pharisee, Saul, who led the persecution. The Christians were attacked, imprisoned, or driven violently from the city, but they did not deny their faith. Although they previously went to the temple daily, they now saw the truth of what Stephen had taught, and they were prepared to suffer for it (8:1-3).
It seems that only the Hellenist Christians were driven from the city. (Stephen was a Hellenist; see 6:8-9.) Apparently the Aramaic-speaking Christians were allowed to stay (cf. 9:26; 11:2). This Jerusalem church, without the Hellenists, later became very narrow in its outlook and was a source of trouble to other churches. The Hellenists, on the other hand, became a means of blessing to the whole world.

Verses 4-25


Christianity enters Samaria (8:4-25)

In the time of the Roman Empire, the region of Samaria was the central part of Palestine and along with the neighbouring region of Judea was governed from Caesarea. The origins of the Samaritans go back to Old Testament times, when Samaria was the name of the chief city of the region.
After Assyria had conquered the central and northern parts of Israel and taken the people into captivity (722 BC), it moved people from other parts of its empire into Samaria and surrounding towns. These settlers intermarried with Israelites still left in the land and combined the Israelite form of worship with their own. This resulted in a race of mixed blood and mixed religion known as the Samaritans (2 Kings 17:5-6,2 Kings 17:24-33; Ezra 4:9-10). When the Jews returned from captivity and settled in and around Jerusalem (538 BC), tension arose between Jews and Samaritans (Ezra 4:1-4), and this tension lasted into New Testament times (Luke 9:52-53; John 4:9).

Philip, a Hellenist, appears to have been the first person to take the gospel into Samaria. As a result of his preaching and miraculous works, many Samaritans believed and were baptized (4-8). A well known local magician, Simon, was so impressed by these miracles that he too was baptized, hoping no doubt that he could learn the secret of Philip’s power (9-13).

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard of the conversion of so many Samaritans, they sent Peter and John to Samaria to pray that the Samaritans would receive the Holy Spirit. The reason why the Samaritans did not receive the Spirit immediately they believed was probably that God first wanted the apostles to be convinced that Samaritan believers shared the same privileges as Jewish believers. The long-standing hostility between Jews and Samaritans (an attitude that even the apostles were recently guilty of; Luke 9:52-56) was not to be carried over into the church. By using the apostles to be his means of giving the Holy Spirit to the Samaritans, God demonstrated publicly that Samaritans were accepted into the church on an equal standing with the Jews and with the full support of the apostles (14-17).

As a sign that they had received the Holy Spirit, the Samaritans apparently spoke in tongues. This impressed Simon even more, and he would gladly have paid money to have the sort of power over people that he thought the apostles had. Instead he received an assurance of God’s judgment (18-24). As for the apostles, they not only welcomed the Samaritans but they also preached the gospel in many of the Samaritan villages (25).

Verses 26-40

Christianity enters Philistia (8:26-40)

From Samaria Philip headed south towards the region of Philistia on the Mediterranean coast (26). On the way he met another non-Jewish person who responded to his preaching. This man, a government official from Ethiopia in north Africa, was already one of the God-fearers and was reading the Old Testament when Philip met him (27-29). However, he did not understand what he was reading. When Philip explained the Scriptures to him, the man learnt the meaning of Jesus’ death, became a believer and was baptized (30-38). The man was overjoyed as he continued his journey homeward, and no doubt readily spread the good news of Jesus Christ among his fellow Africans. Philip, meanwhile, preached around the towns of Philistia, then moved north along the coast till he came to the provincial capital, Caesarea (39-40).

Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Acts 8". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/acts-8.html. 2005.
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