They Received the Holy Spirit – May 31, 2020
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, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. 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. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Stephen had been arrested and Saul – before he became known as Paul – had given the final approval to have Stephen stoned.
Saul was on the rampage. He was going from house to house arresting Christians and placing them in jail. Jerusalem was not a safe place for those who had accepted Jesus as their Messiah. Due to the persecutions, all the believers, except the apostles, had scattered throughout Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1-3). Those who were scattered preached the word everywhere they went.
Philip was one of those who had been scattered.
Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Gospel message. When the people in the city heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they gave him their undivided attention. He cast out impure spirits and healed the paralyzed and lame (Acts 8:4-8).
One of the people that Philip had gained the attention of was a man by the name of Simon. He was actually known by those in the city as Simon the Great.
Prior to Philip’s arrival in the city, Simon had gone around practicing sorcery. He was a bit prideful as he performed his magic “boast[ing] that he was someone great” (v. 9). Simon gained quite a following and people even believed that he had received his power from the Lord himself. The people said of Simon, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God” (v. 10). The spell of Simon wouldn’t last forever, though.
Once Philip arrived in town, he began preaching the true word of Christ. As he did, people accepted Christ as their Savior in droves. Philip then baptized the new believers as Christ had instructed. Philip baptized people of Samaria in the name of the Lord Jesus (v. 16).
Even Simon the Great accepted Christ and was baptized. From that point on, Simon “followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw” Philip performing (v. 13).
It didn’t take long for the news of the city’s revival to get back to Jerusalem. “When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria” (v. 14).
At first glance, we may see the decision of the apostles to send Peter and John to Samaria as a power play. Could it be that the apostles didn’t trust that Philip was spreading the message of Christ correctly? Could it be that they wanted to see firsthand that the information they were receiving was correct? Or could it have been that they wanted to micromanage Philip and the church in Samaria?
It was none of the above.
We have to remember that this is extremely early in the development of the church. Until the believers were scattered, there had mostly only been preachers in Jerusalem. Now that the believers were moving about, preachers are beginning to spread the message in these other areas. This was an exciting time for the apostles!
The receipt of the news from Samaria would have been exciting! This surely would put some new wind in the sails of the apostles and have fanned the flames of their spiritual fire. Christ’s word was being spread to people who had not previously heard it. The Great Commission that Christ had delivered directly to the Twelve was now being played out. How could they have been anything but ecstatic?
So, in their excitement, the Twelve decided to send Peter and John to Samaria. “Their house call on this newly formed Samaritan congregation [was] an exercise of their spiritual authority.”1 They are traveling to Samaria in order to show support for Philip and his mission. They are traveling to Samaria to demonstrate their excitement and show acceptance to the new believers.
How cool it must have been for the new Samaritan believers to have Peter and John visit them! The Samaritans had received the message of Christ second hand, but Peter and John had walked with Jesus…they had ministered alongside Christ. You know the new believers soaked up every word that Peter and John had to say.
1 The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume X, Acts, Introduction to the Epistolary Literature, Romans, 1 Corinthians. “Acts.” 139.