1 “And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was
persecution against the church which was at
they were all
scattered abroad throughout the regions of
was, Authorized Version; in for at, Authorized Version. Saul was consenting
to his death. Paul’s repeated reference to this sad episode in his life is very
touching (see ch. 22:20; I Corinthians 15:9; I Timothy 1:13). (For the word
συνευδοκῶν – suneudokon – consenting; endorsing – to consent, see ch. 22:20;
Luke 11:48; Romans 1:32; I Corinthians 7:12.) Arose on that day. The phrase
is manifestly the Hebrew one, so constantly used in Isaiah and the other
prophets, not of a single day, but of a longer or shorter time, and means, as
the Authorized Version has it, “at that time,” not the particular Tuesday or
Wednesday on which Stephen was killed. If Luke had meant to state that the
persecution set in the very day on which Stephen was stoned, he would
have expressed it much more pointedly, and used a different word from
ἐγένετο – egeneto – there came to be. It is otherwise with ch.2:41 and Luke
17:31, where the context defines the meaning, and confines it to a specified
day; just as the equivalent Hebrew phrase is as commonly applied to a literal
day as to a time or period. The context shows which is the sense in which it
is used. Here the thing spoken of, the persecution, did not take place on a day.
It lasted many days. Therefore ἡμέρᾳ - haemera - means here “time.” They were
all scattered. Just as the wind blows the seed to a distance to fructify in
different places. Except the apostles. They, like faithful watchmen,
remained at their post, to confirm the souls of those disciples who for one
reason or another were unable to flee (for of course the word all must not
be pressed strictly), and to exhort them to continue in the faith, as Paul
did later at Lystra, Iconium, and
the nucleus of the Church in the metropolis of Christendom.
2 “And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation
over him.” Buried for carried to his burial (the last three words in italics),
Authorized Version. Devout men; ἀνδρες αὐλαβεῖς – andres aulabeis – men
pious. This word is applied to Simeon (Luke 2:25), and to the Jews who were
Received Text, to Ananias (ch. 22:12); but occurs nowhere else in the New
Testament. It is not certain, therefore, that these men were Christians, though
they might be. If not, they were pious Jews, men who feared God, and still loved
Stephen as being himself a devout Jew though he was a disciple. Buried.
Συνεκόμισαν – Sunekomisan – are pallbearers; occurs only here in the New
Testament; but its common use for carrying corn to a barn or granary seems
to indicate that “carrying to his burial” of the Authorized Version is the most
exact rendering. The word is said also to be applied to the acts preparatory to burial –
closing the eyes, washing, anointing the body, and so on; but this meaning is less
certain than that of “carrying.”
The Grave beside the Church (v. 2)
“And devout men carded Stephen,” etc.
· DEATH THE EXALTATION OF CHRISTIAN CHARACTER.
Devout men carried him. Their hope was the rainbow on the cloud of lamentation. The fellowship of Church life helps us to appreciate excellence. The greatest and best testimony when devout men feel the loss.
· THE CONTRAST between the grave of the good man fallen asleep in
Jesus and laid to rest by the hands of lamenting brethren, and the grave of:
Ø The worldling.
Ø The infidel.
Ø The doubter.
Ø The backslider.
Ø The isolated and unbrotherly Christian, who has not lived in
the hearts of devout men. Try to live so that you will be
lamented when you die.
· THE EFFECT ON THE WORLD OF A GREAT CHRISTIAN LIFE.
“He being dead yet speaketh.” Great lamentation is often great proclamation of truth.
3 “As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every
house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.”
But for as for, Authorized Version; ‘laid waste for he made havoc of,
Authorized Version. From the dispersion of the disciples will flow the
narrative in this present chapter. It is therefore mentioned first. From the
persecution of Saul will flow the narrative in chapter 9 and to the end of
the book. Stephen’s burial completes the preceding narrative.
The Enemy Coming in Like a Flood (vs. 1-3)
· THE FLOOD OF INIQUITY CALLED FORTH BY THE
OUTPOURING OF THE HOLY GHOST.
Ø The corruption of the Jewish state. Instances in the case of Saul of
answer to the gospel. The insincerity of those who pretended to accept
Gamaliel’s wise counsel. Their real cowardice in not venturing to lay hold
of the apostles.
Ø The persecution had now a leader in Saul. It was a more decided
arraying of the priestly power against the new sect; a house-to-house
visitation with assumed legal authority. This was to push forward the
conflict between the two kingdoms as nothing else could. It was to give
definite aim to the persecution, and so to prepare the way for the more
decided lifting up of the standard against it by the Spirit of God in the
conversion of Saul.
· THE BREAKING UP OF THE FIRST FORM OF CHURCH LIFE,PREPARATORY TO A HIGHER, WIDER, AND MORE ACTIVE.
Ø Fellowship is very precious, but activity still more so. Loving one
another should prepare us to love the world. The temporary expedient of
Christian communism gave way before the world’s violence; it was a help
to the realization of Church life, but not an abiding rule of action.
Ø Stephen’s funeral and the Church’s lamentation would deeply impress
upon all dependence, not on individual instruments, but on the Spirit of
God. How little it was thought that the chief persecutor would soon
himself be the chief preacher!
Ø Those scattered abroad carried with them a body of facts, both the
Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles so far, which helped them to dispense
with the immediate superintendence of the apostles. So the [New
Testament would begin to be formed in that first persecution. The believers
all over Judaea and
neighbors of the things that they themselves most surely believed. How
little Saul’s “laying waste” the Church harmed it! Learn the lesson of
confidence in the overruling Savior. “He maketh the wrath of man to
praise Him.” (Psalm 76:10)
Intense Against Christ May Become Intense for him (v. 3)
The indications given in this verse of Saul’s intensity should be noticed; he
added personal cruelties to judicial severity, manifested almost an insane
ferocity and wanton brutality, as he afterwards acknowledged (ch. 26:11).
The grounds of Saul’s prejudice against Christ and Christianity
should be carefully traced, as the nature of his mistaken sentiments helps to
explain the entire change of his thoughts and conduct when Christ spoke to
him from heaven. A Pharisee such as Saul would have a general offence
(1) as having deluded the people, and led them away from their properteachers;
(2) as daring to claim the Messiahship, when He was known to be only a
poor Nazarene carpenter. But he would have further and deeper grounds
of offence in the facts
(3) that Jesus had openly opposed and endeavored to discredit the Pharisee
class to which he belonged;
(4) that Jesus was proved to have wrought sham miracles by the fact that
he could not deliver Himself from the cross; and
(5) that it was a public insult to the intelligence of the people for these
disciples to go on asserting that this crucified impostor had risen from the
dead, and had ascended to heaven, and was now showing signs of His
Divine power. Saul thought he had a plain case and good grounds for his
persecuting zeal; and so he had, assuming that his view was correct. But,
suppose he was wrong, and Jesus after all was Messiah? Suppose it could
be shown him in a moment that Jesus was alive and exalted? Then the very
foundations of all his arguments were plucked away, and a new impulse
urged him to consecrate himself, once for all, to the service of Jesus the
the Saul who was the first king
Apostle Peter, and from the later story of Saul, or Paul. This intensity often
does good service; it overleaps difficulties which hinder the quieter and
calmer class of men. It bears others along on its own tide of impetuosity. It
becomes holy boldness, wise enterprise, and steadfast endurance when it is
duly toned, sanctified, and guided by the indwelling Holy Ghost.
There is more or less of impulsiveness in each of the apostles of whom anything is narrated:
Ø James and John followed the impulse stirred by the Master’s call,
and left their fisher-work and fisher-folk, to become servants of Christ and fishers of men; and an impulsive spirit is sealed in the surname which our
Lord fixed upon them. (Mark 3:17)
Ø Matthew seems immediately to have obeyed, and left the receipt of custom, when the Master touched his heart with the call, “Follow me;” and it was evidently in the intensity of deep feeling that he
gathered his friends to a parting feast. (Matthew 9:9)
Ø Thomas speaks impetuously, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails… I will not believe;” and still more impetuously he cries, “My Lord and my God,” when constrained to believe by the condescending grace of the Redeemer. (John 20:25-28)
Ø Peter represents to us the exaggeration of impulsiveness; and he never reveals his character more fully than when smitten down, penitent and broken-hearted, because of the second cock-crowing and the Savior’s reproachful look. (Luke 22:61-62)
expression in such things as:
Ø A disposition to overvalue mere religious feeling.
Ø To take up new ideas or new schemes, under the urgings of sentiment
rather than sound judgment.
Ø A tendency to give up schemes with as little thought as they were taken up.
Ø A foolish expectation that every one must be as intense as the impulsive
Ø And an inability fairly to estimate the reasons that make slow progress
alone safe and sure.
In the Christian life, as in common life, seasons of undue elevation are sure to
be followed by seasons of undue depression, and such seasons are very disappointing and humiliating. Peter illustrates the weaknesses of the impulsive. Our Lord had even to reprove him severely. From Saul, or Panl, may be shown the solid excellence of character which the naturally impulsive man may gain when piety, principle, and noble sentiments come to rule and guide and tone his
impulses. Some of the grandest sentences of Paul’s Epistles are the utterances possible only to a sanctified man of intensity and strong impulses; e.g.
4 “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where
preaching the word.” They therefore for therefore they, Authorized Version;
about for everywhere, Authorized Version. Went about; i.e. from place to place,
and wherever they went they preached the Word. Διῆλθον – diaelthon – passed
through - here is used in the same sense as Διέρχομαι – Dierchomai –
come, depart, go (about, abroad, every where, over, through, throughout), pass
(by, over, through, throughout), pierce through, travel, walk through in v. 40,
and in ch.10:38; 17:23; 20:25, and elsewhere.
Perversion and Restoration (vs. 1-4)
These verses suggest:
MEN ASTRAY. “Saul was consenting [rejoicing] unto his death” (v. 1). “Saul
made havoc of [was ravaging] the Church,” etc. (v. 3). The death of the first
martyr, which was so utterly shameful to those who compassed it, and so
deeply regrettable from a human estimate, was, in the eyes of Saul, a thing
in which to triumph with savage pleasure. And this dreadful satisfaction of
his grew out of strong religious convictions — he hated Stephen so
passionately because he clung to “the Law” so tenaciously. Nor was this
his only manifestation of distorted feeling. He was not satisfied with the
stoning of Stephen; he joined heartily in the persecution which broke up
Christian families and caused their general dispersion (v. 2), himself being
the most prominent agent of the council; neither ordinary humanity, nor the
gentleness which should come with a liberal education, nor the tenderness
which is due to womanly feeling, laying any restraint upon him. Every
wiser, kinder, more generous sentiment was lost in a violent, relentless,
unpitying fanaticism. So does error pervert the mind and distort the
impulses and abuse the energies of the soul. Before we lend ourselves to
any cause, before we plunge into any strife, let us very carefully and
devoutly weigh the question whether we are really right, whether our
traditions are not leading us astray as men’s inherited notions have led
them astray from the truth, whether, before we act with a burning zeal, we
must not alter our position or even change our side. Not till we have an
intelligent assurance that we are in the right should we act with enthusiasm
and severity; else we may be cherishing feelings and doing actions which
are diabolical rather than DIVINE!
SUFFER. The Christians of those early times were called:
Ø To sympathize, with painful intensity, with a suffering man. If Saul was
consenting to his death, with what lacerated and bleeding hearts did his
Christian friends see the first martyr die! They “made great lamentation
over him” (v. 2).
Ø To be distressed for a bereaved and weakened Church. The cause of
Christ could ill spare (so they would naturally feel) such an eloquent and
earnest advocate as he whose tongue had been so cruelly silenced; they
must have lamented the loss which, as men bent on a high and noble
mission, they had sustained.
Ø To endure serious trouble in their own circumstances. There was “great
persecution… and they were all scattered abroad” (v. 1). This must have
involved a painful severance of family ties and a serious disturbance in
business life. Holy earnestness has similar sufferings to endure now.
o Its personal attachments are peculiarly deep and its sympathies
peculiarly strong. When injury or death comes to the objects of them, there is corresponding pain and sorrow of soul.
o It is often deeply distressed for the cause of Christ in its times of loss,
o It suffers, in virtue of its fidelity, from the scorn, the opposition, the
persecution, in some form or other, of those who are the enemies of God
and truth. But, thus doing, it treads closely in the footsteps of the best of
men, and in those of the Divine Master Himself. And thus suffering
with Him, it will be crowned with His honor and joy (Romans 8:17;
II Timothy 2:12; I Peter 4:13).
Ø used the machinations of the enemy and
Ø recompensed the faithfulness of the suffering Church by causing the
dispersion of the disciples to result in “the furtherance of the gospel.” What misguided men hoped would be a death-blow to the new “way” proved to be a valuable stroke on its behalf, increasing the number of its active witnesses, and multiplying its adherents largely. So shall it be with the evil designs of the wicked; they will be made to subserve the gracious purposes of God.
o How vain and foolish, as well as guilty, is it to fight against God!
o How confidently may we who are co-workers with Him await the issue! The angry and threatening storm which is on the horizon will perhaps only speed the good vessel of the truth and bring her sooner to the haven.
Discordant Elements Obedient to the Accomplishing of One Purpose.
This short paragraph is not only full of incident, but of strangely contrary
kind of incident. It seems at first a mere medley of facts, history’s
patchwork, or like some mosaic pretending to no harmony at all. This first
impression, however, soon passes off, and each incident of the group
assumes yet clearer outline and is seen to fit into its place. The fact still
remains, however, that the materials are of very antagonistic kind, and the
wonder still remains, broadening more and more clearly to view, that out
of all the variety a sovereign power is working a certain unity of result. The
martyrdom is at the center of the subject yet. It is the key of the position. It
makes a landmark conspicuous far and wide, and a date forever
memorable. And this paragraph develops to view a five-fold energy
resulting from the martyrdom.
HUMBLING ASPECTS OF HUMAN NATURE. (v. 2.) Other hearts
than those that beat in the
breasts of the Sanhedrin are in
hands than those that stone are at this very moment outside its walls. The
triumph has not been an unqualified one. The contrast is a wonderful relief
to the strain put on faith, a welcome restorer of hope for human outlook.
And one and the same hour shows no doubtful sign of those sternest
works, those tenderest offices of which the angel of Christianity would
through all the ages be witness. The storm is spent, and men seek in the
morning to bury them — the dead washed ashore. The battle is over, and
in the evening men gather their slaughtered to bury them. The cross has
done its work, and the sacred body is “begged” and with tenderest care and
service is buried. The stoning has finished, and devout men carry mangled
limbs to honored burial. Christianity has her chivalry, and the chivalry of
Christianity is that purest affection which, mingled with purest faith, before
all reverences and mourns her fallen heroes and warriors, though she never
excused them while they lived a duty, nor exempted them a pang while
they struggled and fought. Most impressive is that which is left to our
imagination to fill up. When the last stone had been thrown, and the echoes
of howling murderers had died away, and the mob had swept by, — then
“devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation
EACH WITH HIS FRUITFUL INFLUENCE FAR AND WIDE. (v. 1.)
Persecution — a thing of darkest deeds, a very word of dread — has ever
had some crop of most beneficent results. Of it, it may emphatically be
said, “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but
grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of
righteousness unto them which are-exercised thereby.” (Hebrews 12:11)
Ø Tries the sincerity of character.
Ø It ascertains the dominance of faith or its comparative weakness.
Ø It gives faith much stronger hold on its proper object or objects.
Ø It chases away vast quantities of vague thought, vaguer feeling, mists
that have long misled, and a habit of doubt that has gone far to
undermine the nobility of Christian life.
Ø It exerts a vast benefit on others. If this be not part of its intention, it is a
grand overruled use of it. The happy hour often is touched with the taint of
selfishness. The members of happiest family are so united to one another
that they render an unfairly small contribution to the happiness that should
touch their borders too on all sides. And it has in point of fact often been
so with the Church, till, “when persecution arises” (which “persecution”
may “arise” from very various causes, and appear in very various shapes),
it is broken in upon, and those who composed it are separated and spread
and many a missionary is made (v. 1).
CALL. (v. 1.) The believers were scattered. Some voice, some power,
or some pure impulse tied the apostles. The post of duty remains so for
them, though it become the post
of danger. (In the 19th Century
Indians had a warrior society called “Dog Soldiers.” The warriors in the society were outfitted with a particular sash, which trailed the ground. And each member carried a sacred arrow. And in time of battle, the dog soldier would impale the sash to the ground and stand the ground to the death – This should be the
attitude of the Christian in spiritual warfare! – CY - 2016). They are to remain
to face fearlessly the enemy. This word, “except the apostles,” should be
heard like a trumpet-call by the leaders of Christ’s flock, at all times, in all
places. And does it not indicate that leaders there ought to be, and in this
sense, ranks of service — better so called than ranks of office and dignities
— in the
supported not only by the “call” and the special “inspiring” of apostles, but
by such a fact as that which underlies this exception, “except the apostles.”
It is left meantime open to us to imagine only why this crisis was not used
by those who persecuted to turn a fierce tide of opposition upon the
apostles themselves. They must have been easy to find, and they must have
been known to be at the root of the whole matter. The most probable
account of the matter seems to us to be that the Sanhedrin had already had
enough of them, and in interfering with them had been so humbled
worsted (see homilies on chapters 4 and 5).
HIM, BUT RATHER IN HIM. It will seem to the reader at first, perhaps,
that it is none but the historian who sets a mark on Saul, and that the mark
which he sets is none but an outward mark, though he repeats it three times
(ch. 7:58, 60; 8:3). Second thoughts will persuade him of something
very different. As sure as ever sureness was, mark surer far than even
Cain’s mark is being set upon Saul, get where nothing can endanger its
lasting depth. Ineffaceable memories are furnishing the secret cabinet of his
mind; thoughts and resolutions and strong forces of conviction are being
stored there, that no future crowd of cares, or throng of occupations, or
tumults of mirth should avail to drive out. In the whole scene Saul takes
Ø He takes a passive part, or what may seem mostly so (ch. 7:58),
and then a picture was being photographed on an inner tablet in its
stillness, accurate, full, safe, to be permanent also. It was destined for a
while, indeed, to be overlaid by other images, fleeting and vain, but after a
while to brighten out and become, perhaps, brightest of all except one.
Ø Saul takes a consenting part (ibid. v. 60). He says nothing against the
martyrdom; he looks approval of it. Do they ask whether it is all right and
to his mind? — his answer is in the affirmative.
Ø Saul takes an active part. Full of zeal, full of fury, full of impetuous,
imperious, intolerant determination, he “makes havoc of the Church,
entering into every house, and haling men and women, commits them to
prison” (v. 3). He is mercilessly marking himself, unless you say that,
with triple mark, another hand, a gracious one, is marking him for mercy
— Jesus Christ’s own “pattern of all long-suffering” (I Timothy 1:15).
Yes; the Saul of Stephen’s martyrdom; the Saul who permitted the polluted
garments of those that stoned that saintliest Stephen to lie at his feet for
safety’s sake; who made himself a consenting accomplice of the causeless
murder, and who then girded himself up to the full stretch of his mighty
energy to presume to “make havoc” of the flock of Jesus, will make a good
pattern indeed, a pattern hard to improve upon — “pattern of the all longsuffering” of that same “Jesus.”
WIDE, FOR “PREACHING CHRIST,” A THOUSAND-FOLD FOR
THE ONE LOVING VOICE THAT HAD BEEN HUSHED. (v. 4.)
And no thought outside of the rapture of his own soul, delivered unto the
glory of God, of Christ, of heaven, could have been more welcome than
this to Stephen. His murderous, stoned death, he would have said, was
already amply and blessedly revenged. The one thing, “preaching Christ”
that caused his death, was multiplied immediately a thousand-fold by that
very thing — his death. In his death Samson slew more than all he had slain
while he lived in his mighty manhood. Unenviable achievement! Fame
unblessed! His seed perish from the earth! But Stephen in his death
becomes the means of the offer of life, and doubtless of life too to more,
innumerably more than all whom he could reach with all his saintly force
while he lived. Honored servant! Deathless renown! His seed “the noble
army of martyrs,” and converts exceeding the drops of morning dew! No
unworthy pendant to the thrilling sacred tale of Scripture itself is the
proverb that takes date from this one: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed
of the Church.”
The disciples of the Lord Jesus were to be missionaries, going everywhere
and preaching His gospel to every creature. But they were to begin at
endowment of the Holy Ghost. Then they were simply to follow the
openings of Divine providence and the impulses and leadings of the Divine
Spirit. They evidently at first scarcely understood what their work was, or
how it was to be begun. Prejudices hindered them; difficulties blocked their
way; it would seem to them that their lives would be imperiled by exciting
public attention to them; and on the day of Pentecost they wore simply
borne beyond themselves and above their fears, and were led to speak,
freely and bravely, all they knew of Christ’s resurrection and power to
save. At first
their witness was rendered in
presently opened, but it was in very strange and unexpected ways. Out of
seeming disaster and discomfiture came the plain indication of what their
missionary work was to be.
reading of v. 1: “There arose on that day a great persecution.” It would
seem “that the crowd which stoned Stephen outside the gate rushed back
with its blood up, or, as Calvin says, like a wild beast which has once
tasted blood, and threw itself there and then upon the company of brethren
who, perchance, had met to pray secretly in their upper room for the
brother who before men was playing so well his honorable and perilous
part.” The wild things which an excited mob will do have received
abundant illustration in all ages, and recent illustration in the partial
fear. Such rioting of mobs last, at the most, but a few days. The
Sanhedrin had now determined to persecute, and, if possible, destroy, the
Nazarene sect; and from their systematic efforts, the disciples could only
gain safety by flight. “A favorable juncture had come for the bigots,” but it
was, in the ordering of God’s providence, the favorable juncture for
commencing missionary work. We must always seek to judge, not what
peril, suffering, persecution, or the arresting of our work may seem to be,
but what they prove to be, when they have come fully under the Divine
the daily meals and the life in common; made the apostles hide away out of
reach; and drove the disciples
into the country districts — into
where Jewish fanatics would hardly venture, and even away as far as
this time the persecution does not seem to have reached the apostles, and it
has been suggested that it was directed against that section of the disciples
which followed Stephen, and attacked, in greater or less degree, the
Mosaic system. Dean Plumptre says, “It was probable, in the nature of the
case, that the Hellenistic disciples, who had been represented by Stephen,
should suffer more than the others.” Missionary records contain many
illustrations of persecution making opportunity. The scattering was limited
at first to the neighboring districts, but it started the missionary idea, and
then the whole world was felt to be the sphere for the missionaries of the
cross. Travel, migration, and commerce have scattered men over
the world, and made providential openings for Christian works. “There is
that scattereth and yet increaseth” (Proverbs 11:24) is illustrated in these
persecution opened their mouths, made them bold, filled them with fervor
and zeal; the silent ones now preached the glad tidings. Persecution puts
new life and energy into the persecuted. Things die out if left alone, that
grow into power if we attempt to crush them. Men learn to value things
which others would forcibly pluck from them. The weakness of our
modern witness to Christ is mainly due to the general acceptance of our
message. We should speak it nobly if we had to suffer or to die for it. Then
the “lips of the dumb would speak.” Trouble and calamity and difficulty
made the first missionaries, and it has made the best ever since. Impress
that the Christian law is this — wherever the providence of God may lead
you or drive you, BE THERE FOR CHRIST!
The First Flight of the Word (v.4)
“Therefore they that were scattered abroad,” etc. It pleased God by the
foolishness of preaching to save the world.
hand-in-hand. The Church needed to be taught by discipline.
natural center of religious life. But a center of radiation, not
· PREACHING THE WORD the greatest function of the Christian
Ø The Word preached was the Word given. Apostles gave it. It was
preeminently Christ’s Word. It was given by the Holy Ghost with
special gifts and wisdom — “confirmed” unto us.
Ø The Word preached was the Word tried. Conversion proved it. Church
life illustrated it. The attitude of the corrupt Jewish Church showed that it
was a new Word that was required for the world.
Ø Preaching preceded writing. Individual testimony. The baptism of persecution followed the baptism of inspiration. The world wants not speculative truth, but practical — the Word of life. “O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed
is the man that trusteth in Him.” (Psalm 34:8)
· UNIVERSAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE SPREAD OF THE TRUTH.
Ø The true conception of the Church — a body of believers. They believe
and therefore speak. Possession of the Word is responsibility.
Ø The state of the world demands activity in every believer.
Ø The pastoral office quite consistent with the fulfillment of this universal
duty. The primi inter pares should stimulate all to work.
spiritual activity. “Scattered abroad” against their will. Doors opened.
Ø It is dangerous to anticipate Divine preparation.
Ø Watch in the night, for the darkest hour precedes the dawn.
Ø Keep a true and firm center from
which to go and to which to return.
Ø God is not the author of confusion. The greatest activity need not
break up orderly religious life. Revivals and evangelistic aggression should always maintain a rallying-point. Seek out not “quiet resting-
places,” but spheres of labor. Let God appoint the peace.
5 “Then Philip went down to the city of
unto them.” And for then, Authorized Version; proclaimed unto them the Christ for
preached Christ unto them, Authorized Version. Philip; the deacon and evangelist
(ch. 6:5; 21:8), not the apostle.
in the New Testament of the country, not of the city, which at this time
was called Sebaste, from Σεβαστός – Sebastos - i.e. Augustus Caesar (see
25:21, 26, etc.; John 4:5; and Josephus, ‘
therefore, we read with the Textus Receptus πόλιν – polin – city, or with the
Received Text τὴν πόλιν – tae polin – the city,
we must understand
to mean the country, and probably the city to be the capital, Sebaste. Alford,
however, with many others, thinks that Sychem is meant, as in John 4:5.
Preaching Christ (v. 5)
The expression here used is a frequent one in the Acts of the Apostles; e.g.
Ø “preaching the gospel;”
Ø “preached the Word;”
Ø “preaching peace by Jesus Christ;”
Ø “ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ;”
Ø “preaching the Lord Jesus;”
Ø “Jesus whom Paul preached;”
Ø “according to the preaching of Jesus.”
The proper idea of preaching is “heralding,” “proclaiming,”
declaring a message; and the old prophets of Judaism were true preachers;
so were the angels at
evangelist went to
expectation of the Messiah as could be found among the Jews, and to the
Samaritans Philip proclaimed that Messiah, or Christ, had come, in the
person of Jesus of Nazareth, and that His resurrection — which was
abundantly proved — was the crowning attestation and proof that He was
the Christ, the Son of the Most High God. What is involved and included
in “preaching Christ" may best be found by the consideration of a few
1. Christ preached Himself to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus; and
his points were the necessity for the sufferings of Christ and His subsequent
resurrection, and the absolute truth of the Messiahship and Lordship of
Christ. (Luke 24)
2. Christ’s command, "Go into all the world,” etc., sends us back to the
announcement of the angels at
salvation. (ch. 1; Matthew 28)
3. The apostles preached Christ at Pentecost, and at the healing of the lame
man, and declared Jesus as both having died and risen again, and being
exalted with present saving power. (ch. 2)
4. Stephen preached, in his defense, the Messiahship and death of the Lord
Jesus, closing with a firm declaration that He was risen. (ch. 7)
5. Philip preached unto the eunuch, and his subject was Jesus the Key to
the prophecies, suffering and triumphant. (here)
6. Paul preached to the Philippian jailor, “Believe on the Lord Jesus
Christ.” (ch. 16) The peculiarity of the early preaching evidently was the
presentation to men of A PERSONAL AND LIVING SAVIOUR, with whom
men may have personal dealings for their full salvation. Then true preaching
must present a living Christ to men as having done all for them, able to be all
to them, and to do all in them, and so the true preaching of Christ covers His
whole redemptive work. Preaching Christ sets Him forth before men:
Ø in His cradle,
Ø on His cross, and
Ø with His crown.
· IN HIS CRADLE. Or, Christ in incarnation, the Divine Man. This is the
mystery of Bethlehem. It may be shown
Ø that the Man Christ Jesus reveals:
o God to man, and
o man to himself;
Ø gives example of the human life that can alone be acceptable to God;
Ø is the assurance of the Divine sympathy with sinning, suffering man. He took not on Him the nature of angels, but He took on Him the seed of
Abraham,” and “being found in fashion as a man” (Hebrews 2:16)
He is able to save us men.
Ø The intensity of sin: its utmost effort crucified Him.
Ø The helplessness of sin. It did its worst, and was defeated. “It was not
possible that he should be holden of it.” (ch. 2:24) A suffering Savior:
Ø Attracts men. “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto
me.” (John 12:32) No persuasions can so urge and win men as those that come from the cross where our Sin-bearer died.
Ø Removes out of the way the hindrances to our fellowship with God.
“The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)
the mystery of Olivet. The kingly Jesus is:
Ø The ἀρχηγὸν - archaegon - Leader of His people, “the Captain of their salvation,” their Bringer-on.
Ø The Head and Lord of the new kingdom, “exalted to give repentance
and remission.” “Head over all things to His Church.”
Ø The Bestower of the Holy Spirit, which is His present inward agency,
Himself abiding with us and in us.
o So we preach Christ, the Man; the Divine Man; ours, our Brother; and with this preaching we arouse interest in Him.
o We preach Christ, the Sufferer, who draws us to Himself in sympathy and love. “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow.”
o We preach Christ the King, and bid you bow down now and
submit to His gracious and holy reign.
6 “And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which
Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.”
The multitudes gave heed with one accord for the people with
one accord gave heed, Authorized Version; the for those (things), Authorized
Version that were spoken by Philip for which -Philip spake, Authorized Version;
when they heard and saw the signs for hearing and seeing the miracles,
Authorized Version. Note Luke’s favorite word, with one accord (see 2:1, note).
7 “For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that
were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that
were lame, were healed.” From many of those which had unclean spirits,
they came out crying with a loud voice for unclean spirits, crying with loud
voice, came out of many that were possessed with them, Authorized Version;
that were palsied for taken with palsies, Authorized Version. From many of those,
etc. The Received Text is represented by the margin, but it is nonsense. The
different rendering depends upon whether πνεύματα ἀκάθαρτα – pneumata
akatharta – unclean spirits - is taken as the subject to ἐξήρχοντο – exaerchonto –
came out, or as the object after ἐχόντων – echonton – ones having. In one case,
πνεύματα – pneumata – spirits must be understood after ἐχόντων (ones having),
as in the Authorized Version, which inserts with them in italics; in the other,
the same word must be understood before ἐξήρχοντο (came out) as in the Revised
Version, which inserts they. The latter construction seems right, but
the sense is the same, and the Authorized Version is much the nearest rendering.
That were palsied. The purpose and effect of miracles is here clearly shown, to
attract attention, and to evidence to the hearers and seers that the workers
of miracles are God’s messengers, and that the Word which they preach is
8 “And there was great joy in that city.” Much for great, Authorized Version and
Textus Receptus. Much joy. The joy was caused partly by the healing of their sick,
and partly by the glad tidings of the gospel of peace (compare Matthew 13:20; I Peter 1:8). Christ was preached, signs and wonders occured. The two great facts:
to subdue the evil, to heal the sick, and to change the world.
The Fruits of Persecution (vs. 1-8)
Persecution is Satan’s instrument for checking and, if possible, destroying
the truth of God. Our Savior reminds us, in the sermon on the mount, how
the prophets, who spake to the people in the Name of God, had been
persecuted of old; and foretold how the prophets and wise men and scribes
whom He would send should, in like manner, be scourged and persecuted,
killed and crucified. And the history of the Church, from the first
imprisonment of the apostles related in Acts 4 down to the present day,
shows the truth of the prediction. Some of the springs and causes of
persecution were noted in the homiletics on ch. 4:1-31. Our attention
shall now be turned to the fruits of persecution.
UPON THE DEATH OF STEPHEN WAS THE DISPERSION OF THE
DISCIPLES. In accordance with the Lord’s directions (Matthew 10:23),
they fled, to save their lives,
from the city of
neighboring cities of Judaea and
preached the Word. Thus the immediate effect of the persecution raised at
was carried into cities and districts and countries where it might never have
been heard of but for the
deposited in the heart of the
eunuch for dissemination in
all Asia and on into
BREAKING DOWN OF OPPOSING BARRIERS OF HABIT,
OPINION, AND PREJUDICE. If the rulers and priests, the scribes and
Pharisees, had accepted the gospel, it might have been a very hard matter
to separate it from circumcision and from the temple and from exclusive
Judaism. It might have been very long before Jewish Christians would have
turned in a spirit of love and brotherhood to their Samaritan neighbors, or
sent a messenger to
themselves Christians in the
great heathen city of
scruples, hesitations, difficulties, would have barred the way. But
persecution quickened with a marvelous impulse the logic of reason and
benevolence, ay, and of faith too. By the force of circumstances, the
persecuted disciples, expelled from country and home by their own flesh
and blood, found themselves drawn into the closest bonds with those who
were not Jews, and as it were compelled to tell them of the love of Jesus,
and then to feel that that love made them both one. It would have taken
generations, perhaps, to do what persecution did in a day. Persecution cut
the Gordian knot which the fingers of human reason would, perhaps, never
have untied; and the great persecutor himself (Paul) might never have become
the great chief and prince that he was in the Church of the Gentiles, had it not
been for the part that he had played in persecuting it in times past.
PERSECUTIONS WHEN ENDURED IN THE TRUE MARTYR’S
SPIRIT, IN DEEPENING AND HEIGHTENING THE FAITH, THE
ZEAL, AND THE LOVE OF THE DISCIPLE. The fire of the spiritual life
in the soul of the saint burns brightest in the darkest hours of earthly
tribulation. The love of Christ, the hope of glory, the preciousness of the
gospel, are never, perhaps, felt in their living power so fully as when the
lights and fires of earthly joy and comforts are extinguished. Then, in the
presence, so to speak, of Christ’s unveiled power and glory, charity and
boldness, zeal and self-sacrifice, are at their highest pitch, and the making
known to others the glad tidings of great joy seems to be the only thing
worth living for. So that the fruit of persecution is to be seen in a noble
army of martyrs and confessors, qualified to the very highest extent, and
eager in the very highest degree, to preach far and wide the unsearchable
riches of Christ, and in extraordinary accessions to the numbers of the
THE EYES OF THE WORLD THE REALITY OF THAT RELIGION
WHICH THEY DESPISE, HOLDING UP TO ITS ADMIRATION THE
TRUE CHARACTERS OF THOSE WHOM IT PERSECUTES, AND
SHOWING THE HOPELESSNESS OF STAMPING OUT THAT FIRE
WHICH IS FED FROM THE LIVE COALS OF GOD’S ALTAR IN
HEAVEN, AND MANY MORE, IT WOULD BE EASY TO
ENUMERATE. But these must suffice to teach us that the malice of Satan
is no match for the power of God; but that the Church will eventually shine
forth in all the brighter beauty of holiness for the efforts that have been made
for her disfigurement and utter overthrow.
Missions to the Masses (v. 8)
“And there was great joy in that city.” City life, its two sides of good and
evil the victims of ignorance. Vice. False teaching. Old enmities. Sorcery.
Bodily disease. “The multitudes” pressing on one another. The world’s
joys ruinous, deceptive, consuming, filthy, degrading, hiding the light of
truth. No remedy in civilization, science, social schemes, mere intellectual
Ø To the individual heart.
Ø To houses and families.
Ø To communities.
Religion is the safe basis of social progress. The Christ preached as
Redeemer of humanity. Illustrate from the actual results, both in our own
cities and in heathendom. Indirect influence of Christianity on the physical
condition. Healing ministry of Christ still continued. The life of man
lengthened during the last three centuries, since the truth had fuller sway
over the thoughts of men and their universal activity. Science the
outgrowth of the civil and religious liberty obtained by the victories of
was one man among multitudes.
Ø An encouragement to all mission work both at home and abroad.
Ø A lesson as to method. “He proclaimed the Christ unto them.” The
people will “give head” when the message is adapted to their wants.
Ø A manifestation of Divine energy. Philip alone was powerless. The
Spirit wrought with him. Moral miracles still accompany faithful preaching. The signs may differ, but still be equally striking and convincing. Witness the work done by Wesley and Whitefield.
A prophecy of the
future. Great joy in all cities.
visit of Jesus to Sychar. Some work already done there. So in the world
generally, a foundation on which Christian messengers can labor. The
heathen world has its measure of light, though mingled with joyless gloom of superstition and falsehood. When the multitudes give heed to the preaching of the Christ, what may not be anticipated? “Great joy” instead of great wars and great famines and great desolation: the great
joy of universal progress and a redeemed humanity acknowledging
and glorifying Christ. What is our joy? What is the joy of our
neighbors? Cast out the lies and let the Spirit of life come in.
New-Found Joy (v. 8)
“And there was great joy in that city.” The gospel of Jesus begins now its
own aggressive but beneficent march. Twice already has it passed through
the most solemn baptism of blood. Its birth, its infancy, its home, its early
struggles outside its own sacred home, and its baptisms can never be
forgotten. Yet it is time for the young giant to essay his powers, and,
without a weapon, to try what intrinsic force may count for. Apostolic
preaching and achievement are still for a short time held in abeyance by the
history. It is almost as though open ground were being prepared for the
entrance of Saul into the great champion’s place. Stephen, stricken down,
is immediately replaced, not by an apostle, but by the second of those who
had been specially set apart for the care of tables. Philip, who comes to be
named Philip the Evangelist, is to the front. At the message of persecution,
when many, apparently with no little concert and in no little order of
movement, travel elsewhere, he goes “down to the city of
Whether it were he or they, it cannot be supposed that they imagined that
they and their gospel were sure, by mere change of place, of escaping
persecution. They probably saw very clearly and were very sure of the
reverse of this — nor less sure that they carried with them what would
again and again win for itself and for them the heartiest welcome, waken
the truest joy, reap a harvest of unending gratitude. And such was now the
earliest experience of Philip. How kindly came the brief sunshine in place
of persecution’s biting blast! So God often helps His faithful ones on
another stage, and ordains that His own cause shall triumph through
alternate storm and sunshine. The city of
short period of Philip’s visit. Let us consider this joy, what account it can
give of itself.
It came of “Christ preached” and Christ proved among the people. Philip
preached Christ, and this is clearly stated first. His preaching was attended
with signs and wonders following. Notice:
Ø That the exact nature of those signs and wonders — miracles of healing
to the body — does not derogate from the great principle here forcibly
illustrated. Some may think that because present ages are not ages of
bodily miracles, neither the preaching nor the preacher of the gospel has a
chance to compare with that of Philip’s time. But the mistake is patent.
The criterion is not that one bodily kind of miracle should be forthcoming,
but that some practical fruit should certainly be found. Christ preached
must have some result of a practical kind. Christ is not among men to be
nothing among them, to be no force among them, to be an indifferent
possession, or to be mere passing excitement. No time is to be wasted,
with Christ as the pretence of it, as he never wasted any.
Ø The practical effect of Christ preached must be, really and everything
taken into account, good in itself and in its bearing. It is true that awhile
much of what shall seem of an opposite character may be stirred up. It is
true also that Christ preached and refused must be condemnation to those
who refuse. And it is true that much of Christ’s practical work, while it is
in progress, lies in discriminating, in moral judgment of men, in separating
and showing the infinite disparity there is between certain kinds “of
ground” on which the seed of His Word falls. These things nothing hinder
the fact that, if Christ has been at work, it may be shown and must be
shown that good has been at work, and goodness come thereof.
Ø The practical good effect of Christ preached is not disadvantaged in the
present day by the absence of physical signs and wonders. These were the
shadows, not the things that now purport to have succeeded them. They
were but simple, elementary types compared with the substance of which
they forewarned. It might with much more verisimilitude Be said that the
physical miracles of Jesus Christ and His apostles shared the class of
disadvantages attendant upon His own personal presence in the flesh —
when men might love the person rather than the character, the body rather
than the soul, the limb restored rather than the soul saved. Where today,
Christ being preached, sins are forsaken, hearts are changed, lives do
different works and those the works of godliness, the miracle is not what
makes men alone wonder and throng and be glad exceedingly, but it makes
them and hosts of angels also wonder, throng, and be glad to Heaven’s
Ø The practical good effect of Christ preached is bound to be efficacious in
attracting “the people.” We here read that they “with one accord gave
heed” to the things that were spoken, because of the things that were done.
Though many an individual has by one method or another shut himself,
alas! too surely, too successfully, out of grace, this has never yet been
found true of the mass of people (unless it be judicially the case for a while
with the Jew) when the gospel has been preached amongst them. So soon
as some real fruits have become apparent, standers-by, ay, and passers-by,
not a few, look, and gaze, and ask, and move toward that truth that can
act, and then they yield ere long in tumult of devotion and unbounded
subjection to it. No work, no public movement, no sample of revolution
even, ever showed more genuinely the signs of adaptation for spreading
(ay, to the idea of “covering the earth, as the waters cover the seas”) than
“Christ preached” has shown. It offers us a grand idea of what the scene will
be, what the rate of growth, what the grand transformation of scene, when
the set conditions, the “set time” shall have come.
Ø Christ’s gospel does not only not disdain these conditions of its
acceptance, but proposes them and gives prominence to them and desires
to be itself tested by them.
o Jesus Christ has been a wonderful Teacher in this world. The civilized
world now gives Him the teacher’s chair. All other teachers pale their
ineffectual light in His presence. And when they shine, shine only in
proportion to the light they borrow from Him.
o Jesus Christ has been also a wonderful Example of character — Pattern
of patterns, Model of models; how perfectly sculptured! how adorably
o But the one leading wonderful characteristic to which He lays claim,
and justest claim, is that of SAVIOUR; not what He teaches; not what
He instances and illustrates of surprising greatness, goodness, grace;
but what He does and will do. Therefore no barren word, nor word of dialectic skill, nor word of elegant culture, nor of poetic fancy, nor of profoundest theologic theme, shall dare to offer to pass current for “Christ preached.” This means false profession, audacious blasphemy, guiltiest tampering with sacredest things, unless it mean:
§ conviction for sin,
§ contrition for guilty heart,
§ conversion of nature, and
§ unmistaken change of life!
Then first would the gospel of Christ put off its glory, and He Himself descend from His undisputed place, when any diminishment were made in the slightest iota, “one
jot or one tittle,” of these their unique and venerable and practical proffers. Well might there be “great joy in that city,” when into it there graciously entered the presence which met the deep, the groaning, sighing, almost despairing and worn demand of “the people”! It carried in its very voice its evidence; in its deeds its attraction; in its varied rich message its circle of reward. And as with bountiful
hand it strewed its blessings, a willing, grateful, jubilant crowd gathered round,
and one filled with new joy.
DURATION IN IT.
Ø Some joyed who received the full blessing themselves. If any were
dispossessed of unclean spirits; if any palsied were thrilled with all the
old energy and new added thereto; if the lame were made to walk and
to leap ; these were substantial benefits, undoubted blessings, never
“to be repented of” or forgotten.
Ø Some joyed whose chiefest joy, reached by the way of sympathy, was
for those who were dear to them, those whom they knew though not dear
to them, those whom perhaps they did not know at all nor had ever seen till they now see their joy. For in the wide circumference of a genuine human heart and in its capacious spaciousness there was room, and there is still room, for sympathy to find its sweetest, daintiest food in all these ways. And the joy of sympathy, some of the sacredest that fringes human life, dwells in a secret pavilion, which no profane fickleness shall easily molest, when Christ is the origin of it.
Ø Many joyed by the stirring novelty of so new, so bright a hope, and that
hope was neither delusive nor “for a while” only.
Ø Some, perhaps many, possibly very many, genuinely knew the real dawn
of celestial light, of spiritual health, of SALVATION FOR THE SOUL! That was a joy incontestably of likely duration. It was deep and large and limitless.
ETERNAL UPPER JOY. However little conscious “the people” might be
of any such thought, not the less might it have strong hold on them. But it
is not impossible that they were in some measure conscious of it, yet the
possession of the present be so true, so welcome a good, that they do not
stop to ask of the future or the upper. It matters not either way; there was
surely such an earnest in the joy that filled them now.
Ø Was it not an unparalleled scene and experience for them? Had they ever
known anything on earth to surpass it or to parallel it?
Ø Was it not a most genuine rehearsal of “the former things being passed
away”? Were pain, and disease, and deprivation of strength, and
deprivation of limb — and the tyranny of evil spirits — relaxing their
various grasp, nay, resigning it; and did it not look far on to the time
when God would also go so far as to wipe away every tear from every eye? Was the joy all round, every eye full of it, every tongue full of it, every ear full of it, every heart full of it; and did not this go far to
make it a universal joy?
Ø Was it a joy that came of any other parentage than heaven? Did science
bring it, or art, or even the glowing glories of creation bathed in golden
o God sent it, and
o Jesus brought it, and
o the Spirit made it flow full and abound.
This answers to the heavenly joy. Though one and another individual fell short of the soul’s real light and the heart’s deepest joy, if the scene
looked to be an end “of all our woe,” it must have looked something like an end of all our “sin,” and justly sends on our enraptured anticipations
to the time when both shall have vanished in the perfect and eternal joy.
9 “But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the
same city used
sorcery, and bewitched the people of
that himself was some great one:” Simon by name for called Simon,
Authorized Version; the city for the same city, Authorized Version; amazed for
bewitched, Authorized Version (here and in v. 13). Amazed. In Luke 24:22 the
same word (ἐξιστάνων – existanon - amazed) is rendered “made us astonished”
in the Authorized Version; and in ch. 2:7, 12, and elsewhere, in an
intransitive sense, “were amazed.” It has also the meaning of “being out of
one’s mind,” or “beside one’s self” (Mark 3:21; II Corinthians 5:13), but never
that of “bewitching” or “being bewitched.” As regards Simon, commonly surnamed
Magus, from his magic arts, it is doubtful whether he is the same Simon as is
mentioned by Josephus (‘
into forsaking her husband, King Azizus, and marrying him, which she did
(ch. 24:24). The doubt arises from Josephus stating that Simon to be a Cypriot
(Κύπριον γένος – Kuprion genos), whereas Justin Martyr says of Simon Magus
that he was ἀπὸ κώμης λεγομένης Γίττων – apo komaes legomenaes Gitton -
a native of Gitton, or Githon, a
may be a mistake of Justin’s for Citium,
pp. 260, 352). The after history of Simon Magus is full of fable. He is spoken of by
Irenaeus and other early writers as the inventor or founder of heresy.
10 “To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying,
This man is the great power of God.” That power of God which is called Great
for the great power of God, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus. That power
of God, etc. The revised text inserts καλουμένη – kaloumenae - before μεγάλη –
megalae - great. Origen says of Simon that his disciples, the
Simoniaus, called him “The Power of God.” (‘Contra Cels.,’ lib. 5:62,
where see Delarue’s note). According to Tertullian (‘De Anima’), he gave
himself out as the supreme Father, with other blasphemies.
11 “And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had
bewitched them with sorceries.” They gave heed to him for to him they
had regard, Authorized Version; amazed for bewitched, Authorized Version;
his sorceries for sorceries, Authorized Version.
12 “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the
kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized,
both men and women.” Good tidings for the things, Authorized Version
and Textus Receptus.
13 “Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he
continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and
signs which were done.” And for then, Authorized Version; also himself
believed for himself believed also, Authorized Version; being baptized for
when he was baptized, Authorized Version; beholding signs and great miracles
wrought, he was amazed for wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which
were done. Contained with (ἦν προσκαρτερῶν – en proskarteron – he continued;
was waiting on); see ch. 1:14; 2 :46; 6:4; 10.7. Paul uses the word in Romans 12:12;
13:6; Colossians 4:2; and the substantive formed from it (προσκαρτέρησις –
proskarteraesis - perserverance) once, Ephesians 6:18. Elsewhere in
the New Testament it occurs only in Mark 3:9. But it is found in Hist.
of. Sus. 6. Amazed (see note on v. 9). In Simon we have the first
example of one who, having been baptized into Jesus Christ, lived to
disgrace and corrupt the faith which he professed. He was an instance of
the tares sown among the wheat, and of the seed which sprang up quickly
being as quickly destroyed. He is an instance also of the truth of our Lord’s
raying, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24)
Incidents of Persecution and Dispersion (vs. 1-13)
· A GLIMPSE OF SAUL THE PERSECUTOR. Though brief and
passing, it is very significant. He was a party to the execution of Stephen.
Saul was full of ignorance and blind passion. What he afterwards felt about
his conduct is expressed in I Timothy 1:13. This example should be a
standing warning to us against trust in mere feeling and enthusiasm. The
fumes of anger and violence are no signs of pure glowing zeal for the truth,
but rather of the spirit that is set on fire of hell. It is when we are most
passionately excited in the cause of party conflict that we have most need
to be on our guard. Bitter was the remorse of Saul of Tarsus for his
complicity in the murder of Stephen. Hard was it for him to forgive
himself. It was the triumph of Divine love in his heart when he could trust
that through it he had been forgiven.
· THE EFFECTS OF PERSECUTION. It leads to dispersion, and
dispersion to the dissemination
of the truth. Through the country of
house and heart, stirring memories, new thoughts. And Saul, like a
ravaging wolf, went on his blind course. There is a general historical lesson
here. Persecution is ever the symptom of intellectual change. The old
dragon is ever ready to devour the child of the woman. (Revelation 12)
The hellish Python would wrestle with the glorious Apollo. Herod would put
to death the child Jesus. Saul would slay the infant Church. But the victory of eternal light and love is not doubtful. They that were scattered in different
directions went in different directions evangelizing the world. How
beautiful is this! The true weapon with which to meet the sword is the
Word. The policy of the persecutor is of all the blindest. He stimulates the
movement he aims to crush. In every manly spirit opposition rouses new
energy. We love more dearly the truth for which we have to fight and
suffer. It is in the laws of the spiritual world that persecutions should ever
bring a violent reaction in favor of the principles of the persecuted. When
Christianity is patronized it becomes corrupt. When through persecution it
is thrown back upon the ground of its first principles, it springs up with
new life and vigor.
· THE WORK OF PHILIP. Well does it stand in contrast with that of
Saul in this glimpse of early Christianity. Saul, the wolf amidst the fold,
breathing out threats and slaughter; Philip, as the shepherd, feeding and
healing and comforting. Again and again we have the repetition of the true
effects of Christianity. Good words are spoken, which command attention
and do good to the soul; good deeds are done to the suffering body, which
are evident “signs” of a Divine presence and power to heal, and therefore
of a Divine and loving will. And joy ever breaks out — the reflection of
recovered freedom in the body and the soul — in every city. These, then,
are the constant evidences of Christianity. No other “apologetic” can be
needed, for this is invincible. Without it the subtlest arguments are
· THE TRIUMPH OF CHRISTIAINITY OVER SUPERSTITION.
Simon the Magus is the type of those who work upon the imagination of
the people, as contrasted with the true Christian teacher who appeals to the
conscience. What was to decide between the genuine teacher and healer
and the eloquent and skilful quack? Close is the shadow to the light in all
the course of the gospel. In the individual conscience lies the test. To that
God speaks; that in every age is the mirror of the truth. And to the truth
and to God the conscience of the impostor bears witness. Simon believed
in the word of Philip, and became by baptism a professor of the new creed.
It is said that he was astonished at the signs and great wonders which
occurred. What we call” sensationalism” in the mind, the craving for the
wonder, is the spurious form of a true instinct. Men must see in order to be
convinced; when conviction is attained, they can afterwards walk by faith
in regions where sight is not possible. We never change the habit of our
thought until we find something inexplicable where before all was plain and
simple — something wondrous where we only recognized the
commonplace. To ask for belief without giving evidence is to insult the
conscience, to refuse belief when the evidence is clear is to deny to one’s
self the possibility of guidance when the evidence is not altogether clear.
Let men take the evidence which is clear to them, and act upon it; that is
safe for the time, and the rest will become clearer by-and-by. But the case
of Simon shows how void is any kind of mere conviction unless it be
followed by the corresponding act of will. Simon was convinced, but not
converted. The light penetrated his intelligence, but failed to move his
The Spirit of Lies Cast Out (vs. 9-13)
Simon is an example of the kind of deceivers under whose spell the ancient
world was taken captive. Samaria was half heathen. “Salvation is of the Jews”
(compare John 4.). A striking instance showing that a dim twilight of knowledge
is the condition favorable to the growth of falsehood and superstition. They
would not have given heed to Simon had they studied the whole Scripture.
Yet the gospel found a ready soil because the true wonders could be
opposed to the false.
“strong delusion to believe lies.” (II Thessalonians 2:10-11)
Ø Abuse of human learning and philosophy. Simon probably versed in
Ø The distinction between sorcery and magic and true science, and the
wonders of human progress, has been the fruit of Christian teaching and
the development of the kingdom of God.
Ø The signs of man’s birthright is still traceable in his degrading bondage. Subjection to the power of God. Readiness to worship. Idea of a Divine kingdom.
Ø Good tidings — liberty, peace, joy — “ without money and without
price.” (Isaiah 55:
Ø Power manifested. This is the true kingdom, not such as Simon
pretended to show.
Subjugation of all —
even Simon himself. As in
God are infinitely more wonderful than the deceits of the false teachers.
So let us learn confidence in the gospel message. We may yet bring the very
deceivers themselves to the feet of Christ. The world will be amazed as the
gospel reveals its power. “Have faith in God.”
Warnings from Simon Magus (vs. 9-13)
His name indicates a Jewish or Samaritan origin. He appears as the type
of a class but too common at the time — that of Jews trading on the
mysterious prestige of their race and the credulity of the heathen, claiming
supernatural power exercised through charms and incantations. For other
illustrations, give account of Etymas (ch. 13:6); the “vagabond Jews,
exorcists,” at Ephesus (ch. 19:13); the so-called Simon of Cyprus
mentioned by Josephus; and Apollonius of Tyana. This explains the state of
the times; men were thoroughly dissatisfied with the empty formalities of
religion, and were sick of the routine demands of rabbinical traditions, and
were more or less distinctly yearning and crying for the spiritual. Their
thought and feeling laid them open to the influence of the sorcerer and
juggler, who appeared to be possessed of mysterious and spiritual power.
All over the known world, the nations were at that critical hour in history
agitated by a vague unrest and a feverish anticipation of some impending
change. Everywhere men turned dissatisfied from their ancestral divinities
and worn-out beliefs. Everywhere they turned in their uncertainty to
foreign superstitions, and welcomed any religion which professed to reveal
the unknown. Along with this came a strange longing to penetrate the
secrets of the world, to communicate with the invisible. To persons in this
expectant and restless condition there could be no lack of prophets.
Ø Asia bred them,
Ø Egypt ripened them,
Ø the West swarmed with them.
(What is going on in our contemporary world? Is there not an expectation
of the return of Jesus Christ? Aren't we sensing the spirit of the anti-christ?
CY - 2016)
CHRISTIANITY. The degree of his sincerity in professing belief and
submitting to the rite of baptism needs careful consideration. He may have
been carried away by feeling. He may have been guileful throughout, and
only seen a higher force in the power of the apostles than he knew of, and
designed to get the control of this force for his own purposes? Or the two
may have blended. He may have been carried away. At first he may have
sincerely taken up with Christianity, but soon yielded to a guileful spirit,
which suggested that a splendid fortune could be made out of the new
force. But whatever Simon’s motives may have been, we have from him an
important testimony to the genuine persuasion and power accompanying
the early preaching, and to the truth of the miraculous powers exerted by
the apostles. Simon well understood the ways of sorcerers and jugglers,
and he knew and openly acknowledged that the apostles were not such.
Show the importance of the testimony to Christ and Christianity rendered
by those outside, and even opposed, such as Rousseau, Napoleon, J. S.
Because true discipleship is no mere profession, no sudden excited impulse, no vanishing sentiment, but a sober, calm judgment, a full and hearty surrender, an entire consecration of heart and life to Christ. Simon did not sit down first and count the cost. Simon had no idea of taking a lowly place in Christ’s service. He wanted still to be “some great one.” He was “weighed in the balances, and found wanting,” when Christ’s testings came. “He that would be great among you, let him be your servant.” “He that exalteth himself shall be abased.” Show with
what mistaken notions men take up the Christian profession now, and how
certainly life tests and tries them, and they fail in the testing day. Simon’s
faith had not a moral, only an intellectual basis, he expressed no
compunction for having deceived the people and blasphemed God. The
whole ethical side of Christianity, its power of bringing man into peace
with God, and of making man like God, was shut against him. For that he
had no ear. Against that his heart was closed. He believed, therefore,
without being converted. Impress how the money-getting spirit had so
hardened Simon’s mind that it was difficult to gain access for the Christian
truth and claims. “How hardly shall they that trust in riches enter into the
kingdom of heaven!” (Matthew 19:23)
14 “Now when the apostles which were at
Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter
and John:” The apostles (see v. 1). They sent unto them Peter and
John. The selection of these two chief apostles shows the great importance
attached to the conversion of the Samaritans. The joint act of the college of
apostles in sending them demonstrates that Peter was not a pope, but a
brother apostle, albeit their primate; and that the government of the Church
was in the apostolate, not in one of the number.
15 “Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive
the Holy Ghost:” That they might receive the Holy Ghost. Why was it needful
that two apostles should come down to
of hands, for the newly baptized that they might receive the Holy Ghost?
There is no mention of such prayer or such imposition of hands in the case
of the first three thousand who were baptized. They were told by Peter,
“Be baptized every one of you, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy
Ghost” (ch. 2:38), and they were baptized, and doubtless did receive
the Holy Ghost, Neither is there any mention of such things in the case of
the subsequent thousands who were baptized at
preaching. Why, then, was it so in
must observe the difference in the circumstances. The baptisms at
given upon their promise and assurance. But in
the baptizing were done by the scattered disciples. There was a danger of
many independent bodies springing up, owing no allegiance to the apostles,
and cemented by no bonds to the mother Church. But Christ’s Church was
TO BE ONE — many members, but one body. The apostolate was to be the
governing power of the whole Church, by the will and ordinance of Christ.
Hence there was a manifest reason why, when the gospel spread beyond
on of the apostles’ hands, and by the intervention of their prayers. This had
a manifest and striking influence in marking and preserving the unity of the
Church, and in marking and maintaining the sovereignty of the apostolic
rule. For precisely the same reason has the Catholic and
in all ages (ch. 19:5-6; Hebrews 6:2) maintained the rite of confirmation,
“after the example of the holy apostles.” Besides the other
great benefits connected with it, its influence in binding up in the unity of
the Church the numerous parishes of the diocese, instead of letting them
become independent congregations, is very great. Observe, too, how
prayer and the laying on of hands are tied together. Neither is valid without
the other. In this case, as at Pentecost, the extraordinary gift of the Holy
Ghost was conferred. In confirmation, now that miracles have ceased, it is
the ordinary and invisible grace of the Holy Spirit that is to be looked for.
16 (For as yet He was fallen upon none of them: only they were
baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17 “Then laid they their
hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.” Had been for were,
Authorized Version; into for in, Authorized Version. Into the name. In
seems preferable (compare Matthew 10:41-42). The use of the
prepositions in the New Testament is much influenced by the Hebrew,
through the language of the Septuagint. As regards baptism in the Name of the
Lord Jesus, here and v. 39, Textus Receptus; ch.10:48; 19:5, we are not to
suppose that any other formula was used than that prescribed by our Lord
(Matthew 28:19). But as baptism was preceded by a confession of faith
similar to that in our own Baptismal Service, so it was a true description to
speak of baptism as being IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST!
The Gift of the Holy Ghost (vs. 14-17)
There are signs of an impartation of the Spirit by the apostles which we do
not appear to understand fully, because it differs from any impartation of
the Spirit with which we have experience. The apostles were enabled to
repeat for their disciples their own experience. They were first called to
discipleship and then endowed for work. So those to whom apostles
preached were first brought into the new kingdom by faith and confession,
and then sealed and entrusted with particular gifts for service by the Holy
Spirit of promise. The apostles were at first the only agents through whom
this further gift of the Spirit came. How far they were permitted to pass
this agency in the giving of the Spirit on to their successors has been a
matter which the various sections of Christ’s Church have regarded
differently. Two things require study and consideration.
GHOST. It was evidently regarded as essential to the full standing of the
Christian. A man must be converted and sealed. Paul found at Ephesus
some disciples who knew only John’s baptism, and he asked them this, as a
searching, testing question, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye
believed?” (ch. 19:2) as if this alone could be accepted as the assurance of
their full Christian standing. The gift or endowment may be regarded:
Ø In relation to the apostles as agents. They never assumed that the gift
came from them; it only came through them. God might have sent His
Spirit directly and apart from any human agency. Probably He used the
human means in order that the source whence the gift came should be
recognized and men should not treat it as an accident, but as a trust; also
that its connection with Christ should be recognized, and the use of the
endowments in Christ’s service should be realized. It was a bestowment
entirely within the Christian limits.
Ø In relation to the believers, who were the recipients of the gift. It was a
sealing them as Christ’s. It was a taking of them over to Christ’s service. It
was a solemn convincement that a new and Divine life was in them, and so a sublime urging to purity of life and an ennobling assurance of all-sufficient present grace for whatever they had to do and whatever to bear. It was a holy rest for personal feeling; they were plainly accepted of God. It was a holy urging to Christly labors; they had the powers, they must find their spheres.
Ø In relation to the Church, which was benefited by the various
endowments as calculated to meet all its various needs. These points
assume that the indications of the Spirit’s coming on the disciples were
such as we find at Pentecost. There was some gift of tongues, or
preaching, or praying — some outward sign which all could realize. Show
that if the Spirit now comes to the believer in quieter modes, no essential
difference is made in the purpose of His coming. He is with us now to
comfort us with assurance of full salvation; and to inspire and guide us in the devotion of our powers to the service of others and of the Church.
SPIRIT. Observe that it is never regarded, any more than the early Church
miracles, as an independent act of the apostles. It is only effective:
Ø After prayer, which puts the apostle in right frame to become the agent
or medium, and which directs public attention away from the apostles to
the real source whence the gift comes.
Ø On the laying on of hands. A significant act, by which the vital force
filling the apostle seemed to stream forth into the disciple, and the recipient shared in the Divine Spirit-life. If some indication of a gift, talent, or endowment appeared, as a consequence, it need not be anything new; it might be the characteristic quality or faculty infused with new life and energy. But in those days no man received the Spirit apart from some sign of force for service in the Church. This Simon noticed, and it set him upon evil thought. And still God’s Spirit comes on prayer, is recognized by the spiritually minded, and is the energy for all holy labors.
18 “And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands
the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,”
19 “Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands,
he may receive the Holy Ghost.” Now for and, Authorized Version;
the laying for laying, Authorized Version v. 19. — My hands for hands,
Authorized Version. Would to God that spiritual powers in the Church
had never been prostituted to base purposes of worldly gain, and that all
the servants of Christ had shown themselves as superior to “filthy lucre” as
Peter and Elisha were! But the particular offence called simony has but a
very faint analogy to the act of Simon.
20 “But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou
hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.”
Silver for money, Authorized Version; to obtain the gift of God for that the
gift of God may be purchased, Authorized Version (rightly, κτᾶσθαι – ktasthai –
purchased; to be acquiring - is the middle voice). Silver. This is a change of very
doubtful necessity; ἀργύριον – argurion - silver, like the French argent, is frequently
used for “money” generally, without any reference to the particular metal of which
it is made. Sometimes, indeed, it is used in opposition to “gold,” as ch. 3:6 and 20:33,
and then it is properly rendered “silver.” Here the Revisers’ reason, doubtless, was to
reserve “money” as the rendering of χρήματα – chraemata - (vs. 18,20). Peter’s
answer is remarkable, not only for the warmth with which he repudiates the
proffered bribe, but also for the jealous humility with which he affirms that the
gifts of the Spirit were not his to give, but were the gift of God (see ch. 3:12-16).
21 “Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not
right in the sight of God.” Before God for in the sight of God, Authorized Version.
Thou hast neither part nor lot. The “covetous shall
not inherit the
(I Corinthians 6:10; compare Psalm 10:3; Luke 16:14; I Timothy 3:3). The phrase,
ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τούτῳ - en to logo touto - rendered in this matter, seems to
be more fitly rendered in the margin, “in this Word,” i.e. the Word of life,
the Word of salvation, which we preach (see ch. 5:20; 10:36; 13:26).
22 “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps
the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.” The Lord for God,
Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; thy for thine, Authorized Version;
shall for may, Authorized Version. Repent. The terrible words, “Thy money
perish with thee,” had not expressed Peter’s wish for his destruction. But they
were the wounds of a friend speaking sharp things to pierce, if possible, a callous
conscience. In the hope that that conscience had been pierced, he now
urges repentance. And yet still, dealing skillfully with so bad a case, he
speaks of the forgiveness doubtfully, “if perhaps.” The sin was a very
grievous one; the wound must not be healed too hastily. “There is a sin
unto death.” (I John 5:16)
23 “For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond
of iniquity.” See for perceive, Authorized Version. In the gall of bitterness, etc.
The passage from which both this expression and the similar one in Hebrews 12:15
are taken is manifestly Deuteronomy 29:18, where the Greek of the Septuagint has,
ῤίζα ἄνω φύουσα ἐν χολῇ καὶ πικρίᾳ - hriza ano phuousa en cholae kai pikria –
root that bears gall and wormwood. The context there also shows conclusively that
the “gall and bitterness” (“wormwood,” Authorized Version) of which Moses speaks
is the spirit of idolatry or defection from God springing up in some professing
member of the Church, and defiling and corrupting others, as it is expounded in
Hebrews 12:15-16. This, as Peter saw, was exactly the case with
Simon, whose heart was not straight with God, but “had turned away from
Him,” as it is said in Deuteronomy. Though baptized, he was still an
idolater in heart, and likely to trouble many. “The gall of bitterness” is the
same as “gall and wormwood,” or “bitterness.” “Gall,” or “bile,” is in
classical Greek and other languages a synonym for “bitterness,” especially
in a figurative sense (see Lamentations 3:15, 19 — πικρία καὶ χολή -
pikria kai cholae – wormwood and gall, Septuagint). The uncommon phrase,
the bond of iniquity, seems to be borrowed from Isaiah 58:6, where the Septuagint
have the same words, λύε πὰντα σύνδεσμον ἀδικίας – lue panta sundesmon adikias –
loose the bands of wickedness - Authorized Version. Simon was still bound in these
24 “Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the LORD for me, that
none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.”
And Simon answered for then answered Simon, Authorized Version; .for me
to the Lord for to the Lord for me, Authorized Version; the for these, Authorized
Version. Pray ye, etc.; addressed to both Peter and John, who were acting together,
and whose prayers had been seen to be effectual (v. 15) in procuring the gift of the
Holy Ghost. In like manner, Pharaoh, under the influence of terror at
God’s judgments, had asked again and again for the prayers of Moses and
Aaron (Exodus 8:8, 28; 9:27-28; 10:16-17, etc.). But in neither ease
was this an evidence of true conversion of heart.
The First Heretic (vs. 9-24)
The appearance of Simon Magus in the list of the first converts to the faith,
and his enrolment among the baptized members of the Church, must not be
overlooked or passed hastily by, if we would profit by the exhaustive
teaching supplied by the Acts of the Apostles for the use of the Church in
all ages. When the student of Church history begins his studies expecting to
find a record of faith and holiness, and to trace the triumphant victories of
truth over falsehood through a succession of ages, and to feast his mind
with the wise words and the righteous works of a succession of saints, he is
soon disappointed and pained to find that Church history brings him into
contact with some of the worst phases of human nature. The human mind
never shows to greater disadvantage than when its contact with Divine
truth stirs up all the foul sediment at the bottom of it, and suggests forms
of deceit and duplicity, and varieties of impurity and dishonesty, and
specialties of baseness and selfishness, which could have had no existence
but for such contact with what is spiritual and heavenly. We might have
been prepared for the rejection of truth by the children of the wicked one,
and even for those acts of hatred and violence by which unbelief seeks to
put out the light of truth. Apostles in prison, and Stephen lying lifeless on
the ground, and a Sanhedrin of priests and scribes and elders solemnly
forbidding the preaching of the gospel, are events that we might have
anticipated, and which, though they shock, do not so much surprise us. But
a reception of the truth of the gospel going so far as to lead the receiver to
holy baptism, and yet immediately allied with sordid motives, and
co-existing with imposture and sorcery, and issuing in a life devoted to the
depravation of the gospel and to the hindering of men’s salvation, is an
unexpected and a perplexing phenomenon. And yet it is the history of most
heresies. Even in those days when the profession of the faith of Christ
subjected men to persecution, and when the Christian body was a
comparatively small one with a strongly defined character of purity and
holiness, we find men joining the Church’s ranks only to pollute them, and
then to separate themselves and to found some accursed heresy. Either the
motive was vile from the first, or the restraints imposed by Christianity
were found too severe for the half-converted heart, and the heresy was
framed to reconcile the claims of the reason which was convinced with
those of the passions which refused to be subdued. Simon appears to have
been chiefly attracted and overawed by the miracles which he saw wrought
in the Name of Christ. It then occurred to him that he might pursue his old
career of sorcery more successfully than ever if he could obtain some
partnership in the thaumaturgy which had astonished him. He anticipated
richer harvests of gain as a Christian conferring spiritual powers by the
laying on of hands than as a magician amazing men by his sorceries. And so
he offered Peter money. The frothy levity of his nature was shown as much
by his terror at Peter’s rebuke as it had been by his offer of a bribe to the
apostle. And this rapid succession of sorcery, belief, baptism, simony,
confusion, was the sure index of a heart still held fast by the bonds of
iniquity, and the natural prelude to a life of base cunning, using holy things
for base purposes of unholy gain. The career of Simon, as of many of the
early heretics whom the Fathers denounce with such terrible severity,
seems to leave us this lesson — that contact with holy things, if it does not
convert, hardens the heart; that the light of Christ, if it does not purify the
soul, plunges it into deeper darkness; and that familiarity with spiritual
powers, which does not subdue and sanctify, has a tendency to stimulate
the intelligence only to give it access into lower depths of intellectual
wickedness and more deadly sin.
The Type of One Stricken with Religion-Blindness (vs. 9-24)
It may be at once allowed that it were difficult to measure with any
exactness the amount of moral guilt in Simon Magus. Happily we are not
called to do this. That we cannot do it will not hinder our noticing the
phenomena of what may well strike upon our own knowledge and our own
light as an amazing development of the very deviation itself of moral or
spiritual vision. Confessedly with most various amount and kind of effect
does the glory of the natural sun strike on the profusion of the objects of
nature. What brilliant effects some of these return! what rich and mellowed
effects, others! How do some seem to give out all they have in gratitude’s
welcome, and others rest in their joy! till, when we come to the range of
human life, we can by no means count upon any correspondingly uniform
or correspondingly varying responses. Now something within asserts itself
greater, more sullen, more given to contradiction and resenting of external
force than the coldest granite, the gloomiest yew, the dreariest of scenery.
Yet these things within men make no such stubborn and successful fight
against a whole world’s source of light and heat as they do often against
the pure light of truth, the purer light of God in the face of Jesus Christ
(II Corinthians 4:6), the purest and most vitalizing force of light of all —
God in the searching gaze of the Holy Spirit. An early type of this
religion-blindness of human nature is before us. Wherever the slightest
allowance may possibly be made for the individual in whom it is now
illustrated so broadly and undisguisedly, there must the indictment press
but the more heavily on the state of fallen nature itself. Let us notice
respecting this religion-blindness:
Ø It was in the presence of the greatest power of heaven that could be on
earth, and (to begin with) did not stand in awe of it, nor recognized it as a
presence to inspire awe. On occasions of far less direct manifestations of
the like great power of God, it had been far otherwise with Peter, and
often had it been far otherwise with the miscellaneous multitude; and in
particular on occasion of a manifestation of strong resemblance to the
present — on the day of Pentecost — it was far otherwise with such a
multitude. But Simon, a picked man, a taught man, a man acquainted
with “mysteries,” is not cognizant of high emotions, of deep stirrings of the moral nature, as were they; but stands there still with covered head, with thoughts that run on business, and with a hand ready outstretched
to do business!
Ø It was in that presence, with moreover the strongest added symptoms
that an unwonted holiness attached to it, and yet it was eager and was
presumptuous to challenge intrinsic responsibilities in partnership with it.
Forwardness to rush into responsibilities of the most sacred kind has
always meant but one thing, and rarely enough led to any but one end. And yet the forwardness with which Simon may now be charged was
not that of hasty impulse, of youth and its inexperience, of inconsiderate rashness. It has to be credited with a much worse and more ingrained genius. It was a calculating eagerness, an old and far too familiar impulse to be longer justly called impulse at all, the unaffected outcome of a heart indurate with self. This sort can surely no further go than when it intrudes its callous candidature for the most sacred partnership that Heaven itself has to name, nor suspects that it is at all specially to blame in doing so.
Ø It was in that presence, and dares to offer money, that with it may be
purchased a share of its most sacred prerogative or own nature. The
“corruptible things” of “silver and gold” are proposed as an exchange value for the most incorruptible, living Holy Spirit! Once Judas, for the getting of money to himself, volunteers to be the betrayer of Jesus; but in real fact, human insolence of thought dared a higher flight of incredible audacity when it purposed to part with money for the attempted purchase of the gift of the Holy Ghost. Then not the leader of the rebel angels who kept not their first estate, more really affronted the holiness and the majesty and the sovereignty of God, than did Simon in that thought of
his heart and word of his lip. In which lay implicit in part, and in part explicit:
o the treasonous thought that the sovereign gifts of God could be swayed by human inducement, and
o the impious thought that money could avail as the inducement. If there be any eye at all which sees but yet sees not the utter disparity between the symbol that makes the exchange value of one earthly thing against another earthly thing, and Heaven’s gift most critical, most; mysterious, most gracious of all gifts, then that eye is color-blind with the worst deprivation, it is emptied of its own proper nature, religious rays have vainly struck upon it, and the light that is in it is darkness — “how great!” (Matthew 6:23) Confusion
worst confounded is therefore at least one motto of the transaction
proposed by Simon; for, fearful as was the degree of it, its darkest
condemning lies in the kind of matter in which it exercised itself (Psalm 131:1).
Ø It was in that presence, and did not humbly, earnestly pray for a
personal experience of its mighty and gracious energy, but only to have the official dignity, the self-exalting dignity, or the literally gainful
dignity of being the channel of conducting it to others. What could be more suspicious? What more unnatural? What more hollow, when the question once becomes a question of matter of the highest concernment? How can any man sincerely work for the salvation of another who has never found, never sought his own? How can any man purpose to be the servant of God and of God’s Spirit in order to convey spiritual gift and spiritual grace and sanctification to others, if he is not himself in constant and living recipience of the same kind of gifts? Yet many propose this thing unconsciously which Simon proposed in so many most outspoken words. For how often are men glad to think of or even to see the devil cast out of others (Luke 10:20), who have never sought deliverance themselves, and never submitted to the humbling stroke that should break the chain of their own captivity to him! And how many with the
lip speak patronizingly of Christianity and pray for the spread of true religion, who never illustrate the possession of it? Confessedly there are some outer things which one may be the means of conveying to others by the mere hand, and as the mere deputy of some original giver; but as certainly the attempt is as impious as it is impossible in other things. The higher you ascend in gift, the more absolute and patent is the inherent impossibility, until, after you have traversed all the ascending realms of mental bestowment and attainments, you reach that realm of pure spirit; crossing over into it, you cease for ever to assume to convey to others, except that “which you have heard… seen... looked upon, and your
hand has handled” in the matter “of the Word of life.” (I John 1:1) It might be that the blind man should pray if haply he might find the way to give sight to other blind — though still most strange if he pray not for himself, “Lord, that I might receive my sight.” But if the case be that
of a man spiritually blind, who prays and with his prayer offers money
that he may be the “chosen vessel” for commanding spiritual light to
others benighted as yet, yet prays not for spiritual sight himself, you say he is the most benighted of all, blind indeed, and, short of limiting God’s
power in the gift of repentance and the grace of His pardon thereupon, you
say self-stricken, hopelessly blind! And of this there is every dread
appearance in the instance of Simon.
Ø In a long career of profession. Simon’s very profession was to make
profession. And it was of the very essence of dangerous profession, since it was profession about self. Self was the object as well as the subject. The ill odor in which self-assertion, as a mere individual act, is held is well
admitted. But how much worse when this has become habit! Worst of all
when it has become the bread and livelihood of a man. “Giving out that
himself was some great one” (v. 9), sounds the irony of biography. It
was all that and more for him.
Ø In a professional career that rested on the basis of deception. “Of long
time he had bewitched the people with sorceries.” Whatever reality there
was in the sources from which he derived power to work “sorcery,” there
was no reality of benefit flowing to a deluded people from his works. When “they all gave heed to him, from the least to the greatest, saying; This man is the great power of God,” they were “all” the victims of Simon’s most purposed and systematic deception. And however much they were to blame, he more by far, who prostituted persuasive powers to mislead and to rob his fellow-creatures, instead of to guide and enrich them. By all this, whatever else, whatever harm he did to others, he was effectually branding his own conscience with a hot iron (I Timothy 4:2), and putting out his own inner light.
Ø In the habitual recourse to methods which, so far as they were not mere
deception, were the result of some sort of league with the powers of evil.
Whether this were really so, and if so to what degree it obtained, may be
held moot points still; but two things must be said on the subject:
o That it is hard to escape the conviction that the Scriptures of both the
Old and New Testaments purport to say so and to give that impression.
o that if it be not proved that in notable periods of mankind’s history bad
men were permitted to be in some real league with the unseen powers of
evil and darkness, it is not yet disproved. Now, the tampering with the
unseen is ever hazardous (“And when they shall say unto you, Seek
unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living
to the dead? - Isaiah 8:19) the mere familiarity of that kind dangerous; but disastrous in the highest degree it is to enter into relations with such
powers. Samson taken of the Philistines (Judges 16:21) is a type, but a
very feeble one still, of that enthralled captive.
Ø Yet once more, however badly things were looking for Simon, one thing
might have stayed the filling up of the full measure of his iniquities —
might have stayed the utter extinction of the moral eyesight; namely, if he
had kept well within the domain of his darkened self and career, and not
tried that worst attempt, to ally his evil unrenounced to the good. Long had he known the pride, the flattery, the intoxicating effect of a large and enthusiastic following. The hour came when he saw all this slipping away from him, and he follows — follows those who once followed him. It is significantly said, that “then,” i.e. in the rear, not in the van, “he himself believed also.” But it was no “belief with the heart,” and none “to righteousness.” (Romans 10:10) And every step that he took by the side of Philip, as he “beheld and wondered at the miracles and signs which were done” by him, was a calculating step. He beheld with
envious stirrings within; he wondered, and not least, how by any means
he might become a sharer of that which he eyed with envy. That
moment marked his fall certain. It was the turning-point. This thought filled his sordid ambition, to keep his darkness and get some light to
work it to better result. And it was the supreme insult, the last wound
to his moral nature.
Ø It found for the first part of its reward the most trenchant and unsparing
denunciation. This denunciation was just as justice could be, but it was
of the severest and most scathing that Scripture records (v. 20).
Ø It brought upon itself uncompromising exposure. The character is
weighed and declared wanting. The heart is analyzed and is pronounced
“not right.” It is brought under “the eye of God” and is ruled wrong by that unerring estimate (vs. 21, 23).
Ø It courted the visitation of a humiliating exhortation (v. 22). Simon
had been “baptized,” so that, though he might writhe under the spiritual
inquisition made of him and this spiritual monition addressed to him, he
had put himself where he could not refuse to bear stripes. That his
submitting to baptism and his continuing with Philip made some demand on his pride, and would bear some traces of patronizing condescension, is very possible; but none the less has he placed himself where the stripe cannot be evaded.
Ø It ended the scene in an unmasked acknowledgment of miserable
insincerity. Simon vanishes from our view, unregretted under any
circumstances, for we cannot say that he was “not far from the
o No tide of “repentance” stirs him to the depth;
o no movement of sweet penitence begins to sway to and fro a yielding heart;
o no manly attitude in him wakens within us a particle of sympathy for an humbled career, and;
o no publican’s prayer and broken-hearted petition for pity and the
extended hand of mercy, “strong to save,” part asunder his bloodless lips.
All the contrary — a stranger still to his own guilt without a dawning or
even dreaming conception of SIN’S EXCEEDING SINFULNESS
(Romans 7:13) he can only find it in him to beg with unreal tone and with cowardly simulation that those who have found him out will pray that his sins may not find him out. He would fain ask that they take on themselves the responsibility of praying the hypocrite’s prayer, to pray the prayer which it is “an abomination” (Proverbs 28:9) to pray — that his sins may not be reckoned against him, though unrepented their guilt, unpardoned their aggravation, and unsought any saving shelter for his own soul. Such a prayer never rose accepted; it never rose at all; it never had the wing on which to rise. It must needs drop out of view, as Simon now out of our view, into THE UNCOVENANTED UNKNOWN!
The Spirit of Mammon in the Christian Church (vs. 14-24)
Peter and John represented the apostolic authority, but not as something to
be imposed on believers, but as linking them with the source of spiritual
gifts. Simon represented the spirit of this world in the Church — the sins of
ambition, covetousness, hypocrisy, priestcraft, intimately connected with
the one fatal error of admitting the world’s calculations into the Church.
“He offered them money.” The Church has listened to such offers far too
much. The Simon-spirit, the mixture of sorcery and faith, has filled some
portions of the professed Church with lies and mammon-worship. Notice—
Ø Dependence on prayer.
Ø Separation of spiritual gifts from all money considerations.
Ø Detection and denunciation of the false and sordid.
Ø Those that have “neither part nor lot in this matter” must be kept out of
the number of God’s people.
Ø Especially must the ministry be preserved from every form of simony.
Ø The bold and fearless course on the part of those in office is much the
safest. Hypocrisy is weakness. Simon will succumb to Peter, if Peter
only speaks out the Word of God, and stands up for purity of faith and
conscientiousness. Better a poor Church with spiritual gifts, than a treasury full of hypocrites’ offerings and no Holy Ghost descending
on the world.
25 “And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the
Lord, returned to
of the Samaritans.” They therefore for and they, Authorized Version; spoken
for preached, Authorized Version; to many for in many, Authorized Version.
Success and Disappointment in Christian Work (vs. 5-25)
Ø The special obstacles in the way, viz.
the people of
to be less friendly than those who were wholly foreign, for their
connection with the Jews as their near neighbors had led to the
bitterest jealousies and animosities.
o They were under the spell of a skilful and powerful impostor
Ø The means by which success was gained:
o Philip presented to the people the one great truth which they needed
to know: he “preached Christ unto them” (v. 5). Obstacles must
be mighty indeed if there are not found hearts to respond when a
once crucified, now exalted Savior is preached, whose death is the
sacrifice for sin, and who offers Himself to our souls as our living
Lord and unchanging Friend.
o The preached truth was confirmed by striking and gladdening
proofs of Divine power: they gave heed, “seeing the miracles
which he did” (v. 6); and great wonders were wrought in their
midst, so numerous and beneficent that “there was great joy
in that city.”
Ø The magnitude of the success:
o They gave unanimous attention: “with one accord they
gave heed” (v. 6).
o They believed and avowed their faith: “they were baptized,
both men and women” (v. 12).
o The impostor himself made profession of faith (v. 13).
Ø Confirmation of it, both human and Divine.
o Human: the apostles sent down Peter and John, who
witnessed and owned the work as genuine (vs. 14-15).
o Divine: the Holy Ghost descended upon them, in (doubtless)
miraculous bestowments (v. 17).
blow which can fall on the heart of an earnest Christian worker than to find
that his converts have not really changed their mind, but only their creed.
Very bitter must have been the
cup to the Christian community in
when Simon made the miserable exhibition of himself recorded in the text
(vs. 18-19). Either he had been utterly insincere throughout, or, as is
more likely, he was convinced that Philip and the apostles were masters of
some great powers he had not been able to gain; but completely mistook
the character of their mission, thinking they were out on an errand of self-
aggrandizement. Whether Simon’s was a guilty simulation or a
blasphemous error, it was rebuked with an almost terrible severity (vs. 20-23), which evidently affected and even affrighted the sorcerer (v. 24).
In tones of unwonted sternness, such as the occasion required, Peter
rejected the infamous proposal to receive money for the impartation of
Divine power, and assured Simon that he was still in the very depth of folly
and of sin, from which nothing but repentance could deliver him.
Ø We also may have a large measure of success in our work. We have all
the materials of success, if we will use them: the needed saving truth; the
beneficent agencies which spring from Christian sources, and which
commend the Christian cause; the presence in the Church of the
Holy Spirit of God.
Ø We shall always be liable to disappointment. Some whom we believe to
be possessed of the truth and to be brought beneath its vital power will
prove to be only just touched by it, or to be mere pretenders and deceivers.
Ø Spite of painful drawbacks, we may thank God for good work done. It
was with joyous and grateful hearts, we may be sure, that the apostles
defection; they would never forget that disappointing moment when he
made his humiliating offer. But, after all, he was in the dark and far
background; in front of him and in full view of their gladdened souls was
the testimony they had borne for their Master, the Church they had
good work they had wrought in
The Impostor Unmasked (vs. 24-25)
emphasis on this word — had received the Word of God. There was
something significant in this conversion. The gospel was already proving
itself a power to reconcile and break down distinctions long rooted and
deeply felt. So important an occasion called for the services of the two
leading apostles, Peter and John. These go down and pray for the new
converts, that they may receive the Holy Ghost. Power and purity, the joy
and freedom of the Christian life, are associated with this baptism; as
repentance or a preparatory change of life was associated with that of John
the Baptist. It is difficult to understand how such gifts as those we
associate with spiritual religion could be conveyed by the physical act of
imposition of hands. Nor are we required to believe that the imposition of
hands was in any way causally related to the spiritual result, or even
instrumentally. It was an external association, an apparent not a real
connection, such as might well deceive the unspiritual observer.
· THE SELF-DECEPTION OF THE UNSPIRITUAL MAN. Simon
perceives the solemn act of laying on of hands; he perceives that something
follows — a spiritual power in the converts, and he mistakenly infers that
the apostles are magicians, who can bestow at their pleasure supernatural
gifts. What man can bestow may be bought from man. Had the apostles
been like Tetzel, the friar who went about in Luther’s time selling
indulgences, it would have been natural to offer them, and for them to
receive payment for the communication of the power. But spiritual things
are spiritually discerned; and “the carnal mind understands not the things of
the Spirit of God.” When the heart has not been awakened, when the man
has not been born into the
of confounding things that differ. Money cannot buy thought, nor feeling,
nor inward power; though it can buy action and the imitation of reality, but
not reality itself. Simon confounds the outward phenomena of the Spirit
with the essence and meaning.
· THE UNSPIRITUAL MAN’S ERROR EXPOSED.
sin of Simon is that of the money-loving man. His faith is in it; he believes
that it “answers all things,” not only in reference to this world, but in reference to the
those who secretly believe they can patronize the ministers of Christ, and
purchase for themselves
an interest in the
wealth so subtly mingles with all Christian work, and profusely used may
so readily acquire for its possessor the reputation of sanctity. But the
immortal antipathy of the spirit of the gospel, as the free energy of the holy
God in men’s souls, casts off in one word of the apostle these vile
counterfeits, which ever obtain currency side by side with it in the world.
The apostle whose word has been in the very act of healing, “Silver and
gold have I none,” exclaims, “Thy money perish with thee!”
bosom sin will separate a man from the
motives. He has no part or lot in it who does not see that it aims at the
fulfillment of our life by the subjugation of the lower motives and the
installment of the higher in the rightful empire of the soul. Simon’s heart
was not “straight” before God. He was trying to juggle with him who
searches the heart; to keep the lower passions in full action, if possible,
under the mask of piety. His is the type of perhaps the deadliest sin that
Christianity has occasioned in the world. As the shadow follows the sun, so
does hypocrisy follow close on the heels of genuine piety. Insincerity is the
sin of sins. What filth is in the bodily habit, that untruth is in the soul. The
man is aware of his sin. It is no blindness of passion, but the deliberate
admission of an habitual lie to the feelings and the thoughts. It is a poison
or gall infusing its influence into the whole life of the mind. It is a bondage,
and no liberty is possible under the tyranny of inward falsehood. Thus is
the character of the impostor exposed by the pure light of the truth. He is
seen to pretend a faith of which his heart knows nothing; he regards the
gifts of the Holy Spirit as the means of base gain; and he knows no higher
motive to repentance than slavish fear of punishment. The spirit of the
gospel is illustrated in St. Peter by the strong contrast. It sternly points out
man’s sins and tracks them to their source in the heart; chastises the sinner,
but at the same time holds out the duty of repentance and the hope of
forgiveness to the worst.
26 “And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go
toward the south
unto the way that goeth down from
which is desert.” But an angel for and the angel, Authorized Version;
the same is for which is, Authorized Version. An angel. “The angel,” as in
Authorized Version, is right, just as ὄνομα Κυρίου – Onoma Kuriou – the
Name of the Lord (Matthew 21:9; 23:39; Luke 19:38, etc.) and שֵׁם יְהוָה in
Hebrew mean “the Name of the Lord,” not “a Name” (see ch. 5:19; 7:31,
notes). The south,
meaning that part of
south country ;” Hebrew הַנֶּגֶב (Genesis 20:1; 24:62; etc.). This is
generally rendered in the Septuagint by πρὸς λίβα or πρὸς νότον. But in
I Samuel 20:41, in Symraachus, μεσηνβρία – mesaenbria – implicating
noon; south - stands as the rendering of חַנֶּגֶב. As regards the words, the same
is desert, it is observable that in Numbers 31:1 and Deuteronomy 34:3 ἔρημον –
eraemon – south - is the Septuagint rendering of חַנֶבֶם, and that part of the country
is called “the wilderness of
he was directing Philip’s journey was part of that known as the desert; αὕτη –
hautae – this
one does not
refer to ὁδόν - hodon – way;
road or to Γάζαν –
contained in ἔρημον (south). The meaning of the whole sentence I take to be
as follows: — “Take thy journey in [or, ‘by’] the south [compare v.15; ch. 11:1;
13:1; Luke 15:14] far as [ἐπί - epi, ‘notans locum vel terminum ad quem’
(Schleusner)] the road that goes
country is desert.” Philip was to proceed from
country till he came to where the
district, he is reminded, was desert, part, i.e., or
spot was probably selected for that very reason, as affording the privacy
necessary for the eunuch to read in his chariot, and for Philip to join him
and expound the Word of God to him. Chrysostom (followed by others)
takes κατὰ μεσημβρίαν – kata mesaembrian in the sense of “at noonday in
the most violent heat,” though he also renders it “southwards” (Hem., 19.).
27 “And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of
great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge
of all her
treasure, and had come to
for had the charge of, Authorized Version; who for and, Authorized Version.
to Pliny, the queens of
Meroc, were so named through a long course of years (‘Nat. Hist.,’ 6:2,5-
37). Dion Cassius speaks of a warlike Queen of Ethiopia of that name, who
was brought to terms by Caius Petronius in the year A.U.C. 732 (54:5, 4).
Eusebius (‘Eccl. Hist.,’ lib. it. cap. 1.) says that the custom still continued
in his day of the Ethiopians being governed by a queen. Had come to
place above cited, speaks of him as the first Gentile convert, and as the first
fruits of the faithful in the whole world. He adds, as Irenaeus before him
had hinted (3. 12:8), that he is reported to have preached the gospel to the
Ethiopians, by which the prophecy of Psalm 68:31 was fulfilled. Later
traditions speak of Candace as baptized by him.
28 “Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.”
And he was for was, Authorized Version; was reading for read, Authorized
Version; Isaiah for Esaias, Authorized Version, the Hebrew for the Greek form.
The diffusion of the Holy Scriptures among the Gentiles by means of the Jewish
dispersion and the facility given to Gentiles for reading the Scriptures by their
translation into Greek at
Greek language through the conquests of Alexander the Great, are striking
instances of the providence of God working all things after the counsel of
His own will.
29 “Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this
chariot.” And for then, Authorized Version.
30 “And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet
Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?” Ran for ran thither,
Authorized Version; reading-Isaiah the prophet for read the prophet Esaias,
Authorized Version and Textus Receptus. Heard him. He was reading aloud. In
Hebrew, the word for “to read” (קָרָא) means “to call,” “to proclaim
aloud.” Hence the keri, that which is read, as distinguished from the cethib,
that which is written. Reading Isaiah the prophet. The same providence
which sent Philip to meet him in the desert doubtless directed his reading to
the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, the great evangelical prophet.
31 “And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And
he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. One shall for
man should, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; he besought Philip
to come up and sit with him for he desired Philip that he would, etc.,
Authorized Version. He besought, etc. The humility and thirst for instruction
of this great courtier are very remarkable, and the instance of the joint use of
the written Word and the living teacher is noteworthy.
32 “The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a
sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before His shearer, so
opened He not His mouth:” Now the place for the place, Authorized Version;
was reading for read, Authorized Version; as a lamb… is dumb for like a lamb
dumb, Authorized Version; He openeth not for opened He not, Authorized
Version. As a lamb… is dumb. The Authorized Version of this clause seems
to me preferable as a rendering of the Greek, though the Hebrew has
נֶאֶלָמָה, “is dumb.” But this may be rendered “which is dumb.” As regards
the word περιοχή - periochae - context, rendered place, and considered as the
antecedent to which, the use of it by Cicero (‘Ad Attic.,’ 13:25) for a whole
paragraph, and the employment in the Syriac Version of this passage of the
technical word which denotes a “section” or “paragraph,” and the Vulgate
rendering, Locus… quem (Schleusner), as well as the etymology of the
word, which means “a circuit,” or “circumference,” within which
something is contained — all strongly point to the rendering in the text.
Meyer, however, and others make τῆς γραφῆς – taes graphaes – of the
scripture - the antecedent to ἥν – haen - which, and construe, “The contents
of the Scripture which he was reading,” and refer to I Peter. 2:6.
33 “In His humiliation His judgment was taken away: and who shall declare His
generation? for His life is taken from the earth.” His generation who shall declare?
for and who shall declare His generation? Authorized Version and Textus Receptus.
The preceding quotation is taken verbatim from the Septuagint, which, however,
varies somewhat from the Hebrew. In this verse, for the Hebrew as rendered in the
Authorized Version, “He was taken from prison and from judgment,” the Septuagint
has, “In His humiliation His judgment was taken away,” having evidently read in
their copy מֵעֹצְרו מִשְׁפָטו, or perhaps בְעצְרו, “Through [or, ‘in’] His oppression
[humiliation] his judgment was taken away.” Mr. Cheyne translates the Hebrew,
“Through oppression and through a judgment [sentence] He was taken “away [to
death].” For the Hebrew of the Authorized Version, “He was cut off out of the
land of the living,” the Septuagint has, “His life is taken from the earth,” where
they must have read חַיו, “his life,” as the subject of the verb, instead of חַיִּים, the
living, taken in construction with אֶרֶץ, the earth. The differences,
however, are not material in regard to the general meaning of the passage.
His generation who shall declare? The explanation of this difficult
expression belongs to a commentary on Isaiah. Here it must suffice to say
that the explanation most in accordance with the meaning of the Hebrew
words (יְשׂחֵחַ and דורו), with the context, and with the turn of thought in
Isaiah 38:10-12 and Jeremiah 11:19, is that given in the ‘Speaker’s
Commentary:’ “Who will consider, give serious thought to, His life or age,
seeing it is so prematurely cut off?” which is merely another way of saying
that Messiah should “be cut off” (Daniel 9:26) “from the land of the
living, that His Name be no more remembered” (Jeremiah, as above). It was
the frustration of this hope of Jesus being forgotten in consequence of His
death that so troubled the Sanhedrin (ch. 5:28).
34 “And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom
speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?”
Other for other man, Authorized Version. The eunuch’s intelligent question
gave Philip exactly the opening he required for preaching to him Jesus, the
Messiah of whom all the prophets spake by the Holy Ghost (I Peter 1:10-11).
35 “Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and
preached unto him Jesus.” And for then, Authorized Version; beginning from
this Scripture for began at the same Scripture, Authorized Version; preached
for and preached, Authorized Version.
Jesus the Hope of the World (v. 35)
“Then Philip opened his mouth.….., and preached unto him Jesus.” The two lines meeting in the desert. The Ethiopian traveler led on by Providence; the evangelist led
by the angelic message; ignorant of one another, yet both in their way following
Divine guidance. The importance of that meeting-place to the world’s
future, both as opening the South and East to the gospel, and as helping
the Church to look away to the ends of the earth. The underlying facts, the
Old Testament and its work. Proselytes. Devout men. Isaiah preparing for
Christ. “Of whom speaketh the prophet?” The world was ready and asking
questions, and the Church was prepared to answer them with the Holy Spirit
presiding over all.
Ø Atonement the great want of the world.
Ø The gospel facts fulfillments of the Old Testament prophecies.
Ø A personal Redeemer preached as an object of faith, the satisfaction
of the heart.
CHURCH’S LIPS TO THE WORLD.
Ø In distinction from mere dry theology, vague sentiment, or barren
Ø With no feeble or uncertain sound he opened his mouth. Boldness,
directness, persuasiveness, faithfulness, he preached to him.
Ø Scriptural preaching the great demand of the age. Beginning on a firm
foundation of the written Word and the convictions of hearers will
PRODUCTIVE OF GREAT RESULTS.
Ø Missionary work should recognize the preparation God makes in men’s
minds for his truth.
Ø Individuals the objects of gracious communications, that messengers
may be raised up who shall carry the Word into the strongholds of
heathenism. We should always follow the Spirit.
Ø Deserts rejoicing, prophecy of a recovered world. The nations shall be
baptized. But we must see to it that we preach unto them Jesus
36 “And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and
the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?”
The way for their way, Authorized Version; saith for said, Authorized Version;
behold for see, Authorized Version. Here is water. “When we were at Tell-el-Hasy,
and saw the water standing along the bottom of the adjacent wadi, we could not but
remark the coincidence of several circumstances with the account of the
eunuch’s baptism. This water is on the most direct road from Belt Jibrin
the midst of a country now ‘desert,’ i.e. without villages or fixed
habitations. There is no other similar water on this road” (Robinson,’ Bibl.
Res.,’ vol. it. p. 345). There were three roads from
which the one above described still exists, “and actually passes through the
desert” (ibid. p. 514). What doth hinder me to be baptized! This
question clearly shows that the doctrine of baptism had formed part of
Philip’s preaching, as it had of Peter (ch. 2:18).
Testing the Impulse to Confession (v. 36)
The eunuch knew how his own proselytism had been sealed. When he
accepted the Jewish faith, he made confession of it by the rite of baptism.
So now, when he had accepted a new faith, his first impulse was the desire
to seal it by a renewal of the rite, and the site of the water reminded him of
the possibility of making his confession of Christ there and then. Though
v. 37 is not found in the Revised Version, and may be only an editor’s
explanation that has crept into the text, we may be quite sure that Philip
would not baptize the eunuch in response to his impulsive request without
some such test as this — a test which would bring out whether his faith
was whole-hearted and sincere. He must know if his belief was belief with
all the heart. On this test, which needs to be still put to would-be
confessors, we may dwell.
A man becomes intellectually convinced that Jesus Christ is the Savior. That conviction may come by very different agencies adapted to individuals. Mere ideas never urge to faith, convictions do.
The intellectual grasp of truth is not enough. The sense of sin and the
gratitude for salvation urge the outgoing of trustful affections towards the
Ø entire decision for Christ;
Ø then a full and unreserved consecration to Him;
Ø then a turning round of our whole life to His obedience, and a daily devotion of our powers and talents to His service.
But this belief with the heart is no mere fitting association of the first act of
confession; it needs to be daily maintained, growing knowledge of Christ
giving fuller apprehensions of Him, and our hearts lovingly responding to
all we can learn and know. Heart-belief alone can ensure the active, noble,
and self-denying Christian life.
37 “And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.
And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
The whole of this verse of the Authorized Version is omitted in the Received Text,
on the authority of the best existing manuscripts. But on the other hand, Irenaeus,
in the third book against Heresies, chapter 12:8, distinctly quotes a
portion of this verse. The eunuch, he says, when he asked to be baptized
said, Πιστεύω τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ εἴναι τὸν Ιησοῦν Ξριστόν – Pisteeuo ton huion
tou Theou einai ton Iaesaoun Christon – I am believing the Son of the God
to be the Jesus Christ – and Cyprian, in his third book of Testimonies, 43.,
quotes the other part of the verse. In proof of the thesis that “whoever believes
may be immediately baptized,” he says, “In the Acts of the Apostles [when
the eunuch said], Behold water, what doth hinder me to be baptized? Philip
answered, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” So that in the
second and third centuries, long anterior to the oldest existing manuscripts,
this entire verse must have been found in the codices both of the Greek and
38 “And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down
both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.”
Both went down for went down both, Authorized Version. Nothing can be more
graphic than the simple narrative of this interesting and important baptism.
Surely Luke must have heard it from Philip’s own mouth (see 21:8-10).
39 “And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the
Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he
went on his way rejoicing.” Came up for were come up, Authorized
Version; and the eunuch for that the eunuch, Authorized Version; for he
went for and he went, Authorized Version. The eunuch made no
attempt to follow Philip, but went on his road to
filled with the new joy of CHRIST’S SALVATION!
The Inquiring Proselyte (vs. 27-39)
Give some account of
eunuch occupied, and of the probable means by which he had been made a
Jewish proselyte. He was one of those men among the heathen who had
been awakened to spiritual anxiety by the ever-working Spirit of God. He
may have had some Jewish connections, through whom he had come to
know of Jehovah. We can recognize in him:
1. An inquirer.
2. A spiritually awakened inquirer, one who had come to see that his own
personal relations with God were matters of extreme importance.
3. A wise seeker, who had found the revealed Word of God, and was
searching it in full confidence that therein was the “eternal life.”
To such a seeker help will never be long withheld. “God waiteth to be gracious.”
(Isaiah 30:18) "Seek and ye shall find." (Matthew 7:7) Philip was divinely guided
to meet the eunuch on his return from the holy city, and to join him in the chariot
just when he was hopelessly puzzled with his reading. The passage which engaged
his attention was one which opened up the applications of truth to sinful souls. The
great chapter of the evangelical Isaiah deals with human sins, calling them transgressions; and it discloses that wonderful scheme of Divine wisdom and love
by which those transgressions were vicariously borne, and borne away. Philip
preached unto him Jesus, who “was wounded for our transgressions,” on whom
the “Lord laid the iniquity of us all,” whose “soul was made an offering for
sin;” who now saves His people from their sins; from the penalty of their
sins, by the virtue of His great sacrifice, from the power of their sinfulness
by the cleansing energies of His Holy Spirit. With opened soul the eunuch
listened, and the truth dawned upon him; Christ, the Messiah, the Savior,
was revealed to him. He believed the record, and longed at once to seal in
baptism his faith and love to the crucified One. He thus simply declares his
faith, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” What was this
eunuch’s faith? and can we learn from him what the saving faith is?
Evidently it was a simple acceptance of and confidence in the testimony
rendered by Philip to Christ, based as the testimony was upon the revealed
Word of God. And that is faith still — receiving the record which God hath
given us of His Son, and acting on the record. Faith is the great difficulty in
the way of seekers, yet, when it is won, it seems strange that so simple a
matter should have hindered. Some of the expressions and figures of
Scripture may help us.
HIM. As Peter, sinking in the waters, put out his hand and grasped the
offered hand of Christ, so our souls, sinking in sin and despair, by faith lay
hold of the strong, RESCUING SAVIOUR!
debtor welcomes and receives the man who brings into his cell the money
of his ransom, so our souls, by faith, welcome and receive Him by whose
precious blood we have been bought out of our prison-house of sin.
HIM. To shift the weight of all the trouble and anxiety from our own
shoulders, and let Christ bear it all for us; as one might do who had an
important trial coming on, but trusted the whole matter to his skilful
and the thirsty apply for food and drink, so the hungry soul applies to
Christ for the bread which, if a man eats, He lives for ever. (John 6:51)
the villagers flee into the strongholds before invading armies; as the
doomed man fled into the sanctuary to lay hold of the horns of the altar, or
as the manslayer fled before the avenger of blood to gain the shelter of the
city of refuge. So the soul enters the stronghold of Christ, takes sanctuary
with Christ, passes within the gates of Christ, the Refuge for the sinner.
UPON HIM, as we lean upon a staff for support. Christ is the strong Staff,
on which the soul, with all its eternal interests, MAY SAFELY LEAN;
Christ is the healthy, strong Friend, on whom the sick, fainting, weary
soul may WHOLLY RELY!
TO HIM. As the drowning man clutches so must we grasp, cling to, cleave
to, the Lord Jesus, binding the soul to Him as with everlasting bands. With
so many and so simple illustrations, how well you may be urged NOW —
even NOW — to believe on the Son of God, and find
Ø the pardon He speaks,
Ø the life He gives, and
Ø the love with which He will make you His own FOREVER!
A Life True to Light Led to the Light True to Life (vs. 26-39).
From one of the most unwelcome exhibitions of human nature, we are led
with grateful relief to an episode full of hope and the very suggestion of
sunshine for the world. This alternate light and shade of a written record of
human life, which exhibits alike the appearances of a compendious
description and a crowded epitome, is so far a very faithful reflection of the
tenor of human history. And the faithfulness of the reflection goes some
way to tell whose hand held the pencil of such graphic effect. Incident
abounds in the paragraph marked by these verses. But it is no disjointed,
incoherent collection of incidents. They come together, “bone to his bone,”
“sinew and flesh come up upon them,” and “skin covers them above,” and
they make into a most living whole. (Ezekiel 37:7-8) These incidents of
our history group around two subjects. Let us notice:
Ø The subject of this fragment of biography is an Ethiopian. Though a
fragment, it conducts to the
most critical portion of life, and puts the key of it into our hand. He is a
first fruits of the fulfillment of the prophecy that was written, “
(Psalm 68:31); and in the desolation too rapidly drawing on of
Psalm 87:5). The Ethiopian cannot “change his skin” (Jeremiah 13:23) but God can change a darkened heart, and this He is doing. By what route the Divine ray of light reached the Ethiopian’s mind we know not, but that in man’s deepest darkness that light oftentimes loves most suddenly to spring up, we do know. He was not one who had been
brought up in the light of revelation, but was now following that which was given him.
Ø The subject of this fragment of biography was a man of peace, doubtless
of wealth also, “of great authority,” and with near relations of office to
royalty. Yet he is an instance of exception to the tyrannical entanglements
of the “cares of this world, and the
deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things entering in to choke the
Word.” (Matthew 13:22) He is not of those rich of whom
it is said by unerring lips, “How hardly shall they that have riches
enter into the
He strives to enter in, and strives at the right time. He is not leaving it till too late — the “too late” of those who “shall seek… and not be able.” (Matthew 25:1-13) This, again, was obeying and being very
faithfully ruled by the light that was in him.
Ø The subject of this fragment of biography is come upon using the
advantages of his position, state, wealth, for direct religious ends. He has
money and of influence possessed
himself of the Scriptures, or a portion of them, comparatively so difficult to
obtain; and while yet on his journey he is reading them. He is dwelling on what
he has heard read in
wonder. Air, and light, and sun, and movement of the chariot, and
presumably voices of some attendants, are playing disregarded upon his
senses, while his soul is communing with itself and the things written in
that scarcely understood Scripture — all interested. He is scarcely outside;
he is crossing the threshold in the very porch of the living Church — of
God’s own glorious temple and manifestation of truth to man. He is
reading in “Esaias the prophet;” and is reading in “the place” of places,
where “some soft hand invisible” has guided his eye. The sacred parable of some six centuries old — but which, within the last some six months, has, unknown to him, blossomed for a mission of perpetual youth — has
arrested him. He reads and wonders and inquires, “Of whom speaketh the
prophet this — ‘He was led as a sheep to the slaughter: and like a lamb
dumb before his shearer, so opened He not his mouth: in His humiliation His judgment was taken away: and who shall declare His generation? for His life is taken from the earth’?” The man who has got to that “story,” sacred story, sweet story, strange story, and can’t pass it, won’t pass it, but lingers over it, muses it, asks in the very spirit of prayer for its interpretation, looks very like a man who is not putting out his light, not dishonoring it, but is following it and on the way to improve it and find it brighter.
Ø Arrived a very little further in knowledge, the subject of this partial
biography is resolved without an unnecessary moment’s delay to “make
profession.” Let him belong to what nation he may, let him wear what
livery he may, let him jeopardize what splendid place of earthly promotion
he may, he will take the Name of Christ. He has found the truth, and he
recognizes it, and not an hour will he lose or risk his “part and lot in the
matter.” His “heart is right in the sight of God,” and it is because God’s
light has come to be in him. What light he had he followed, and it “shone
upon the road that led him to the Lamb;” and he was satisfied, and “went
on his way rejoicing.”
UNSUSPECTED AGENCIES AT WORK BEFRIENDING THE
ETHIOPIAN. There were such agencies, and this is first to be noticed. It is
plainly written where it can be written, that it may be the better understood
and believed in the times innumerable when it cannot be written. Life flows
on often apparently by itself; but what unthought of tributaries there are to
its stream! Or, if they are thought of and even seen, how little is made of
them, with how little faith or devoutness are they mused over! Nay, even
when acknowledged as providences, the utterance of that word seems to
discharge all debt connected with it. It is not treated as a sacred symbol of
untold depth and breadth, and a mercy of meaning only thinly veiled
Ø We may be very sure that the eunuch would have been first to desire to
acknowledge the help that he had received from Philip. What he may have
thought of his sudden appearance, of his placing himself so as to overhear
his reading of that sacred scroll, and of his addressing to him the somewhat gratuitous question, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” we know not, but evident it is that he both courteously and gladly received the proffered intrusion, nor regarded it as intrusion. He was well repaid. Philip expounds to him the Scripture, and “preaches to him Jesus;” and soon after is the minister to him of baptism, and nor asks nor takes fee or reward, but, so soon as his service is fulfilled, he has vanished. Was all this chance? If the Ethiopian thought it was, or did not think it was not, it may be in some measure forgiven alike to his education and want of education. But he does not strike us as the man certain to fail or likely to fail in matters of spiritual discernment. Be this as it may, we know that there was no chance about it, but distinct design and preparation: So this visible human contribution of help, gratefully received and no doubt unstintedly acknowledged in the heart of the Ethiopian, owned to an unseen friendly power. It was a notable instance of a “stranger” being “unawares an angel.” (Hebrews 13:2) And our human
friends, and the visits of their sympathy, their voice to encourage, or to
exhort, or to rebuke, may often be “angels’ visits.” Pity two things:
o that they are not in fact more often so; and
o that we do not oftener recognize them and use them as such, when they are in truth so ordained.
Ø More remote still, there was friendly agency, unknown, unsuspected by
the man who took all the benefit of it. Philip himself did not come; he was
sent. And the Ethiopian’s greater and devouter thanks belong to Him who
sent. So it was once that there was “no eye to pity, no arm to save.” And
the majesty and sovereignty and might of highest heaven interposed. And
to these behind and above all means and methods and “instruments,”
belong the glory, gratitude, and endless praise. The “angel of the Lord”
(v. 26) appeared to Philip, and told him the way in which he should go;
and Philip went, obedient, unquestioning, though there was room for two
or three questions. Like Abraham Hebrews 11:8), “he went,” presumably (v. 29), at present, “not knowing” why he went, though he did know the unpromising “desert” where. And this was no chance, nor was it what happened as a sign and wonder in the one solitary history of this Ethiopian. It is what often is taking place. It is in human life, not deserted, forsaken, “despised” of God, to be also often befriended, and most graciously befriended by Him.
Ø A third friendly interference is vouchsafed in the behalf of the Ethiopian.
Philip has reached “the
knows the “desert” heat and drought, and the unrefreshing barrenness of
the route. And he is going to cross the path of the traveler’s chariot, or
rather be left behind of it and miss it. We need not suppose that Philip was
not wishful to be “instant in season and out of season.” (II Timothy 4:2) But for whatever reason, he needs the direction of “the Spirit” (v. 29), and that Spirit interposes and instructs and commands. These are of the gracious Spirit’s chiefest functions:
o to arrest,
o to inform, and
o to command.
And still it is all for the help
of the unwitting Ethiopian traveling from the worship of
The Way of Pleasantness (v. 39)
“He went on his way rejoicing.”
Ø Heathenism compared with Christianity.
Ø A state of doubt and inquiry compared with knowledge, faith, decision,
Ø Loneliness changed into fellowship; some one helping and guiding;
remembered instructions, and opened Scripture.
Ø Sense of reconciliation. Inward peace. Joy “springing up as a well of
water into everlasting, life.” (John 4:14)
Ø Hopes for himself and for others. He was carrying the gospel to his
home, to his duties, his anxieties, his sovereign, his fellow-countrymen.
Ø A baptized man rejoicing in the sense of Divine approval of his
conscience and a new position in life. We get rid of much difficulty both
within and without by public confession of Christ. We draw round our
souls the visible tokens of Divine presence and favor. We associate
ourselves with God’s people in every age, and feel that our way is:
“The way the holy prophets went —
God’s highway from banishment.”
Recognize the turning-point. Take the straight road that leads through a
joyful obedience to glory.
40 “But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached
in all the
cities, till he came to
the cities for he preached in all the cities, Authorized Version. The sudden
rapture of Philip by the Spirit, and his transportation to Azotus,
reminds us forcibly of I Kings 18:12, and of the successive journeys of Elijah
just prior to his translation. In Philip’s case we may suppose a kind of trance,
which was not ended till he found himself at Azotus. Passing through. For
διερχόμενος – dierchomenos - (there rendered “went about”), see v. 4, note.
appearing in the narrative without any explanation, are strong marks of truth.
He journeyed northward
and the plain of Sharon.
The Word Written Preparing the Way for the Word Preached
The conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch is a great text on missionary work.
It illustrates with singular force and clearness the double need of the Bible
and the preacher to bring men to the knowledge of Christ crucified.
Without the evangelist to teach him, this seeker after truth might long have
groped in vain after the meaning of the prophet; and if his mind had not
been exercised by musings on the prophet, the evangelist would neither
have had the opportunity to teach nor would his teaching have had such
success. It was the concurrence of the two that brought this illustrious
convert within the gates of the city of
written Word and the preached Word are concurrent factors in the
conversion of men to God; that both are necessary, and that neither of
them can safely be dispensed with. The written Word, being “given by
inspiration of God,” is, as far as it goes, perfect and infallible, and yet it is
not of itself sufficient. The preached Word, albeit far inferior, as being
liable to error, imperfect and fallible, is yet necessary as the complement of
the testimony of Scripture. The written Word stands immovable, the
touchstone of truth, the standard of doctrine, the referee in doubt, the
pattern and model, the crucible of error, the court of final appeal in all
controversies of faith. The preached Word varied, modified, by
circumstances of time and place, drawing its coloring, its clothing, its
fashion, from its immediate surroundings, presents the eternal truth in the
garb most suited to the wants and capacities of those with whom it deals.
But in doing this it is liable to err. Then the sole appeal is to the written
Word of God. (“To the law and to the testimony” – Isaiah 8:20)
All teaching not in accordance with it, however venerable for age
and for the authority by which it is supported, must be mercilessly
cut off. Blessed is that Church whose doctors explain but never darken the
revelations of Holy Scripture. Blessed are the people whose teachers guide
them into the meaning of Holy Scripture, but never turn them from it.
Happy is that disciple whose mind, being deeply imbued with the truths of
the Word of God, is aided by a faithful evangelist to adjust those truths in
their true proportion and relation to each other, and to fill up their
interstices with harmonious and homogeneous materials. As regards
missionary work, the lesson is, sow the Bible broadcast to prepare the way
for the foot of the missionary. Let the version of the Holy Scriptures given
to each nation in his own tongue be to the modern world what the version
of the Septuagint was to the old; so that the evangelist may find the ground
already ploughed, and ready to receive the seed of eternal life, when he
preaches the salvation which is by Jesus Christ.
The Christian Teacher and Disciple (vs. 26-40)
We have an interesting and instructive instance of one man submitting
himself to the teaching of another, and deriving from him a sudden
transforming influence which most beneficially affected his whole after-life.
Such teaching might well come ultimately from God, as in truth it did; for
CONTINUALLY UNDER DIVINE DIRECTION. Philip had some
advantages which we do not now enjoy. “The angel of the Lord spake unto
him” audibly (v. 26), and gave him definite instructions whither he should
go: “Arise, and go toward the south,” etc. “The Spirit said unto Philip, Go
near, and join thyself,” etc. (v. 29). When his work was finished here,
“the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip’’ (v. 39). But though we have,
not now these outward, unmistakable manifestations, we have “the mind of
Christ.” We may consult and know His will, if:
Ø we intelligently and devoutly study His Word,
Ø unselfishly regard the leadings of His providence,
Ø earnestly ask for the promptings of His Divine Spirit.
We are earnestly to desire to go only where we are sent of God, to address
ourselves to these whom He would have us influence, and to stay no longer
than He has work for us to do there.
OTHER THAN THOSE WE SHOULD HAVE EXPECTED.
Which of the apostles would have imagined that the next convert to
Christianity at this time would
authority,” etc. (v. 26)? Yet such was the mind of Christ. We are too apt
to think we can tell whence the disciples will be drawn, by whom the table
will be furnished with guests. But our Master has surprises for us here as
elsewhere. We must not, in thought, limit the range of His redeeming love
or converting power. It may not be the poor in need of some enrichment,
but the rich in need of some higher wealth; not the lowly wanting some
honor, but the honorable craving some truer dignity; it may not be the
children of privilege familiar with the truth, but the sons of ignorance or
superstition, or even the children of infidelity far from the wisdom of God ;
— it may be these and not those whom the Lord of love and power means
to call and win and bless.
THROUGH HUMAN AGENCY. Here is human ignorance and
misapprehension (v. 30): a sense of utter helplessness without guidance
from some friendly hand (v. 31); invitation to him that knows and will
explain (v. 31). Without the enlightenment which some men have it in
their power to impart, everything is dark, meaningless, obscure, perplexing,
— facts in nature, laws of God, utterances of the Divine Word. Then comes
the illuminating flash (the heavenly “eureka” – CY – 2016) , and the mists
roll away, the objects are clear in the sunlight, the path is plain. How wise
to seek, how excellent to render, the light which, by God’s kind blessing,
one human mind may shed on the highest of themes into the most troubled
GRAND THEME OF THE CHRISTIAN TEACHER. (vs. 32-35.)
What passage in all the Hebrew Scriptures could Philip have preferred to
this as a text for his teaching? This supreme fact in the history of our race
is the theme on which to dwell, in which to find a deepening interest, from
which to draw motive and inspiration, with which to fascinate the people,
to which to be continually returning.
AVOW HIS CONVICTION IN THE APPOINTED WAYS. (vs. 36-38.)
BE FOLLOWED BY DEEP AND ABIDING JOY. (v. 39.) “He went
on his way rejoicing.”
INSPIRATION TO FURTHER HOLY ACTIVITY. (v. 40.)
Philip and the Ethiopian (vs. 26-40)
This incident teaches us —
· THAT MEN IN THE WAY OF DUTY MAY RECEIVE UNUSUAL
GUIDANCE. The angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, and gave him
directions as to the course he should take in his missionary journey. How
are we to understand the mode of this interference? We are told that
rationalist expositors assume that the angel appeared to Philip in a dream;
for the word “Rise!” is spoken. But then it is replied that there is no
mention of the night-time nor of a couch. And in v. 26 there is no
mention of a vision. Avoid rationalism, which is the attempt to exercise
clear intelligence upon things best left in a sacred obscurity, or chiar-ooscuro.
The point is not so much to understand how the Divine intimation
came, as to recognize the fact that it did come. Cases of sudden and
irresistible impressions of the kind are not uncommon and are well attested.
But there are a thousand coincidences in life which we do not notice, and
which may nevertheless be equally real evidences of a higher intelligence
directing the human will, and “a good man’s steps are ordered of the Lord,
and he delighteth in his way.” (Psalm 37:23)
· THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS CHANCE IN LIFE. Two men meet
on the road, the railway, in a foreign city, “casually,” as they say; and
something flows from the meeting which influences the after-life of one or
both. In the present meeting, notice:
Ø The stranger’s nationality. He is from Ethiopia, from the south of Egypt. Some say of Jewish extractio; for he was reading the great Jewish prophet; but perhaps it was not so.
Ø His rank. He was a “potentate” in his land, the grand treasurer of the
queen, Candace being the official title of the queens of Ethiopia, as
that of the kings of
Ø His religious belief. Whether he was a “proselyte of the gate” or no
decided. But his errand was to
his African home he had learned to know and to worship the God of Israel.
It looks like a case of independent conviction, and therefore the more
interesting; somewhat like that of the Roman centurion in the Gospel. He
was reading in all probability in a copy of the Septuagint, or Greek
translation of the Scriptures. This version had been diffused from
educated class. Philip receives an intimation, not this time from “an angel,”
but from “the Spirit,” to go and join himself to the chariot of the Ethiopian.
· THE WORD OF GOD A COMMON BOND OF INTEREST AND
SYMPATHY. The teacher
is led by
found beforehand prepared to receive the teacher’s instruction, and craving
it. The teacher and the disciple have need of one another. The teacher has
much to impart, the disciple much to receive; and each in a way changes
his part with the other, for we learn as we teach and teach in learning. The
passage the Ethiopian was reading is one of the most significant of the Old
Testament. It contains the picture of the Servant of Jehovah, the
persecution; obscurity in the
eyes of men; such are the traits of
Hero, in the passage the Ethiopian is reading. Well may he ask, “Who is
this unique figure portrayed by the prophet’s pen? — the prophet himself
or another?” Then Philip proceeds to unfold from this text the whole
evangel, which centers in the person of Jesus. He is the Divine Figure, the
living Embodiment of the prophet’s meaning, the Fulfiller of Israel’s long
· CONVERSION PRODUCED BY CONVICTION. We may notice:
Ø The preparation for change in personal reflection. The serious mind,
the attentive gaze fixed on the records of religion, the desire to learn, the
willingness to be taught, precede conversion in this case, and are the more
attractive traits in one of high rank like the Ethiopian. We can only profit
by the teacher when we have first used our own spiritual energy to the
utmost. “To him that hath shall be given.” (Mark 4:25)
Ø The prompt decision. New thought ever impels to new action. The light
comes that we may use it. “What shall I do?” is the question of the
conscience so soon as it is aroused and quickened by the light. The
Ethiopian at once “decides for Christ” — the Christ he has learned to know
through the study of the prophet and the preaching of the evangelist. And
as Philip vanishes, a blessing is left on the heart of his disciple never to be
effaced. The whole yields an important lesson on the value of opportunity,
and how it should be seized both by teacher and by disciple. In interviews
like these, like angels’ visits, God is revealed, truth is sown in the heart,
and influences are set at work which never cease.
The Second Flight of the Gospel (vs. 25-40)
and country districts — a preparation of the Church for yet greater
expansion. Necessity that such a flight as from
process of opening the Jewish mind to the idea of a world-message. The
eunuch was a proselyte of the gate, so would be regarded as holding an
intermediate position. Contrast this childhood of the Church with our
advanced knowledge of the Divine purposes. Moreover, at that time there
was no New Testament. The work to be done must await the instruments.
The gospel cannot be preached fully till the apostles have fulfilled their
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