Acts 8 The Voice (VOICE)
Stephen’s sermon weaves together the story of the Jews and the life of Jesus. The point of the message is that God pursues His children despite their constant failure. The crucifixion of Jesus is the greatest of all of these failures.
Stephen affirms that through circumcision they have made themselves look like Jews, but their hearts and ears need circumcising as well. Of course, telling the Jewish leaders to get their hearts and ears circumcised elicits a rather violent response. Stephen speaks the truth so that all might hear, including a man named Saul.
8 1-2 Some devout men buried Stephen and mourned his passing with loud cries of grief. But Saul, this young man who seemed to be supervising the whole violent event, was pleased by Stephen’s death. That very day, the whole church in Jerusalem began experiencing severe persecution. All of the followers of Jesus—except for the emissaries[a] themselves—fled to the countryside of Judea and Samaria. 3 Young Saul went on a rampage—hunting the church, house after house, dragging both men and women to prison.
They flee to the very places where Jesus said His disciples would be His witnesses at the beginning of this book. As a result, the persecution spreads the message of Christ rather than hinders it. Commenting about similar events a century later, church father Tertullian will write, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.”
4 All those who had been scattered by the persecution moved from place to place; and wherever they went, they weren’t afraid or silent. Instead, they spread the message of Jesus.
5 Philip, for example, headed north to the city of Samaria, and he told them the news of the Anointed One. 6 The crowds were united in their desire to understand Philip’s message. They not only listened with their ears, but they witnessed miraculous signs with their eyes. 7 Unclean spirits cried out with loud screams as they were exorcised from people. Paralyzed people and lame people moved and walked in plain view. 8 So the city was swept with joy.
9-11 There was a fellow named Simon who had a widespread and long-standing reputation as a sorcerer in Samaria. Everyone—not just poor or uneducated people, but also the city’s elite—paid him great respect. Because he had amazed them with his magic, they thought, “This is a truly great man, full of the power of the God of Greatness.” 12 But they were even more impressed with Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus the Anointed. Both men and women received ceremonial washing through baptism[b]— 13 and even Simon himself became a believer. After his baptism, he shadowed Philip constantly, and he was as amazed as everyone else when he saw great and miraculous signs taking place.
14 Meanwhile word had reached the Lord’s emissaries[c] in Jerusalem that the message of God was welcomed in Samaria—a land of half-breeds and heretics in the minds of many Judeans. They sent Peter and John 15 to pray for the Samaritans. They were especially eager to see if the new believers would receive the Holy Spirit 16 because until this point they had been baptized[d] in the name of the Lord Jesus but had not experienced the Holy Spirit. 17 When Peter and John laid hands on the people, the Holy Spirit did indeed come upon them all.
18 Simon watched all this closely. He saw the Holy Spirit coming to the people when the apostles laid hands on them. So he came to Peter and John and offered them money.
Simon: 19 I want to purchase this ability to confer the Holy Spirit on people through the laying on of my hands.
Peter: 20 May your silver rot right along with you, Simon! To think the Holy Spirit is some kind of magic that can be procured with money! 21 You aren’t even close to being ready for this kind of ministry; your heart is not right with God. 22 You need to turn from your past, and you need to pray that the Lord will forgive the evil intent of your heart. 23 I can see deep bitterness has poisoned you, and wickedness has locked you in chains.
Simon: 24 Please—you must pray to the Lord for me. I don’t want these terrible things to be true of me.
25 Peter and John preached to and talked with the Samaritans about the message of the Lord; and then they returned to Jerusalem, stopping in many other Samaritan villages along the way to proclaim the good news.
26 A heavenly messenger brought this short message from the Lord to Philip during his time preaching in Samaria:
Messenger of the Lord: Leave Samaria. Go south to the Jerusalem-Gaza road.
The message was especially unusual because this road runs through the middle of uninhabited desert. 27 But Philip got up, left the excitement of Samaria, and did as he was told to do. Along this road, Philip saw a chariot in the distance. In the chariot was a dignitary from Ethiopia (the treasurer for Queen Candace), an African man who had been castrated. He had gone north to Jerusalem to worship at the Jewish temple, 28 and he was now heading southwest on his way home. He was seated in the chariot and was reading aloud from a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
29 Philip received another prompting from the Holy Spirit:
Holy Spirit: Go over to the chariot and climb on board.
30 So he started running until he was even with the chariot. Philip heard the Ethiopian reading aloud and recognized the words from the prophet Isaiah.
Philip: Do you understand the meaning of what you’re reading?
The Ethiopian: 31 How can I understand it unless I have a mentor?
Then he invited Philip to sit in the chariot. 32 Here’s the passage he was reading from the Hebrew Scriptures:
Like a sheep, He was led to be slaughtered.
The Ethiopian: 34 Here’s my first question. Is the prophet describing his own situation, or is he describing someone else’s calamity?
35 That began a conversation in which Philip used the passage to explain the good news of Jesus. 36 Eventually the chariot passed a body of water beside the road.
The Ethiopian: Since there is water here, is there anything that might prevent me from being ceremonially washed through baptism[f] and identified as a disciple of Jesus?
Philip: [37 If you believe in your heart that Jesus the Anointed is God’s Son, then nothing can stop you.
The Ethiopian said that he believed.][g]
Possibly a reference to the Jewish prohibition of full participation in temple worship by men who have been castrated—a prohibition he likely encounters in this very visit to Jerusalem.
38 He commanded the charioteer to stop the horses. Then Philip and the Ethiopian official walked together into the water. There Philip baptized[h] him, initiating him as a fellow disciple. 39 When they came out of the water, Philip was immediately caught up by the Holy Spirit and taken from the sight of the Ethiopian, who climbed back into his chariot and continued on his journey, overflowing with joy. 40 Philip found himself at a town called Azotus (formerly the Philistine capital city of Ashdod, on the Mediterranean); and from there he traveled north again, proclaiming the good news in town after town until he came to Caesarea.
Acts 8 New International Version (NIV)
8 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[a] 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,
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?”  [c] 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.