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Bible Commentaries
Acts 8

The Bible Study New TestamentBible Study NT

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Verse 1


And Saul approved of his murder. He did not throw a stone, but he agreed in spirit with what they did. See the description of Saul in notes on Acts 9:1. That very day. Murdering Stephen was not enough! These men, including Saul, wanted “blood” of the entire messianic community. All the believers. The GROUP had become very large, some think as large as one hundred thousand members. Persecution caused an explosion as it forced the disciples to run for their lives! Acts 8:4 tells the results. Except the apostles. An old tradition says Christ ordered the apostles to stay in Jerusalem for twelve years, so that no one there could say he had not heard the Good News. The apostles were shielded in some way.

Verse 2


Some devout men burled Stephen. This implies they were not Christians, but devout Jews, favorable toward the Gospel, yet not willing to obey it. Mourning for him. They showed their protest against Stephen’s murder by a public funeral, with the usual screaming and crying.

Verse 3


But Saul tried to destroy the church. He did this because he BELIEVED they were God’s enemies. Saul always did what he thought God wanted him to do. Compare Acts 23:1. [The Jews of the first century believed they could bring the promised Messiah, by converting the world to Judaism. Saul certainly must have been a “militant Jewish missionary.”]

Verse 4


Preaching the message. The group was scattered, but the CHURCH of Christ was not destroyed! They had been schooled by the apostles, and everywhere one of these believers found himself, a new community of believers grew up.

Verse 5


Philip went to the city of Samaria. This is not Philip the apostle, but rather Philip the “church helper” (Acts 6:5). The city of Samaria was some ten miles northwest of Sychar. Herod the Great rebuilt it and renamed it Sebaste.

Verses 6-8


The crowds paid close attention. The miracles got their attention. Compare Acts 19:10-12. Philip, one of the seven (Acts 6:5), had the gift of miracles. This is the second recorded example of one, who was not an apostle, having this gift. The miracles were similar to those which Jesus did. Compare notes on Matthew 4:24-25.

Verse 9


A man named Simon. A magician, who had built fame for himself through his use of the magic arts. He claimed. He claimed to be more than human, with supernatural powers.

Verse 10

10. He is that power of God. They believed God worked through him to do these things.

Verse 12

12. But when they believed Philip’s message. Note that: (1) Philip preached to them; (2) the Good News of the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ; (3) faith came from hearing the message (Romans 10:17); (4) when they believed, they were baptized. This is the pattern found throughout Acts, including the special case of Cornelius. Both men and women. There is no mention of children.

Verse 13


Simon himself also believed. Many have argued that Simon believed in the miracles, not in Christ. But we are not told this, and the Scripture makes no separation between he and the others. It is hard to believe a man with the fame Simon had, would yield himself to the Good News, unless he was sincere at the time. He was like the seed that fell among thorns, which grew up and choked out his spiritual life.

Verse 14


The apostles in Jerusalem heard. Philip was not an apostle. He had the gift of miracles, but could not pass it on to others. (1) On Pentecost, the Spirit came down on the first Jewish Christians. (2) The Samaritan Christians received the gifts of the Spirit from the apostle. (3) When the first Gentiles were converted, an apostle was present as the Spirit came down. There is no record of the gifts of the Spirit being given other than through or in the presence of an apostle. See Romans 1:11. So they sent Peter and John. The entire group of apostles chooses Peter and John for this mission. This is the last time John is mentioned in the book of Acts.

Verses 15-17


They prayed for the believers. That the Spirit might come down on them. The “gifts of the Spirit” are not the same as the “Spirit as a gift.” These had already been born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5), but had not yet been given the supernormal gifts of the Spirit. See notes on Acts 19:1-7. Calvin wrote: “Luke speaks not of the common grace of the Holy Spirit, but of those singular gifts with which God would have certainly endowed at the beginning of the gospel.” Placed their hands on them. Only the apostles had the authority and the ability to pass on the gifts of the Spirit.

Verses 18-19


So he offered money to Peter and John. This implies he was not one whom the apostles gave the gifts of the Spirit. His sin is not that he wanted this power, but that he tried to buy it! [1 Timothy 6:5 may apply here.]

Verses 20-24


May you and your money go to hell. This is a literal translation. Johnson thinks this is not an anathema [God’s curse], but the word is APOLEIAN, which is translated “destined to hell” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. However, Simon is not completely beyond hope, as Peter shows. For thinking that you can buy. Simon’s conversion is not called into question but the sin he has done. You have no part or share In our work. In these gifts of the Spirit. Repent, then. He does not repeat the words of Acts 2:38, because this man is not an alien from the Kingdom. His past sins have already been forgiven. It is this present sin that threatens to drag him down to hell. If there is any doubt about forgiveness, it is not about God’s willingness to forgive, but about Simon’s willingness to repent. Compare Hebrews 6:4-6 And pray to the Lord. The erring child of God, caught with sin on his hands, has the right to pray to the Lord for forgiveness. The alien from the Kingdom must: (1) believe; (2) repent; (3) be baptized (Acts 2:37-38 and notes). Peter shows us that the sinning Christian must (1) repent; (2) pray (see also 1 John 1:8-10). Scripture tells us nothing more of this Simon the magician.

Verse 25


After they had given. Peter and John did not rush back to Jerusalem, but used every opportunity to spread the Good News of Jesus.

Verse 26


An angel of the Lord. Gaza was on the south-west seacoast of Judea. The road went through the hill-country of Judea. Note the angel speaks to the preacher and sends him to preach Jesus.

Verses 27-28


Now an Ethiopian eunuch. Ethiopia was the part of Africa south of Egypt. It was common in the East to “desex” strong, intelligent young men, and train them for positions of leadership. This “mutilated” man was probably a Gentile converted to Judaism, although he could never be a “full Jew” because he was a eunuch Deuteronomy 23:1), In charge of the treasury. This shows his importance. [“Candace” is not a personal name, but a title.] Her court was on an island in the Nile river, about a thousand miles from the Mediterranean Sea. To worship God. Traveling this long distance, his Bible study, etc., shows him to be a devout man.[He would be allowed only in the Court of the Gentiles, because of his mutilation (Deuteronomy 23:1).

Verses 29-30


The Holy Spirit said to Philip. Notice the Spirit sends Philip to this man.

Verse 31

31. How can I understand? He needed help to understand the prophecies. Compare 1 Corinthians 2:13-14,

Verses 32-33

32–33. The passage of scripture. Isaiah 53:7-8 from the Septuagint. This quotation from Isaiah shows the voluntary sacrifice which Christ would make; the wickedness and guilt of the people who killed him; and also the “spiritual children” [followers] he would have.

Verses 34-35


Of whom is the prophet saying this? Philip used this opportunity to show how the prophets predicted God’s act in Christ to set men free. He showed the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. He told how they had been ordered to preach this Good News and baptize believers by the authority of Christ into the “Three Names of God” (see notes on Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:38). We know this, because of the question the official asks in Acts 8:36.

Verse 36


They came to a place. The exact spot where this baptism took place is unknown. Jerome and Eusebius place it at Bethsura [Bethzur, Joshua 15:58], about twenty miles from Jerusalem, in a deep pool at the foot of a hill. Others think Acts 8:40 implies it was near Ashdod. Here is some water. Note it is the official who asks this! This implies Philip had taught him this. The Greek implies happiness that he could obey his Lord in the liquid grave (Colossians 2:12). See note on Acts 8:39.

Verse 37


If you believe. Philip asks for a formal declaration of faith. 1 believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. This is the “Ultimate declaration!” See Romans 10:9-10; 1 Peter 3:21.

Verse 38


And both of them . . . went down into the water. The Expositor’s Greek Testament says: “HIS TO HUDOR: even if the words are rendered ‘unto the water’ (Plumptre), the context ANEBESAN EK indicates that the baptism was by immersion, and there can be no doubt that this was the custom in the early Church.”

Verses 39-40


Up out of the water. “Christian baptism” involves both water and Spirit. See note on John 3:5. Full of Joy. This man had been unable to find full acceptance in Judaism because of his mutilation (Deuteronomy 23:1). Try to picture his great happiness in discovering that none of that was important any more! He, a eunuch, had direct access to Jesus Christ the Son of God!!! Phillip found himself in Ashdod. Also called Azotus. This was an old Philistine city on the seacoast. He probably planted churches along the coastal area (compare Acts 9:32; Acts 9:36). Until he arrived at Caesarea. He may have taken months or years to do this. Peter probably did his work of missions at Caesarea before Philip arrived. We find Philip living there in Acts 21:8.

Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Acts 8". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ice/acts-8.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.
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