-Acts 8 marks a turning point in the spreading of the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit in the church (i.e. the body of Christ, meaning believers in Him). Refer back to Acts 1:8 and we have the structure for the book. First, the witness of Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit begins in Jerusalem; it then spreads to Judea and Samaria, and then to the rest of the region and world. Here in this section we see that the murder and subsequent persecution of the church led to the scattering of believers out into other places where they shared their faith in Christ Jesus. This was God’s purpose and plan (Acts 8:1-3). From this point on Jerusalem began to stagnate as the rest of the world began to be drawn in to the gospel story for salvation (Romans 11:25). *Application* There are points in our life where we personally stagnate and need a jolt of God-sized proportions to move us and shake us. When the feelings of complacency and mundaneness begin to creep into your being you are one step away from being dull, and spiritual growth will shrivel. We have to be constantly on guard against this. The apostle Paul puts it well in Philippians 3:12-14, as he describes this “pressing on” mentality that will help him realize his “upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” This is often where faith will kick in and God will stretch us out into new possibilities and challenges that will keep us reliant upon Him alone. Otherwise, we will become lethargic in the race (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Hebrews 12:1-2) and in the battle (Ephesians 6:12-18, 2 Timothy 2:3-4; 4:7). For a good song that depicts this attitude check out Switchfoot’s More than Fine at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxiYRx55g1c. It is interesting to note here that the church in Jerusalem faded away as a power source for Christianity. Even today all you will find in this city of God are some relic type churches full of religiosity and man-made tradition. The power of the Holy Spirit is present in other parts of the globe much more mightily (see http://www.operationworld.org/, http://www.imb.org/main/default.asp ). However, God’s glory will one day return to this city (Matthew 25:31-32, Romans 11:26). The Lord will never forget about His people, the Jews.
-The first place that the gospel takes root outside Jerusalem which Acts speaks about is through Philip’s witness in Samaria where many believed and received Jesus as Lord. The narrative on Simon the magician is intriguing and shows a first century perspective on how men reacted to the demonstrations of the Holy Spirit as it went forth. Peter’s exposé on the fact that money has nothing to do with the power of the Holy Spirit is impressive. He turns Simon’s intentions back to the heart and leads him to repentance (Acts 8:4-24).
-Verses 14-16 give us some intriguing interpretative matters. Some theologians will say this is a special occasion in history, as with Cornelius and his family in Acts 10:44-47, where the Holy Spirit makes a dramatic appearance much like the Pentecost experience with the apostles. These would point out that in other, more usual circumstances; the Holy Spirit indwells the believer at the point conversion. There are other theologians who say that there are two baptisms: one for belief in Christ and one for the filling of the Holy Spirit. This is a passage these theologians will use for a proof text. This matter has been debated and is too extensive for discussion in this blog beyond what has been stated.
-The gospel keeps going forth and the apostles, lead by Peter and John, were spreading the word in Samaria on the way back to Jerusalem. At this point, Philip was called by an angel to go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza, which is a desert, or wilderness, road. Philip obeys the call and goes to this location where he finds an Ethiopian eunuch reading the Scriptures out of Isaiah 53. Right at the appropriate moment, Philip is able to clarify understanding of the Messiah to this worshiper of God. The eunuch believes and receives Christ as his Savior and is baptized. At that point the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away towards the north to Azotus and then even further northward and westward towards Caesarea (Maritima). *Application* Philip’s sensitivity to the Holy Spirit to move and direct him is an example for us in our modern walk. What is God telling you to do today and how does He want you to do it? His instructions are surprisingly clear and specific when we make the choice to obey.
Verses to Memorize: Acts 8:4