ACTS 8:1-24  


Acts 8:1-8
Verse 1
1. Saul's part in the death of Stephen. Hearty agreement is the verb suneudokeō.
To think along with others that something is a good thing.
Acts 22:20, "And when the blood of Your witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing nearby and approving (suneudokeō), and watching over the cloaks of those who were killing him."
2. He describes it at Acts 26:9 as "it thought to myself that it was necessary to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth."

3. The scattering of the disciples: "throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.
Acts 11:19-20, "made their way to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch speaking the word only to the Jews." But later, "men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks (Greek speakers) as well, proclaiming the good news of the Lord Jesus."

Verse 2, the burial of Stephen.

Acts 8:3

This realizes fulfillment of Christ's prophecy at Mat. 10:17, "they will deliver you up to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues."
Saul began ravaging the church. The verb is lumainō (only here in the NT). Throughout the LXX it is used for various degrees of harm, damage or ruin. Saul began "harming" the church.
The nature of the harm or damage is indicated later in Paul's own words.
1. Galatians 1:13, "I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure (kata huperbole, according to extreme) and tried to destroy it."
He persecuted and abetted the murder of Christians.
2. "entering house after house; and he would drag away men and women and put them in prison."
3. Acts 26:10, "not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, after receiving authority from the chief priests, but I also cast my vote against them when they were being put to death.
4. Acts 22:4, "I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons."
5. "As also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify. From them I also received letters to the brothers, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished.
6. Acts 26:11, "And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and since I was extremely enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities."
7. Extremely enraged: emmainomai as a present middle participle.
A. The verb, mainomai means to be speaking in a way that makes no sense, has no logic as at Acts 26:24-25. "you are out of your mind." "I am not out of my mind."
1 Cor. 14:23, If the gift of languages was used without a proper interpretation, the hearers would think the speakers were speaking without sense or meaning.

B. When the EM is added it intensifies the meaning. Thus, to be so impassioned with something that you lose ability to be reasonable or sensible, and in the context of your passion, to be out of control. This is exactly how Paul acted toward the Christians.

Verse 4, The disciples who were scattered out of Jerusalem went about proclaiming the message of salvation.
1. The good news of the word. Acts 8:4
2. The good news of the Lord Jesus. Acts 11:20
3. Proclaiming Christ to them. Acts 8:5
4. The good news about the kingdom of God. Acts 8:12

Acts 8:5-40
Luke probably acquired knowledge about this history from his interaction with Philip during his stay with him several years later. Acts 21:8.
Verse 5, "and Philip went down to the city of Samaria and was proclaiming the Christ to them."
The gospel message of "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved."
As Peter later summarized at Acts 10:43, "All the prophets testify of Him, that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins."
And as Paul later stated, "testifying to both Jews and Greeks about a change of mind toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ." Acts 20:21.

Along with the teaching were the many signs and miracles; healing and casting out demons (verse 7). These things were designed to draw attention to the message and the power and authority of God. And the result was that many "were embracing what was said by Philip." (verse 6).
That is, they trusted in Christ as Savior and in that instant were transferred "out of the domain of darkness and into the kingdom of the Son of His love." Col. 2:13.

Verses 9-11 describe Simon's occult activity in the city of Samaria.
About 10 years earlier (27 AD) Christ's 2-day ministry in Sychar of Samaria yielded a huge number of people trusting in Him as Savior. (John 4:41-42). "And many more believed because of His word . . . because we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is of a truth the Savior of the world."
It is probable that the spread of the gospel reached the city of Samaria which was just a short distance to the north. By about 36 AD, a strong Satanic influence had spread throughout the area and Simon was the primary source of its impact, which was centered in the city of Samaria.
The "magic" that he did was probably through demon influence or possession. Since many people were having demons cast out, it is likely that Simon likewise was possessed or strongly influenced.

It has been suggested that whenever a person believes in Christ as Savior, any demon would be forced to vacate the body. This could be what constitutes the casting out of demons rather than a specific act of exorcism. However, in the gospel accounts, there was always a specific interaction with the demon that resulted in its removal from the possessed person. In either case, it seems that it is after the removal of the demon that the person was able to believe in Jesus.
One thing is certain, Simon had enough volitional control of his life that he was able to believe in Christ.
It probably depends on whether the possession is OPPRESSION as in disease or madness (Mark 5:1-20 9:17-26; Mat. 12:22; Luke 13:11-16) or whether it is didactic (as in the promulgation of the doctrine of demons; 1Tim. 4:1; Jam. 3:15).
Concerning the mechanics of casting out demons, in all the "doctrinal" books of the New Testament (Romans through Jude), the practice or even the idea is not mentioned at all.

Acts 8:9-10
Simon proclaimed himself to be somebody "great" (megas). And the people were deceived into ascribing deity type status to him. "This man is what is called the great (megas) power (dunamis) of God."
Verse 11, "because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic arts."

Simon always gets a bad rap.
Church history has latched onto this person and made him an infamous false teacher who introduced gnosticism into the churches; hounded Peter wherever he went; and even confronted Peter in Rome in a battle of miracles. None of these stories can be confirmed as referring to the Simon of Acts 8.

Acts 8:12
A great multitude of the people believed the gospel as proclaimed by Philip and summarily rejected the claim and teachings of Simon. Simon did the same.
Upon trusting in Christ as Savior, any demon would have been ejected from his body.
Sometimes, demon influence and possession does not interfere with volition. The power of the gospel can cut through that influence and allow a person to trust in Christ.

Verse 13, "Now even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was repeatedly amazed."

We really have no choice but to accept the language of the text at its face value.
Luke does not even flinch from recording the faith of Simon, nor does he offer any hint of a false conversion. And as a Spirit inspired recorder of the account of what Philip encountered, there is no doubt in Philip's mind that Simon's faith is genuine.
Furthermore, every time the issue of faith for salvation is mentioned in Acts, it is always seen as genuine "saving" faith. There is no reason to view "and Simon himself believed" as anything but a genuine trust in Christ as Savior.

When Simon became a believer he initially rejected the demonic teachings that had influenced him. Verse 9, "FORMERLY (proupargō) was practicing magic."
He became a faithful student of Philip and continued to learn from him all the various Christian truths that Philip was teaching as he "proclaimed the Christ to them."

Acts 8:18-19
Although Simon had given up his occult practices when he trusted in Christ, the occult "mentality" would be hard to discard and would constantly be a weakness in his life as it was at this moment. He had not progressed in growth enough to deal with the desires of the sin nature in this area.

Verse 18
Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

Luke records the event as seen and heard by those present.
The Holy Spirit revealed to Peter the true nature of Simon's request.
His "wickedness" (kakia) as Peter called it involved three things.
(1) the temptation to be in the limelight; popular and in authority. Jealousy.
(2) the mental attitude of envy. Wanting what someone else had.
(3) the idea that he could BUY "the gift of God with money."

The IDEA that one can BUY some kind of spiritual, material or physical benefit is a pagan belief that is present in many cults, isms and cultures. Even the catholic church promotes such superstition as the paying of money in order to get forgiveness - penance, blessing of some kind or another. These cultures and religions think that you can and should PAY the "clergy" or some kind of holy person to pray for you, etc.

It was and is a vital part of the occult - the PAYING of money to acquire certain benefits from those who have "the gift."

In his request, "give this authority to me as well," he offered money to Peter in exchange for the ability to bestow the Holy Spirit on someone.

Although Simon had given up his occult practices when he trusted in Christ, the occult "mentality" would be hard to discard. When he saw the miraculous manifestation of the gift of languages, he associated it with his past occult practices, and thus his request to Peter.

Verse 20, But Peter said to him, “May your silver along with you go (be) unto destruction, because you thought you could acquire the gift of God with money!
Unto destruction: eis apoleia. The word refers to physical destruction. It indicates the possibility of physical death as the ultimate expression of divine discipline that is called the "sin unto death."
Sometimes this extreme expression of divine discipline happens as a lesson and teaching aid to other believers.
It actually happened to Ananias and Saphira at Acts 5:1-10.
This then is a severe warning to Simon to evaluate his motivations.

Acts 8:21
1. The NASB reads, "you have no part or portion . . ."
The word, meris is first and then klāros.
They are basically synonyms, but when used together in this manner they must have some difference between them.
Meris has the idea of present participation or SHARING.
Klāros has the idea of future benefit (inheritance).

The same 2 words are used in the LXX at Deut. 12:12 speaking of the foreigner who has no portion (meris, with a PRESENT idea) or inheritance (klāros, with a FUTURE idea) with the Israelites.

2. "in this teaching." The word is didiachā. It means teaching or doctrine. The "teaching" that Peter is talking about is the whole realm of Christian DOCTRINE in whatever categories Philip and the apostles had taught.
The ministry of Peter to administrate the formal entrance into the body of Christ through the baptism of the Holy Spirit was new information to these new believers in Samaria.
Much has been taught, but Simon has not applied it to the temptation that has come from his old way of life.
Under the control of his sin nature and the frame of reference of his old occult activity, Simon has no present share in the experiential blessings of Christianity.
And he has no future share in the blessings of grace until he lets go of that old way of life.
Peter treats him quite harshly even though he is a new believer, because it is indeed, a very serious matter.

We never know whether Simon recovers or not from this error, although, in his ignorance, it seems that he is repentant at verse 24.

Peter's evaluation of Simon's spiritual condition is found at verses 21-23.
He clarifies that it is a mental attitude issue. "Your heart is not right before God."
This is a teaching situation to exhort a new believer into right thinking and action.
1. change the mind from this wickedness: metanoeō
2. wickedness is kakia and usually refers to overt action that is contrary to the standards of God.
3. Peter calls it "the intention of your heart."
4. and he calls it "the gall (poison) of bitterness."
In Simon's case, he had a strong desire to possess the same ability as the apostles. It is both jealousy and envy.
It was poison to his soul, and if not weeded out, it would render him spiritually useless.
5. and "the bondage of iniquity." This refers to the influence and control of the sin nature. Every time bondage or slavery is mentioned in reference to sin, it refers to the controlling influence of the sin nature. This of course is something that every new believer is severely challenged by.
6. pray to God for forgiveness. This is instruction to apply the principle of Prov. 28:13. "One who conceals his wrongdoings will not prosper, But one who confesses and abandons them will find compassion."
7. Peter tells him to change his mind about what he did. That is recognize and acknowledge that his thoughts and action are sinful. This is what confession of sin for the believer means.

Verse 24, "Pray to the Lord for me yourselves." This is not rejection of the instruction. Simon is a new believer and does not fully understand all the issues about living the Christian life. He appeals to the authority of the apostles for additional prayer.
Of course, Peter cannot pray for him to recover or repent.
Only he himself can change his mental orientation and choose the right course from that moment forward.
This request for someone else to pray for "my recovery" is still part of the occult mentality that appeals to and depends upon others (those with "the gift") to intercede for "me." But it still reflects Simon's positive attitude after being instructed about his error.
We leave him in the narrative thus expressing the attitude of a change of mind and of prayer.

But there is a message for us that is very beneficial and pertinent in view of the strong self-centeredness of the sin nature.
At verse 23, Peter described the sinful attitude of which Simon was guilty.

verse 23, "I see you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity."
1. gall of bitterness:
Gall is the word cholā (only here and Mat. 27:34. It refers to something that is not only distasteful, but poisonous as well (both physically and to one's soul). It therefore causes a negative effect on the soul or body, whichever is in view in the context.
By comparing Mat 27:34 and Mark 15:23, the unpleasant item (gall) mixed with wine was myrh, which is something that can deaden the senses; kind of like a mental poison. Of course, Jesus rejected this mixture because he wanted to maintain total mental acuity.
It is used nine times in the LXX.

Deut. 29:18: It is used with bitterness (pikria) and indicates a poison that affects the character of the people. Following the immoral, idolatrous activity of the Canaanites will corrupt the entire character and life of the people, both individually and collectively as a society. Such activity will be a root that grows up into poison and bitterness (anger and hatred toward God).

Ps. 68:22 (69:21): They gave me gall (poison) for my food. Prophecy fulfilled at Matthew and Mark as above.
Here it is used to indicate a concoction that affects the function of the mind.

Prov. 5:4: As at Deut. 29:18, it refers to the moral poison that affects one's life through sexual immorality.

Lam. 3:15: "He has filled me with bitterness (pikria) and; He has drenched me with gall (cholā )."
It refers to the negative events that have attacked his soul and affected his mental attitude causing sorrow and depression. In this context it refers to what God has permitted in the nation and in Jeremiah's life.
It has caused bitterness because he WANTS what he cannot have or experience.
And it has caused a poison to affect the rest of his thinking and actions.
The negative results from the events occur because of failure on the part of the believer to trust in the character and plan of God. Eventually, Jeremiah recovered and found peace and joy in the character and plan of God.

Job 20:14: Zophar uses it to refer to the poisonous character of the wicked with subtle accusations against Job.

2. bitterness: The noun pikria occurs only 4 times in the NT and about 20 times in the Old Testament.
Bitterness is an attitude of discontent and unhappiness because you don't have something that you desire.
It starts out as a minor offense but can quickly poison the soul, leading to envy, jealousy, anger and strife.
Simon had become influenced by his sin nature and had become poisoned by this envious attitude. It will eventually lead to antagonistic thoughts toward the apostles.

Rom. 3:14 (Psalm 10:7), "whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness."
It is used here to describe some of the characteristics of the unbeliever.
The two are coupled together, but the mental attitude precedes any verbal or overt expression of strife.
Pikria is an attitude of discontent and unhappiness because you don't have something that you desire. Cursing (ara) is the verbal expression of anger that is called clamor (kraugā) at Eph 4:31. It then progresses to envy and jealousy, and overtly to anger and strife.

The chain of progression is actually seen at Ephesian 4:31.
Eph. 4:31, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor (verbal strife) and slander be put away from you along with all malice."
Malice (kakia) is the intent to do physical harm in order to get what you want.
From unhappiness and discontent, the erring believer will express both emotional anger (thumos) and intentional anger (orgā), leading to verbal strife and slander, which ultimately leads to the intent to do harm (malice) and overt strife.

James warns us of this using the adjective, pikros. "If you have bitter jealousy and strife in your heart." James 3:14.
He uses the adjective to describe jealousy (zālos). It expresses the INTENSITY of the jealousy (harsh). It is paired with the word "strife" (eritheia), which is the mental attitude that leans toward violence in order to fulfill the jealousy. Such attitudes cause societal chaos (disorder, akatastasia, verse 16). The result of such attitudes is stated at James 4:2, "you are envious and cannot obtain so you fight and quarrel."
From envy comes jealousy and then verbal and overt strife.
It is an attitude that "causes trouble and many become defiled." Heb. 12:15.
That indicates that because of your sin (bitterness) others might likewise fall into various expressions of sin (judging, anger, retaliation - verbal or overt).

Heb. 12:15, "see to it that no one falls short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many become defiled."

The verb: pikrainō at Col. 3:19, "do not be embittered agaisnt them (the wife)." Indicates an attitude of anger, indifference, neglect that could possibly have the same effect as at Heb. 12:15.
The adverb: pikrōs at Mat. 26:75, Lk. 22:62, "wept bitterly" - with guilt (extreme mental anguish, pain and a degree of self-hatred), sorrow and anger. Once Satan left Judas, he was extremely stricken with guilt and sorrow. Such torture to his soul led him to suicide.

Protection against this temptation is to cultivate the attitude of benevolent love; that which seeks the divine viewpoint benefit of everyone within the sphere of your life.
Eph. 5:1, "walk in love just as Christ loved you, and gave Himself for us."
Col. 3:14, "put on the love which is the unifying bond of maturity."
And of course, love is characterized by all the attributes listed at
1 Cor. 13:4-8.
But this does not happen over night or just by wanting it.
It requires diligence in spiritual growth as per 1Peter 2:2.
"As newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word so that you may grow in respect to your salvation."
"The goal of the instruction is LOVE, out from a pure (purified) heart, and a good conscience, and an un-hypocritical faith." 1 Tim. 1:5.
1. The purified heart (mind) is what has been described (taught) as the self-centered desires of the sin nature.
2. The good conscience refers to the NEW standards of God's righteousness which are taught and fill the mind.
3. The un-hypocritical faith refers to the consistent CHOICE to use (apply) those new standards in every area of your life.
Faith is how we live as Christians. "in the way that you received Christ Jesus the Lord,
in that way BE WALKING in Him." Col. 2:6.
Gal. 5:6, "In Christ the issue is faith expressing itself (working) through love."
See Topic: Beneficent love



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