Jul. 3. Church Scattered, but Grows

Acts 8:1-40

After the death of Stephen, the church began to suffer great persecutions. The believers were scattered from Jerusalem throughout Judea and Samaria. However, the apostles stayed together and remained in Jerusalem. Saul was one of the chief persecutors of the church, dragging both men and women off to prison.

The church in Jerusalem may be compared to a campfire burning peacefully in a forest until a mighty wind (persecution) stirs it. With the scattering of the embers, a mighty forest fire breaks out and the fire spreads uncontrollably. The believers (embers) went everywhere preaching the word of the Lord.

Since the main body of the Jerusalem church was scattered, Philip went into Samaria and preached Christ to them. Many came to be healed and multitudes obeyed the teachings of Philip.

One of those new believers was a sorcerer named Simon. Simon was well known by the people because of his magic tricks and many had said that he was “the great power of God.” He was so impressed by the miracles performed by Philip that he continued to travel with him.

When the apostles heard in Jerusalem about the obedience of the Samaritans, they sent Peter and John to bestow the Holy Spirit upon these disciples. Even though Philip had the power of the Holy Spirit to perform miracles, only the apostles were permitted to pass this power to other people. After all of these people had died, there was no one left who could perform miracles.

These believers had been baptized and had received the gift of the Holy Spirit and were in a saved relationship with God, but had not yet received the Holy Spirit Himself.

The New Testament law had not been written at this time. It was important for the infant church to have a special measure of the Holy Spirit to help them remember the things that they had been taught. Through miracles, they would be able to impress upon others the truth of this new gospel.

After a person is saved, he is still subject to making mistakes. New converts are especially vulnerable to falling into their old habits. Simon was an example of one who sinned after being saved. He wanted to buy the power to pass the Holy Spirit on to others.

Peter pointed this sin out to Simon and instructed him to repent and pray to God for forgiveness. God gives second chances and even more if a person truly repents and prays.

Sometime after the apostles had returned to Jerusalem, an angel instructed Philip to go south of Jerusalem through an isolated area toward Gaza. As Philip traveled toward Gaza, he overtook a man going in the same direction.

This man was a eunuch, the treasurer of the queen of Ethiopia, a country of Africa. The capital of Ethiopia is approximately twelve hundred miles south of Jerusalem. He was a devout man and had been to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home.

Philip was instructed by the Holy Spirit to join the eunuch who was reading the prophet Isaiah. It is likely that the eunuch had heard about Christ while he was in Jerusalem and was trying to learn more from the prophets as he traveled toward home.

When Philip heard what the eunuch was reading, he began at the same Scripture and preached Jesus to him. As they came to some water, the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” The Scripture does not record any of the text of Philip’s lesson, but obviously, the importance of baptism in one’s salvation was taught.

Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”

Upon the eunuch’s confession, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” they both went down into the water and Philip baptized him. If baptism were not a burial, it would not have been necessary for both of them to go down into the water.

The eunuch went away rejoicing in his salvation and the Holy Spirit transported Philip to Azotus where he continued preaching from there to Caesarea.