January 24, 2021
As we teach others, sharing directly from the scripture is a great way. So over the next few weeks that is what we will be looking at. Examples of conversions as recorded in the history of the early church in the book of Acts.
Lesson number Three: The Samaritans (8:4-25)
1. With the preaching of the gospel and its reception by many, the
Lord's church grew rapidly in Jerusalem...
a. 3000 souls were added after the first gospel sermon - Ac 2:41
b. Following the second sermon, the number grew to about 5000
- Ac 4:4
2. What was the gospel message that sparked the conversion of so many?
a. One that centered on Jesus Christ, proclaiming His death,
resurrection, exaltation, and eventual return!
b. A message that expected the following response from those who heard...
1) Faith in Jesus as both Lord and Christ - e.g., Ac 2:36
2) Repentance from sin - e.g., Ac 2:38; 3:19
3) Turning to God, with baptism for the remission of sins as the
first step - e.g., Ac 2:38,41; 3:19
3. Preaching this message was not without controversy...
a. Some took issue with the message of Christ's resurrection
- Ac 4:1-3
b. Persecution against the church in Jerusalem became progressively worse
1) Peter and John were at first simply threatened - Ac 4:21
2) Soon after all the apostles were beaten - Ac 5:40
3) Then Steven was stoned to death - Ac 6:8-7:60
c. Steven's death led to widespread persecution, and the dispersal
of many Christians from Jerusalem - Ac 8:1-3
4. But as Christians were scattered abroad, so was the gospel!
a. The Christians went everywhere, "preaching the word" - Ac 8:4
b. Among those was the evangelist Philip, whose preaching provides us with two examples of conversion
1) "The Samaritans" - Ac 8:4-25
2) "The Ethiopian Eunuch" - Ac 8:26-40
[In this study, we shall examine "The Samaritans", whose example of
conversion and follow-up is one of the more challenging ones found in the Acts...]
I. THE CONVERSION OF THE SAMARITANS
A. PHILIP'S MINISTRY AT SAMARIA - Ac 8:4-13
1. He preached Christ to them - Ac 8:5
2. Multitudes heeded the things he spoke - Ac 8:6a-12
a. Having heard and seen the miracles which he did
1) Such as casting out unclean spirits, healing the
paralyzed and lame
2) Though previously they had been impressed by a sorcerer
b. They believed Philip as he preached about the kingdom of
God and the name of Jesus Christ
c. They were baptized, both men and women
3. Even Simon the sorcerer was converted - Ac 8:13
a. He too believed and was baptized
b. He continued with Philip, amazed at the miracles and signs
Philip was doing
B. THE FOLLOW-UP BY PETER AND JOHN - Ac 8:14-25
1. The apostles sent Peter and John upon hearing of the
conversion of the Samaritans - Ac 8:14
2. Peter and John imparted the Spirit to the Samaritans Ac 8: 15-17
a. While the Samaritans had been baptized, they had not
received the Spirit
b. Through prayer and the laying on of the apostles' hands,
they received the Spirit
3. This power to impart the Spirit became a stumblingblock for
Simon - Ac 8:18-24
a. He sought to buy the ability to impart the Spirit - Ac 8: 18-19
b. Peter rebukes him strongly, and calls upon him to repent
- Ac 8:20-23
c. Simon asks Peter to pray for him - Ac 8:24
4. Peter and John preached the gospel in many villages in Samaria on their return to Jerusalem - Ac 8:25
[The example of the Samaritans' is really quite remarkable, and for
several reasons. This is the first preaching of the gospel to those not
fully Jews (Samaritans were half-breeds, and disdained by most Jews; cf. Jn 4:9). But also because of the questions that are raised, some of which I hope to address as I offer...]
II. SOME OBSERVATIONS
A. CONCERNING THE CONVERSION OF THE SAMARITANS...
1. The gospel message preached by Philip
a. We are told that he preached "Christ" - Ac 8:5
1) This undoubtedly included Christ's death, resurrection,
2) I.e., the same things Peter preached about Christ in
Acts 2 and 3
b. We are told that he preached "the things concerning the
kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ" - Ac 8:12
1) What things concerning "the kingdom of God"?
a) John, Jesus, and the apostles had earlier taught the
kingdom was "at hand" - cf. Mt 3:1; 4:17; 10:7
b) Later, Paul and John wrote of the kingdom as present
- Col 1:13; Re 1:9
-- As the expression "kingdom of God" literally means
the "reign of God", it is likely that Philip spoke of
the rule and reign of God now present in the Person
of His Son Jesus Christ - cf. Mt 28:18; Ac 2:36; 5:31
2) What things concerning "the name of Jesus Christ"?
a) Most likely that repentance and remission of sins
were now being proclaimed in His name - Lk 24:47
b) And from the response of the Samaritans, we conclude
that included whatever Jesus commanded - cf. Ac 8:12
with Mk 16:16
2. The response of the Samaritans
a. Note first that they "heeded the things spoken by Philip",
implying obedience on their part - Ac 8:6; cf. He 5:9
b. Later we are told that they "believed" and "were baptized"
- Ac 8:12
1) Like Peter, Philip faithfully fulfilled the Lord's
commission - Mk 16:15-16
2) Heeding the things spoken by Philip therefore included
B. CONCERNING THE CONVERSION OF SIMON THE SORCERER...
1. Was Simon truly converted?
a. Many deny that he was, because of what happened afterward
b. But Luke (the author) says Simon "also believed"
1) I.e., he believed just as the others did
2) Therefore his faith was just as real as the rest of the
c. While there may be many fanciful traditions concerning
Simon outside of the Bible, the indication of Scripture is
that his conversion was sincere
2. Simon is an example of how fallen Christians can be restored
a. He was told to "repent" and "pray" - Ac 8:22
b. When a Christian sins, therefore, he needs not to be
baptized again, but to repent and pray, confessing his
sins- cf. 1Jn 1:9
-- Simon reveals how quickly Christians can be overtaken in sin,
but also how they can obtain forgiveness and be restored!
C. CONCERNING THE FOLLOW-UP BY PETER AND JOHN...
1. Many questions are raised by what we read...
a. Why is it that the Samaritan's received baptism by Philip,
but not the Spirit?
b. What does it mean "that they might receive the Holy
c. What did the apostles have that Philip did not?
-- The challenge is to reconcile what we read here with what
is revealed elsewhere
2. As I seek to understand this passage, the following
observations are made...
a. Whatever Luke meant to "receive the Holy Spirit"...
1) It required the apostles' laying on of hands
a) Philip could not impart it, making it necessary for
the apostles to come
b) Simon could see that it was through the apostles'
laying on of hands the Spirit was given - Ac 8:18
2) It was something visible or audible
a) It caught Simon's attention, who sought to buy the
ability to impart it
b) It was clearly something miraculous (perhaps speaking
-- But was it actually the Spirit Himself, or something the
b. Elsewhere we learn that one receives the Spirit upon
obedience to the Gospel
1) As indicated in Ac 2:38; 5:32; 1Co 12:13; Ep 1:13-14;
2) Whose indwelling is necessary to being a Christian -Ro8:9-11
-- Since the Samaritans had been baptized (Ac 8:12,16), I
believe it is fair to assume that they had received the
Spirit Himself as any Christian would
3. Therefore I offer the following explanation...
a. The expression "receive the Holy Spirit" is a metonymy for
receiving a miraculous gift from the Spirit
1) Metonymy - A figure of speech in which one word or
phrase is substituted for another with which it is
2) E.g., as in Washington for the United States government
or of the sword for military power
-- What the Samaritans had not received, then, were any
miraculous spiritual gifts that the Spirit bestowed
- cf. 1Co 12:1-11
b. The apostles had the ability to impart spiritual gifts
1) Paul hoped to impart such a gift to the Romans - Ro 1:11
2) He had imparted such a gift to Timothy - 2Ti 1:6
c. The ability to impart spiritual gifts was limited to the
apostles, which explains:
1) Why Philip could perform miracles, but not pass the
ability on to others
a) The apostles had laid hands on him earlier - Ac 6:5-6
b) Like Steven, Philip could then do miracles - Ac 6:7; 8:6-7
2) Why it was necessary for Peter and John to come
a) If spiritual gifts came simply by praying, why send
for Peter and John?
b) It took an apostle for the spiritual gifts to be imparted
d. It was this ability to impart spiritual gifts that Simon wanted to buy!
1) He was not content to receive a spiritual gift
2) He wanted that apostolic ability to impart spiritual
gifts! - Ac 8:19
1. The conversion of the Samaritans is simple and straightforward...
a. We learn that when Christ is preached, believed, and heeded,
people will be baptized - cf. Ac 8:5-6,12
b. What we read in verse 12 is as simple and direct as the
commission under which Philip preached:
"But when they believed Philip as he preached the things
concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ,
both men and women were baptized." - Ac 8:12
"He that believes and is baptized shall be saved" - Mk 16:16
2. The follow-up of the Samaritans may be challenging...
a. It has been described as one of the most extraordinary passages
1) It has been used to teach all sorts of conflicting doctrine related to confirmation, sanctification, and spiritual gifts
2) We must be careful not to draw conclusions that are contrary
to the rest of the Scriptures
b. But we can still glean important lessons concerning conversion
1) Conversion requires that one "heed" (obey) the Word of God
2) Such obedience involves believing and being baptized
3) Conversion does not remove the temptation to sin
4) When we fall, restoration does not require re-baptism, but
repentance and prayer
In our next study, we shall follow Philip as he is led by the Spirit to
teach just one individual, a queen's treasurer who is on his way home from a journey to Jerusalem...