New Defender's Study Bible Notes
8:1 church which was at Jerusalem. The church at Jerusalem had grown inordinately large. In addition to the three thousand converts on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41), there were many others who had joined. After Peter’s second sermon, it was noted that the believers numbered five thousand men, evidently not even counting the women and children (Acts 4:4). Later the disciples were called a “multitude” (Acts 4:32), and still later it was said that “the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly” (Acts 6:7). They were all staying in Jerusalem, enjoying one another’s fellowship and the preaching of the apostles. The Lord, however, had commissioned them to go throughout all Judaea and Samaria, and eventually “to the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Since they had not even started to do this, perhaps it was the Lord who allowed this persecution to arise. Soon they were, indeed, scattering into the rest of Judaea and into Samaria, and as they scattered, they “went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). Perhaps modern churches that desire to become large and powerful should be advised by this example (note also, for example, the later church at Laodicea, which had become big and rich in material things, but lukewarm in doctrine and devotion to Christ—Revelation 3:14-20). When the Lord blesses a church with many converts and disciples, it may well be more efficient as well as Christ honoring for many of its members to “scatter abroad” to form new churches in other areas where they are more needed. Philip’s glad reception in Samaria (Acts 8:5-8) is a case in point.
8:13 believed also. Simon’s “belief” was evidently only a belief in the reality of the signs and wonders performed by Philip (note Christ’s rebuke of this kind of belief in John 4:48; also compare John 2:23-25). These wonders were greater than Simon was able to do with his sorceries (Greek mageia, from which we get our word “magic”), and he was envious. In the early Christian literature, he was called Simon Magus, and was said to be a prominent enemy of the true faith.
8:17 laid they their hands. This procedure—laying on hands to receive the Holy Ghost—is not normative for all believers. It is only mentioned twice (here and in Acts 19:6), and these were both special cases. In this case, it was vital for the new Samaritan believers to be integrated spiritually with the Jerusalem church, since the Jews and Samaritans had been enemies for centuries and this barrier urgently needed to be removed. Consequently, two leaders of the apostles, Peter and John, came to Samaria to confirm the Samaritan acceptance on the human level, and the Holy Spirit came on the divine level, evidently by supernatural phenomena, as He had done at Pentecost. There is no indication, however, that the Samaritan believers spoke in other tongues. Aafter all, there were only Samaritans present on this occasion, rather than men from many nations, as at Pentecost, so such tongues would have been unintelligible. Whatever the manifestation may have been, it was obvious that the Holy Spirit had fallen on the Samaritans, just as He had on the Jews at Pentecost.
8:18 offered them money. The practice of paying money for spiritual privileges has been called “simony” ever since Simon the sorcerer tried to purchase the ability to confer the Holy Spirit on people. His offer, recognizing the superiority of the Holy Spirit’s gifts to his own magical abilities, does indicate that the reception of the Holy Spirit by the Samaritans was evidenced by supernatural manifestations of some kind.
8:24 Then answered Simon. Simon’s apparent repentance seems to have deferred Peter’s anathema on him. Although no further mention of Simon is given in the book of Acts, church history indicates that he later became a serious problem to the church. Known as Simon Magus, he is said to have been the one who introduced gnosticism into the church, and was a persistent opponent and rival of Peter.
8:27 man of Ethiopia. Philip had been among the first to go to Samaria with the gospel; now he also was called to witness in the outside world, through this influential official of the ancient kingdom of Ethiopia. The latter seems (like Cornelius, as noted in Acts 10) to have been a proselyte of Judaism, but his witness could bring a significant opening for Christianity into Africa.
8:35 at the same scripture. Philip realized that the Ethiopian was reading from the great Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 53:7-8, and it was natural to use this Scripture to preach Christ to him. At the same time, all the Old Testament Scriptures relate to Christ in one way or another.
8:37 If thou believest. This response that Philip gave to the Ethiopian clearly shows that baptism is to be preceded by saving faith in Christ. This truth is also evident from many other Scriptures, but the authenticity of this particular verse has been questioned because of its omission from a number of ancient manuscripts. Either the verse was carelessly omitted by the earliest copyists of the book of Acts, or else some ancient scribe deliberately inserted it, with the error in either case being perpetuated thereby into many later copies. Either could be a possibility, although the latter alternative would seem less probable. In either case, there is no doubt that Philip would have expected a profession of faith from the Ethiopian before he baptized him.
8:39 out of the water. It is obvious that the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch took place in either a river or a pool. He and Philip first “went down both” into the water (Acts 8:38), and then came “up out of the water.” Any other interpretation than immersion would seem forced and unnatural. There would be no need to go down into a pool for any other reason.
8:39 caught away Philip. This was evidently a unique miracle, God somehow translating Philip rapidly from Gaza to Azotus (same as the ancient Ashdod), twenty miles to the north along the Mediterranean coast. For reference to similar miraculous translations in space, see I Kings 18:12, II Kings 2:16; Ezekiel 3:14; 8:3. A far greater translation will take place when Christ comes again (I Thessalonians 4:16,17).
8:40 Caesarea. Evidently Philip continued preaching in all the coastal cities until he settled down in Caesarea. Twenty years later, Philip is mentioned as residing at Caesarea with his four daughters (Acts 21:8-9).