“Lessons from Acts 8”
Up to this point in this book the focus of attention has been on events in the lives of Christians and in the church at Jerusalem. Beginning with Acts 8 and going through Acts 12 we see that the gospel of Christ spreads outside of Jerusalem to the outlying areas of Judea and Samaria just as Jesus said it would (Acts 1:8).
Acts 8 begins with Saul of Tarsus consenting to Stephen's death which we read about in Acts 7. Then a great persecution arose against the church at Jerusalem and Christians scattered throughout Judea and Samaria, except for the apostles (v.2). The good that came out of this persecution was that those Christians who were scattered went everywhere preaching the Word of God (v.4).
Philip, who was one of the 7 men appointed to help care for the Grecian widows who had been neglected in the daily distribution (Acts 6:5), went to Samaria to preach Christ to the people there (v.5). To confirm the Word of God that he preached, he performed miracles (v.6-7). He was able to do that because the apostles of Christ had laid their hands on him to give him that power (Acts 6:6). As a result of his preaching, Simon the sorcerer and men and women believed and were baptized in order to be saved just like Jesus said (v.12-13; Mk.16:16).
When Philip preached Christ, he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God, the name of Christ, and baptism. To preach Jesus the Man and not His plan of salvation for mankind, which includes baptism (immersion in water for the remission of sins, Acts 2:38), is not preaching Christ. Today's preachers of the gospel of Christ should imitate Philip's example in their preaching.
The reason why the apostles of Christ sent Peter and John to Samaria was to lay hands on those who were baptized so that they could perform miracles (v.14-17). Only those Christians upon whom the apostles laid their hands could perform miracles. Philip was not able to impart miraculous gifts because he was not an apostle of Christ. When the last Christian died upon whom the apostles had laid their hands to perform miracles, then the ability for someone to work miracles ceased. Since we have the confirmed, completed revelation of God today in the Bible, no miracles are needed to confirm it since they have ceased (1 Cor.13:8-10).
Simon, the former sorcerer who had become a Christian, sinned when he tried to buy apostolic power with money (v.18-25). Peter told him to repent and pray for forgiveness. From the example of Simon we learn that it is possible for a Christian to sin so as to be lost if he does not repent. The popular doctrine of "once saved, always saved," or "once in grace, always in grace" is false doctrine.
Acts 8 ends with the account of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch (v.26-40). He had been reading from the prophet Isaiah but he had difficulty understanding what he was reading. From Isaiah 53 Philip preached Christ to him. As a result, the eunuch believed, confessed his faith in Christ, and was baptized. He went on his way rejoicing because he was saved from his sins. He had something to be happy about! He had become a Christian.
This chapter begins with Christians lamenting Stephen's death but it ends with the eunuch going on his way rejoicing.