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÷÷ACTS 8

ACTS 8

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Saul Persecutes the Church Saul Persecutes the Church Spread of the Gospel to Samaria and the Sea Coast Saul Persecutes the church The Stoning of Stephen, Saul as Persecutor
8:1b-3 8:1-3 8:1b-3 8:1b-2 (7:55-8:3)
8:2
8:3 8:3
The Gospel is Preached in Samaria Christ is Preached in Samaria The Gospel is Preached in Samaria Philip in Samaria
8:4-8 8:4-8 8:4-8 8:4-8 8:4-8
The Sorcerer's Profession of Faith Simon the Magician
8:9-13 8:9-13 8:9-13 8:9-13 8:9-13
The Sorcerer's Sin
8:14-24 8:14-24 8:14-24 8:14-17 8:14-17
8:18-19 8:18-24
8:20-24
8:25 8:25 8:25 8:25 8:25
Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch Christ is Preached to an Ethiopian Philip and the Ethiopian Official Philip Baptizes a Eunuch
8:26-33
    (32b-33)
8:26-40
    (32b-33)
8:26-40
    (32b-33)
8:26-30 8:26-33
8:31-33
8:34-40 8:34-37 8:34-40
8:38-40

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Third paragraph, etc.

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

÷ACTS 8:1

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: ACTS 8:1a
 1Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death.

8:1 "Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death" This phrase concludes Acts 7. It is a PERIPHRASTIC IMPERFECT ACTIVE. Paul remembered this experience with great shame (cf. Acts 22:20; 1 Cor. 15:9; Gal. 1:13,23; Phil. 3:6; 1 Tim. 1:13). Some relate this passage to 26:10, where it is assumed Paul voted in the Sanhedrin to put Christians to death.

÷ACTS 8:1-3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: ACTS 8:1b-3
 1bAnd on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. 3But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.

▣ "on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem" This probably represents the activity of the Jewish leaders (mostly Sadducees) because of the exploding growth and prominence of the early church in Jerusalem. However, it was also God's way of forcing the church to implement Acts 1:8! If not 1:8 then 8:1!

It is not by accident that Luke uses the term ekklesia for the new body of believers. These men and women did not see themselves as something separate from God's OT promises, but the fulfillment! The term was used in the Septuagint to translate "the congregation" (MT ‒ qahal) of Israel (cf. Acts 7:38); now it is used of the fellowship of believers in Jerusalem.

Luke is very fond of the term "great" (megas). He uses it twenty-five times in his Gospel and twenty-nine times in Acts. In Acts 8 he uses it for:

  1. great persecution, Acts 8:1
  2. great lamentation, Acts 8:2
  3. loud voice, Acts 8:7
  4. someone great, Acts 8:9
  5. to the greatest, Acts 8:10
  6. great miracles, Acts 8:13

▣ "they were all scattered throughout the region. . .except the apostles" It is extremely interesting that the persecution bypassed the Apostles and landed squarely on the Hellenistic Jewish Christians. Apparently at this stage the Apostles were still content to remain within Judaism. This event occurred some time after their meeting with Jesus in Galilee (cf. Matt. 28:18-20) Pentecost and still the Apostolic leadership was content to remain and preach only to Jews or proselytes and only in the Jerusalem area.

▣ "scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria" This is in fulfillment of Luke's Great Commission mentioned in Acts 1:8. It has been some time now since Jesus spoke these words and apparently persecution was the only means of getting the church to go into all the world. The church is still reluctant!

8:2 "Some devout men buried Stephen" The term "devout men" is usually used of spiritually sensitive Jews (cf. Luke 2:25). It is possible that this refers to Jewish Christians or simply Jews who disagreed with the illegal procedures (i.e., mob violence) and execution of Stephen. The Mishnah permits the burial of blasphemers, but not with the loud lamentations made by those who bury them. These devout men grieved openly

  1. defiance of what happened
  2. in reference to the fact that what happened was not officially sanctioned

8:3 "Saul began ravaging the church" This VERB is an IMPERFECT MIDDLE INDICATIVE. This can mean the beginning of an action in past time (cf. NASB, NJB) or recurrent action (cf. NKJV, NRSV, TEV).

The term "ravage" meant "the tearing of a body by an animal." It is used in the Septuagint of animals in Exod. 22:13; Ps. 74:13 and of military defeat in Jer. 28:2 and 31:18. Paul apparently was struggling with the truth of Stephen's statements, and may have tried to cover up his internal tension by aggressively persecuting the church (cf. Acts 9:1,13,21; 22:4,19: 26:10-11; 1 Cor. 15:9; Gal. 1:13; Phil. 3:6; 1 Tim. 1:13).

Special Topic: Church (ekklesia)

▣ "entering house by house" This phrase could be understood in two ways:

  1. Paul found out where the Apostles had visited (cf. Acts 5:42)
  2. there were several house churches even at this early date in Jerusalem where believers met regularly

The early Christians would meet at

  1. the local synagogues every Sabbath
  2. the Temple on special days or even most days
  3. special locations or numerous homes on Sundays

▣ "dragging off men and women" This is a VERB that is used for Satan sweeping a third of the stars from heaven in Rev. 12:4. It is used several times in Acts (cf. Acts 8:3; 14:19; 17:6). Saul was vicious in his persecution (cf. Acts 26:10). This is evidenced by the phrase "men and women." He tore apart families of sincere believers and had them imprisoned and some even killed (cf. Acts 9:1,13,21; 22:4,19; 26:10,11; Gal. 1:13;23; 1 Tim. 1:13). This is why he later calls himself "the least of the saints" (cf. 1 Cor. 15:9; Eph. 3:8).

÷ACTS 8:4-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: ACTS 8:4-8
 4Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. 5Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. 6The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. 7For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. 8So there was much rejoicing in that city.

8:4 "those who had been scattered went about preaching the word" Notice it was not the Apostles, because they remained in Jerusalem, but the Hellenistic Jewish Christians scattered throughout the region who became the early evangelists. It is amazing that the worldwide mission of the church was instigated, not by the Apostles, but by Stephen and Philip.

For "preaching" see Special Topic: Kerygma of the Early Church

The "word" here must surely mean the gospel, but also the added worldwide, non-Jewish focus of Stephen (Great Commission, 1:8; Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:47).

8:5 "Philip" He is one of "the Seven" mentioned in Acts 6:5 (cf. Acts 21:8-9). He is depicted in three evangelistic settings: (1) Samaria; (2) the Ethiopian Eunuch; and (3) ministry in the Palestinian coastal area. These "seven" had a heart for evangelism.

▣ "went down to the city of Samaria" There is a manuscript question over whether the text reads "the city of Samaria" or "a city of Samaria." Manuscript attestation is in favor of the DEFINITE ARTICLE (cf. MSS, P74, א, A, B). However, this city was not known by the name Samaria at this time, but as Sebaste. During this Roman period the term Samaria was used of the district. The major city of Samaria would have been Shecham, then called Neapolis and today Nablus. It has been theorized that this city may be Gitta because that is the traditional home of Simon Magus. This theory is from Justin Martyr, who was also from this area.

▣ "and began proclaiming Christ to them" The Samaritans were hated by the Jews because they considered them to be half-breeds (cf. Ezra 4:1-3). This was related to the Assyrian exile of 722 B.C. that repopulated the area of the northern Ten Tribes with pagans who intermarried with the small remaining Jewish population (cf. 2 Kings 17:24-41).

This group of people was also ministered to by Jesus. Jesus revealed His Messiahship to a woman of Samaria and her village (cf. John 4). Now Philip preaches about "the Christ" (DEFINITE ARTICLE), which is the Greek translation of "The Messiah." The OT title relates to YHWH's promise of sending One who would set up the new kingdom, inaugurate the new age of the Spirit. This event is foreshadowed in Jesus' ministry and specifically mandated in Jesus' closing words (Acts 1:8).

Special Topic: Messiah

8:6 "The crowds with one accord" The phrase "one accord" is very popular with Luke. See note at Acts 1:14.

▣ "as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing" This refers to miracles confirming Philip's message (cf. Acts 8:7). These same manifestations of the Spirit accompanied Jesus, the Twelve, the Seventy, and Peter and John preaching.

8:7 Demon possession is a reality in our world (cf. Merrill F. Unger's two books: [1] Biblical Demonology and [2] Demons in the World Today).

Special Topic: Demons (unclean spirits)

÷ACTS 8: 9-13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: ACTS 8: 9-13
 9Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; 10and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, "This man is what is called the Great Power of God." 11And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts. 12But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. 13Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed.

8:9 "a man named Simon" Whether this man truly believed (cf. Acts 8:13,18) or was simply a charlatan seeking power is uncertain. I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt based on Acts 8:24. It is amazing how much tradition the early church developed around this man, but all of it is speculative (cf. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 5, pp. 442-444).

NASB, NRSV, Peshitta   "magic"
NKJV, TEV   "sorcery"
NJB, REB   "magic arts"

See Special Topic: Magic

8:10 "This man is what is called the Great Power of God" This was a title for the high god of the Greco-Roman Pantheon (i.e., Zeus). In Aramaic it would be "This is the power of the god who is called great." This man had thoroughly tricked the locals. He may have even tricked himself (cf. Acts 8:9,13).

8:12 "believed" See Special Topic: Faith, Believe, or Trust

NASB   "preaching the good news"
NKJV   "preached the things"
NRSV   "was proclaiming the good news"
TEV   "message about the good news"

This is the Greek VERB euangelizō, which is a compound of good (eu) and message (angelizō). We get the English words evangel, evangelize, and evangelism from this Greek term. Philip presented the story of Jesus to these Samaritans and they responded in saving faith.

Special Topic: The Gospel

▣ "about the kingdom of God" See Special Topic: The Kingdom of God

▣ "the name of Jesus Christ" See Special Topic: The Name of the Lord

Special Topic: Christ Jesus As Lord

▣ "they were being baptized" See Special Topic: Baptism

▣ "men and women alike" Contextually there may be two significances to this phrase.

  1. Paul persecuted "men and women (cf. Acts 8:3)," but the gospel also was saving "men and women"
  2. In Judaism only men participated in the initial Jewish rite of circumcision, but now in the gospel, both genders participated in the initial rite of baptism

8:13 "Simon believed" Most evangelicals use this term "believed" in a very definitive sense, but there are places in the NT (e.g., John 8:31) where it denotes something less than conversion (cf. John 8:59).

Initial faith is not the only criteria (cf. Matt. 13:1-9,10-23; 24:13). Continuance and obedience are also evidence of a true relationship with Christ.

Special Topic: Faith, Believe, or Trust

Special Topic: Perseverance

▣ "he continued on with Philip" This is a PERIPHRASTIC IMPERFECT. Notice the sequence.

  1. he heard, Acts 8:6-7,12
  2. he saw, Acts 8:6-7,13
  3. he believed, Acts 8:13
  4. he was baptized, Acts 8:13
  5. he went with Philip, Acts 8:13

÷ACTS 8:14-24

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: ACTS 8:14-24
 14Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, 15who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. 18Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, 19saying, "Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." 20But Peter said to him, "May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. 23For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity." 24But Simon answered and said, "Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have said may come upon me."

8:14 "when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John" Ministry to the Samaritans was forbidden to the disciples during Jesus' lifetime (cf. Matt. 10:5). Apparently the Apostles wanted to give their official sanction to this radical and unusual movement of the Holy Spirit among this traditionally hated racial group. This area was specifically mentioned in Acts 1:8. As was typical, Philip caught Jesus' implication of world-wide evangelization quicker than the Twelve.

Notice that believing in Jesus is parallel to "receiving the word of God." The word of God can stand for several things.

  1. God's total communication to human beings
  2. God's recorded communication to human beings (i.e., Scripture)
  3. God's Son (i.e., the Word, cf. John 1:1) who is the ultimate revelation of God (cf. Heb. 1:3)

Notice that Peter and John were sent. Peter was the acknowledged leader of the apostolic group and John the one who earlier wanted to call down fire on the Samaritans (cf. Luke 9:54).

For "receive" see Special Topic: What Does It Mean to "Receive," "Believe," "Confess/Profess," "Call Upon"?

8:15 "who came and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit" There are tremendous problems trying to build a theology of salvation from Acts for the following reason: the order of events and the events themselves surrounding salvation differs from passage to passage. The Holy Spirit in this passage refers to a confirmation, like Pentecost, showing that God had accepted and saved these Samaritans. They could not have truly been saved in the first place (i.e., receive is PERFECT MIDDLE INDICATIVE) without the work of the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom. 8:9).

I think the experience of Pentecost set a pattern, which God reproduced in the experience of different racial and geographical people groups, to show and confirm to the believing Jewish church that God Himself had fully and completely accepted a new group. The Spirit's manifestation in Acts (i.e., Pentecost) is thereby theologically different from the Corinthian tongues.

This text cannot be used to demand a Corinthian-like experience to confirm salvation (cf. 1 Cor. 12:29-30, which is a series of questions which expect a "no" answer). Luke records what occurred, not what should occur every time.

For "receive" see Special Topic: Receive

8:16-17 This is different from the stated order of events in Acts 2:38. The discrepancy is due to the specific action of the Holy Spirit: (1) in Acts 2:38 in relation to salvation and (2) in Acts 8:16 in relation to a Pentecostal type of experience. The same "Holy Spirit event" of Acts 2 now occurred with Samaritans. This was not for their benefit alone, but mostly for the Jewish Christian community. It showed them that God had fully accepted the Samaritans! This is not meant to assert a two-step initial salvation experience.

Please notice that it was Peter and John who noticed the absence of the special manifestation of the Spirit that they had experienced at Pentecost. This is not to imply that the miraculous signs which accompanied Philip's preaching were not true manifestations of the Spirit (cf. Acts 8:13). Peter and John wanted a Samaritan Pentecost! This is so important because when Cornelius has the same experience (i.e., Acts 10), Peter knew that God had fully accepted a Roman military man and his family. The gospel is for all people. This is the great truth which this experience reveals in Acts!

8:16 This could be called the Samaritan Pentecost.

Special Topic: Speaking in Tongues

8:17 This cannot be a proof-text for the necessity of laying on hands. This procedure, for this purpose, does not occur again in Acts. It does express the power and authority of the Apostles.

Special Topic: Laying On of Hands

8:20 The theological question for us is the soteriological question for Simon. Was he saved or not? Peter's word can be taken as a curse or a warning. All new believers have weak and incorrect information about the gospel, but does Simon's denote an added element of egotism? Can people be saved with conflicting priorities in their lives?

▣ "the gift of God" Here the Spirit stands for all of God's work on behalf of sinful rebellious humanity (cf. Isa. 55:1-2; Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38; Luke 11:13; Acts 2:38).

Special Topic: Spirit (gift of)

8:21 "You have no part or portion in this matter" The first term "part" (i.e., meris) means a portion in common. It has a negative connotation here and in 2 Cor. 6:15.

The second term "portion" (i.e., klēros) is the OT word for "lot," which was the way they determined the will of God (i.e., Urim and Thummim). They were used to divide the Promised Land among the tribes (cf. Jos. 12-19). Therefore, it is used in the sense of inheritance. This term came to be used in English for "clergy," but in the NT it refers to all believers.

Special Topic: Urim and Thummim

▣ "your heart is not right before God" This may be an allusion to Ps. 78:37. The terms "right" and "just" and their various forms, come from a term for a river reed found in Mesopotamia. It was fifteen to twenty feet tall and straight. God took this word, which was used in construction (checking the horizontal straightness of walls), to describe His own ethical character. God is the standard, ruler, straight edge by which all humans are judged. In light of this, all fail the test (cf. Rom. 3:9-18,23).

Special Topic: Righteousness

8:22 "repent" This is an AORIST ACTIVE IMPERATIVE, which denotes urgency.

Special Topic: Repentance (OT)

Special Topic: Repentance (NT)

▣ "pray" This is an AORIST PASSIVE (deponent) IMPERATIVE. Talking to God is evidence of a personal relationship, as conviction, which leads to repentance, is evidence of the indwelling Spirit!

"if" This is a FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL SENTENCE which is assumed to be true for the author's literary purposes or from his perspective. In this sentence it denotes a contingency based on Simon's willingness to repent and pray for forgiveness. His mindset and actions are a serious deviation from normative Christianity.

▣ "the intention of your heart" Sin begins in the thought life. The rabbis say that the mind is like a plowed garden ready for seed. What we allow in through our eyes and ears takes root. If we dwell on it, these thoughts become actions. This is why the NT asserts that we should "gird up the loins of our minds" (cf. 1 Pet. 1:13) or "renew your mind" (cf. Rom 12:2; Eph. 4:23).

Special Topic: Heart

8:23
NASB, NRSV   "the gall of bitterness"
NKJV   "poisoned by bitterness"
TEV   "full of bitter envy"
NJB   "bitterness of gall"

The terms "gall" (cholē) and "bitterness" (pikros) both refer to a bitter spirit, usually associated with anger and apostasy (cf. Deut. 29:18; 32:28-33; Heb. 12:15). Paul uses the term "bitter" several times in lists of things to avoid (cf. Rom. 3:14; Eph. 4:31).

NASB   "in bondage of iniquity"
NKJV, Peshitta   "bound by iniquity"
NRSV   "chains of wickedness"
TEV   "a prisoner of sin"
NJB, REB   "chains of sin"

This may be an allusion to the work of the Messiah (cf. Isa. 58:6). Jesus could free Simon from this evil bondage to personal power as he freed him from the penalty of sin. Sin has two aspects:

  1. death both physically and spiritually
  2. who is in control in the sinner's life (it can affect both the saved and the lost, cf. 1 Cor. 3:1-3)

Sin must be dealt with both in time and in eternity; its penalty and power must be dealt with, but only Christ and the Spirit can do it, but we as believers must allow Them to!

8:24 "Pray to the Lord for me yourselves" This is an AORIST PASSIVE IMPERATIVE (PLURAL, which may refer to the entire mission team). Simon repeats Peter's words from Acts 8:22. Peter's words have frightened him. I believe Simon is a believer, but a new, baby one.

Special Topic: Intercessory Prayer

÷ACTS 8:25

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: ACTS 8:25
 25So, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.

8:25 "solemnly testified" See note at Acts 2:40.

▣ "and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans" This shows the marked change of attitude on the part of the Apostles to the Samaritans.

It seems that "the word of the Lord" and "the gospel" are synonymous.

Special Topic: The Gospel

Special Topic: The Kerygma of the Early Church

÷ACTS 8:26-40

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: ACTS 8:26-40
 26But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, "Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza." (This is a desert road.) 27So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29Then the Spirit said to Philip, "Go up and join this chariot." 30Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?" 31And he said, "Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this:
 "He was led as a sheep to slaughter;
 And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
 So He does not open His mouth.
 33In humiliation His judgment was taken away;
 Who will relate His generation?
 For His life is removed from the earth
."
34The eunuch answered Philip and said, "Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?" 35Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. 36As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, "Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?" 37And Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." 38And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing. 40But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea.

8:26 "an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip" Here "the angel of the Lord" and "the Holy Spirit" seem to be synonymous (cf. Acts 8:29). This is common in Acts. See note at Acts 5:19.

Special Topic: The Angel of the Lord

▣ "Get up and go south" These are both IMPERATIVES. This could refer to one of two roads to Egypt. This message may have been audible because of its specificity. This is obviously a divinely prepared evangelistic encounter (like Paul's).

NASB, REB   "(This is a desert road)"
NKJV   "This is the desert"
NRSV   "(This is a wilderness road)"
TEV   "(This road is not used nowadays)"
NJB   "the desert road"
Peshitta   "by way of the desert"

If this is a comment by Luke, is Luke clarifying his source, or is this is a comment from Luke's source (probably Philip, cf. Acts 21:8)? These questions cannot be answered with certainty. Inspiration covers Bible productions no matter how many separate persons are involved.

8:27 "a court official" The term "official" is literally the term "eunuch." However, it is uncertain whether he was a physical eunuch or simply an official at court (derived meaning). In the OT, Potiphar is called a eunuch and yet he is married (cf. Gen. 39:1). In the OT, Deut. 23:1 forbids a eunuch from becoming a part of the Jewish community; however, in Isaiah 56:3-5, this ban is removed. This clearly shows the new age of the Spirit has dawned. Whether this man was a god-fearer or a proselyte is simply uncertain, but probable. The descriptive phrase implies he was a high government official.

▣ "Candace, queen of the Ethiopians" Candace is a title like "Pharaoh" or "Caesar." The reason the queen is mentioned is because the king in Ethiopia was considered to be a deity and, therefore, it was beneath him to deal with simple administrative or political affairs.

8:28 "reading the prophet Isaiah" Apparently this man had bought an expensive leather scroll of Isaiah, which would have been over 29 feet long (i.e., one found in the Dead Sea Scrolls). By the Spirit's direction, he had opened it to the Messianic passage of Isaiah 53:7-8 and was reading it.

8:29 "the Spirit said to Philip, 'Go up and join this chariot'" This is an AORIST PASSIVE IMPERATIVE. It literally meant "be glued." The Spirit is giving Philip every specific guidance.

Special Topic: Personhood of the Spirit

8:30 "Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet" Ancients all read aloud even when alone.

▣ "Do you understand what you are reading" What a great question! It is possible to read Scripture and not clearly see its intent. The Spirit is directing Philip to a "divine appointment" which will

  1. show the new age has dawned
  2. give a powerful witness to another people group

8:31 A. T. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament comments on this verse, "This is a mixed condition, the conclusion coming first belongs to the fourth class. . .with 'an' and the optative, but the condition. . .is of the first class. . .a common enough phenomenon in Koine" (p. 110). This FIRST CLASS CONDITION, like Luke 19:40 uses ean instead of ei. The CONDITION is determined by the mood, not the construction (cf. Luke 19:40).

8:32-33 This quote is from the Messianic passage from the Septuagint of Isa. 53:7-9. I am surprised that these verses are emphasized and not other Messianic verses in this OT context. However, Philip starts right where he was reading and explains the entire passage in light of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The OT prophecy has been fulfilled and forgiveness through Christ is offered to everyone!

Special Topic: The Kerygma of the Early Church

8:35 "Philip opened his mouth" This shows the centrality of the OT passage concerning "the Suffering Servant" to gospel proclamation. I believe Jesus, Himself, showed the early church how these ancient prophecies applied to Himself (cf. Luke 24:27).

8:36 "Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized" Philip's gospel message included baptism (cf. Matthew 3; 28:19; Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:1-11; Col. 2:12)! Notice he did not need approval from the Apostles in Jerusalem to baptize a convert. Baptism is not a denominational issue, but a kingdom issue. We must be careful of the denominational traditions that have so muddied the biblical waters as far as expected procedures in our day!

Was the eunuch worried about being accepted?

  1. racial issue
  2. physical issue
  3. socio-economic issue
  4. catechism issue

All barriers are down in Jesus Christ (cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13). Whosoever will may come (cf. John 1:12; 3:16; Rom. 10:9-13)!

Special Topic: Baptism

8:37 This verse, which records the eunuch's confession, is not included in the ancient Greek papyri manuscripts P45 (Chester Beatty Papyri), P74 (Bodmer Papyri), or the ancient uncial Greek manuscripts א, A, B, or C. Neither is it present in some of the ancient Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, or Ethiopian translations. Verse 37 is not original to Acts. UBS4 gives its omission an "A" rating, meaning certain. It is not even included in the text of NASB (1970) edition, but is included in the 1995 update with brackets.

Special Topic: Textual Criticism

8:38-39 "went down into the water. . .came up out of the water" This is not a proof-text for immersion. The context implies they walked into a body of water, not the method of the baptism. Be careful of your preconceived biases!

8:39 "the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away" Whether this is a miraculous occurrence like Elijah's (cf. 1 Kgs. 18:12; 2 Kgs. 2:16) or Ezekiel's (cf. Ezek. 3:14; 8:3) or simply a reference to his immediate departure is uncertain. The Spirit was intimately involved in this conversion. Notice also that extensive follow-up and catechism apparently did not occur, but the convert had the scroll of Isaiah and the indwelling Spirit!

Special Topic: Spirit in the NT

▣ "went on his way rejoicing" The Good News is always accompanied by rejoicing (cf. Acts 8:8). Ireaneus records the tradition that this eunuch became a gospel missionary to his own people. The Spirit Himself must have done the follow-up discipling!

8:40 Philip continued (IMPERFECT MIDDLE INDICATIVE) his evangelistic ministry in the Philistine town of Ashdod (i.e., Azotus) on his way home to Caesarea by the sea. It is obvious that Philip understood the universal evangelistic implication of the Samaritans and the Ethiopians. The gospel included even Philistines!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. Why did God allow persecution to come upon the early Church?
  2. Why was the gospel being preached to Samaritans so significantly?
  3. Was Simon a believer?
  4. Why did the Samaritans not receive the Holy Spirit when they believed?
  5. What type of persons does the eunuch represent?
  6. Why is verse 37 not in all Bibles?

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