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Bible Commentaries
Acts 8

Dunagan's Commentary on the BibleDunagan's Commentary

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I. Persecution Against The Church: 8:1-4

II. Philip Preaches In Samaria: 8:5-13

III. Peter And John/Simon's Request and Rebuke: 8:14-25

IV. Philip Preaches To The Eunuch: 8:26-40


'Luke seems to have regarded Stephen and Philip as a pair. Both men belonged to the Seven, and so had social (physical/benevolent-MD) responsibilities in the Jerusalem church (6:5). Yet both were also preaching evangelists (6:10; 8:5), and both performed public signs and wonders (6:8; 8:6). In addition, Luke saw the ministry of both men as helping to pave the way for the Gentile mission. Stephen's contribution lay in his teaching...and in the effects of his martyrdom, while Philip's lay in his bold evangelization of the Samaritans and of an Ethiopian leader. For the Jews regarded the Samaritans as heretical outsiders and Ethiopia as "the extreme boundary of the habitable world in the hot south"....Effective evangelism becomes possible only when the church recovers both the biblical gospel and a joyful confidence in its truth, relevance and power.' (Stott p. 144)


Verse 1

Act_8:1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church which was in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.

'CONSENTING'-4909. suneudokeo soon-yoo-dok-eh'-o; from 4862 and 2106; to think well of in common, i.e. assent to, feel gratified with: -allow, assent, be pleased, have pleasure.

-'hearty agreement' (NASV); 'fully approved of' (Wey). ( Act_22:20 ) 'signifying entire approval' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 207)

Point to Note:

Operating from a wrong premise, a very intelligent, devout and educated man can be completely wrong ( Act_26:9 ; Act_22:3-4 ). Notice that zeal isn't a safeguard against believing error ( Rom_10:1-3 ). Apparently Saul observed the trial of Stephen, heard his defense, knew the charges, witnessed the stoning, and from his perspective concluded that the right thing had been done.

'ON THAT DAY'-'the martyrdom of Stephen acted like the first taste of blood to a wild beast.' (Boles p. 121)

'GREAT PERSECUTION'-'The tumult did not subside when Stephen was dead. The persecutors went looking for others to "discipline" until they either recanted..or were dead! It is clear from the following record that this persecution involved much suffering, imprisonment..' (Reese p. 313). See Heb_10:33-34 .

'THEY WERE ALL SCATTERED ABROAD'-'All' here doesn't refer to every Christian, for a congregation continued to exist in Jerusalem, even after this persecution ( Act_9:26 ). But it does suggest that many Christians were forced to flee.

'JUDAEA'-'The neighboring Judean towns, Hebron, Gaza, Lydda, and Joppa, became places of refuge.' (Reese p. 314)

'SAMARIA'-'In the time of Jesus, Palestine west of the Jordan River was divided into the three provinces of Galilee, Samaria, and Judea..Situated between Galilee and Judea, Samaria was the natural route for traveling between those two provinces.' (Nelsons p. 941)

Points to Note:

'in Samaria they would find a welcome simply because they were being persecuted by the Jewish religious leaders.' (Reese p. 314)

In view of the fact that orthodox Jews wouldn't even travel through Samaria (they would travel east, cross the Jordan River, and detour around Samaria), this territory would provide safe haven ( Joh_4:9 ).

Here we see the gospel beginning to penetrate the regions outlined in Act_1:8 .

'Some have suggested that a reason why God permitted this persecution was because the early Christians were becoming settled and contented in Jerusalem.' (Reese p. 314) But we must reject this view: (a) The church was being instructed by inspired men (the apostles). (b) A solid foundation had to be established, members needed training and instruction before they could teach others ( Act_2:42 ).

'EXCEPT THE APOSTLES'-'no doubt because they conceived it to be their duty to stay at their posts.' (Bruce p. 175) 'They, like faithful watchmen, remained at their post, to confirm the souls of those disciples who for one reason or another were unable to flee..' (P.P. Comm. p. 250) Seeing that Jerusalem was a constant center of religious activity, they may have also stayed to preach to those Jews that were continually coming to the various feasts.

Verse 2

Act_8:2 And devout men buried Stephen, and made great lamentation over him.

'DEVOUT'-2126. eulabes yoo-lab-ace'; from 2095 and 2983; taking well (carefully), i.e. circumspect (religiously, pious): -devout.

-The word is used for very religious minded non-Christians ( Act_2:5 ; Act_10:1-2 ). This expression could refer to Christians and or Jewish individuals who disapproved of the Sanhedrin's actions.

'MADE GREAT LAMENTATION OVER HIM'-2870. kopetos kop-et-os'; from 2875; mourning (properly, by beating the breast): -lamentation.

'The law prescribed the duty of burying the bodies of executed persons, but the Mishnah (Sanhedrin vi. 6) forbade public lamentation for them. Stephen, at any rate, received the funeral tribute due to him..' (Bruce p. 174)

We may take this lamentation as a type of protest, 'deploring the injustice of his death. They (those who buried him-MD), will have taken a considerable personal risk by thus identifying with Stephen.' (Stott p. 145)

Verse 3

Act_8:3 But Saul laid waste the church, entering into every house, and dragging men and women committed them to prison.

'LAID WASTE'-3075. lumainomai loo-mah'-ee-nom-ahee; middle voice from a probably derivative of 3089 (meaning filth); properly, to soil, i.e. (figuratively) insult (maltreat): -make havock of.

-'began to devastate' (TCNT). 'expresses a brutal and sadistic cruelty' (Stott p. 145). In classical Greek, this word is used of personal outrage, or the ruin and devastation caused by an army.

Point to Note:

Other passages give us the inward mental reasonings of this persecutor: (a) He was zealous for the ancestral traditions ( Gal_1:13-14 ). (b) 'Drastic action was called for; these people, he thought, were not merely misguided enthusiasts whose sincerity in embracing error might merit a measure of pity; they were deliberate impostors.' (Bruce p. 175). He was convinced that this new movement must be destroyed ( Gal_1:13 ; Act_26:9-10 ).

'ENTERING INTO EVERY HOUSE'-A house-to-house search for believers.

'DRAGGING MEN AND WOMEN COMMITTED THEM TO PRISON'-( Act_26:10 ). He did all of this with the authority and consent of the chief priests. Here we see the thoroughness, relentlessness and violent nature of this persecution. Some of the women mentioned in Luk_8:2-3 and Act_1:14 may be included in the above category.

'TO PRISON'-'In the first century world, men were put in prison to await trial. The ancients did not give prison sentences, as courts today do. In those days, when the trial was completed, the prisoner was either freed, beaten and freed, or executed.' (Reese p. 316) Later on we learn that some of those arrested and imprisoned, were put to death ( Act_26:10 ).

Points to Note:

If we ask, 'Where are the Roman authorities, while all this is going on?' Boles notes, that in A.D. 37 (near this time of persecution), the emperor Tiberius died and Caligula succeeded him. And as a result there was a time when there was no Roman governor in Judea. Thus is looks like that whatever window of latitude the Jewish rulers had, they tried to destroy the church before any outside inference stopped them.

McGarvey notes that the death of Stephen had prepared Christians for this wave of persecution:

'Thus far, amid many tears, some stripes, and much affliction, they had found satisfaction in his service; but before Stephen's death it was not known by experience how their new faith would sustain them in a dying hour...He had died praying for his murderers, and committing his spirit to the Son of man..No man at the present day can tell how great was the strength and consolation which came to all when the death of the first who died was so triumphant. It was a fitting and most providential preparation for the fiery ordeal through which the whole body of the believers was immediately compelled to pass.' (p. 135)

At this point, from a human perspective we might expect the history of the Church to end. But the next verse reveals a completely different outcome.

Verse 4

Act_8:4 They therefore that were scattered abroad, went about preaching the word.

'WENT ABOUT PREACHING THE WORD'-And future passages reveal that such preaching resulted in great success ( Act_11:19 ff).

Points to Note:

'as they fled, far from going into hiding, or even maintaining a prudential silence, preached the word wherever they went...What is plain is that the devil (who lurks behind all persecution of the church) over-reached himself. His attack had the opposite effect to what he intended. Instead of smothering the gospel, persecution succeeded only in spreading it.' (Stott p. 146)

Thus we see that the devil isn't all-knowing or all-wise. His methods of temptation or persecution are not destined to succeed. Rather, he only wins, if we react in a sinful manner ( 1Pe_5:8-9 ).

Such preaching was possible because the members of the Church in Jerusalem had taken advantage of the teaching offered by the apostles ( Act_2:42 ; Mat_28:20 ; 2Ti_2:2 )

Reese notes, 'Some try to excuse themselves from this responsibility by saying, "I can't do anything", or " I don't know what to say". One wonders how they would have become a Christian in the first place if everyone in the world had acted and spoken the way they are...When a man makes such a statement as "I can't" or "What do I say?" he is admitting his ignorance of the plan of salvation. And he is admitting his ignorance of how he himself became a Christian.' (p. 317)

The time period between Act_2:1-47 and this dispersion is somewhere between 4-6 years. Thus in this period of time members had become able to "teach others also" ( Heb_5:12-14 ).


Verse 5

Act_8:5 And Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and proclaimed unto them the Christ.

'PHILIP'-This is Philip, one of the seven, for all the apostles stayed in Jerusalem (8:1). In addition, if this had been Philip the apostle, the Holy Spirit could have been imparted by his hands, instead of having Peter and John come down to Samaria for that purpose (8:14-18).

'TO THE CITY OF SAMARIA'-The presence of the definite article establishes that Philip preached not just in Samaria, but in the city known as Samaria in the O.T., the former capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. Herod the Great had made many improvements to this city and renamed it Sebaste--the Greek term for Augustus in honor of the emperor. Jesus had preached in the region known as Samaria ( Joh_4:5 ff).

Point to Note:

'It is hard for us to conceive the boldness of the step Philip took in preaching the gospel to Samaritans. For the hostility between Jews and Samaritans had lasted a thousand years. It began with the break-up of the monarchy in the tenth century B.C. when ten tribes defected, making Samaria their capital, and only two tribes remained loyal to Jerusalem. It became steadily worse when Samaria was captured by Assyria in 722 B.C., thousands of its inhabitants were deported, and the country was re-populated by foreigners. In the sixth century B.C., when the Jews returned to their land, they refused the help of the Samaritans in the rebuilding of the temple...The Samaritans were despised by the Jews as hybrids in both race and religion, as both heretics and schismatics.' (Stott p. 147)

See 2Ki_17:24-34 ; Ezr_4:1-10 ; Neh_2:10-20 ; Neh_3:1-32 ; Neh_4:1-23 ; Neh_5:1-19 ; Neh_6:1-14 .

'The Samaritans trace their beginnings to the time of Eli, who established the sanctuary for worship of God in Shiloh. They also believe their religion is distinctive because they base their beliefs and practices on the Torah, or the Law--the first five books of the Old Testament. They recognize no other Hebrew scriptures as authoritative..The final break between the two groups (Jews and Samaritans) occurred when the Samaritans built a rival temple on Mount Gerizim, claiming Shechem rather than Zion (Jerusalem) as the true "Bethel" (house of God).' (Nelsons p. 943,942)

'They did..share with the Jews the hope of a coming Messiah.' (Bruce p. 177)

'PROCLAIMED UNTO THEM THE CHRIST'-Note that preaching Christ in this chapter included preaching baptism (8:12; 36-38). Therefore, we can never accept the popular theory, 'preach the man, not the plan'. According to Jesus Himself, you cannot separate Him from what He taught ( Joh_12:48 ). Thus preaching Jesus, will also involve preaching the doctrines that He taught and those He revealed through His apostles ( 1Co_14:37 ).

Verse 6

Act_8:6 And the multitudes gave heed with one accord unto the things that were spoken by Philip, when they heard, and saw the signs which he did.

'GAVE HEED WITH ONE ACCORD'-'unanimously attended' (Ber); 'attended like one man' (Mof).

'AND SAW THE SIGNS WHICH HE DID'-Once again stressing that the miracles were for the purpose of authenticating the speaker as a man from God ( Joh_3:2 ; Act_2:22 ; Heb_2:3-4 )

Verse 7

Act_8:7 For from many of those that had unclean spirits, they came out, crying with a loud voice: and many that were palsied, and that were lame, were healed.

'CRYING WITH A LOUD VOICE'-The demons had cried out and confessed the Deity of Christ ( Mar_3:11 ; Luk_4:41 ). But this may have been a cry of anguish or rage as they were cast out. Notice once again how the Biblical writers place a distinction between physical illness and demon possession.

'PALSIED'-3886. paraluo par-al-oo'-o; from 3844 and 3089; to loosen beside, i.e. relax (perfect passive participle, paralyzed or enfeebled): -feeble, sick of the (taken with) palsy.

-'paralyzed' (TCNT). 'Under the general name "paralyzed" several infirmities were included..' (Reese p. 319) 'with no power over the muscles' (Robertson p. 103)

'The causes of palsy are many and varied. The condition may be inherited. It may be due to injury at birth. Sicknesses, such as polio..A common cause is injury to a major nerve, or to the spinal cord..Progressive, or wasting palsy, is seen in muscular dystrophy...A striking example of generalized and usually permanent paralysis is seen in some cases of polio meningitis.'

'WERE HEALED'-No exceptions or failures.

Verse 8

Act_8:8 And there was much joy in that city.

'MUCH JOY IN THAT CITY'-Joy resulted because so many had been liberated from demon possession, cruel physical illnesses and their own sins. Notice how the gospel message didn't bring an atmosphere of gloom and doom to those who obeyed it ( Act_8:39 ; Act_16:34 ).


Verse 9

Act_8:9 But there was a certain man, Simon by name, who beforetime in the city used sorcery, and amazed the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one:

'CERTAIN MAN'-A real person.

'SIMON BY NAME'-Simon was a very common name among the Jews. 'The early church fathers have written much about this man, some of their accounts being highly imaginative; but nothing is certainly known of him more than what Luke tells us in this place.' (Reese p. 319)

'SORCERY'-3096. mageuo mag-yoo'-o; from 3097; to practice magic: -use sorcery.

Point to Note:

'The practice of witchcraft has always been a substitute for divinely revealed religion. Involved some more and some less, would be all these occultic practices--astrology, fortunetelling, spiritism (alleged communication with the souls of the dead)...and many others..' (Reese p. 320)

The Bible very strongly condemns any participation in such things ( Gal_5:20 'sorcery'; Deu_18:10-14 ; Exo_22:18 ). We should be impressed that servants of God often encountered those who were "experts" in such things, and in every case the individuals who claimed occult powers failed miserably ( Exo_8:19 ; Dan_2:1-49 /5; Act_13:8-11 ; Act_19:13-19 ).

'AMAZED THE PEOPLE OF SAMARIA'-People haven't changed. Even in our own 'modern' times, people are just as gullible to believe the claims of faith-healers, or those who assert they can contact the dead. Consider the number of people that will flock to some individual who claims that they can "channel" for the illustrious dead. 'kept the Samaritan people thrilled' (Wms).

'GIVING OUT THAT HIMSELF WAS SOME GREAT ONE'-'who made great pretensions' (Gspd); 'pretending to have great powers' (Knox)

Point to Note:

Notice the difference in "motive" between Simon and the Apostles. Simon wanted to be viewed as some "great one", the Apostles wanted to be viewed as ordinary men ( Act_3:12 ; Act_10:26 ; Act_14:14-15 ). Simon wanted self-glorification, the Apostles desired that men glorify God. Simon was only concerned with "Simon Incorporated", the Apostles were only concerned with the growth of the Kingdom of God.

Verse 10

Act_8:10 to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is that power of God which is called Great.

'FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST'-'people of all classes' (Wey); 'All classes flocked to him' (Rieu).

Point to Note:

Consider how Simon not only fooled the common people, but also the influential leaders in the community. 'eminent citizens and ordinary people alike' (JB). Let us keep this in mind the next time that the elite in the entertainment industry, some political party or those in higher education try to convince us that we are wrong. Paul pointed out that the "elite" in any society are often the group which is the most out of touch with reality ( 1Co_1:26-31 ).

'SAYING'-This was the popular opinion of Simon.

'THIS MAN IS THAT POWER OF GOD WHICH IS CALLED GREAT'-'Simon regarded himself, and came to be regarded, as some kind of emanation or representative of the divine being.' (Stott p. 149) 'it is likely enough that the people would repeat what Simon told them of himself.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 214)

Point to Note:

And nothing has changed. Even in our own times, people will label someone has a "healer" or "miracle-worker", who never has performed a miracle. People are still just as gullible! Notice that people can really believe that someone has the "power of God", when they do not. Biblical terms can be misused and misapplied.

Verse 11

Act_8:11 And they gave heed to him, because that of long time he had amazed them with his sorceries.

'GAVE HEED TO HIM'-Apparently believing that he was also the channel for Divine revelation.

'THAT OF LONG TIME..'-Evidently Simon had made a good living for himself in Samaria.

'SORCERIES'-3095. mageia mag-i'-ah; from 3096; "magic": -sorcery.

Verse 12

Act_8:12 But when they believed Philip preaching good tidings concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

'BUT WHEN THEY BELIEVED PHILIP'-People who had been giving Simon their attention now give Philip their attention and obedience.

Point to Note:

McGarvey notes, 'This case of conversion was well chosen by Luke, because the subjects of it, up to the moment in which Philip began to speak to them, were under the spell of a magician, and the miracles wrought by Philip were brought into direct comparison with the wonders wrought by Simon. The fact that the people without hesitation gave up their faith in Simon as the great power of God, and implicitly believed in what Philip did and taught, can be accounted for only on the ground that there was such a difference between the tricks of sorcery and the miracles, that the people, even though completely deluded by the former, could plainly see, when once the two were placed side by side.' (p. 140)

This is another passage which persuades this writer that the devil doesn't perform the miraculous. For if Simon had really being doing miracles (albeit by demonic power), then how could the people have seen any difference between what Philip did and what Simon did. The fact that people so quickly dropped Simon and that even Simon himself was amazed at what Philip was doing, proves that Simon had only been doing humanly devised tricks.

And BE IMPRESSED that prejudice, ignorance, or the way you were raised are NOT surmountable barriers in understanding and obeying the truth. These people, loyal and deceived followers of a fake--quickly obeyed the gospel.

'PREACHING GOOD TIDINGS'-2097. euaggelizo yoo-ang-ghel-id'-zo; from 2095 and 32; to announce good news ("evangelize") especially the gospel: -declare, bring (declare, show) glad (good) tidings, preach (the gospel).

'THE KINGDOM OF GOD'-i.e. the Church ( Mat_16:18-19 ; Act_20:28 = Rev_1:5-8 ; Act_2:47 = Col_1:12-14 ). Notice that Philip isn't preaching that the Kingdom of God is at hand, for it was already in existence ( Mar_9:1 ; Heb_12:28 ).

'THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST'-Which would include such things as: (1) There is salvation in none other (4:12). (2) That Jesus has all authority, He is the Lord ( Mat_28:18 ; Act_2:36 ).

'THEY WERE BAPTIZED, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN'-Here we find faith and baptism linked together once again ( Mar_16:16 ; Act_18:8 ; Joh_3:5 ; Heb_10:22 ). Notice how preaching the gospel includes preaching about baptism and the church. And that preaching the gospel cannot be separated from preaching biblical doctrines, for doctrines makeup the gospel message, i.e. doctrines about sin, salvation, Jesus, etc....Those who argue, 'preach the man, not the plan', actually end up preaching a gospel laced with human tradition and denominational error. For if you eliminate the need to be baptized from your preaching, you will substitute something in it's place.

Verse 13

Act_8:13 And Simon also himself believed: and being baptized, he continued with Philip; and beholding signs and great miracles wrought, he was amazed.


Points to Note:

'His amazement (and belief) is proof that he saw, as the people did, the distinction between miracles and his own tricks..' (McGarvey p. 140). Simon's faith is a strong endorsement to the credibility of Philip's miracles. For Simon knew all the tricks of the trade, he could spot a fellow imposter. The same thing happened centuries before in Egypt ( Exo_8:19 ). Hence, both Luke (the writer and a physician), and Simon (an expert magician) testify that Philip really did work miracles.

If it wasn't for the doctrine of once-saved, always-saved, probably very few would even question Simon's sincerity. For Simon is a monkey-wrench in that doctrine, i.e. a Christian who was in danger of losing his salvation ( Act_8:20-23 ). Hence most Calvinists argue that Simon was never really saved in the first place, i.e. his faith was insincere. In response: (a) McGarvey reminds us, 'it should be observed that the words, "Simon also himself believed", are written not from Philip's point of view, but from Luke's. Philip might have been deceived by pretended faith; but Luke, writing LONG AFTER THE TRANSACTION, and with all the knowledge of Simon's later career...says he believed..' (p. 141) (b) I have always been amazed at the glaring contradiction that Calvinists overlooked when they make the above argument. On one hand they insist that a person is saved at the moment of faith. Yet, in Simon's case, Simon not only believed, he was baptized, and continued with Philip--and yet they argue, 'but he was never really saved in the first place.' Now are you saved at the moment of faith or not? (c) Reese notes, 'Luke plainly shows by the use of "even" (8:13)..that there was no difference between the faith of Simon and the faith of the other Christians in Samaria..Not only did he have the kind of faith that motivated him to action and obedience, but he continued in the fellowship of Philip, the preacher.' (p. 322) (d) And may we add. That Simon had more faith than modern Calvinists, for he accepted what the Lord had taught concerning baptism ( Mar_16:16 )!

'CONTINUED WITH PHILIP'-'constantly in Philip's company' (NEB). No one was more amazed than Simon. He knew (from experience), that Philip was doing things which no man could do--without real Divine power.

'BEHOLDING'-Which suggests that Simon was personally present when Philip healed people.

Verse 14

Act_8:14 Now when the apostles that were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:

'JOHN'-'John, with his brother James, had once suggested that they should..bring down fire from heaven on a Samaritan community, for its inhospitable behaviour to their Master ( Luk_9:52 ff). It was with a very different attitude that he now set out with Peter..' (Bruce pp. 180-181)

Verse 15

Act_8:15 who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit:

Verse 16

Act_8:16 for as yet it was fallen upon none of them: only they had been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.

'THEY WERE COME DOWN'-'This is the usual language for someone leaving Jerusalem, for this required the traveler to descend ("go down")..Samaria actually is north of Jerusalem, but it is still "down" from Jerusalem.' (Reese p. 323)

'PRAYED FOR THEM'-The distribution of the Spiritual Gifts rested with God ( 1Co_12:11 ).


Points to Note:

Clearly the baptism mentioned is water baptism. It isn't Holy Spirit baptism, for the Holy Spirit had not fallen on any of them. Notice that water baptism is connected with the name of the Lord Jesus. Proving that water baptism is the baptism of the Great Commission ( Mat_28:19 ), and the baptism connected with salvation ( Mar_16:16 ; Act_2:38 'be baptized..IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST UNTO THE REMISSION OF YOUR SINS.'

Here we learn that the gift of the Holy Spirit connected with water baptism, doesn't involve an immediate ability to work miracles or speak in tongues.

And carefully note that the miraculous or direct influence of the Holy Spirit wasn't needed so these people could believe. The idea that man is born depraved, opposed to all good, and cannot even manifest faith apart from the direct operation of the Holy Spirit, doesn't fit these passages. These people heard the gospel, believed it and were baptized, without the Holy Spirit directly operating upon their heart.

Verse 17

Act_8:17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Point to Note:

Consider the simplicity of the above text. The apostles prayed for these Christians and then laid their hands on them. If one could impart the ability to work the miraculous, hours or days of prayer weren't needed

Verse 18

Act_8:18 Now when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money,

'SAW'-Which suggests that some visible evidence that people had received the Spirit was easily seen, i.e. the people that the Apostles laid their hands on were able to speak in tongues, prophecy or heal ( Act_2:1-47 /10)/19).

'THROUGH THE LAYING ON OF THE APOSTLES' HANDS'-And not the laying on of Philip's hands.

Point to Note:

The reason why Peter and John came to Samaria must be found in what they did when they arrived. Philip had the power to perform miracles, but he didn't lay his hands upon the Samaritans. Inferring: (a) Only the apostles could pass on the ability to perform spiritual gifts. (b) Those on whom the apostles laid their hands (like Philip) could not impart the spiritual gifts. 'Had he possessed such power, it would have been unnecessary for Peter and John to make the trip to impart the power.' (Reese p. 325) (c) Therefore when the last apostle died, and those upon whom they had laid their hands, the miracles ceased ( 1Co_13:8-13 ).

Carefully consider the wisdom of God in this instance: (a) Early on, in the absence of a complete New Testament, newly established congregations were given various gifts, including such things as inspiration and discerning of spirits to protect it from false doctrine. (b) By the time the apostles died, the various New Testament books had been written, distributed, copied and collected. By this time they had the revealed Word to guide them.

'HE OFFERED THEM MONEY'-'Trafficking in things sacred like ecclesiastical preferments in England is called "Simony" because of this offer of Simon.' (Robertson p. 107)

Points to Note:

1. An example which definitely reveals that new converts can still be under misconceptions after they have been baptized. Hence instruction aimed at new converts is essential ( Mat_28:20 ; Act_2:42 ).

Reese notes, 'Simon...has a hard time breaking himself of the desire of such position (i.e. influence over the Samaritan people)...The idea that such knowledge could be purchased also would have come from his background...It was the custom of the time for novice enchanters to purchase the secrets of magic from previous masters in the magic art.' (p. 326)

McGarvey notes, 'As a sorcerer, it had been his business to increase his stock in trade by purchasing from other sorcerers the secret of tricks which he could not himself perform, and watching for opportunities to make such purchases.' (p. 146)

Verse 19

Act_8:19 saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay my hands, he may receive the Holy Spirit.

'GIVE ME ALSO THIS POWER'-Notice that Simon didn't merely want some spiritual gift. Rather, he wanted the power to impart the spiritual gifts. Indicating that Simon wished to remain in a position of influence among the Samaritans and that becoming like 'everyone else' was something he didn't want to face.

'I LAY MY HANDS'-Notice that the Spirit in this instance didn't fall directly from heaven. But came through the apostles.

Verse 20

Act_8:20 But Peter said unto him, Thy silver perish with thee, because thou hast thought to obtain the gift of God with money.

'PERISH WITH THEE'-'This rather startling statement is expressive of the horror and indignation of Peter at the base offer of Simon.' (Reese p. 326) 'Lit., be along with thee unto destruction. Destruction overtake thy money and thyself.' (Vincent p. 489)

Points to Note:

Peter believed that there exists a place in which people "perish" ( 2Pe_2:9 ).

Peter isn't saying that Simon never was a Christian in the first place or that Simon is destined for eternal damnation, because Peter tells Simon to repent (8:22). Peter doesn't tell Simon to really believe this time and be baptized.

'THE GIFT OF GOD'-in this case the ability to pass on the Holy Spirit.

Verse 21

Act_8:21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right before God.

'PART NOR LOT'-'You have no share or part' (TCNT)

'IN THIS MATTER'-Not in the matter of salvation, as previously noted. But rather in the matter under consideration, i.e. the spiritual gifts.

'FOR THY HEART IS NOT RIGHT BEFORE GOD'-Notice that God doesn't miraculously remove every wrong desire and impure motive when we become Christians.

Verse 22

Act_8:22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray the Lord, if perhaps the thought of thy heart shall be forgiven thee.

'REPENT THEREFORE'-The command to repent infers: (a) Simon can change, he isn't inherently depraved. Simon still has freewill. (b) His heart can once again become right with God. He can correct his motives, he can break from the past. (c) Peter did consider him to be a Christian, for Peter would of told a non-Christian to repent and be baptized (2:38). (d) Simon isn't predestined for damnation ( 2Pe_3:9 ). (e) Which brings up an interesting question for Calvinist's to chew on. Most Calvinistic writers place Simon in a condition of hopelessness. So why did Peter offer Simon any hope? According to the Bible, if a person was told to repent that automatically inferred that they could be saved ( 2Pe_3:9 ). So if Simon was one of those "predestined" for salvation, why does Peter infer that he could end up lost? But if he wasn't one of the "elect", then why did Peter offer him any hope of forgiveness?

'THY'-He was responsible for his own actions ( Act_5:4 'conceived this deed in your heart?')

'WICKEDNESS'-2549. kakia kak-ee'-ah; from 2556; badness, i.e. (subjectively) depravity, or (actively) malignity, or (passively) trouble: -evil, malice(-iousness), naughtiness, wickedness.

'AND PRAY THE LORD'-Which would seem to include the confession of the sin to God ( 1Jn_1:8-10 ).

'IF PERHAPS'-This phrase doesn't refer to some "unpardonable sin", and neither does it suggest that Peter felt that Simon's chances for salvation were very slim. "Perhaps" is exactly what you would say to an individual with freewill. It leaves the door open for repentance or rejection. But there is no "perhaps" in the doctrine of Calvinism. If Simon was one of the elect then he would be forgiven. If he wasn't predestined then all the repentance and prayer in the world could not help him.

'THE THOUGHT OF THY HEART'-His selfish desire to buy the ability to impart the Holy Spirit.

Verse 23

Act_8:23 For I see that thou art in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.

'I SEE'-Even non-miraculous insight could tell that Simon's motives weren't pure. ( Mat_15:18 'But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart..').

'GALL OF BITTERNESS'-5521. chole khol-ay'; feminine of an equivalent perhaps akin to the same as 5514 (from the greenish hue); "gall" or bile, i.e. (by analogy) poison or an anodyne (wormwood, poppy, etc.): -gall.

-'poisoned with envy' (Nor); 'turning to bitter poison' (Beck)

'BOND OF INIQUITY'-'slave of wrong-doing' (Nor); 'being chained by wickedness' (Beck); 'a man bitter with jealousy and bound with his own sin' (Phi).

These words infer: (a) Peter believed that Simon could lose his salvation. (b) And this not only applies to Simon, but to all who lapse back into sin ( 2Pe_2:20-22 ). (c) It suggests that sin is progressive, and that one can't 'dabble' in sin, but that sin eventually overcomes all who don't correct the misconceptions, wrong motives, etc..in their hearts. (d) Sin doesn't offer freedom, it only offers bondage ( Joh_8:34 ).

The lesson is clear, as long as we refuse to adopt God's way of thinking ( Php_4:8 ; Php_2:3-5 ), we will fail.

Point to Note:

In contrast to those today who insist that any negative admonitions or rebuke, are not manifestations of the "love" taught by Jesus. Be impressed that Peter was very stern and pointed with this new convert.

Verse 24

Act_8:24 And Simon answered and said, Pray ye for me to the Lord, that none of the things which ye have spoken come upon me.

'PRAY YE FOR ME TO THE LORD'-Now many writers at this point assert that this response by Simon is proof that he was being hypocritical or insincere. Stott says, 'Simon's response to Peter's rebuke was not encouraging. He showed no sign of repentance, or even of contrition. Instead of praying for forgiveness, as Peter had urged him to do..he felt so incapable of praying, so distrustful of his own prayers, that he asked Peter to pray for him instead.' (p. 151) I have to reject the above view: (a) Simon isn't rejecting the rebuke or feeling that he doesn't have to pray, rather, he is desiring the prayers of Peter and John on his behalf (along with his own praying). We would say the same thing, 'Pray for me too!' (b) Notice that he wanted salvation. (c) He definitely believed that Peter's assessment of the situation was true.

'YE'-Addressed to Peter and John.

Point to Note:

This is the last time we hear about Simon in the Bible. A tremendous amount of human tradition is written concerning what he did after this event (see the various reference works). We aren't told if he was successful in living the Christian life or not. If he was able to survive without being "some great one" or not. And that's the way it should be. For all of us are like Simon. Each one of us holds our own eternal fate in our own hands. And whether we can survive, succeed, and find happiness and contentment in following God's way of living and thinking, will depend upon whether we believe that God is good and that God always has our best interest at heart.

Verse 25

'Palsy'. Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia Of The Bible. p. 587.

Verse 26

Act_8:26 But an angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza: the same is desert.

'BUT'-'The tense of the verbs in the preceding verse and here implies that the events that follow synchronized with the journey of Peter and John through Samaria.' (Reese p. 330)


Point to Note:

The book of Acts is filled with various communications from God via angels, the Holy Spirit or Jesus Himself ( Act_5:19-20 ; Act_8:29 ; Act_9:4-6 ; Act_10:3 ; Act_10:10-16 ; Act_16:6-7 ; Act_16:9-10 ; Act_18:9-10 ). Let us be impressed that never did God directly tell anyone what to do to be saved. When a communication was made, it was made either to the individual who would then teach people the gospel or as in the case of Cornelius, the message revealed where to find such a preacher.

Hence today, when various religious people claim that God communicated to them and told them they were saved or told them what to do to be saved, we must remember that God has never operated in such a manner.

'ARISE, AND GO'-'Soon after the departure of Peter and John...Philip was given another evangelistic commission.' (Stott p. 159) 'The congregation in Samaria has been endowed with spiritual gifts so that it has inspired leadership, so men like the apostles or Philip are no longer needed there.' (Reese p. 330) 'From his great work in the city of Samaria, Philip was suddenly summoned to the... hills of southern Judea. Instead of addressing multitudes he was to bring the gospel message to one man...The man who preaches Christ to eager crowds is no more truly an evangelist than he who testifies for his Lord to a chance acquaintance on a lonely journey.' (Erdman p. 84)

Points to Note:

Again we see the purpose for the spiritual gifts. They were to equip a congregation in the absence of a completed New Testament ( 1Co_13:8-13 ). Note: The spiritual gifts didn't reveal truth in addition to what is found in the New Testament! ( 1Jn_4:1 ; 2Jn_1:9 ; 1Co_14:37 ).

Notice the value that God places upon just one soul ( Mat_16:25-26 ). God sent a preacher (who could of been using his time and talents in preaching to large crowds) to preach to a specific individual.

Observe also, that if a person is looking for the truth, God will give them the chance to hear it ( Joh_7:17 ). In view of the following facts: (a) God is all-powerful. (b) God can bring about His purposes, despite human rebellion and opposition. (c) God desires that all would be saved ( 2Pe_3:9 ). (d) God is no respecter of persons ( Act_10:34-35 ). It would be hard to conceive of a person who didn't get at least one opportunity to hear the Gospel.

'TOWARD THE SOUTH'-South of the city of Samaria.

'UNTO THE WAY THAT GOETH DOWN FROM JERUSALEM UNTO GAZA'-In New Testament times various roads connected Jerusalem with Gaza. 'Archaeology has shown that there was a road built by the Romans that led from the south-western corner of Jerusalem in a westerly and southerly direction toward Gaza, some traces of which are still visible.' (Reese p. 331)

Writing about 100 years ago, McGarvey noted, 'The whole distance from city to city is about fifty miles...Some five or six miles from the latter city (Jerusalem) the road begins to descend from the central ridge, which is follows that far, through a rough and narrow ravine...After traversing this valley a few miles nearly due south, the road turns to the west, and rises through another wady (dry river bed) to the level of the great Philistine plain, which it follows the rest of the way to Gaza.' (p. 151)

'GAZA'-Which is one of the oldest cities in the world ( Gen_10:19 ). 'Travellers to and from Egypt used to supply themselves with provisions there..' (Reese p. 331) It was the southernmost of the five chief Philistine cities, located about 3 miles inland from the Mediterranean, and 12 miles south of Ashkelon. It occupied a very strategic location on an important caravan and military route that extended to the SW and then W through the sands close to the Mediterranean Sea..to the Egyptian Delta. 'It was vital, in any military campaign, for opposing enemies to hold this city as a rest area to or from the desert.' (Zond. Ency. p. 662)

'THE SAME IS DESERT'-2048. eremos er'-ay-mos; of uncertain affinity; lonesome, i.e. (by implication) waste (usually as a noun, 5561 being implied): -desert, desolate, solitary, wilderness.

-'This is a desert road' (NASV).

-The word desert can speak of a sandy, arid region, such as the wilderness of Judea. But it also can refer to a region that is uninhabited ( Mat_14:15 ; Mat_14:19 ).

McGarvey notes, 'The passage along the mountain ravine must be the part called desert, for all the rest of the way the road passes through the midst of villages, pastures, and cultivated fields.' (p. 151)

Point to Note:

'Many have said (before men knew the geography of Palestine) that the Eunuch could not have been immersed because he was in a dry, arid region where there was no water.' (Reese pp. 331-332) This is based on a misunderstanding of the word "desert", and also a denial of what the text says. They found enough water, in which both of them could go down into it (8:38).

Verse 27

Act_8:27 And he arose and went: and behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was over all her treasure, who had come to Jerusalem to worship;

'HE AROSE AND WENT'-Note the prompt obedience.

'A MAN OF ETHIOPIA'-'The "Ethiopia" of those days corresponded to what we call "the Upper Nile", reaching approx. from Aswan to Khartoum.' (Stott p. 160) 'It lay south of Egypt, on the Nile River. It was bounded on the north by Egypt, on the east by the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, on the south by the (then) unknown regions of the interior of Africa, and on the west by Libya and the great Libyan deserts. This kingdom was north of the land that is today known as Ethiopia.' (Reese p. 332)

'A EUNUCH'-'as were most courtiers at that period' (Stott p. 160). A man who had been castrated, which arose from the preference of rulers for such men in offices involving contact with the women of their households. 'Commonly employed as court officials in eastern lands from antiquity until quite recent times.' (Bruce p. 187)

'OF GREAT AUTHORITY'-'a high official' (NEB). Various Eunuch's in the ancient world became very powerful men.

'UNDER CANDACE, QUEEN OF THE ETHIOPIANS'-"Candace" isn't a personal name, rather it was a common title for the queens of Ethiopia, like Pharaoh in Egypt, or Caesar at Rome. 'The king of Ethiopia was venerated as the child of the sun and regarded as too sacred a personage to discharge the secular functions of royalty; these were performed on his behalf by the queen-mother, who regularly bore the dynastic title Candace.' (Bruce p. 186)

'WHO WAS OVER ALL HER TREASURE'-'was probably the treasurer or minister of trade and so traveled widely and could well have known either Hebrew or Greek sufficiently to read the Isaiah scroll.' (Zond. Ency. p. 414)

'WHO HAD COME TO JERUSALEM TO WORSHIP'-Which infers that he was probably either a Jew or a convert to Judaism. 'There was a Jewish colony in Ethiopia.' (Reese p. 333) He may have been a black man or he may have actually been a man of Jewish ancestry (like Daniel or Joseph), who had become a high ranking official in the Ethiopian court.

Point to Note:

According to the Law of Moses ( Deu_23:1 ), a man who had been castrated, was denied various religious privileges which were open for Jewish males. McGarvey takes this to mean, 'His being a eunuch debarred him from the privilege of mingling in the Jewish congregation, or entering the Jewish court of the temple; but it did not debar him from the court of the Gentiles..' (p. 152)

The attitude of the eunuch is impressive. He had come to Jerusalem to worship (possibly at one of the annual feasts). It had probably taken him weeks or months to arrive. But he knew that when he came to Jerusalem, he would be barred from entering the court reserved for Jewish males. In fact, Jewish women would have a closer access than he. But he still came!

Modern Applications:

Here is a man that still worshipped God, even though the God he worshipped had barred him from full access.

In a day and age when some women think that Christianity is restrictive, or they won't serve a God that doesn't allow female elders--the example of the eunuch puts them to shame. You see, the eunuch was interested in finding acceptance with God--and not some temporary feeling of self-fulfillment. And right here, all of us should ask ourselves, what is our spiritual goal? What are we wanting from God? Is our goal in serving God nothing more than personal self-worth? Or is our goal in serving God, pleasing Him?

Anyone who presently has a problem in assembling with Christians should feel ashamed. Here is a man that traveled hundreds of miles to worship God, and yet when he arrived he would have to stand "outside" to worship this God. But this didn't stop him.

And what does the example of the eunuch say to those who excuse themselves from serving God by saying, 'That church isn't friendly enough, nobody talked to me, someone said something that offended me, too many hypocrites exist in the church or too many cliques, etc..'

The removal of the ban on eunuchs is prophetically announced in Isa_56:3 ff and Jer_38:7 .

Verse 28

Act_8:28 and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah.

'RETURNING'-Heading back home.

'SITTING IN HIS CHARIOT'-We are told later that this chariot had a driver (8:38).

'READING THE PROPHET ISAIAH'-At some point in his life he had purchased a manuscript of Isaiah. From the quotation that follows we know that he was reading from the Greek version of Isaiah. The O.T. had been translated into Greek some 250 years previous and was known as the Septuagint.

Point to Note:

A great lesson is found in this context for those who worry about the accuracy associated with copying the Scriptures and Bible translations. Carefully note: (a) Isaiah had written some 700 years previous, his letter had been copied and recopied by hand and then translated into Greek. (b) This man possessed a translation of Isaiah. And what does Luke by inspiration call it? God calls this translation 'the prophet Isaiah', and 'Scripture' (8:35). (c) The popular excuse that I can't believe or place my trust in the Bible, because I'm not sure if our current translations are really what the original writers said....DOESN'T IMPRESS GOD!

Verse 29

Act_8:29 And the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.

'THE SPIRIT'-The Holy Spirit.


Points to Note:

'There are many people today who think that conversion is achieved by the direct action of the Holy Spirit on the heart (mind) of the unconverted sinner.' (Reese p. 334) But the Holy Spirit doesn't directly speak to the eunuch (the sinner), in this case he is speaking to the preacher. The only message the eunuch will hear in this context is the message found in the Word of God (8:35). A direct operation of the Holy Spirit in addition to the gospel message is not needed to open the mind of the sinner ( Rom_1:16 ; Rom_10:17 ).

Note that when the Holy Spirit speaks directly to an individual that the message is loud, CLEAR AND SPECIFIC! This idea that the Holy Spirit lays a "thought, intuition or feeling" on my heart--that I in turn translate, is false. How many charismatic preachers will say something like, 'in a small quiet voice, in something like a whisper, I could tell, feel that the Spirit was saying something like...'or, 'now God didn't actually say it in this way, but I could tell that God was saying....' Friends, the Spirit doesn't mumble when He speaks. He doesn't need a Hooked on Phonics Course or a speech therapist. And neither does He talk like Charlie Brown's teacher! When the Holy Spirit spoke to people directly, He plainly told them what to do. Philip didn't have to pause and ask himself, 'Now I wonder what God is trying to tell me'.

Opportunities must be seized. Erdman notes: 'Had the chariot rolled by, as far as the evangelist was concerned, it would have been gone forever.' (p. 85) We too must seize and use the opportunities that come our way ( Eph_5:16 ).

Verse 30

Act_8:30 And Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?

'PHILIP RAN TO HIM'-Eagerness, prompt obedience, a soul was at stake.

'HEARD HIM READING'-'Reading in ancient times was almost invariably aloud. Why this should be so will be apparent to anyone who tries to read a copy of ancient manuscript; the words require to be spelt out, and this is done more easily aloud than in silence.' (Bruce p. 187)

'UNDERSTANDEST THOU WHAT THOU READEST?'-Thus we find Philip running alongside the chariot, close enough to hear the eunuch reading and close enough to shout to him the question.

McGarvey notes, 'Philip's question, Do thou understand what thou readest? strikes us as a rather abrupt if not an impertinent method of introducing himself to the grandee.' (pp. 153-154) But he goes on to point out that it was a perfectly good question. We need to learn a lesson here: (a) We worry too much about the proper approach in teaching people. The best way to get a class with someone is simply to ask. (b) If the eunuch would have been arrogant and offended by the question, that would have shown that he wasn't interested in the truth. Honest up-front questions will tell us if our co-worker, friend, etc..has any desire to know the truth. Honesty and effort is more important that the ideal and tactful one-liner.

Converting people isn't about saying exactly the right thing at the right time, rather it is more about finding a good and honest heart.

Verse 31

Act_8:31 And he said, How can I, except some one shall guide me? And he besought Philip to come up and sit with him.

'HOW I CAN, EXCEPT SOME ONE SHALL GUIDE ME?'-'shall show me the way' (Mon) 'The humility and thirst for instruction of this great courtier are very remarkable..' (P.P. Comm. p. 254) 'he acknowledges his ignorance freely and frankly' (in contrast to) a person who is swollen-headed with confidence in his own abilities.' (Stott p. 160)

Point to Note:

The eunuch will end up finding the truth, not because he is smarter than the rest of men, but because he refuses to allow his "pride" to get in the way of finding out what God would have him to do ( Jam_1:21 ). In order to make it to heaven you must be "teachable", which means that in order to find the way--you must first admit that you don't know the way.

'GUIDE'-3594. hodegeo hod-ayg-eh'-o; from 3595; to show the way (literally or figuratively [teach]): -guide, lead.

Point to Note:

'This is one of the verses used by the Roman Church to prove that the only infallible interpreter of Scripture is the church (and the Roman hierarchy in particular). Further, it is said that the average man cannot read and understand the Scriptures for himself.' (Reese p. 335) In response we could say: (a) Many Scriptures assert that the Bible is within the understanding of the common man ( Act_17:11 ; Eph_5:17 ; Eph_3:3-4 ; 1Pe_2:2 ). (b) Philip wasn't a Roman Catholic priest and neither did he teach the eunuch Catholic doctrine. (c) The Bible is filled with "unprofessional" teachers who got it right ( 2Ti_1:5 ). (d) Teachers simply help the student put two and two together that much quicker ( Mat_28:20 ; 2Ti_2:2 ). (e) And in view of doctrines invented by Catholicism ( 1Ti_4:1-3 ), we must say that if anyone is unqualified to teach the Bible, it is the defender of Roman dogma. The only bearing this verse has on Catholicism is that a Catholic priest needs to be taught by a Christian.

'AND HE BESOUGHT PHILIP TO COME UP AND SIT WITH HIM'-'earnestly invited' (Wey). People who are hungry for the truth act like it. 'So we are to picture the Ethiopian with the scroll of Isa_53:1-12 spread out on his lap, and with Philip now sitting beside him, as the carriage jolted its way further south.' (Stott p. 161)

Verse 32

Act_8:32 Now the passage of the Scripture which he was reading was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before his shearer is dumb, So he openeth not his mouth:

'WAS THIS'-Notice the detail. We know exactly where in Isaiah the eunuch had been reading from. Before we proceed, again let us be impressed with the character of this man. He is a very important and powerful man, who has been treated as an outsider or outcast when he came to worship. 'He has been there now; and, on his way home he is scarcely out of sight of the holy city when he takes in hand, as he rides along, the book of Isaiah. He is a thoughtful reader, carefully inquiring, as he reads, the meaning of every passage.' (McGarvey p. 155)


Verse 33

Act_8:33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: His generation who shall declare? For his life is taken from the earth.

'IN HIS HUMILIATION HIS JUDGEMENT WAS TAKEN AWAY'-This is the Septuagint rendering of Isa_53:8 . The NASV of Isa_53:8 , translated from the Hebrew reads, 'By oppression and judgement He was taken away'. 'It speaks of the time during Jesus' trial when He had no one to speak in His defense, no friends in the court. And "judgement" being taken away means that justice, a just sentence, was denied Him.' (Reese p. 336)

'HUMILIATION'-5014. tapeinosis tap-i'-no-sis; from 5013; depression (in rank or feeling): -humiliation, be made low, low estate, vile.

-In the mind of the Hebrew translators there isn't much difference between "oppression" and "humiliation".

'HIS GENERATION WHO SHALL DECLARE?'-NASV Isa_53:8 'And as for His generation, who considered..' Could mean, who shall declare to His generation the real meaning of His death?

'TAKEN FROM THE EARTH'-'hurried to a violent death' (Reese p. 337)

Verse 34

Act_8:34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other?

'I PRAY THEE'-'Please tell me' (NASV).

'OF WHOM SPEAKETH THE PROPHET..'-At this point we encounter something somewhat humorous in our own times. That is, many "religious experts" to this day disagree as "who" is the subject of Isa_53:1-12 . Bruce notes, 'Philip had no difficulty, nor did he hesitate between a number of alternative answers.' (p. 189)

Point to Note:

Consider the task of the preacher. It isn't to give every possible meaning of a verse, rather, it is to give the one true meaning ( 2Ti_4:2 ; 2Ti_2:15 ). And the servant of God must always operate with the understanding that one correct view does exist.

Verse 35

Act_8:35 And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture, preached unto him Jesus.

'BEGINNING FROM THIS SCRIPTURE'-Note that the angel and Spirit speaking to Philip were supernatural events. But the exact place that the eunuch was reading from wasn't. In addition, the eunuch will believe what Philip said--without seeing Philip performing any miracles. Philip doesn't even tell the eunuch that their meeting that been arranged. Notice how God enables people to encounter great opportunities in which to become a Christian. A better text of Scripture to preach Jesus from (in the absence of the New Testament) could not be found other than Isa_53:1-12 .

'PREACHED UNTO HIM JESUS'-Demonstrated that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the predictions given by Isaiah.

Verse 36

Act_8:36 And as they went on the way, they came unto a certain water; and the eunuch saith, Behold, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?

'AND AS THEY WENT ON THE WAY'-Inferring that this 'bible study' may have taken some time.

'UNTO A CERTAIN WATER'-McGarvey notes that along this road various pools or streams are found. In addition, besides natural streams and the pools created by them, the ruins of many artificial pools dot this highway.

'BEHOLD, HERE IS WATER'-'Look! Water!' (NASV).

'WHAT DOTH HINDER ME TO BE BAPTIZED?'-'what is to prevent my being baptized' (TCNT).

Points to Note:

This outburst from the eunuch demands that we draw some necessary inferences: (a) 'Preaching Jesus' (8:35), includes preaching more than just the person Jesus. It includes preaching those doctrines that Jesus taught, including baptism ( Mar_16:16 ). (b) Preachers today who stop short of telling people they need to be baptized, are not preaching Jesus. Rather they are preaching a mutilated or corrupted gospel ( Gal_1:6-9 ). A message that doesn't include the need to be baptized, is not the gospel message revealed in the New Testament ( Eph_4:4-6 ).

From his outcry we learn "how" the subject of baptism had been presented to him. The exclamation points in the NASV infer that Philip had taught the eunuch that baptism was absolutely necessary for salvation, just as Peter ( Act_2:38 ) and Jesus had taught ( Mar_16:16 ).

The word "hinder" suggests that the eunuch might have thought that his physical condition (which had hindered him in respect to Judaism) might do the same thing in reference to what Philip was teaching him.

And be impressed, "what" type of baptism had Philip presented to the eunuch as necessary to become a Christian? Holy Spirit baptism???? NO! The eunuch sees "water", and cries out with the desire to be baptized.

Reese notes, 'Philip, the inspired preacher, preached a message different than many of the preachers of this day who preach only a Spirit baptism (in the effort to avoid the force of the passages which speak of baptism as being necessary for salvation).' (p. 339)

Verse 37

Act_8:37 [And Philip said, If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.]

Point to Note:

In the NASV this verse is in brackets, and the note in the side reference says, 'Many mss. (manuscripts) do not contain this verse.' Those being Aleph, A, B, C, G H, P46. Now many believe that this verse was not part of the original book of Luke. But in response: (a) From a readers standpoint, there definitely is a gap between 8:36 and 38 without this verse. For without 8:37, according to the text, Philip never answers the eunuch's question. (b) Early "Christian" writers quote Act_8:37 . 'It was found in a text which Irenaeus used (he lived from 170 to 210 A.D.). Cyprian (200-258 A.D.) also was familiar with the reading of verse 37.' (Reese p. 340)

Reese notes, 'Footnotes and/ or marginal notes very often indicate a variant reading in the major manuscripts which underlie our translations of the Scriptures. Very often, where the divergent readings are almost equally supported in the ancient manuscripts, the translators would vote on which reading to incorporate into the text. If the majority voting for one reading was just one or two over half of those voting, the minority opinion was included in the form of a footnote.' (p. 340)

In the view of the facts that an obvious gap exists without 8:37, and the men who quoted it, lived just as early on or earlier than the manuscripts that omit it, I find it very difficult not to believe that the verse is genuine.

'IF THOU BELIEVEST WITH ALL THY HEART, THOU MAYEST'-Faith is a condition prior to baptism ( Mar_16:16 ).

'I BELIEVE THAT JESUS CHRIST IS THE SON OF GOD'-( Rom_10:9-10 ; Mat_10:32 ). Notice that the "confession" required as a condition for salvation, is not a confession of all the sins that one has committed.

'THE SON OF GOD'-One cannot be saved if faith stops short of believing "who" Jesus really is. The confessions that Jesus lived, was a religious teacher, a good man, etc...do not lead to salvation. The confession that is required is the conviction that Jesus is God. For this is what the Bible declares Him to be ( Joh_1:1 ; Heb_1:8 ). ( Rom_10:9 'Jesus as Lord').

Verse 38

Act_8:38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.

'HE COMMANDED THE CHARIOT TO STAND STILL'-The chariot had a driver. The last person mentioned in 8:37 is the eunuch, therefore it was the eunuch who issued the command.


Points to Note:

Those who reject the idea that immersion is the only proper mode of baptism, have desperately tried to avoid the force of the above passage. Various arguments: (a) The word "into" simply means that they went "near" the water. But if "both" only went near the water, then can you baptize someone without water? (b) Others argue that if immersion is meant then it presents the ridiculous idea that both were immersed. But why doesn't the same logic apply when they argue that sprinkling or pouring are acceptable modes. Were "both" sprinkled??? (c) One writer even said, 'He came to a stream trickling along, scarcely sufficient to lave his feet, or perhaps rather to a well in the desert.' Did Philip and the Eunuch both climb down into a well? Such arguments only prove that people do see what the above text is saying.

The Greek rendered "baptism" means immersion.

Additional passages make it clear that baptism is a burial ( Rom_6:3-5 ; Col_2:12 ).

Why would both men need to go "down into the water", if the mode being used was sprinkling or pouring?

The eunuch's question, excited at seeing a body of water by the side of the road infers that the eunuch understood the meaning of the word "baptism". Are we to assume that this court official was traveling without personally having with him a supply of drinking water and provisions for the journey? How much water do you need to sprinkle someone?

Verse 39

Act_8:39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, for he went on his way rejoicing.

'CAME UP OUT OF THE WATER'-The particular mode of baptism demanded that they go down into the water to accomplish this act, and they exited the water after the baptism.

'THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD CAUGHT AWAY PHILIP'-'Suddenly and miraculously' (Vincent p. 491). See 1Ki_18:12 and 2Ki_2:11 .

'CAUGHT AWAY'-726. harpazo har-pad'-zo; from a derivative of 138; to sieze (in various applications): -catch (away, up), pluck, pull, take (by force).

-'Some understand this trip as "a supersonic ride", undertaken "with miraculous velocity".' (Stott p. 162)

'THE EUNUCH SAW HIM NO MORE, FOR HE WENT ON HIS WAY REJOICING'-'He did not stop nor take another road to seek him, but went on his way.' (Vincent p. 491)

Point to Note:

'The circumstance worthy of note is that Philip was not allowed to remain longer in company with his new convert, as he would naturally desire to do in order to his further instruction. It was God's will that the man should go on his way to his native land, and work out his own salvation...by building upon the elementary instruction which he had now received. With many men this would doubtless be unsafe; but God knew this man...Notwithstanding this sudden separation from his teacher, and the necessity of going on his way with so little knowledge of his newly found Savior, the eunuch "went on his way rejoicing"..' (McGarvey p. 161)

Verse 40

Act_8:40 But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached the gospel to all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.

'FOUND'-May suggest that Philip next found himself in the city of Azotus, i.e. the end destination of his being "caught away". Or, it may mean that the next place where Philip preached was the city of Azotus.

'AZOTUS'-which is the ancient Ashdod of the O.T. Located near the Mediterranean Sea, about 20 miles north of Gaza and 35 miles from Jerusalem.


Points to Note:

'it was about 60 miles from Azotus to Caesarea. The plains of Philistia and Sharon are included in this area, as are many towns...In addition to Lydda and Joppa, other towns of importance were Ashkelon, Arimathea, and Antipatris.' (Reese p. 344)

Some 20 years later we still find Philip living in Caesarea ( Act_21:8 ). 'By that time he had become a family man, with four daughters all old enough to be prophetesses--worthy daughters of such a father.' (Bruce p. 191)

'At this time it was thickly set with villages and small cities..It was a field of labor for evangelization sufficient to occupy many years of Philip's life.' (McGarvey p. 164)

'The route which Philip would naturally take on this journey led through Lydda and Joppa and we may trace the effects of his preaching in the appearance in Act_9:32 ; Act_9:36 .' (Boles p. 140)


'Take the people evangelized. The people with whom Philip shared the good news were different in race, rank, and religion. The Samaritans were of mixed race, half-Jewish and half-Gentile, and Asiatic, while the Ethiopian was..probably a Jew by birth or a proselyte. As of rank, the Samaritans were presumably ordinary citizens, whereas the Ethiopian was a distinguished public servant...That brings up religion. The Samaritans revered Moses but rejected the prophets...The Ethiopian, on the other hand, had a strong attachment to Judaism...So the Samaritans were unstable and credulous, while the Ethiopian was a thoughtful seeker after the truth. Yet despite their differences in racial origin, social class and predisposing religious condition, Philip presented them both with the same good news of Jesus.' (Stott p. 163)

Notice how the Gospel message breaks down social, cultural and racial barriers. Philip, the Samaritans and the eunuch all saw the same truth. In spite of the fact that in both situations people were operating under prejudices, misconceptions and preconceived ideas.

Philip willing preached to people that were of a different race, nationality or social class than himself. He considered the Gospel message as being for all.

Bibliographical Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Acts 8". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dun/acts-8.html. 1999-2014.
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