This page is a verse by verse study of Acts 8:1-25. These verses describe Philip’s evangelism in Samaria and the conversion of Simon the sorcerer.
Philip converts many in Samaria including a magician
¶ "Saul was consenting to Stephen’s death. On that day, a storm of persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem. The apostles remained in Jerusalem, but the congregation in general was scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen, and lamented greatly over him. But Saul ravaged the church. He went around from house to house, dragging both men and women off to prison. Meanwhile, those who'd been scattered went from place to place preaching the word."(Acts 8:1-4).
Saul ravaged the church. This Saul later became the apostle Paul. He describes himself as "formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent aggressor" against the church in Jerusalem (1Timothy 1:12-14).
Congregation scattered. The church had grown to several thousand members since the day that the apostles, and a small number of disciples, had gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem to await the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:12-15). Now the thousands of converts had fled Jerusalem leaving the apostles no church to tend but those in prison —where the apostles themselves were at risk of being thrown unless Jesus spared them.
Went preaching. The thousands who fled were not cowards, however: they went from place to place preaching. So the persecution, intended to crush the church, impelled Christianity to spread from Jerusalem outward to Judea and Samaria and beyond, just as Jesus had predicted (Acts 1:8).
Judea and Samaria. Judea is the country of which Jerusalem is the capital. It was the area inherited by Judah. Samaria is the country, between Judea to the south and Galilee to the north. The capital of Samaria is also named Samaria.
Stephen buried. Fitting the death of a martyr for Jesus, Stephen is given a decent burial with the appropriate laments. Saul has no respect for this and begins in haste to ravage the church before Stephen is hardly laid to rest.
Saul went from house to house. He probably did not do this personally, since there would be hundreds of houses to raid. Saul would be able to draft strong assistance from the temple police force and squads of deputies made available to his charge by the Sanhedrin.
¶ "Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and proclaimed Christ to them. The multitudes listened with one accord to the things that Philip said, when they heard and saw the signs that he did. Unclean spirits came out shouting from many who were possessed. Many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. There was great joy in that city."(Acts 8:5-8).
Philip in Samaria. Philip was one of the seven “deacons” chosen to help the apostles (Acts 6:5). That work having been disrupted by the exodus from Jerusalem, Philip now becomes an “evangelist” (a gospel preacher) spreading Christianity (Acts 21:8). He goes to the city of Samaria.
Multitudes listened. While Saul is engaged in routing the church in Jerusalem, Philip is starting another church in Samaria. He has crowds listening to him because he demonstrates the power of God in the amazing miracles and healings he performs.
There was great joy. There are three reasons for the joy that Philip brought to Samaria: firstly the “good news” of salvation that he preached; secondly the healings with which he blessed the sick; thirdly the fact that through Philip, as previously through Jesus himself, God was repudiating the culture of hate between Jews and the Samaritans (John 4:9,39).
¶ "There was one man, named Simon, who had been doing sorcery in the city. He'd amazed the people of Samaria, making himself out to be some great one. All the people, from the least to the greatest, had listened to him. They'd said of Simon, “This man is that great power of God.” They listened to him because he'd long amazed them with his sorceries."(Acts 8:9-11).
Simon the magician. You didn't have to go far from Jerusalem to find paganism openly practised. This sorcerer, Simon, was capable of great feats of magic (cf 1Thessalonians 2:3-12). Whether his magic was real or fake is not important. His magic could have been as real and as supernatural as the demons that possessed the people and which Philip cast out (Acts 8:7). The important thing is that Simon deceived the people, even if his powers were real, because he led people into blasphemy praising him as the Great Power of God.
A complete lesson on Simon the Sorcerer. He was no match for Jesus. Just touch or click the button above.
¶ "But when the people of Samaria believed Philip preaching good news concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself also believed. After being baptized, he continued on with Philip, amazed by the signs and great miracles that he saw."(Acts 8:12-13).
Simon amazed by Philip. It is a measure of the miraculous powers of Philip that Simon, the great sorcerer, saw Philip’s miracles as greatly superior to his own. Compare this with the so-called “miracles” which some evangelists today claim to do.
Those who believed were baptized. As in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38,41), all who believed Philip’s message of Christ were baptized. Today there are very few churches that join baptism with faith as we see the two joined here: both being an integral part of true conversion to Christ.
Both men and women. God makes no difference between male and female, saving them both on exactly the same terms and making them all “sons of God”(Galatians 3:25-29).
The kingdom of God. Peter had preached the fulfillment of the throne prophecies, that Jesus was seated at the right hand of God and ruling in his kingdom (Acts 2:29-36). Philip preaches the kingdom of God in the same way.
Name of the Lord. The "name of the Lord" here means the power and authority of God in Christ our Lord, who alone is able to save. The name given to Jesus is "the name above every name"(Philippians 2:9-10). As Jesus said, "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth"(Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus is the one who has first place in everything (Colossians 1:13-20).
¶ "The apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, so they sent Peter and John to them. When Peter and John came down to Samaria, they prayed that the people might receive the Holy Spirit. As yet the Spirit had fallen on none of them —they had only been baptized in the name of Christ Jesus. So Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit."(Acts 8:14-17:).
Peter and John These two apostles were working together at the time the lame man was healed (Acts 3:1-2). Still faithful companions, they go down to Samaria, bringing unique apostolic powers, to help Philip and the new converts in the city of Samaria.
The Spirit had fallen on none. Peter and John came to lay hands on the people to impart the Holy Spirit. Luke explains, "As yet the Spirit had fallen on none of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ"(Acts 8:16). This means that they had received forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit in the wonderful way that all baptized believers do (Acts 2:38-39). However they had not received the Spirit in such a way that would enable them to work miracles and signs (Mark 16:15-18).
Apostles laid hands on them. Philip, not being an apostle, couldn't impart miraculous powers to others, even though he could work miracles himself. The apostles, however, could impart miraculous gifts by the laying on of their hands (Acts 8:17-18).
¶ "When Simon saw that the Holy Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money: “Give me this power too; so that anyone I lay my hands on may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have no share in this ministry, because your heart isn't right with God. So repent of this wickedness of yours, and ask God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are tasting the poison and hefting the chains of your iniquity.” Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that none of the things you have spoken happen to me.” "(Acts 8:18-24).
When Simon saw Simon, the erstwhile great sorcerer, has been greatly amazed at Philip’s supernatural powers. Now comes another shock: Peter and John are able not only to perform the same miracles, but also to transfer the powers to others: not by lengthy initiations or closeted learning in the mysteries of magic —simply by the laying on of their apostolic hands! This is too much for Simon; that power he covets. So he offers to buy the apostolic powers.
Your money perish with you! Peter harshly rebukes Simon, not because Peter hates Simon, but because he loves him. Understanding this, and that he is falling from grace, Simon accepts the rebuke and asks for prayers.
Repent and Pray Some compare Acts 2:38 with Acts 8:22, saying the former (repent and be baptized) is God’s law of pardon for the non-Christian whilst the latter (repent and pray) is God’s law of pardon for the Christian who sins.
Heart not right with God. It's important for us to understand that God sees into our hearts. He does not judge us by what others see and say. God judges us by what he sees. God knows the hearts of every person (Acts 1:24). God saw the wrong in Simon’s heart. This had dire consequences for Simon unless he quickly changed his heart.
¶ "So when Peter and John had earnestly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem. Along the way they preached the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans."(Acts 8:25).
Testified and preached. Whilst it is pretty much the same thing to say they "testified and preached the word" and to say "they preached the gospel", there is one particular difference. Anyone can preach, but not every one can testify or bear witness —a task Jesus gave to his apostles (Acts 1:8). The apostles (and a number of other people) had seen and spoken to Jesus after his resurrection. That meant that they could provide an eye-witness assurance that Jesus had risen. In the case of the apostles, they could give the same assurance of his ascension. Being able to give an eye-witness testimony was every bit as important as being able to work attesting miracles.