Persecution did not result in squelching the belief in and spread of the gospel! To the contrary, Christians continued growing in and spreading the truth about Christ, just in different places. God allowed Jewish persecution of the church, resulting in the providential continued spread of the gospel.
Acts here shows how the gospel thus spread to Samaria (1:8) through Philip’s witness that Jesus was the Christ, Israel’s promised Messiah and King (vv. 5, 12). Those who believed demonstrated their faith by being baptized. Simon (vv. 9-13, 18-24) is an example of a false believer—outward profession and identification does not mean there is inward change evidenced by true repentance.
Jews viewed Samaritans as racially inferior and not on their level. Verses 15-16 show Samaritan Christians’ equality with Jewish Christians by the same outward experiences. This event was just like what happened to the Jews in Acts 2:4, showing their equality. Everyone truly born again immediately has the Spirit indwelling them (John 3:5-7; Rom 8:9). This event in verses 15-16 is the second of three passages in Acts showing the equality of saints regardless of external differences (Acts 2:4; 8:15-16; 11:15-17).
While Philip’s movements in verses 26-40 were definitely miraculous in nature and thus out of the ordinary, his ministry to the Ethiopian was just like his ministry to every other sinner.
Truths to Nail Down and Meditate On
- Wherever Christians are providentially scattered they are to obediently scatter the Word. Zealous persecution resulted in zealous preaching, not cowardly silence.
- God uses his Word to change hearts, not amazing experiences. Simon saw great experiences, yet remained in his sin. The Ethiopian eunuch believed the Word and found a great Savior.
- Never view people on the basis of externals but from Christ’s perspective (2 Cor 5:16). All are sinners needing the only Savior, Jesus Christ. Every saint regardless of external differences has equal standing before God in Jesus Christ.
- Preach Christ from Scripture that clearly speaks of him. Philip didn’t preach Christ by drawing analogies from the nails of the Tabernacle, but from a definite OT prophecy about Jesus.
- Christ’s commands are true today: repent and trust in Jesus Christ! Publicly identify with Christ and his church through baptism and church membership! Grow in grace! Testify of Christ!