Read Acts 8
1 And Saul approved of their killing him.
The Church Persecuted and Scattered
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
Philip in Samaria
4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.
Simon the Sorcerer
9 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery.12 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”
24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”
25 After they had further proclaimed the word of the Lord and testified about Jesus, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.
Philip and the Ethiopian
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.
Acts 8 is a turning point in history. Stephen’s execution (Acts 7) ignites the persecution of Christian Jews, which initiates the scattering of the Jerusalem church. This persecution is the beginning of the fulfillment of Acts 1:8: “…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 8:4 tells us that “those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” The enemy’s attack on believers had the opposite effect of what he intended. Instead of smothering the gospel, the gospel spread. God’s purposes cannot be stopped and His promises are true.
The rest of chapter 8 tells us the story of one of these early missionaries, Philip. He preaches the gospel to many and he preaches the gospel to one.
It’s hard for us to imagine the boldness required of Philip to preach to the Samaritans. Samaritans were despised by the Jews. Jews did not associate with Samaritans. Yet, Philip went to them. Told them about the Messiah, the Christ. Many were saved. People once considered outsiders are now in.
Philip is then sent south and encounters an Ethiopian. Philip initiates a conversation, and the Ethiopian invites Philip to explain Scripture to him. Philip sits next to this man, privately and patiently explaining who Jesus is and what He’s done for us. An unnamed Ethiopian man received salvation that day. A man once considered an outsider–now in.
What we learn from these two encounters is that evangelism on any scale is necessary and important. Whether it’s a public platform or a private conversation, it’s all sacred work that we get to participate in. When God asks us to go, may we be obedient and faithful to go and do what He asks of us, trusting Him with the results. Whether we preach to one or we preach to many, our methods may need to be altered, but our message remains the same—Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior. Let’s boldly tell the Good News!
God used persecution in the early church to fulfill His plan of spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth. What trials, oppositions, struggles are you facing that God could use for His glory?
We read about Simon, the Sorcerer, and the Ethiopian Eunuch. What are the similarities of their stories? What are their differences?
What admirable qualities do you see in Philip? What do you learn from his story?
Did You Know?
At the time, there was an understanding that the Ethiopians lived at “the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Philip was the first Jewish Christian to evangelize a Gentile in such a far away, remote land.