Acts 8

In this chapter, because of the persecution of the Messianic Jews, they have to flee Jerusalem. Philip reaches out to Samaritans, and then to the Ethiopian Treasurer. Philip then gets snatched away by God and ends up at Azotus and preaches the gospel in that region.

As I write in every introduction:

This online commentary and translation is available for free, gratis, to anyone who needs it, particularly those living in oppressive nations, who do not have access to printed Study Bibles.

The translation is mine. I wrote it to learn what the Greek text really says. The translation tends to be literal, but complete literalism and readability are impossible, so adjustments had to be made. If readers don’t read Greek, they can ignore the left side of the tables. I include the language to check my work and for Greek readers, who can also check my translation.

If you would like to see other translations, please go to The Greek terms with brief definitions can be looked up at However, I hope to bring different nuances to the few words I focus on. And I keep things nontechnical.

The commentary has a practical application (GrowApp) at the end of each section of Scripture, for discipleship.

Links are provided for further study.

Let’s begin.

Persecution and Dispersion (Acts 8:1b-4)

81b Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ διωγμὸς μέγας ἐπὶ τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τὴν ἐν Ἱεροσολύμοις, πάντες δὲ διεσπάρησαν κατὰ τὰς χώρας τῆς Ἰουδαίας καὶ Σαμαρείας πλὴν τῶν ἀποστόλων. 2 συνεκόμισαν δὲ τὸν Στέφανον ἄνδρες εὐλαβεῖς καὶ ἐποίησαν κοπετὸν μέγαν ἐπ’ αὐτῷ.

3 Σαῦλος δὲ ἐλυμαίνετο τὴν ἐκκλησίαν κατὰ τοὺς οἴκους εἰσπορευόμενος, σύρων τε ἄνδρας καὶ γυναῖκας παρεδίδου εἰς φυλακήν.

4 Οἱ μὲν οὖν διασπαρέντες διῆλθον εὐαγγελιζόμενοι τὸν λόγον.

1b And so on that day there was a severe persecution against the church in Jerusalem. Everyone except the apostles was scattered to the region of Judea and Samaria. 2 Devout men took Stephen up for burial and lamented for him.

3 Saul was devastating the church, going from household to household, dragging off both men and women and putting them in prison.

4 And so those who were dispersed spread out, preaching the word.


Recall that in Acts 8:1a Paul heartily approved of the death of Stephen and even watched overt the clothing at his feet, laid there by those who threw the stones at Stephen.

Here are the verses to remind us:

The witnesses laid aside their clothes in front of a young man named Saul. 59 And they kept stoning Stephen who called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 Taking to his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge this sin to them!” After he said this, he fell asleep. 81a And Saul gladly approved of his death. (Acts 7:58-8:1a)


“Except the apostles”: Why were they exempt, even though they may have felt the heat in Jerusalem? Peter denounced the Sanhedrin as pushing Roman authorities to execute Jesus. Stephen was martyred, and he also preached hard against the Sanhedrin, telling them that they too bore some responsibility in the death of the Righteous One. The difference is that he went further and preached against the temple, which symbolized Judaism and the power-base of the Sanhedrin.

Bruce says that the persecution was directed against the Hellenistic Jewish converts (1988, comment on 1b-2). Bock somewhat agrees and adds that the Hebrew Christians “felt a greater loyalty to Jerusalem” (comment on v. 1, p. 319). However, Peterson, referring to other commentators (Witherington and Bauckham), says that the apostles did not experience no persecution, but Acts 1-6 has stressed how much the people of Jerusalem respected the apostles, so they did not disperse (for now) (comment on v. 1)

Eventually, however, the leaders too will be subjected to persecution, even another martyrdom, that of James, son of Zebedee, brother of John (Acts 12:1-3). But the church was still strong in Jerusalem, so strong that they could hold a council there (Acts 15:35). So the persecution came and went. And it could be that God ordained to set Jerusalem up as the spiritual capital and kept the Messianic Jewish leaders there.

Polhill: “They were scattered like one scatters seed. But scattered seeds grow, and the irony is that the persecution and scattering of the Christians only led to their further increase. With the dispersal of the Hellenist Christians, the fulfillment of the second phase of Jesus’ commission began—the witness to all Judea and Samaria (8:1b; cf. 1:8)” (comment on v. 1).


Grief at the death of a hero or loved one is right. When you grieve, don’t believe that you are not trusting the Lord. The Scripture states that we should not grieve like those who have no hope, implying that we can grieve with hope (1 Thess. 4:13).

Bock teaches me that the Mishnah (a compilation of oral traditions or interpretations of the Torah, finally written down in about A.D. 200) says that a man who was stoned can be buried but no lamentation should be offered (Sanh. 6:5-6). Here the devout men did not obey this rule and rightly offered heartfelt and vocal grief.


“church”: In Greek it is ekklēsia (pronounced ek-klay-see-ah) and the meaning has roots in both Hebrew and Greek. It literally means “the ones called out” or “the called out” or “the summoned” who gather together. It describes an assembly or gathering.

Some extra-enthusiastic and super-confident Renewalists say that from this definition, they can “legislate” events to happen (or something). Of course, they overstate the basic meaning of the word outside of the church context. Just because an assembly can legislate in the pagan world does not mean Christians can now do this in the Spirit world. Further, another legislative body was the Council (boulē, pronounced boo-lay), the upper chamber of the rich landowners. They had to approve of the lower chamber’s legislation. If we take the historical context too far, then where is the Council? So, to judge from the historical context, the church as the ekklēsia cannot legislate. Instead, these extra-human-centered Christians should simplify things and ask God for his intervention. Prayer to our loving Father is sufficient, without complications or convoluted trends and ideas that promote human-centered power.

Let’s look more deeply at the rich term. BDAG, considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, has a long discussion, but let’s look at only one subpoint.

By far the most Scriptures where ekklēsia appears comes under this definition: “congregation or church as the totality of Christian living and meeting in a particular locality or large geographical area, but not necessarily limited to one meeting place” (Acts 5:11; 8:3; 9:31; 11:26; 12:5; 15:3; 18:22; 20:17; see also 12:1; 1 Cor. 4:7; Phil. 4:15; 1 Tim. 5:16; Jas. 5:14; 3 John 9). “More definitely of the Christians in Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1; 11:22; see also 2:47) in Cenchreae (Rom. 16:1); in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1); Laodicea (Col. 4:16; Rev. 3:14); in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1); Colossae (Plm. 1, subscript). Plural churches (Acts 15:41; 16:5; Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 7:17; 2 Cor. 8:18, 23; 11:8, 28; 12:13; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 23, 29; 3:6, 13; 22; 22:16); the Christian community in Judea (Gal. 1:22; 1 Thess. 2:14); in Galatia (Gal. 1:2; 1 Cor. 16:1); in Asia (1 Cor. 16:19; Rev. 1:4, 11, 20); in Macedonia (2 Cor. 8:1).

Please see this post for BDAG’s fuller definition.

Bible Basics about the Church

What Is the Church?

Fellowship is so important for believers. Don’t believe the lie circulating in American society, particularly in social media, that not going to church is good enough. People who skip constant fellowship are prone to sin and self-deception and satanic attacks. We need each other.

This link has a list of the famous “one another” verses, like “love one another.”

What Is Fellowship?

Further, since American Christianity is undergoing discussion on the sizes of churches, let me add: the earliest Christian community met either in houses (Acts 2:46) or in Solomon’s Colonnade in Jerusalem (Acts 3:11; 5:12) or a large number in Antioch (11:26), which could hold a large gathering—call it a mega-church—and presumably in mid-sized gatherings. Size does not matter, since it varies so widely.

Moreover, I’m not a church planter (or planner), but one thing that impresses me about all those above references is that the apostles, as they planted churches, were guided by the Spirit—always—and they were also deliberate about setting them up and establishing them. Planning is Scriptural. So wisdom says: listen to the Spirit and plan. Listen as you plan and be ready to drop your plans at a moment notice, when the Spirit says so. God will grow the church as we proclaim the good news.

“both men and women”: if women are included in being persecuted and thrown in jail, then why can they not minister in the church? It is clear from this verse that they were effective teachers and preachers. Some of them must have been very vocal and drew the attention of Saul and his henchmen. If they were silent, why bother with hunting them down? Today, womankind in the church need to step up and no longer listen to the naysayers who take verses out of context that seem to restrict women.

Whom did Saul (and presumably his team because by himself he could not physically drag them and put them in prison) target foremost? Thousands joined the Messianic Jesus. Most were ordinary people of no social status. Saul was intelligent enough to direct his energies against a certain class. Which one? A large number of priests became obedient to the Jesus Movement (Acts 6:7). Logically he would target them first and probably had access to a record that said which order of service they belonged to and where they lived.

Further, could it be also true that when Saul hunted down these Messianic Jews as far as Damascus, with warrants from the High Council (Sanhedrin), some of the Sanhedrin’s children or grandchildren joined the Messianic Jews (Acts 9:1-3)? We don’t know for sure, but the high priest did grant him letters to search the synagogues there. However, it is probably the case that they were ordinary Jesus followers in a large Jewish community in Damascus and not related to the Sanhedrin in any way, but it does make me think that something deeper was going on.

In any case, Saul is about to get his comeuppance from Jesus himself, but not before devastating the church further.

“household to household”: Acts is about salvation of entire households and meeting in those saved households (2:2, 46; 5:42; 8:3, but be careful of persecution in 8:3! 10:2; 11:14; 16:15, 31, 34; 20:20; 21:8). Paul probably “home-invaded” church meetings in houses (Polhill, comment v. 3).

“Luke implies that Saul is opposing the true Israel, those who have responded to Jesus as Messiah” (Peterson, comment on v. 3). “These people, he thought, were not merely misguided enthusiasts whose sincere embracing of error called for patient enlightenment; they were deliberate imposters, proclaiming that God had raised from the tomb to be Lord and Messiah a man whose manner of death was sufficient to show that the divine curse rested on him” (Bruce, comment on v. 3).


Persecution scattered the people, and they preached the gospel. God was prying them out of the holy city, for outreach, just as Jesus commissioned (1:8).

“preaching”: as noted in previous verses in Luke-Acts, the word is one verb in Greek: euangelizō (pronounced eu-ahn-geh-lee-zoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”). Eu– means “good,” and angel means “announcement” or “news”; and izō is the verb form. (Greek adds the suffix -iz- and changes the noun to the verb and we do too, as in “modern” to “modernize”). Awkwardly but literally it means “good-news-ize,” as in “Let’s ‘good-news-ize’ them!”

“Preaching or spreading the good news” is traditional and better, however.

Let’s bring in these verses:

19 And so those who were scattered from the trouble that happened with Stephen went as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word except to Jews alone. 20 But certain men from among them were Cypriots and Cyrenians, after going to Antioch, began speaking also to the Greeks, preaching the good news of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 11:19-20)

The move of God was not restricted to the apostles and other major leaders. Ordinary people ministered the word. The same is true of you. You too can preach the word. Learn it and tell your story about how the resurrected and ascended Lord changed your life.

“word”: it is the very versatile Greek noun logos (pronounced lah-goss or loh-gohss), and in this case it means “the message of the gospel.” Since Peter and Stephen in their sermons quoted from the OT, we can be sure that many of these who were scattered did the same, particularly the Messianic prophecies. If they did not know those prophecies, however, then they just told their story of what the resurrected Messiah did for them and in them. That’s what our message is too. In the meantime, learn those prophecies!

Please click on for a table of them:

Messianic Prophecies

That link has a table of quoted verses in both the OT and NT. However, Jesus also fulfills the major themes and patterns of the OT, like the sacrificial system and all the covenants..

Let’s explore the noun more deeply. It is rich and full of meaning. It always has built into it rationality and reason. It has spawned all sorts of English words that end in –log-, like theology or biology, or have the log– stem in them, like logic.

I repeat the following comments throughout the entire commentary. Though certain Renewalists may not like to hear it, there is a rational side to the Word of God, and a moment’s thought proves it. The words you’re reading right now are placed in meaningful and logical and rational order. The Bible is also written in that way. If it weren’t, then it would be nonsense and confusing, and we couldn’t understand the gibberish. Even your prophecies have to make logical and rational sense on some level. Your Bible studies and Sunday morning sermons have to, also. Paul’s brief speech to the Gentiles, below, also has Bible-based logic and rational argumentation built into it. People need to be ministered to in this way. God gave us minds and brains and expects us to use them. Your preaching cannot always be flashy and shrieky and so outlandishly entertaining that people are not fed in the long term. Movements like that don’t last over the years without the Word. I have observed this from firsthand experience in certain sectors of the Renewal Movement.

People have the deepest need to receive solid teaching. Never become so outlandishly supernatural and entertaining that you neglect the reasonable and rational side of preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible. Yes, the book of Acts is very charismatic, but it is also very orderly and rational and logical.

On the other side of the word Word, people get so intellectual that they build up an exclusive Christian caste of intelligentsia that believe they alone can teach and understand the Word. Not true.  Just study Scripture with Bible helps and walk in the Spirit, as they did in Acts. Combining Word and Spirit is the balanced life.

In any case, v. 4 reveals that ordinary people were preaching the word, wherever they went. God’s great work was destined by God himself to keep going.

In his comment on v. 4, Schnabel tell us that material between 8:4 and 11:19 illustrate traveling from place to place.

Philip traveling to Samaria (8:5-13)

Peter and John through Samaria (8:14-15)

Philip traveling toward Gaza (8:26-39)

Philip traveling along the coast from Azotus to Caesarea (8:40)

Saul converted near Damascus and encountering believers (9:1-13)

Saul traveling to Jerusalem (9:23-29)

Peter traveling through the Plain of Sharon to Lydda and Joppa (9:32-43)

Peter traveling to Caesarea (10:1-48)

Peter traveling to Jerusalem (11:1-18)

GrowApp for Acts 8:1b-4

A.. God’s people still suffer persecution today. Do you pray for them?

B.. Church father Tertullian said (paraphrased), “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” This means that the church grows during tough times. How have tough times in your own life caused personal growth? Or in the life of someone you know? Tell your story.

Philip in Samaria (Acts 8:5-13)

5 Φίλιππος δὲ κατελθὼν εἰς [τὴν] πόλιν τῆς Σαμαρείας ἐκήρυσσεν αὐτοῖς τὸν Χριστόν. 6 προσεῖχον δὲ οἱ ὄχλοι τοῖς λεγομένοις ὑπὸ τοῦ Φιλίππου ὁμοθυμαδὸν ἐν τῷ ἀκούειν αὐτοὺς καὶ βλέπειν τὰ σημεῖα ἃ ἐποίει. 7 πολλοὶ γὰρ τῶν ἐχόντων πνεύματα ἀκάθαρτα βοῶντα φωνῇ μεγάλῃ ἐξήρχοντο, πολλοὶ δὲ παραλελυμένοι καὶ χωλοὶ ἐθεραπεύθησαν·

8 ἐγένετο δὲ πολλὴ χαρὰ ἐν τῇ πόλει ἐκείνῃ.

9 Ἀνὴρ δέ τις ὀνόματι Σίμων προϋπῆρχεν ἐν τῇ πόλει μαγεύων καὶ ἐξιστάνων τὸ ἔθνος τῆς Σαμαρείας, λέγων εἶναί τινα ἑαυτὸν μέγαν, 10 ᾧ προσεῖχον πάντες ἀπὸ μικροῦ ἕως μεγάλου λέγοντες· οὗτός ἐστιν ἡ δύναμις τοῦ θεοῦ ἡ καλουμένη μεγάλη. 11 προσεῖχον δὲ αὐτῷ διὰ τὸ ἱκανῷ χρόνῳ ταῖς μαγείαις ἐξεστακέναι αὐτούς. 12 ὅτε δὲ ἐπίστευσαν τῷ Φιλίππῳ εὐαγγελιζομένῳ περὶ τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τοῦ ὀνόματος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ἐβαπτίζοντο ἄνδρες τε καὶ γυναῖκες. 13 ὁ δὲ Σίμων καὶ αὐτὸς ἐπίστευσεν καὶ βαπτισθεὶς ἦν προσκαρτερῶν τῷ Φιλίππῳ, θεωρῶν τε σημεῖα καὶ δυνάμεις μεγάλας γινομένας ἐξίστατο.

5 After going down to a town in Samaria, Philip proclaimed the Messiah to them. 6 The crowd was paying attention to what was spoken by Philip, and without exception, listening and watching the signs which he was doing. 7 For many who had them, unclean spirits were leaving, shouting loudly, and many of the paralyzed and the lame were being healed.

8 And so there was exceeding joy in that town.

9 Now, a certain man named Simon was for some time practicing sorcery in the town, amazing the people of Samaria, claiming for himself to be somebody great. 10 Everyone one, both small and great, were paying close attention to him saying, “This man is the Power of God, called Great!” 11 They were paying close attention to him for a long time because he had been dazzling them with his sorcery. 12 But when they believed Philip, who was preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. 13 Even Simon himself believed and, after being baptized, he was devoted to Philip; he was beside himself with amazement, as he observed the great signs and miracles that were happening.


A great, positive response to a backlash of persecution is to keep “bashing on” and preaching the good news of the Word. Yes, Philip is one of the seven named in Acts 6:5.

From v. 5 to v, 25 this is a showdown between the kingdom of God and kingdom of Satan. We already know which one will prevail. Simon the Magician wanted to mix his supernatural paganism with Christianity. Do not allow this mixture—also called syncretism—to happen today.

Here’s how Luke sets up the contrast or clash:

Simon the Sorcerer Philip the Evangelist
Works wonders (8:11) Works wonders (8:6, 13)
Draws crowds (8:9-10) Draws crowds (8:6-7)
“Heeded” (8:10-11) (people pay close attention) “Heeded” (8:6) (people pay close attention)
Simon is “great power” (8:10) Philip performs “great powers” (8:13)
Simons amazes Samaritans with his claims and magic (8:9, 11) Philip’s miracles “amaze” Samaritans (8:13)
Keener, p. 263, who got it from F. S. Spencer.

I add that soon Simon will be beside himself with amazement when he sees Peter and John working miracles (8:13). Therefore, in this showdown, God will get the victory, if his disciples walk in the power of the Spirit.

Please see this post:

Ten Big Differences between Christianity and Other Religions


“Samaria”: it was a region despised by people who considered themselves pure Jews, because the region was settled by all sorts of foreigners over the centuries. But now God is building on his outreach to them first done by Jesus (John 4). They had the same positive response to Philip as they did to Jesus. God will reach even the undesirables.

Quick Reference to Jewish Groups in Gospels and Acts

Bock lists some of the bad attitudes which Jews felt about the Samaritans: they were defecting half-breeds; to eat with a Samaritan was like eating pork, which was strictly forbidden in the Torah; their daughters were viewed as unclean; they were accused of aborting fetuses. In Luke 17:18, where Jesus cleanses ten lepers, but only one, a Samaritan, went back to thank him, the Samaritan was considered a “different race.” However, now we see that the gospel really is going to the Samaritans, just as Jesus had commanded (Acts 1:8). The gospel knocks down old religious and racial prejudices.

“Messiah”: the Greek word is Christos, and in Hebrew it is Meshiach, both meaning the “Anointed One.” Their message was not fancy or elaborate. They focused on the Messianic prophecies in the OT and his resurrection.

3. Titles of Jesus: The Son of David and the Messiah

What Is the ‘Anointing’?

The Samaritans were also waiting for a Messiah, called a Taheb or “Restorer.” So it looks like Philip simply told them that the Messiah already came, not long ago, and he was crucified but God resurrected him and raised him to his right hand, to vindicate him. Now he will impart salvation and the Spirit to them, though the apostles Peter and John will have to come and pray for them to receive the Spirit.


“listened”: this phrase is contained in one Greek verb prosechō (pronounced prohs-eh-khoh), which means to “turn one’s mind towards” (pros has the basic meaning of “towards”) or “pay careful attention.” They leaned in and held on. In this context it means they received Philip’s message favorably. In v. 10, it means they paid close attention to Simon.

“without exception”: once again homothumadon (pronounced hoh-moh-thoo-mah-dohn) is a favorite of Luke (Acts 1:14; 2:46; 4:24; 5:12; 7:57 [negative]; 12:20; 15:25; 18:12 [negative]; 19:29, and then one in Rom. 15:6). It is a compound word: hom-, meaning “same” and thum-, meaning “soul” or “mind” or “spirit.” In earlier Greek literature it meant a heroic and excellent fighting spirit. Here it means the Samaritans were united in spirit and soul, as they collectively paid careful attention to Philip’s message. It seems to mean “unanimously” or “without exception” (Parsons and Culy).

“signs”: sēmeion (pronounced say-may-on). In the plural it is mostly translated as “signs” or “miraculous signs.” A sign points towards the loving God. Signs are indicators of God breaking into his world, to help people and announce that he is here to save and rescue them and put things right. Miraculous signs back up the proclamation of the Word.

See Acts 2:22, 43; 4:30; 5:12; 6:8; 7:36; 8:13; 14:3.

For nearly all the references of those two words and a theology of them, please click:

What Are Signs and Wonders and Miracles?


It is not that the people left, but the demons did, with a shriek. (The Greek construction is a little odd.)

“being healed”: the verb is therapeuō (pronounced thair-ah-pew-oh, our word therapy is related to it), and it means to “make whole, restore, heal, cure, care for.” The verb is in the passive mood, which means people received their healing from God. This was not self-healing (though God has designed the body to heal itself, if we take care of it). Here their healings were miraculous.

It is unseemly and even cruel to proclaim, as some do today, that signs and wonders died out with the apostles or a little later. People today still have unclean spirts and paralysis and lameness of limbs. Why wouldn’t God want to heal them? He does. We should not put God in a box, just because we have no faith to see signs and wonders.

Renewalists believe they do and should happen everywhere. Once again, please click on this link for a fuller explanation:

What Are Signs and Wonders and Miracles?

For more about deliverance from satanic oppression, please click on Scriptural Deliverance:

Bible Basics about Deliverance

“Demonized” is not the only verb to express a demonic attack (see Mark 3:22, 30; 7:25; 9:17; Luke 4:33; 7:33; 8:27; Acts 8:7; 16:16; 19:13). But I see no substantive difference between the two verbs and are used interchangeably in Luke 8:27, 36. What is more relevant is the soul of the person being attacked and how deep the attack goes because the person gives the demon access.

“and”: many translations have “or,” but the Greek is the common conjunction kai (pronounced kye or kay) which means “and.” Maybe translators conclude that “paralyzed” and “lame” are just synonyms, not two conditions but the same one in the same class. I’ll stick with “and” because I like to think that all conditions can be healed.


“Exceeding joy”: it is a happy summary of the response to the gospel and miraculous signs. Why wouldn’t they be happy, when some of them used to be disabled, but now can walk; demonically suppressed, but now free? Renewalists believe these things can happen and do happen all the time. May they increase!

Bock is right about the parallels in Luke and Acts and the kingdom overcoming all opposing forces:

Miracles, for Luke, draw people into considering the message. Philip’s actions recall the ministries of Jesus and Peter (Luke 7:22-23: signs of the arrival of the age). Luke refers to unclean spirits in Acts 5:16, calling them “immoral or evil spirits” in 19:12-16. That demons cry out is seen in Luke 4:41 and Acts 16:17, and such spirits coming out of people are noted in Luke 4:35 and Acts 16:18-19 (exorcisms in Luke 4:33, 36; 6:18; 8:2, 20; 9:1, 6, 42; 11:24). The paralyzed are healed in Luke 5:18 and Acts 9:33, and the lame appear in Acts 3:2 and 14:8. The Acts 14 and 16 passages show that Paul will also exercise such power. The kingdom of God is moving out and overcoming forces opposed to it. … People other than the Twelve are exercising God’s power and gifts. (comment on vv. 6-8)

Exactly right. Jesus is carrying forward his ministry begun with him in the Luke through his Christian community who obey and follow him. Ordinary people can do extraordinary miracles and healings and deliverances, when God backs them up.


Satan has power in his own jurisdiction, and he can perform counterfeit wonders through sorcery (Matt. 24:24; Mark 13:22; 2 Thess. 2:9).

“practicing sorcery”: this verb is the only time that it is used in the NT. It is a participle in the present tense, indicating he did it perpetually. It has a long history of demonic acts, which had been handed down by the generations, from hundreds of years B.C.

Never dabble in the occult. It opens the door to Satan in your life. It is clear why Philip needed to deliver many people from demons (v. 7).

“amazing”: the Greek verb existēmi (pronounced (ex-ee-stay-mee) can be translated literally as “they were standing beside themselves” Or “they were beside themselves.” Most translations go with “stunned,” “astonished,” or “amazed.”


“small and great”: this indicates all strata of society can be deceived and bewitched. Is this a warning to high-born men like Theophilus, to whom Luke dedicated Acts?

Be wary of people—even Christians—who claim to be someone great. Sometimes the news reports that a preacher claims to descend from Jesus of a famous biblical figure. He is deceived. Don’t believe him.

“paying close attention to”: it is the verb prosechō in the imperfect tense, indicating continuous action (see v. 6).

The people were so bewitched by Simon that they attributed this outlandish name to him. It indicates that his sorcery was powerful.


This verse repeats the main theme of this section. Luke wants to emphasize that this was no magic show, but signs and wonders and demonic manifestations were happening.

“had been dazzling”: it’s the same Greek verb as “amazing” in v. 9.

Bruce traces later church traditions which say that Simon was the founder of all the Gnostic offshoots. Selling or buying church offices was called “simony,” though these verses have nothing to do with high church office (comments on vv. 9-11). However, Acts never confirms or denies these later beliefs.

See my posts about Satan in the area of systematic theology:

Bible Basics about Satan and Demons and Victory Over Them

Satan and Demons: Personal

Satan and Demons: Theology

Satan and Demons: Origins

Bible Basics about Deliverance

Magic, Witchcraft, Sorcery, and Fortunetelling


This is a wonderful summary of what we all need to be preaching: the good news, the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus.

“believed”: The verb is pisteuō (pronounced pea-stew-oh), and it is used 241 times. It means to “believe, be convinced of something.” In a more specific definition it goes in a direction: “to have faith in Christ or God” (Mounce p. 61). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us. We must have saving faith by trusting in Jesus and his finished work on the cross.

True acronym:



Forsaking All, I Trust Him

Here it is connected to “saved.”

Let’s discuss the verb believe and the noun faith more deeply. It is the language of the kingdom of God. It is how God expects us to relate to him. It is the opposite of doubt, which is manifested in whining and complaining and fear. Instead, faith is, first, a gift that God has distributed to everyone (Rom. 12:3). Second, it is directional (Rom. 10:9-11; Acts 20:21). We cannot rightly have faith in faith. It must be faith in God through Christ. Third, faith in Christ is different from faith in one’s ability to follow God on one’s own. It is different from keeping hundreds of religious laws and rules. This is one of Luke’s main themes in Acts, culminating in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and Paul’s ministry for the rest of Acts. Faith in Jesus over faith in law keeping. Fourth, there is faith as a set of beliefs and doctrines, which are built on Scripture (Acts 6:7). Fifth, there is also a surge of faith that is poured out and transmitted through the Spirit when people need it most (1 Cor. 12:9). It is one of the nine charismata or manifestations of grace (1 Cor 12:7-11). Sixth, one can build faith and starve doubt by feasting on Scripture and the words about Christ (Rom. 10:17).

Please see my word study on believe and faith:

Word Study on Faith and Faithfulness

“preaching the good news”: this phrase comes from one Greek verb: euangelizō, and see v. 4 for more comments.

“the kingdom of God”: Jesus spoke often about the kingdom of God, and so did Philip here. He ushered it in, and at the birth of the church in Acts 2 it is now about to expand beyond Israel. It is for everyone who receives him into their hearts and becomes his followers. When that happens, they enter into his light; receive clarity; enjoy an intimate relationship with the Father through Christ and the Spirit; live a consecrated life through his resurrection power and in the Spirit and by his power. And so the kingdom makes all the difference in the world—by creating a new world, a new kingdom, he creates a new you, a new life.

Bible Basics about the Kingdom of God

Questions and Answers about Kingdom of God

Basic Definition of Kingdom of God

1 Introducing the Kingdom of God (begin a ten-part series)

“The message about the Christ (v. 5) is now called the message about the kingdom, showing the relationship between the two ideas (Acts 3:6 …)” (Bock comment on v. 12).

“name”: this noun stands in for the person—a living, real person. You carry your father’s name. If he is dysfunctional, his name is a disadvantage. If he is functional and impacting society for the better, then his name is an advantage. In Jesus’s case, he has the highest status in the universe, under the Father (Col. 1:15-20). He is exalted above every principality and power (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23; Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8). His character is perfection itself. His authority and power are absolute, under the Father. In his name you are seated in the heavenly places with Christ (Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1). Now down here on earth you walk and live as an ambassador in his name, in his stead, for he is no longer living on earth, so you have to represent him down here. We are his ambassadors who stand in for his name (2 Cor. 5:20). The good news is that he did not leave you without power and authority. He gave you his. Now you represent him in his name—his person, power and authority. Therefore under his authority we have his full authority to preach the gospel and set people free from bondages and satanic spirits and heal them of diseases. In that name Philip cast out demons and healed the disabled.

“baptized:” it is the Greek verb baptizō (pronounced bahp-tee-zoh), and it means to dip or immerse. So John the Baptist could be renamed “John the Dipper” or “John the Immerser.” The Spirit baptism means the Holy Spirit drenches your spirit and your soul and body. It is not just your spirit that is touched. Some teachers say that when the Spirit fills you, your spirit is perfect, and your soul is not. It is true that your soul is not perfect, but neither is your spirit. You are on a journey to be like Christ (Rom. 8:29). You will never perfectly achieve that goal down here on earth, while you are in your body, and neither does your spirit achieve it. The Spirit immerses you inside out, even your mind and body (Rom. 8:11). It is a package deal, because you are a whole person.

Baptized, Filled, and Full of the Spirit: What Does It All Mean?

Conversion first. Water baptism second. (In rare instances salvation and baptism may happen at the same time, but the relation is logical, not chronological. Salvation logically comes first.) Water does not save, but Jesus does. Salvation goes beyond initial justification or initially being declared righteous. It involves one’s whole life. And being water-baptized for the washing away of sins means that water symbolically washes away one’s sins.

Basics about Water Baptism


Simon had faith and was baptized. That indicates how powerful Philip’s message was, by the anointing of the Spirit.

The fact that the Samaritans and Philip believed and were baptized is important, because in the next section Peter and John will travel there and pray for them to be filled with the Spirit—to his fullness. Renewalists seize on these two stages to teach that salvation and the infilling of the Spirit are distinct. The Spirit draws people to salvation and enters into believers, but the fulness is a separate act of God.

“believed”: see v. 12 for more comments.

“was devoted to”: This phrase is contained in one Greek verb proskartereō (pronounced praws-kar-teh-reh-oh or prohs-kar-teh-reh-oh). It implies that translation, because kartereō means to “persevere” and “endure” (Heb. 11:27), and the preposition pros has a directional meaning of “towards.” It is a very strong word and here it means Simon is leaning in to the Word (see Acts 1:14; 2:42, 46; Rom. 12:12; 13:6; Col. 4:2; in most of those verses people are devoted to prayer).

“he was beside himself with amazement”: this clause is contained in Greek verb existēmi (see v. 9).

“signs and miracles”: For signs, see v. 6.

“miracles”: dunamis (pronounced du-nah-miss). The purpose is to patch up and restore broken humanity. They testify that God in his kingdom power is here to save and rescue people.

Once again, for nearly all the references of those two words and a theology of them, please click on

What Are Signs and Wonders and Miracles?

GrowApp for Acts 8:5-13

A.. This section is about a clash between light and darkness, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. How has God delivered you from darkness? Which miracle did he perform to get you out? Tell your story.

B.. The Samaritans were looked down on by more religious Jews, yet God accepted them and gave them the Holy Spirit. God has accepted you too. Tell your story of God’s acceptance of you and of you receiving the Holy Spirit.

Peter and John Visit Samaria (Acts 8:14-25)

14 Ἀκούσαντες δὲ οἱ ἐν Ἱεροσολύμοις ἀπόστολοι ὅτι δέδεκται ἡ Σαμάρεια τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ, ἀπέστειλαν πρὸς αὐτοὺς Πέτρον καὶ Ἰωάννην, 15 οἵτινες καταβάντες προσηύξαντο περὶ αὐτῶν ὅπως λάβωσιν πνεῦμα ἅγιον· 16 οὐδέπω γὰρ ἦν ἐπ’ οὐδενὶ αὐτῶν ἐπιπεπτωκός, μόνον δὲ βεβαπτισμένοι ὑπῆρχον εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ. 17 τότε ἐπετίθεσαν τὰς χεῖρας ἐπ’ αὐτοὺς καὶ ἐλάμβανον πνεῦμα ἅγιον.

18 Ἰδὼν δὲ ὁ Σίμων ὅτι διὰ τῆς ἐπιθέσεως τῶν χειρῶν τῶν ἀποστόλων δίδοται τὸ πνεῦμα, προσήνεγκεν αὐτοῖς χρήματα 19 λέγων· δότε κἀμοὶ τὴν ἐξουσίαν ταύτην ἵνα ᾧ ἐὰν ἐπιθῶ τὰς χεῖρας λαμβάνῃ πνεῦμα ἅγιον. 20 Πέτρος δὲ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν· τὸ ἀργύριόν σου σὺν σοὶ εἴη εἰς ἀπώλειαν ὅτι τὴν δωρεὰν τοῦ θεοῦ ἐνόμισας διὰ χρημάτων κτᾶσθαι· 21 οὐκ ἔστιν σοι μερὶς οὐδὲ κλῆρος ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τούτῳ, ἡ γὰρ καρδία σου οὐκ ἔστιν εὐθεῖα ἔναντι τοῦ θεοῦ. 22 μετανόησον οὖν ἀπὸ τῆς κακίας σου ταύτης καὶ δεήθητι τοῦ κυρίου, εἰ ἄρα ἀφεθήσεταί σοι ἡ ἐπίνοια τῆς καρδίας σου, 23 εἰς γὰρ χολὴν πικρίας καὶ σύνδεσμον ἀδικίας ὁρῶ σε ὄντα. 24 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Σίμων εἶπεν· δεήθητε ὑμεῖς ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ πρὸς τὸν κύριον ὅπως μηδὲν ἐπέλθῃ ἐπ’ ἐμὲ ὧν εἰρήκατε.

25 Οἱ μὲν οὖν διαμαρτυράμενοι καὶ λαλήσαντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ κυρίου ὑπέστρεφον εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα, πολλάς τε κώμας τῶν Σαμαριτῶν εὐηγγελίζοντο.

14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John. 15 They went down and prayed for them so that they would receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For he had not yet fallen on any one of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

18 When Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Spirit was given, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give to me also this authority so that on whomever I place my hands he would receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter replied to him, “May your silver be for destruction with you, because you thought you could purchase the gift of God with money! 21 There is for you no share or part in this matter, for your heart is not right before God! 22 So repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord if perhaps the intention of your heart shall be forgiven you, 23 for I see that you are bitter with a bitter substance and bound by unrighteousness!” 24 And Simon answered, “You pray for me to the Lord, so that nothing of what you said may come upon me!”

25 And after witnessing and speaking the word of God, they returned to Jerusalem and preached the gospel in many villages in Samaria.


This is the Samaritan Pentecost. The Jerusalem / Judean Pentecost was in Acts 2:1-4; Paul’s Personal Pentecost will be in Acts 9:17; the Gentile Pentecost will happen in Acts 10:44-48; and Pentecost for John the Baptist’s followers will happen in Acts 19:1-7. The Pentecost that launched the others was in Jerusalem / Judea, and now it goes out to the whole world, even to us..


“word of God”: it comes from the phrase logos tou theou (pronounced loh-gohs too theh-oo), and, as has been noted many times (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 4:295:24; 6:2, 4, 5 7; 8:4), it is a very versatile word, and here it means the “message of God” or the “word of God” And no doubt they preached Messianic prophecies. Learn them.

Messianic Prophecies

As noted above, at that link, there is a long table of quotations of the OT and NT. But Jesus fulfills more than quoted verses. He also fulfills the concepts and themes ad patterns of Scripture, like the entire OT sacrificial system and even all of the OT covenants, and many other things.

For more information about logos, see v. 4.

“receive”: This word comes from the verb lambanō (pronounced as it looks), and it can mean welcome and other things, but it’s main meaning is “take.” Opening one’s heart to the Spirit is sometimes a matter of letting him come, or actively seeking and taking and reaching out for him. For more information on various Greek verbs for receiving the Spirit, please see the link:

Baptized, Filled, and Full of the Spirit: What Does It All Mean?


“prayed”: it is the very common verb proseuchomai (pronounced pros-yew-khoh-my) and appears 85 times. The noun proseuchē (pronounced pros-yew-khay) is used 36 times, so they are the most common words for prayer or pray in the NT. They are combined with the preposition pros, which means, among other things, “towards,” and euchē, which means a prayer, vow and even a mere wish. But Christians took over the word and directed it towards the living God; they leaned in toward him and prayed their requests fully expecting an answer. It is not a mere wish to a pagan deity.

Prayer flows out of confidence before God that he will answer because we no longer have an uncondemned heart (1 John 3:19-24); and we know him so intimately that we find out from him what is his will is and then we pray according to it (1 John 5:14-15); we pray with our Spirit-inspired languages (1 Cor. 14:15-16). Pray!

Prayer can be (1) for oneself, like overcoming sins and vices in your heart and mind or receiving wisdom from above (James 3:17) and not being double-minded about receiving it (Jas. 1:5-8), but (2) it is also for the needs of the community. It was coming under attack, so prayers were offered. Praying for boldness to reach out and spread the word is wonderful. We should do it more often. (3) Further, prayer brings down the manifest presence of God. God is omnipresent (everywhere) of course, but his presence can make itself felt and experienced. God showed up and shook the place where they were gathered.

Prayer can be visualized like a pebble in a pond, and the ripples go outward. (1) It starts with oneself and one’s needs; (2) then it goes outward to one’s own family and (3) to the Christian community (your home church). (4) It goes out to evangelism and the needs of the world around the community, (5) and finally to parts around the globe. But this prayer here in Acts varies the order, which you may do, if you like. Prayer is ultimately and most deeply a conversation with God.

What Is Prayer?

What Is Petitionary Prayer?

What Is Biblical Intercession?

“Holy Spirit”: We need Jesus to immerse-baptize us with the Spirit to empower us for service and to reveal and glorify Jesus.  Jesus is the Baptizer in the Spirit; that is, he’s the one who sends the Spirit in his fulness into your heart (Acts 1:5).

Here are some of my posts on a more formal doctrine of the Spirit (systematic theology):

The Spirit’s Deity and Divine Attributes

The Personhood of the Spirit

Titles of the Holy Spirit

The Spirit in the Life of Christ

The Spirit in the Church and Believers

“Only been baptized in the name of Jesus”: The Spirit draws people to salvation, and he rebirths, washes, and regenerates them (John 3:3; Titus 3:5-6; 1 Peter 3:9). Water baptism is a sign of this washing and rebirth and regeneration. Now the Samaritans need to be immersed-baptized in the fulness of the Spirit. Sometimes this happens at the same time as salvation (Acts 10:44-48), and at other times they are two distinct acts, as here.


“fall upon”: The Greek verb is epipiptō (pronounced eh-pee-pip-toh or eh-pee-peep-toh). Epi– means “upon,” and piptō means “fall.” So the Spirit can descend on us as he did at the baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-22), or we can receive him. For other verbs, click on the link:

Baptized, Filled, and Full of the Spirit: What Does It All Mean?

Let’s look at being baptized in Jesus’s name (only).

Some Pentecostal pastors claim this verse to believe in Jesus alone, and the Father and Spirit are some sort of manifestation of him. So they should be baptized only in Jesus’s name. Error. Rather, the Samaritans believed Philip’s preaching the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus, and they were baptized simply (or only) “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” The reason for their being baptized in this name only? They too were in the confines of Israel, and they already knew about Elohim or YHWH (or the Name, as they reverently substituted it for the divine name). Philip was emboldened to proclaim the name of Jesus, the new Savior, the new and fuller revelation about God and the way of salvation. They were to be baptized in his name, and not merely the name of Elohim or the Name. Then they were immersed or baptized in the Spirit.

In Act 2:38, the Peter is simply highlighting Jesus’s vindication in the face of his Jewish persecutors. It’s irony. You put him to death in your ignorance, when you thought you were doing God a favor? Well, God raised him from the dead. Now be baptized in his name!

In Israel at time, baths dotted the landscape, where people washed. No doubt the new converts were baptized there, immediately. They were baptizing extra-devout Jews, many of whom were pilgrims. They already knew about Elohim and YHWH (whom they reverently called the Name). Would Peter have said, “Be baptized in the name of Elohim!”? Or baptized in the Name!”? They already knew that. Instead, Peter preached boldly the name of Jesus, the “new sheriff” in town, the new path of salvation. Other baptisms in the name of the God of Israel, as they understood the term, were inadequate.

Acts 10:48 says that Peter ordered God-fearing Gentile Cornelius and his household to be baptized “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Peter says nothing about Elohim or the Name. Cornelius already knew about his God. Instead, Peter had to drive home the point that Jesus was the only and new way of salvation.

Acts 19:1-5 teaches us that Ephesian disciples had been baptized by John presumably in the name of Elohim or the Name or the God of Judaism. Paul saw this as incomplete. There was a new Savior, the Messiah, and his name is Jesus. These disciples had to be baptized “in name of the Lord Jesus.”

Here are passages in which people were baptized, but not mentioning any name, but they probably were baptized in the name of Jesus.

Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:38)

Saul (Acts 9:18)

Lydia and her household and friends (Acts 16:15)

Philippian jailer and his household (Acts 16:33)

Crispus the synagogue leader, his household, and many Corinthians (Acts 18:8)

So what is the point? We must not make a massive doctrine out of being baptized in the name of Jesus only. These people were not going to be baptized in the name of Elohim or the Name (YHWH). Jesus was the newest, only and fuller Savior. Salvation was through him alone. The “Jesus only” believers are shortsighted because they do not consider the cultural and religious context.

“name” see v. 12 for a closer look at this noun.

Bruce points out two Greek prepositions eis (“into”) and en (“in”). Baptized into (8:16; 19:5) or in (2:38; 10:48) the name of Jesus. “into carries a commercial context, where some property is transferred or paid ‘into the same’ of someone. So the person baptized ‘into the name of Jesus’ bears public witness to having passed into the ownership of Jesus, now acknowledged as Lord” (pp. 168-69, note 38). To me, the two prepositions, in this context, are synonyms, but I like how we go from our own ownership to his ownership. Bock says that being baptized “into” his name denoted “incorporation into the Lord and his community, declaring one’s allegiance and implying the Lord’s ownership” (comment on vv. 14-17, referring to Bruce).


“It is probable that the apostles appear in Samaria to conduct an inspection but with the expectation that they will endorse the work there … The prayer of the apostles allows God to show his acceptance of the Samaritans so that the entire church can see it … The laying on of hands and confirmation are actions that indicate fellowship and identification with these new believers. The result is the unity of the church as all participate in the expansion to Samaria” (Bock, comments on vv. 14-17).

“laid hands”: it is the Greek verb epitithēmi (pronounced eh-pea-tee-thay-mee or eh-pea-tih-thay-mee). Tithēmi has the basic meaning of “place” or “put.” It is in the aorist tense, indicating a past action at a point of time. So Peter and John went from person to person and laid hands on all of them, and each placing of hands was done once, one person at a time. The two apostles probably divided the multitude in two and Peter took one half and John took the other.

“received”: it is the same Greek word lambanō (v. 14). It is in the imperfect tense, indicating continuous or incomplete action in the past. Clearly it took a while for Peter and John to finish praying for everyone, one at a time. But I translated it as the simple past.

We should not build rituals on such verbs. Just pray for people to receive the Holy Spirit, whether he comes instantly or after a time of praying with the person. The main point is that the fulness of the Spirit can be a distinct and separate act of God from salvation, or they can be simultaneous. In fact, the fulness and empowerment of the Spirit can happen all throughout a person’s life. Its purpose is service inside and outside the church. Thus Peter was filled at least three times, and possibly John was also filled three times, but for sure twice (Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31). Further, John was “in the Spirit” twice towards the end of his life, implying an immersion or being surrounded and enveloped in a powerful encounter while receiving the Revelation (1:10; 4:2).

Why did Philip not lay hands on the multitude of Samaritans to receive the fulness of the Spirit? First, he was preaching the gospel and the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus, and the report quickly went up to Jerusalem. Peter and John acted immediately. Philip waited for them. It is a sure thing that since Philip worked great signs and wonders, he could have imparted the Spirit to them, if no message arrived saying the apostles were coming. Further, there is a sense in which Samaria was a special case, given the bad feelings between Jews and Samaritans. This reception of the Spirit needed apostolic endorsement, so the Samaritans could feel they belonged. Finally, these Messianic Jews—more specifically, the apostles themselves—were working out the issues. Eventually all of them would learn that even Gentiles could enter into the kingdom of God and receive the Spirit (Acts 10-11). The apostles had to be involved in these major outreaches and transitions. But it is a restrictive and shriveled pneumatology (doctrine of the Spirit) to claim that the Spirit is not imparted today by laying hands on of hands or just plain falling on people, without the first-century apostles.

And where does the ritual of laying on of hands come from? In the OT, the ritual had these functions: it ordained Levites (Num. 8:10); it ordained leaders (Num. 27:18, 22-23); it transferred guilt to the sacrificial animal (Lev. 16:20-21).

In the NT, the ritual transfers healing (Mark 6:5l; Luke 4:40; Acts 28:8); it transfers the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17; 9:17; 19:6); it ordains missionaries (Acts 13:3); it ordains church leaders (Acts 6:6; 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6).

From those verses, Renewalists believe these things about laying on of hands: (1) hands can be the conduit of the presence and power of God; (2) public acknowledgement that the leaders or friends are close to and support the receiver of the hands; (3) the leaders or friends identify with the receiver; (4) combining all three, it means commissioning. Here it means the fourth.

Further, Renewalists believe those four points because they have seen it happen with their own eyes. And it starts and ends with God, not the human vessel. It is shortsighted for the human vessel to take on the burden that he is the source of the power supply. “Hey everybody! Look at me! I’m powerful, and you’re not!” He is in danger of being shipwrecked.


What did Simon see? Some outward manifestation. In the vast context of the book of Acts, it was mostly likely their prayer languages. Longenecker is open to this idea (comment on vv. 15-17): “We are not told how the coming of the Holy Spirit on these new converts was expressed in their lives. But the context suggests that his presence was attended by such external signs as marked his coming on the earliest believers at Pentecost, and so, probably by some form of glossolalia” (tongues). Then he goes on to say how exceptional these circumstances were and not to put too much weight on them.

Recall that Saul / Paul was filled with the Spirit, but his receiving his Spirit-inspired language is not mentioned (Acts 9:17-18), yet he often prayed in the Spirit, that is, in his prayer language (1 Cor. 14:18). Further, the Corinthians believed and were baptized, but they were not recorded as receiving the Spirit and the gifts of speaking in their prayer language or prophesying (Acts 18:8). However, they exercised those gifts often (1 Cor. 12-14), no doubt because Paul taught them about those gifts and prayed for them to receive them, during his eighteen months that he ministered to them (Acts 18:11). The same is true here, most likely. So why didn’t Luke mention prayer languages? Precisionist scholars and theologians demand too much of the NT. Luke merely assumes it. What gives me the interpretive right to say this? The whole context of Acts 2-4, and the entire book of Acts. It is charged with all sorts of manifestations and gifts of speaking. The NT is elliptical. That is, it does not give us every detail, so we have to draw inferences. And when an entire large group is filled with the Spirit, prayer languages are included, particularly when many of them got them in Acts 2:1-4.

Therefore, Luke does not need to link the fullness or baptism of the Spirit with prayer languages in every verse that talks about this fullness. It would be like Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, intervening to tell his readers on every other page, “Don’t forget! We’re on a whaling ship!” In Acts, Luke omits some of these details, but that is how all four Gospels and Acts are presented to us: elliptical. But the entire context of Acts is Spirit-empowered and Spirit-filled. The entire book is very charismatic. Luke expects us to fill in the ellipses with the power of the Spirit and manifested gifts, like prayer languages.

It is like the anointing of Jesus at his water baptism with the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove (Luke 3:31-22; 4:18-19). From then on, Jesus worked miracles of nature and healing and demonic expulsion in the third Gospel, and Luke does not have to announce every time Jesus did those things: “Remember when I wrote that Jesus was anointed with the Spirit? He worked that miracle based on those verses!” Rather, Luke expects us to fill in those omissions with the power of the Spirit. Likewise, in the many cases of Christian witness from town to town in Acts, Luke expects us to fill in the omissions with the same empowerment because of Acts 2:1-4. And so Luke-Acts is all very charismatic, which is normative for the church throughout its history. Spirit-filled empowerment and anointing continues.

In any case, for Renewalists, infillings can happen many times in a believer’s life. It is not as if a believer “leaks”; the Spirit always abides and remains in her. But this is another power surge or anointing to edify the church and to reach out in ministry.

Even the great conservative scholar F. F. Bruce writes: “the receiving of the Spirit in Acts is usually marked by the manifestation of some spiritual gift” (p. 221).

In Acts, Luke links receiving prayer languages with being filled with the Spirit in three explicit paradigmatic or exemplary instances, and one clearly implied paradigmatic and exemplary instance:

Are ‘Tongues’ the Sign of Baptism with Spirit in Acts?

Here in Samaria, in an atmosphere of Philip working signs and wonders (8:7, 13), Peter and John came from Jerusalem to endorse the evangelistic campaign and lay hands on the Samaritans. Simon the Sorcerer saw that the Spirit was given (8:17-18). Lert’s call this the Samaritan Pentecost.

It is important to realize three biblical facts. First, the Samaritans had converted to and trusted in the Messiah. As a sign of their faith, they were baptized. Even Simon believed and was baptized (Acts 8:13). Second, as noted, the gift of spiritual languages is clearly implied. Luke assumes his readers would understand that the visible sign was spiritual languages, in light of Pentecost and when two prominent apostles prayed and laid hands on the Samaritans. Third, therefore salvation and the infilling of the Spirit are two distinct acts.

The cases at the link and the episode here in Samaria are paradigmatic and exemplary because they illustrate that converts to the Jesus Movement or the Way had also to be filled with power and fire and this speaking gift.

However, Paul’s experience proves that Luke does not have to explicitly link the fullness of the Spirit and prayer languages every single time. Paul received the fulness of the Spirit, but his prayer language is not mentioned at that time (Acts 9:17-18). But we know that he used this gift very often (1 Cor. 14:18).

Luke expects us to fill his omissions with the power of the Spirit because the entire sweep or context of his book is charismatic. It is similar to his omitting water baptism in key places. Often he does say that new converts got baptized: Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12-13, 35-38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:14-15, 31-33; 18:8; 19:5), Yet in other cases water baptism is not brought up for new converts: Acts 9:42; 11:21; 13:12, 48; 14:1; 17:12, 34). It is hard to believe, but during Paul’s and Barnabas’s missionary journey, there are no recorded water baptism, even though many conversions are recorded in summarie. But we can be sure that the converts were baptized because this was standard practice. Luke expects us to fill in these omissions.  This is why I have nicknamed him Luke the Omitter. (Or he could be called Luke the Condenser.)

Keener (p. 264) on the allegation that the Samaritans’ conversion and faith were inadequate:

Against those who view the Samaritans’ conversion as defective, Philip preached “Christ” (8:5) and “the good news about God’s kingdom” (8:12), precisely as Paul would (20:25; 28:31) Joy (8:8) characterizes conversions in Luke-Acts (see especially Luke 15:5-7, 9-10, 23-24, 32; Acts 11:23; 13:48; 15:3), including in this context (8:39). The Samaritans “believed”—language that elsewhere indicates saving faith (4:4; 11:17; 14:1-2; 15:7, 9; 17:12, 34; 19:6)—especially when explicitly recounting baptism (16:31-34; 18:8), as here. In 8:15-17, the apostles will come to impart the Spirit, not to reevangelize Philip’s converts or to rebaptize them (contrast 19:3-5).

In other words, the Samaritans were genuinely converted and were saved and had saving faith, but the fullness of the Spirit came only when the apostles came down from Jerusalem and laid hands on them. So it is possible to have a subsequent experience with the Spirit after initial conversion and salvation.


“authority”: it is exousia (pronounced ex-oo-see-ah), and it means, depending on the context: “right to act,” “freedom of choice,” “power, capability, might, power, authority, absolute power”; “power or authority exercised by rulers by virtue of their offices; official power; domain or jurisdiction, spiritual powers.” It is probably the last definition that Simon has in mind. See Acts 26:16-18, as follows:

For this reason I [Jesus] appeared to you [Paul], to select you to be a servant and witness to the things you see about me and of the things I shall show you, 17 rescuing you from the Jewish people and the Gentiles, to whom I shall send you, 18 to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light and from the authority of Satan to God, so they receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those sanctified by faith in me. (Acts 26:16-18)

Those three verses explain what happened to Simon and the “half-breed” Samaritans. They were rescued, their eyes were open, they turned from darkness to light, from the authority of Satan to God’s authority, forgiveness of sins and an inheritance and sanctification by faith in Christ. (However, as noted, some commentators say that Simon was not genuinely saved, but those verses certainly apply to the other Samaritans.)

Luke exposes corrupt religion that seems great and powerful, but God can take it down and overpower it (Peterson, comment on vv. 18-19).


Let’s talk about Simon’s condition. We know he was baptized and believed, but he did not grow very far or deep in the Lord.

“not right”” it comes from the adjective euthus (pronounced yew-thus) and can be translated “upright” or “straight.”

“repent”: it is the verb metanoeō (pronounced meh-tah-noh-eh-oh), and “to repent” literally means “changed mind.” And it goes deeper than mental assent or agreement. Another word for repent is the Greek stem streph– (including the prefixes ana-, epi-, and hupo-), which means physically “to turn” (see Luke 2:20, 43, 45). That reality-concept is all about new life. One turns around 180 degrees, going from the direction of death to the new direction of life.

What Is Repentance?

“wickedness”: it is from the Greek noun kakia (pronounced kah-kee-ah), and it is broad: evil, badness, faultiness, vice, malice, ill-will, malignity, trouble, misfortune. Something was troubling Simon—his years of practicing the occult.

“bitter with a bitter substance”: this phrase comes from two Greek nouns: cholē (pronounced khoh-lay) and pikria (pronounced pea-kree-ah). The first noun means a bitter substance like gall (bile). The second word means bitterness, animosity, or anger. These vices are closely related, and Peter piles them on Simon, as the apostle reads his heart by the power of the Spirit and discerning of spirits (1 Cor. 12:10). Culy and Parsons, referring to Louw and Nida, say that the phrase means “to be particularly envious or resentful of someone” (p. 159). Let’s pray that one minister of the gospel is not envious or jealous of another one, today.

“bound by unrighteousness”: two nouns: sundesmos (pronounced soon-dehs-mohss) and adikia (pronounced ah-dee-kee-ah). The first word means bond or fetter, and the second one means righteousness, and the a- prefix negated it, so it is unrighteousness. Not only did he have it, but he was fettered or chained by it. He was in bondage.

“forgiven”: it comes from the verb aphiēmi (pronounced ah-fee-ay-mee). Here it is in the passive, which scholars call the “divine passive,” meaning that God is behind the sins working. He is the unspoken subject who does the forgiving. BDAG defines the verb with the basic meaning of letting go: (1) “dismiss or release someone or something from a place or one’s presence, let go, send away”; (2) “to release from legal or moral obligations or consequence, cancel, remit, pardon”; (3) “to move away with implication of causing a separation, leave, depart”; (4) “to leave something continue or remain in its place … let someone have something” (Matt. 4:20; 5:24; 22:22; Mark 1:18; Luke 10:30; John 14:18); (5) “leave it to someone to do something, let, let go, allow, tolerate.” The Shorter Lexicon adds “forgive.” In sum, God lets go, dismisses, releases, sends away, cancels, pardons, and forgives our sins. Likewise, we should forgive those who sin against us because God forgives us every day. In a sense we could say your sins (specific sins, not your sin nature) has them you. God has dismissed or sent them away. Please read these verses for how forgiving God is:

10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103:10-12, ESV)

And these great verses are from Micah:

18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea. (Mic. 7:18-19, ESV)

What Is Biblical Forgiveness?

The commentators, incidentally, are not united on Simon’s condition. Some say he was not saved at all, while other say he was immature and untrained, for he did not get enough of the word to purge out his past bad ideas.

Maybe this passage in Luke’s Gospel will help:

11 “This is the meaning of the parable:
The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path: they heard it; then the devil comes and takes the word from their hearts, so that they might not believe and be saved. 13 The ones on the rocky ground: they receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root; they believe for a time, but in the time of testing, they fall away. 14 The ones falling among the thorn bushes: they have heard, but as they go, they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life, and they do not produce mature fruit. 15 The ones in the good soil: after hearing the word with a truly good heart, they hold on to it and produce fruit by endurance.” (Luke 8:11-15)

It seems Simon was in the second or third class of seeds. Maybe even in the first kind of soil. You can decide.


I like Simon’s response. It was humble. He took Peter’s rebuke to heart. We don’t know whether Peter prayed for him, however, as he requested.

Peter got similarly rebuked. “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus replied (Matt. 16:23). But this does not mean God could not use Peter after his huge miscalculation and wrongheaded words and human-centered perspective. The same redemption and forgiveness could happen to Simon.

Never write someone off, even a sorcerer who is involved in the occult. Witches and warlocks—so-called—can be forgiven and released from their sins. They can be restored and used of God for ministry.

No to: Magic, Witchcraft, Sorcery, and Fortunetelling


This is a transitional and summary verse.

“the word of God”: see v. 4, for a closer look.

It is good to know that the Samaritan villages received the gospel—or at least they heard it proclaimed.

It seems Philip remained behind and did not return to Jerusalem with Peter and John (Bruce, p. 224). We will see what happened to him in the next pericope (pronounced puh-RIH-koh-pea) or unit or section of Scripture.

“witnessing”: the verb is diamarturomai (pronounced dee-ah-mahr-too-roh-my), and it can also mean “bear witness to” or “testify.” In these contexts it always means witnessing or testifying through the power of the Spirit. It means to witness about what God has done in your heart through Jesus. Peter and John preached the gospel to various Samaritan villages, as they returned to Jerusalem. Luke Greek is a little out of sequence for an English speaker.

“preached the gospel”: see v. 4 for more comments.

Recall how John reacted to Samaritans who rejected Jesus:

53 They did not welcome him [Jesus], because he was firmly resolved to go to Jerusalem. 54 On seeing this, the disciples James and John said, “Lord, you want us to speak to fire to come down from heaven and destroy them?” 55 He wheeled on them and rebuked them. (Luke 9:53-55)

Here in Acts John had already purged out his bad reaction to rejection. Pentecost made all the difference in John’s life. He was empowered with the Spirit and with the love of God poured out in his heart by the Spirit (see Rom. 5:5). The Spirit can change our hearts.

GrowApp for Acts 8:14-25

A.. Simon did not get rid of his bad past ideas, so he got confused. How about you? What are your old bad ideas? How have you purged them out?

B.. Simon was filled with deep bitterness. Those experienced with deliverance ministry (exorcisms) tell us that bitterness and unforgiveness provided the easiest path for Satan to harass believers. Have your purged out unforgiveness and bitterness?

C.. In Luke 9:53-55, John wanted to call down fire from heaven on a Samaritan village which rejected Jesus. Now, after Pentecost and walking in the Spirit, he preaches the good news to various Samaritan villages (Acts 8:25). The Spirit delivered him from his anger. How has the infilling of the Spirit changed your bad attitude?

Philip Meets an Ethiopian (Acts 8:26-40)

26 Ἄγγελος δὲ κυρίου ἐλάλησεν πρὸς Φίλιππον λέγων· ἀνάστηθι καὶ πορεύου κατὰ μεσημβρίαν ἐπὶ τὴν ὁδὸν τὴν καταβαίνουσαν ἀπὸ Ἰερουσαλὴμ εἰς Γάζαν, αὕτη ἐστὶν ἔρημος. 27 καὶ ἀναστὰς ἐπορεύθη. καὶ ἰδοὺ ἀνὴρ Αἰθίοψ εὐνοῦχος δυνάστης Κανδάκης βασιλίσσης Αἰθιόπων, ὃς ἦν ἐπὶ πάσης τῆς γάζης αὐτῆς, ὃς ἐληλύθει προσκυνήσων εἰς Ἰερουσαλήμ, 28 ἦν τε ὑποστρέφων καὶ καθήμενος ἐπὶ τοῦ ἅρματος αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀνεγίνωσκεν τὸν προφήτην Ἠσαΐαν.

29 εἶπεν δὲ τὸ πνεῦμα τῷ Φιλίππῳ· πρόσελθε καὶ κολλήθητι τῷ ἅρματι τούτῳ. 30 προσδραμὼν δὲ ὁ Φίλιππος ἤκουσεν αὐτοῦ ἀναγινώσκοντος Ἠσαΐαν τὸν προφήτην καὶ εἶπεν· ἆρά γε γινώσκεις ἃ ἀναγινώσκεις; 31 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν· πῶς γὰρ ἂν δυναίμην ἐὰν μή τις ὁδηγήσει με; παρεκάλεσέν τε τὸν Φίλιππον ἀναβάντα καθίσαι σὺν αὐτῷ. 32 ἡ δὲ περιοχὴ τῆς γραφῆς ἣν ἀνεγίνωσκεν ἦν αὕτη·

ὡς πρόβατον ἐπὶ σφαγὴν ἤχθη
καὶ ὡς ἀμνὸς ἐναντίον τοῦ κείραντος αὐτὸν ἄφωνος,
οὕτως οὐκ ἀνοίγει τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ.
33Ἐν τῇ ταπεινώσει [αὐτοῦ] ἡ κρίσις αὐτοῦ ἤρθη·
τὴν γενεὰν αὐτοῦ τίς διηγήσεται;
ὅτι αἴρεται ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς ἡ ζωὴ αὐτοῦ.

34 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ εὐνοῦχος τῷ Φιλίππῳ εἶπεν· δέομαί σου, περὶ τίνος ὁ προφήτης λέγει τοῦτο; περὶ ἑαυτοῦ ἢ περὶ ἑτέρου τινός; 35 ἀνοίξας δὲ ὁ Φίλιππος τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀρξάμενος ἀπὸ τῆς γραφῆς ταύτης εὐηγγελίσατο αὐτῷ τὸν Ἰησοῦν.

36 ὡς δὲ ἐπορεύοντο κατὰ τὴν ὁδόν, ἦλθον ἐπί τι ὕδωρ, καί φησιν ὁ εὐνοῦχος· ἰδοὺ ὕδωρ, τί κωλύει με βαπτισθῆναι; 38 καὶ ἐκέλευσεν στῆναι τὸ ἅρμα καὶ κατέβησαν ἀμφότεροι εἰς τὸ ὕδωρ, ὅ τε Φίλιππος καὶ ὁ εὐνοῦχος, καὶ ἐβάπτισεν αὐτόν. 39 ὅτε δὲ ἀνέβησαν ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος, πνεῦμα κυρίου ἥρπασεν τὸν Φίλιππον καὶ οὐκ εἶδεν αὐτὸν οὐκέτι ὁ εὐνοῦχος, ἐπορεύετο γὰρ τὴν ὁδὸν αὐτοῦ χαίρων. 40 Φίλιππος δὲ εὑρέθη εἰς Ἄζωτον· καὶ διερχόμενος εὐηγγελίζετο τὰς πόλεις πάσας ἕως τοῦ ἐλθεῖν αὐτὸν εἰς Καισάρειαν.

26 An angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Get up and go southward on the road going down from Jerusalem to Gaza,” (which was in the desert). 27 And he got up and went, and look! There was a man, an Ethiopian eunuch, an official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was over all her treasury and had come to Jerusalem to worship. 28 He was returning and sitting in his wagon and was reading the prophet Isaiah.

29 The Spirit told Philip, “Approach and join this wagon.” 30 Philip ran up alongside and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, “Do you really know what you’re reading?” 31 And he replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” He invited Philip to mount and sit with him. 32 The section of Scripture which he had been reading was this:

Like a sheep is led to slaughter
And as a lamb is silent before its shearer,
So he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation, his justice was removed.
Who shall tell of his descendants?
His life was taken up from the earth. [Is. 53:7-8]

34 In reply, the eunuch said to Philip, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this? Himself or someone else?” 35 Philip began to speak, and beginning from this writing, he proclaimed the good news about Jesus to him.

36 As they were going along the road, they came on some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! Water!” What’s to prevent me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the wagon to stop, and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 When they got up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord whisked Philip away, and the eunuch no longer saw him and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip was found in Azotus, and as he was going throughout the area, he preached the good news to all the towns, until he reached Caesarea.



“angel”: An angel, both in Hebrew and Greek, is really a messenger. Angels are created beings, while Jesus was the one who created all things, including angels (John 1:1-4). The risen and exalted Jesus is the one who sent this angel to Philip. Renewalists believe that angels appear to people in their dreams or in person. It is God’s ongoing ministry through them to us.

Here is a multi-part study of angels in the area of systematic theology, but first, here is a summary list of the basics:


(a) Are messengers (in Hebrew mal’ak and in Greek angelos);

(b) Are created spirit beings;

(c) Have a beginning at their creation (not eternal);

(d) Have a beginning, but they are immortal (deathless).

(e) Have moral judgment;

(f) Have a certain measure of free will;

(g) Have high intelligence;

(h) Do not have physical bodies;

(i) But can manifest with immortal bodies before humans;

(j) They can show the emotion of joy.

Bible Basics about Angels

Angels: Questions and Answers

Angels: Their Duties and Missions

Angels: Their Names and Ranks and Heavenly Existence

Angels: Their Origins, Abilities, and Nature

In this case the angel is carrying out his mission to help am Ethiopian treasurer who is about to inherit salvation (Heb. 1:14).

Where does the angel’s speech end and the parenthetical comment begin? Did the angel give those specific direction, or did Luke insert them? I say the angel gave them; otherwise, Philip might have missed his destiny to offer salvation and Jesus to the Ethiopian. But then why would an angel use the past tense “was”? Or Luke is translating it retrospectively in his story, so it has to be in the past tense. Either way, the directions were clear.

Don’t miss God’s plan for your life (1 Thess. 2:18)—but if you do, God has an equally good plan for you to replace it!


Obedience to the voice of God—in this case it was delivered through an angel—is always better than disobedience.

“look!”: this translates the old “Behold!”

The eunuch was an official high up in Candace’s court. Make no mistake: the man was black. Ethiopian was on the southern end of the Nile River. The country was also called Nubia or Cush, and various Scriptures promise outreach to them.

The name “Candace” indicates a title of a queenly dynasty who handled the day to day operations of the royal court because the king was too high and sacred for such earthly affairs. Candace was the king’s queen-mother, and this title and role went down through the generations (Peterson, comments on vv. 27-28). She was a real person, however.

The Ethiopian eunuch was in Jerusalem to worship because he was probably Jewish or a proselyte (a Gentile convert to Judaism). God will reach anyone. And yes, Ethiopia is in Africa, so God does not care about race. Just reach people.

In ancient Greek times, long before the NT was written, people believed that Ethiopia was at the very the end of the earth. Jesus said in Acts 1:8 to go to the ends of the earth. This eunuch was going to carry on this mission. See Keener, pp. 270-73 for a quick history of Ethiopia up to that time, two thousand years ago.

As a eunuch, he was excluded from full temple worship: “No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the Lord” (Deut. 23:1)


“wagon”: it was not a military chariot, but a carriage or covered wagon. No doubt it was driven by a wagon master, or maybe the eunuch was driving and was going so slowly that he could read out loud and let the horse pull him at the same time. Bock adds another description: it was a regal-like chariot (not a war chariot) with sides, a roof, and a curtain (comments on vv. 27-28, p. 342). It could hold at least three persons: the treasurer, his drive, and Philip. Probably some servants were there too.

“reading”: It was probably in a Greek scroll. In those days people read out loud because the words on the page were jammed together, like this: Asasheepisledtoslaughter. They also read aloud for better comprehension.

“Isaiah the prophet”: a divine appointment for Philip and the treasurer because he was reading from Is. 53, the Suffering Servant chapter, which is clearly about Jesus! A divine setup!

Bruce says that the laws of Israel precluded eunuchs from enjoying the full benefits of the community (Deut. 23:1), yet the removal of this ban was anticipated in Is. 56:3-8.

Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say,
“The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.”
And let no eunuch complain,
“I am only a dry tree.”

For this is what the Lord says:

“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant—
to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that will endure forever.
And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord
to minister to him,
to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
and who hold fast to my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations.”
The Sovereign Lord declares—
he who gathers the exiles of Israel:
“I will gather still others to them
besides those already gathered.” (Is. 56:3-8, NIV)

Jesus was about to accept this eunuch, lifting off of him the religious exclusion against him.


“the Spirit”: is this the angel, or the Holy Spirit? Angels are called spirits (Heb. 1:14). I always thought this was the Holy Spirit, speaking directly to the mind and heart of Philip. Either way, Renewalists believe that God speaks the same today as he did back then. It is a restrictive and shriveled pneumatology (doctrine of the Spirit) to put God in a box and tell him what he can or cannot do, particularly when the Scripture affirms the fact that God speaks in this way. But be sure to submit this voice to the Scriptures because we know they are inspired, but we are not confident that you are not inspired on the same level. For example, be sure that your own head or Satan told you to pursue another man’s wife!

What Does the New Covenant Retain from the Old?

One Decisive Difference Between Sinai Covenant and New Covenant

Ten Commandments: God’s Great Compromise with Humanity’s Big Failure

How Jesus Christ Fulfills the Law: Matthew 5:17-19


“ran alongside”: Elijah ran with a chariot (1 Kings 18:46 and was carried away (1 Kings 18:12; 2 Kings 2:11). Jeremiah’s pious Ethiopian eunuch friend helped him out of the pit (Jer. 38:7-13).

I like the image of Philip trotting with the wagon, probably just behind the treasurer, barely out of view. The wagon or carriage was rattling so the treasurer couldn’t hear him. Philip was eavesdropping!

Philip asked him a relevant question that was directly connected to the Ethiopian’s life and interests. It was obvious. In your own witness, ask friendly questions to the person who is open. Soon enough he will reveal something that opens the door for you to share God’s love and pray with him.

“know”: the verb is ginōskō (pronounced gee-noh-skoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”). The verb is so common that it is used 222 times in the NT. (Its cognate epiginōskō, pronounced eh-pea-gee-noh-skoh is used 44 times).

Word Study: Knowledge


“guide”: it is a compound noun hodēgos (pronounced haw-day-goss or hoh-day-gohss). It literally means “path-guide” or “road-leader.” 1 John 2:27 says we have an anointing in us, so we do not need anyone to teach us, but through this anointing we can remain in him. However, that verse appears in the context of false teachers who were tempting John’s readers to go astray, prying them loose from sound doctrine—John’s teaching. John is saying that the Spirit will guide his readers to stay true to John’s teaching—from John the apostle, a teacher! The same is happening here in v. 31. The treasurer needed Philip’s guidance. The Ethiopian did not yet have any anointing at all.

The high-level official invited Philip to ride along with him. A good question from Philip invited a positive response.


A perfect Messianic verse, for Philip to explain. Jesus was the lamb. His life was taken from him because of an injustice. Recall that in Peter’s sermon before the Sanhedrin and to a general Jerusalem audience he proclaimed that they were the ones who were partly responsible for the injustice done to the Messiah Yeshuah (Jesus). Further, Jesus had no descendants. He knew early on (Luke 2:49) that he was born to die for the sins of the world. He would not get married.

9. Do I Really Know Jesus? He Died for You

“life”: It is the noun zoē (pronounced zoh-ay, and girls are named after it, e.g. Zoey). BDAG is the authoritative NT Greek lexicon, and it says that it has two senses, depending on the context: a physical life (e.g. life and breath) and a transcendent life. By physical life the editors mean the period from birth to death, human activity, a way or manner of living, a period of usefulness, earning a living. By transcendent life the lexicographers mean these four elements: first, God himself is life and offers us everlasting life. Second, Christ is life, who received life from God, and now we can receive life from Christ. Third, it is new life of holiness and righteousness and grace. God’s life filling us through Christ changes our behavior. Fourth, zoē means life in the age to come, or eschatological life. So our new life now will continue into the next age, which God fully and finally ushers in when Christ returns. We will never experience mere existence or death, but we will be fully and eternally alive in God.

In this verse is it the first definition.


The treasurer asked more questions. He was ripe for salvation.

“began to speak: literally, “opening his mouth.”

“the good news about Jesus”: See v. 4 for the Greek verb. Just proclaim Jesus to new converts or soon-to-be converts.

We should assume that the quoted verses are merely representative of the entire passage of Is. 52:13-53:12, as v. 35 makes clear. Is. 53:7 talks about the innocent, silent suffering servant, who is compared to a sacrificial lamb. It was an unjust death. Perfect description of Jesus.

The issue of injustice fits with the Lukan portrait of Jesus’s death. He died unjustly because he was who he claimed to be, the promised one of Israel. But there is irony here: in the generation’s act of taking Jesus life from earth, there is also, for Jesus, God’s vindication of that death. This, in effect, nullified the judgment of Jesus on earth. If there is a positive viewpoint in the reading, it is one or irony involving the vindication that the servant eventually experienced. This combination of the innocent person suffering and being taken from the earth is probably what Philip eventually explains about Jesus, with an elucidation of what this death now means in light of God’s vindication (Bock, comments on vv. 32-34).


What a “coincidence”! Water deep enough for both of them to wade into and get dunked. No, the water did not just appear out of nowhere. Time elapsed as they traveled down the road.

“All barriers are down, and so a eunuch, a black, God-fearing Gentile, is baptized” (Bock, comment on v. 36).

“baptized”: see v. 12 for more comments.

Verse 37: The best Greek manuscripts don’t have this verse; it is obviously an insertion by an overzealous copyist or scribe. But it can be translated thus: “And Philp said, ‘If you believe with your whole heart, you shall be saved.’ And he answered, ‘I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.’” Though the verse is not original, it is still sound theology, however. It reveals what the early church after the apostles lived, for centuries afterwards, even today!

So was the Ethiopian eunuch the first Gentile convert, and not Cornelius? Schnabel: “Thus many scholars see the Ethiopian as a representative of proselytes in Jewish diaspora ….” (p. 422). Cornelius was not a proselyte.


“whisked”: it comes from the Greek word harpazō, which means to “catch up” or “snatch away.” It appears in 2 Cor 12:2 and 4, which says Paul was caught up to the third heaven. 1 Thess. 4:17 says that believers in Jesus will be snatched up or “raptured” (same meaning in the Latin word), to meet the Lord in the air. The commander and his soldiers whisked Paul away to safety as he appeared before the Sanhedrin (high council) in Jerusalem (Acts 23:10).

It is not clear whether the angel or the Holy Spirit transported him. But the treasurer saw it with his own eyes. The OT has passages that show people getting transported or carried away by the Spirit (1 Kings 18:12; Ezek. 3:12, 14; 8:3; 11:1, 24; 43:5).

And so, with this kind of Scriptural support, Renewalists believe this can happen today. I have heard stories about this miracle; people have seen it with their own eyes. But when it happens, be sure that the context is about Jesus and his Lordship and not a confused religious circus. Satan can work signs and wonders through false messiahs and prophets (Matt. 24:24 and Mark 13:22; 2 Thess. 2:9).

The treasurer just experienced salvation and saw an awesome sign and wonder (whisking), so of course he would rejoice. A wonderful wrap up to his story. Later church history says that he went to his homeland and preached the gospel, and many people converted.


These towns (with modern names) are along the Mediterranean coast. Philip preached to towns that had strong Gentile (non-Jewish) roots, while in the next two chapters Peter will minister in coastal towns that have a strong Jewish presence (Bruce, p. 230). It is interesting that the Spirit carried Philip to those predominantly Gentile towns. But no doubt Jews still lived there, so did Philip preach only to Jews, or did his outreach include Gentiles who listened in? Whatever the case, the soil is being prepared for outreach to the Gentiles, with the endorsement of Peter himself (Acts 10-11).

The eunuch is not just any person associated with Judaism. He is a eunuch, which restricts him from Jewish worship. And as one who respected the God of Israel from a faraway land, his exposure to the gospel shows that even a brief encounter in the midst of travel can allow the gospel to spread. In all likelihood, he is another example of a God-fearer and a significant government official responding to Jesus, just what someone such as Theophilus, to whom Acts is addressed, needs to hear. Acts 8 is full of contrasts showing the expansion of the mission: there is work in the north (Samaria) and the south (Gaza on the coast); a magician and a government figure are exposed to the message, as are Samaritans and God-fearers from Africa. God is mightily at work with a wide array of people. (Bock, comment on v. 40)

And I must include the summary by Polhill. He reminds us of what happened to Philip:

Verse 40 concludes the story of Philip’s missionary activity. He appeared in Azotus, Old Testament Ashdod, and traveled about, preaching in the coastal cities. Finally arriving at Caesarea, he seems to have settled there. In Caesarea he appeared in Acts on the occasion of Paul’s visit with him (Acts 21:8) some twenty years or so after the events of chap. 8. We are told that at the time he had four unmarried daughters who all prophesied (21:9). Like their father, evidently they were open to the Spirit. All in all, Philip’s accomplishments had been considerable. He had pioneered the Samaritan mission. He had paved the way for the Gentile mission. Peter would later follow him in this with the conversion of Cornelius—interestingly in Caesarea—just as Peter followed him in Samaria. Peter was instrumental in securing community endorsement of the new missionary efforts, but Philip stood in the background as the Hellenist who first caught the vision. (comment on v. 40)

GrowApp for Acts 8:26-40

A.. The Ethiopian eunuch had these strikes against him: he was black, a foreigner in Jerusalem, a Gentile (though converted to Judaism), and not fully acceptable in temple worship because of his eunuch (reproductive) disability. Yet God accepted him through his Son, Jesus Christ. How has God accepted you when circumstances were against you? Tell your story.

B.. Scripture deeply touched the eunuch. It convinced him. Which Scripture touched your heart and helped you grow?

Observations for Discipleship

Acts 8 is full of life in the Spirit. It is a wonderful guide for Renewalists.

We should have no doubt that the Spirit spoke to Philip to go Samaria and proclaim the gospel or the Word of God.

Philip proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus the Messiah. He was the long-awaited Messiah. In his time the Word of God was the Old Testament and particularly the Messianic prophecies. I urge you to learn them. They may be needed as you witness to people. Please see a table of them, here:

Messianic Prophecies

That link has a table of verses in the OT quoted in the NT, but Jesus also fulfills the themes and types in the OT, like the entire sacrificial system.

I like Schnabel’s insight for missionaries who encounter evil:

Missionaries should not be intimidated by magical practices or demonic phenomena. Philip had no qualms about contacts with Simon, a recognized and probably feared expert in the arts of the occult. Missionaries who worked on the island of Java in Indonesia report encounters with witch doctors who challenged them to a duel of spiritual powers, killing chickens on the other side of the street with a curse in preparation for the real showdown and a demonstration of what they were capable of. Even in extreme circumstances, where one’s life might be in danger, followers of Jesus do not have to be afraid of the supernatural powers that sorcerers may be able to conjure up, since the power of the one true God is greater than the power of any spirit, curse or spell. At the same time we should note that Luke’s narrative shows no fascination with magic or with magic practices. (p. 417)

Through the Ethiopian treasurer God was reaching out to people way beyond the borders of Israel. Jesus’s own words to his disciples: “you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In the ancient world, long before the NT was written, people believed that Ethiopia was at the very the end of the earth. The black Ethiopian treasurer represented the fulfilment of Jesus’s words to the readers-listeners of Acts. Today we know that the earth goes far beyond their limited perspective, but God is still reaching the world.

Signs and wonders were done in despised Samaria, through Philip. God will reach even the despised people in society—the undesirables, the misfits. They were considered misfits because they had a strong Gentile (non-Jewish) heritage, and because they had an alternative system of worship that they claimed was better than the system in Jerusalem.

Signs and wonders of healing the disabled and delivering the oppressed is still done today. You can ask God to give you these gifts. Hang out with people who shine with them.

A sorcerer named Simon was dazzled by Philip’s signs and wonders; even though the people gave the sorcerer a convoluted title, he was humble enough to want something better. Never write off people who you (wrongly) believe are too far gone. Even sorcerers and witches and occultists can be saved, after they surrender their lives to Jesus Christ.

Peter and John departed from Jerusalem and went northward to Samaria to endorse Philip’s evangelistic endeavors. The people believed and were water-baptized, but they had not yet received the fulness of the Spirit. One does not believe without the Spirit wooing him, but something was missing in their lives. Peter and John prayed for people to receive the Holy Spirit. That’s the person who was missing in their lives.

Yes, the Spirit is a person, not an “it” or a “thing.” He wants to get to know you and fill you completely with his presence. He will then point you to Jesus and glorify him. He will help you understand the Word (Scriptures).

Then Simon saw the Spirit was given by God and received by people. What did he see? He observed an outward manifestation of a gift of the Spirit. Most likely it was Spirit-inspired or prayer languages (archaically and formerly known as ‘tongues’). (Scroll back up to v. 18 to see why this is the most likely interpretation.)

You too can have this wonderful gift of God—it’s God-given and God-ordained. Don’t think lightly of it. If you got it, don’t let it fall into disuse If you don’t have it, seek God for it. Find someone who has it and can pray with you to receive it. But you don’t have to have it, f you don’t want it. God’s offer can be rejected.


Bock, Darrell L. Acts. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Baker Academic, 2007.

Bruce, F. F. Acts. Rev. ed. Eerdmans, 1988. (I also used his earlier work Acts of the Apostles: Greek Text with Commentary, Eerdmans, 1951, 1952, 1990, 3rd ed.).

The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger. United Bible Society, 2014. The Greek text in the tables comes from the Nestle-Aland 28th ed, available here:

Keener, Craig, S. Acts. New Cambridge Bible Commentary. Cambridge UP, 2020.

Longenecker, Richard N. Acts. Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. Zondervan, 2007.

Marshall, I. Howard. Acts. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Tyndale, 1980.

Parsons, Mikeal C. and Martin M. Culy. Acts. A Handbook on the Greek Text. Baylor, UP, 2003.

Peterson, David G. The Acts of the Apostles. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Eerdmans, 2009.

Polhill, John B. Acts. New American Commentary. Vol. 26. Broadman and Holman, 1992.

Schnabel, Eckhard, J. Acts. Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Zondervan, 2012.

Works Cited


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