The Gospel Reaches Samaria (8:1b-25)

Bible Passage: Acts 8:1b-25

The structure of Acts can be separated into three sections based on the commission given by Jesus in Acts 1:8. The first 7 chapters are about the spread of the gospel in Jerusalem and Judea. In chapters 8-12, the focus is Samaria and from chapter 13 onwards we see the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth. This passage marks one of the pivot points in the story as the gospel reaches Samaria for the first team, and we see this in dramatic fashion as the Spirit is poured out on the Samaritans in a manner that is reminiscent of what happened in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.

Persecution and Planting: Over the last few chapters of Acts, the story has been one of increasing opposition and persecution of the church, and this led to the martyrdom of Stephen at the end of chapter 7. Off the back of this, a knew wave of persecution broke out, more severe than before and as a result many believers were forced to flee from their homes in Jerusalem and were scattered through Judea and Samaria. This language used in verse 1 is a deliberate echo of Jesus’ commission in chapter 1, and is showing how God is working even through this persecution to fulfil his purposes and send his people out. Verse 4 shows the effect of this, as those who were scattered use the opportunity to share the word of God in the places they had fled to, and we are given Philip as a particular example, as he planted a church in Samaria. This example of these early scattered believers challenges us to look for the opportunities that we may see in hardships to advance the kingdom of God.

Miracles and Magic: The gospel came to Samaria with great power. People heard and responded to the message and Philip performed signs and wonders in their midst, healing the sick and casting out evil spirits. This all caught the attention of a man called Simon who had practiced magic, who himself repented and believed. This is a good opportunity to speak into some of the occult, new-age and witchy tendencies that can take hold in parts of our culture, and even sometimes have ‘christianised’ versions of them that can make their way into some Christian circles too, Just like Simon, anyone practicing these things needs to repent and believe.

The Spirit In Samaria: In verse 14-25, the apostles headed down to Samaria to pray that the new believers there would receive the Spirit. This passage is sometimes taken as an example of people believing without receiving the Spirit. Whilst that does happen here, this should not be seen as normative, as this passage is clearly supposed to show the breakthrough of the gospel into a new region and the pouring out of the Spirt on the Samaritans as evidence of this. On seeing that Peter and John could lay hands on people for them to receive the Spirit, Simon asked to buy this gift and was rebuked sharply. He still didn’t understand the way of the kingdom, and instead craved power, seeing Jesus as a way to provide it. This is absolutely the wrong understanding and it challenges our own attitudes to gifts and ministries that we may desire.

Potential Applications:

  • Encourage people to look for opportunities to share the gospel in the situations they find themselves in, even if those circumstances are not what they would have chosen for themselves.
  • You could offer a moment for repentance for anyone who has involved themselves in occult, new age or witchy practices. Encourage people with the grace and power of Jesus to forgive and break the power of these things in life.
  • This passage is another example (of many in Acts) of the Spirit being poured out. It is a great opportunity for a response time where you pray for people to be filled with the Spirit.