Manuscript of this sermon is available for reading services.
Reading: Acts 2:1-13
Text: Acts 8:1-25
The Samaritan Pentecost
Acts 2:1-13 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
The Day of Pentecost
2 When the day of Pentecost [a]had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a
noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them
tongues as of fire [b]distributing themselves, and [c]they [d]rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled
with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other [e]tongues, as the Spirit was giving them [f]utterance.
5 Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred,
the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own [g]language. 7
They were amazed and astonished, saying, “[h]Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that
we each hear them in our own [i]language [j]to which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents
of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and [k]Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya
around Cyrene, and [l]visitors from Rome, both Jews and [m]proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own
tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” 12 And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to
one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of [n]sweet wine.”
Acts 8:1-25New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Saul Persecutes the Church
8 Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death.
And on that day a great persecution [a]began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout
the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation
over him. 3 But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would
put them in prison.
Philip in Samaria
4 Therefore, those who had been scattered went about [b]preaching the word. 5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria
and began proclaiming [c]Christ to them. 6 The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by
Philip, as they heard and saw the [d]signs which he was performing. 7 For in the case of many who had unclean spirits,
they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. 8 So
there was much rejoicing in that city.
9 Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of
Samaria, claiming to be someone great; 10 and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him,
saying, “This man is what is called the Great Power of God.” 11 And they were giving him attention because he had for
a long time astonished them with his magic arts. 12 But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the
kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. 13 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 constantly amazed.
14 Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John,
15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For He had not yet fallen upon any of
them; they had simply been baptized [e]in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they began laying their hands on them,
and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of
the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I
lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you
thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or portion in this [f]matter, for your heart
is not right before God. 22 Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the
intention of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the [g]bondage
of iniquity.” 24 But Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me yourselves, so that nothing of what you have
said may come upon me.”
An Ethiopian Receives Christ
25 So, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were
preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.
The Samaritan Pentecost
Reading: Acts 2:1-13
Text: Acts 8:4-25
Under the influence of evil.
The Word and Spirit overcome evil
A church is established by faith.
This chapter in Acts is sometimes known as the Samaritan Pentecost because of the many conversions that took place in Samaria as a result of the preaching of Philip, and the giving of the Holy Spirit when Peter and John prayed and laid hands on the new believers in that city.
There have been many similar outpourings of the Holy Spirit since then. One I read about recently was the Korean Pentecost which took place in the early 1900s where at prayer meetings, man after man would rise, confess his sins break down and weep. One of the American missionaries present at such a meeting wrote this; “The meeting was of a kind I had never seen before or would ever want to experience again. Every sin a human being can commit was publically confessed that night. Men, pale and trembling with emotion, in agony of body and mind standing in the white light of God’s judgment saw themselves as God saw them. Their sins rose up in all their vileness till shame and grief and self-loathing took possession of them and pride was driven out. The scorn of men, the penalty of the law even death itself mattered little if only God would forgive them.”
That event was similar to the first Pentecost in Acts 2 where there also, men were cut to the heart on account of their sin.
That gives us a good picture of the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. In the first instance He convicts men of their sin. He drives them to their knees in prayer asking, “What must we do?”
We see something similar in Acts 8 and the so-called Samaritan Pentecost where many with unclean spirits heard the gospel were convicted of sin and found a new freedom and joy as Christians.
Well look at the chapter in three parts. My first point is this that apart from the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit the world remains under the influence of evil forces.
That is what Samaria was like before the advent of the gospel.
Samaria used to be the capital of the Northern kingdom of Israel. But from the time of its fall to Assyria in 722 BC thousands of its inhabitants were deported and replaced by foreigners. Since then the Samaritans were despised by Jews as being of mixed race and heretics. Idolatry was tolerated, the knowledge and worship of God was corrupted. Immorality which invariably follows false teaching was common. Jesus encounter with the Samaritan woman who had gone through five husbands and had a live in boyfriend is one example of that. We also see it here in Acts 8 in the Samaritan town Philip visited. There were many who were demon possessed and the most popular character in town was Simon the sorcerer. According to verse 8 all the people were in awe of this sorcerer and even called him the “Great power of God.”
This is what can happen in a place bereft of the gospel and where there is no faith in God. It is no surprise that with the decline of Christianity in the West there has also been an increased interest in the occult.
But is not just the occult that enters faithless communities. It’s also immorality. The woman who Jesus met at the well in Samaria had gone through several relationships.
Where there is a spiritual vacuum. Satan readily fills it.
That’s something to keep in mind. Sometimes even the most fervent believer can go through periods of spiritual darkness. Like Asaph who wrote Psalm 73 “I envied the arrogant” he said, “when I saw the prosperity of the wicked”
He was discouraged and it affected his faith and his walk with the Lord. For a while Asaph separated himself from God’s people and was a bitter man.
Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience you’ve become spiritually discouraged stopped praying and reading the Bible, your life of faith becomes a spiritual desert with sinful thoughts and attitudes clouding your mind. Well I’m sure that Satan loves nothing better than to mess with our minds and destroy our faith if that was possible. That’s why he’s described as dangerous, like a prowling devouring lion in 1 Peter 5:8 and in 2 Corinthians 11:13 a deceiver who masquerades as an angel of light. As Christians we can never really drop our guard because if our minds are not occupied by prayer, mediation on God’s word the practice of Christians virtue the we leave our selves open to evil influences instead. As they say Satan find plenty of mischief for idle hands to make.
And so in a place like Samaria where Simon the sorcerer was king and the demons were everywhere, Satan seemed to be doing his worst.
Even so and this is my second point… we see here in Acts 8 that
2. The Holy Spirits power is greater and as Christians we have access to that power to overcome temptations, sinful attitudes and habits.
Look at what happened in Samaria. The entire town was under Satan’s influence. They all admired this sorcerer. Many were demon possessed many other’s suffered physical afflictions or were trapped in sin as a result of demon possession. The Lord sent Philip the evangelist who began proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and about the Lord Jesus Christ. Philip preached in the power of the Holy Spirit who also renewed the hearts of many as they heard the message with the result that they believed and were baptized. And as was common in the days of the churches infancy Philip’s preaching was accompanied by signs and wonders. Look at verse 7. “With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many and many paralytics and cripples were healed. So there was great joy in that city.”
Simon the magician had amazed his fellow Samaritans for years with his magic. Along comes Philip and in the power of the Holy Spirit performs miracles which undid Simon’s devilish work. Demons were vanquished, the sick healed. Many saw the light were baptized and became followers of Jesus Christ.
And so this pouring out of the Spirit on the elect in Samaria is just one small example of Christ’s victory over the forces of evil yet one more example of salvation history in action.
The story of Job is another.
Job was hurt and tempted by Satan but the Lord preserved Job through all of it and restored him in the end.
There was also Elijah on Mt Carmel and the demonstration of God’s superior power over Satan and the 400 prophets of Baal.
The culmination of God’s victory over evil is seen in the death and resurrection of Christ. At the cross sinners are freed from the condemnation of sin.
With the resurrection our last enemy which is death is overcome
Christ has had the ultimate victory and all that needs to happen now is for people to lay hold of Christ by faith and share in the victory with him.
3. Which brings me to the third point we share in Christ’s victory by faith.
When Stephen entered that town in Samaria and preached the liberating gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ; a gospel authenticated by miracles of healing and restoration; many people believed. They were baptized and became part of Christ’s church.
They used to be in awe of Simon the sorcerer, they thought he was the great power. But the imitation powers of the magician were exposed as cheap tricks in the light of the genuine power of Omnipotence. They realized that Simon was really just a charlatan who had his own interests at heart, rather than the interests of those whose admiration and money Simon coveted.
According to the text Simon was forced to admit to the superior power of God. Furthermore he claimed to believe the Gospel and managed to convince Philip that he was a true believer and therefore ought to be baptized which is what happened according to verse 31.
However as it turned out Simon didn’t have a genuine faith. His pretensions at being a follower of Christ were motivated by self-interest and glory.
This is clear from verse 18 which says that when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the Apostles hands he offered them money saying “give me this authority as well.”
He tried to buy his way into a position of power in the church. He wasn’t happy that he had lost his standing and influence in the community and thought he could regain it if only he could do what the apostles were doing as though what they were doing was some kind of magic which one could buy with money.
Well, this attempt by Simon to buy a position is where we get the word Simony from. Simony is the corrupt practice of buying position and power in the church. This was quite a problem in the church in the Middle ages. The historian Philip Schaff records that at the Lateran Council of 1059 stern measures had to be taken, especially in the diocese of Milan where every ecclesiastical office from the lowest to the highest was for sale. According to Acts 20:28 and 1 Timothy 3 the offices of pastor elder or deacon cannot be bought or sold. The Holy Spirit is the One who makes and equips men fit for office.
So Simon’s attempt shows us that his heart was not right before the Lord. His faith wasn’t about loving and following Christ and living a life of self-denial. He was in it for himself. He was in it for what he could get out of it. Even when he was told to repent, instead of doing that;… confessing his sin and mending his ways;… he avoided the real issue and said to the apostles, “you pray for me.” . He was not able to repent because he was still a captive to sin and loved his sins more than he loved Christ.
It doesn’t work for anyone to think that you can enjoy the privileges of belonging to the church and even have a position of responsibility in the church but refuse to break with sin. If there is any one here is in that position now, if you’re captive to sin, then you really need to repent of that sin to confess it before the Lord and turn away from it.
When the Samaritans believed the gospel the demons fled. And the converted Samaritans were liberated from demonic influence and what’s more that were happy about it.. It says there was much rejoicing in that city.
A person who is trapped in sin is never truly happy but will remain miserable until they repent from it and put their all their trust in God and experience his forgiveness.
And the Holy Spirit doesn’t save us into the church for whatever we can get out of it. Many seem to have that attitude when it comes to belonging to a church. They look for a church that will serve them and meet their needs or they’ll move on. That’s not how it is meant to be. The church is God’s army, the instrument of his kingdom. When you join the regular army you work to defend and serve your country. Similarly when you join the church you join God’s spiritual army to support the ministry of the gospel, the education for it, the work of missions and outreach and justice and mercy.
Now we do notice in the text that when Philip first preached the gospel the Samaritans believed. The only way they could have believed or had true faith was if they were first made regenerate by the Holy Spirit. As Jesus once said to Nicodemus “You must be born again.” But then later on when John and Peter prayed and laid hands on them it says in the text that they received the Holy Spirit. This has led some to believe that a Christians can obtain a second blessing of the Holy Spirit and that therefore there are two stage Christians, ordinary ones and those who have the second blessing by which they have the gift of prophetic utterance or the gift of healing and tongues and so on.
That is not what this text teaches. Read in context we find that this giving of the Holy Spirit through Peter and John was a unique event for an important reason.
The preaching in Samaria was one of the first occasions of Gospel ministry outside of Jerusalem and the conversions which took place made it clear to the Jewish believers that the Samaritans were one with them in Christ. This was especially important back then because the conversion of the Samaritans was the first step towards the evangelization of the Gentiles and a first step towards a truly universal church! And so their conversion needed at the time to be authenticated with this gifting of the Holy Spirit when Peter and John came and laid hands on them.
However the important thing here is that the church was established by God’s grace through faith. By the grace of God the gospel came to Samaria as Jesus had promised (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit was with Philip and as the gospel was preached the Spirit of God moved many to a saving faith. Those who believed followed Christ and become living members of His church by faith.
So here in Acts 8 we once again see God’s power in his decisive victory over sin and evil.
The very reason we are here worshipping God giving our time and energy and resources to the cause of Christ rather than living purely for self is because of the Holy Spirit’s power working in us.
If he wasn’t with us we would still be captive to sin one way or another but we are not. God’s power is greater. We lay hold of that power and share in Christ’s victory by faith. Amen