Acts 8:14
Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
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(14) When the apostles which were at Jerusalem. . . .—The tidings came to the Twelve as a proof that the limitation which had at first excluded Samaria from the range of their work as preachers of the kingdom had now passed away (Matthew 10:5), and that the time had now come when they were to be “witnesses” to Christ in Samaria as well as in Judæa (Acts 1:8). Old antipathies of race and worship disappeared, and without hesitation they sent the two who were, in many respects, the chief of the Apostles to sanction the admission of the new converts. The Apostle who in his zeal had once sought to call down the fire of the wrath of God on the village of the Samaritans (Luke 9:54), was now to bring to them that baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire (Matthew 3:11) which spoke not of wrath but of love. That his companion should be Peter, was natural, both from the position which the latter occupied as the leader of the apostolic company and from the friendship by which the two had been throughout their life united.

The word of God is characteristically used by St. Luke, as in his Gospel, for the whole sum and substance of the gospel of Christ. (Comp. Luke 5:1; Luke 8:11; Luke 8:21.)

Acts 8:14-17. When the apostles heard that Samaria — That the inhabitants of that country, or of the chief city thereof; had received the word of God — By faith; being desirous that these new converts should be further settled in their Christian profession, by receiving those spiritual gifts which no inferior teacher or officer in the church could be the instrument of communicating; they sent unto them Peter and John — Two of the most eminent of their number, made remarkable by the miracle they had lately performed, and the courageous manner in which they had borne their testimony to the gospel. Here we find Peter sent by the other apostles, which is a proof that he was not their head and superior, for greater is he that sends than he that is sent. Peter and John were sent to Samaria, 1st, To assist and strengthen the hands of Philip. Ministers in a higher station, and that excel in gifts and graces, should consider how they may be helpful to those in a lower sphere, and should labour to promote their comfort and usefulness. 2d, To endeavour to carry on the good work that was begun among the people, and through those heavenly graces that had enriched themselves to confer upon them spiritual gifts. Who, when they were come, prayed for them — The imposition of their hands would have been unavailing toward the purpose of their mission, without prayer: that they might receive the Holy Ghost — In his miraculous gifts, as well as in his sanctifying graces. Not that all who had been baptized in Samaria might receive these gifts, for it was never so in any church, no, not in that of Jerusalem; there being only some, even among them, who were, in this sense, full of the Holy Ghost; (Acts 6:3;) but that some of them might receive these gifts, for the confirmation of the gospel, and especially such as were designed for some office in the church, or at least, to be eminently active members of it; and that some of them might receive one gift of the Holy Ghost, and others another; see 1 Corinthians 12:4; 1 Corinthians 12:8; 1 Corinthians 12:28-31; 1 Corinthians 14:26. For as yet he was fallen upon none of them — None of them were endued with his extraordinary influences, notwithstanding that those influences had been wonderfully displayed among them in the astonishing miracles which Philip had performed. It is rightly observed here by Epiphanius, that Philip, being only a deacon, had not the power of conferring these miraculous gifts, and therefore these apostles were sent to do it. Then laid they their hands on them — Namely, after they had prayed for them; and they received the Holy Ghost — In answer to the prayers of these apostles: that is these new converts spake with tongues, and performed other extraordinary works. Thus God put honour upon the apostolic office, bore witness to his truth, and by qualifying many persons to instruct others therein, and to sustain other offices among his people, he made provision for the further enlargement of his work, in the conversion of more sinners, and the establishment and edification of believers.

8:14-25 The Holy Ghost was as yet fallen upon none of these coverts, in the extraordinary powers conveyed by the descent of the Spirit upon the day of Pentecost. We may take encouragement from this example, in praying to God to give the renewing graces of the Holy Ghost to all for whose spiritual welfare we are concerned; for that includes all blessings. No man can give the Holy Spirit by the laying on of his hands; but we should use our best endeavours to instruct those for whom we pray. Simon Magus was ambitious to have the honour of an apostle, but cared not at all to have the spirit and disposition of a Christian. He was more desirous to gain honour to himself, than to do good to others. Peter shows him his crime. He esteemed the wealth of this world, as if it would answer for things relating to the other life, and would purchase the pardon of sin, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and eternal life. This was such a condemning error as could by no means consist with a state of grace. Our hearts are what they are in the sight of God, who cannot be deceived. And if they are not right in his sight, our religion is vain, and will stand us in no stead. A proud and covetous heart cannot be right with God. It is possible for a man to continue under the power of sin, yet to put on a form of godliness. When tempted with money to do evil, see what a perishing thing money is, and scorn it. Think not that Christianity is a trade to live by in this world. There is much wickedness in the thought of the heart, its false notions, and corrupt affections, and wicked projects, which must be repented of, or we are undone. But it shall be forgiven, upon our repentance. The doubt here is of the sincerity of Simon's repentance, not of his pardon, if his repentance was sincere. Grant us, Lord, another sort of faith than that which made Simon wonder only, and did not sanctify his heart. May we abhor all thoughts of making religion serve the purposes of pride or ambition. And keep us from that subtle poison of spiritual pride, which seeks glory to itself even from humility. May we seek only the honour which cometh from God.They sent - That is, the apostles "deputed" two of their number. This shows conclusively that there was no "chief" or ruler among them. They acted as being equal in authority. The reason why they sent Peter and John was probably that there would be a demand for more labor than Philip could render; a church was to be founded, and it was important that persons of experience and wisdom should be present to organize it, and to build it up. The "harvest" had occurred in Samaria, of which the Saviour spoke John 4:35, and it was proper that they should enter into it. In times of revival there is often more to be done than can be done by the regular servant of a people, and it is proper that he should be aided from abroad.

Peter - This shows that "Peter" had no such authority and primacy as the Roman Catholics claim for him. He exercised no authority in "sending" others, but was himself "sent." He was appointed by their united voice, instead of claiming the power himself of directing "them."

And John - Peter was ardent, hold, zealous, rash; John was mild, gentle, tender, persuasive. There was wisdom in uniting them in this work, as the talents of both were needed; and the excellencies in the character of the one would compensate for the defects of the other. It is observable that the apostles sent "two" together, as the Saviour had himself done. See the notes on Mark 6:7.

14-17. the apostles … sent Peter and John—showing that they regarded Peter as no more than their own equal. These were sent that they might further confirm the doctrine which Philip had preached amongst the Samaritans, and by apostolical authority constitute a church in Samaria.

Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem,.... Not that there were some at Jerusalem, and some elsewhere; for they all tarried at Jerusalem, when the rest of the ministers of the word were scattered abroad; though it is possible, that by this time, some of them might have departed from hence; but it seems more probable, that they were as yet all here: these

heard that Samaria had received the word of God; that is, they heard that the Samaritans, who only received the five books of Moses, and that not the Hebrew, but their own copy of them, now received not only the whole Bible, but the Gospel of Christ, as preached by Philip; which they might hear by a letter, or messengers sent from Philip to them, to acquaint them with the success of the Gospel; or from some persons, who had been in those parts: upon which

they sent unto them Peter and John: who were not only fellow apostles, but very familiar and intimate companions; these they sent to confirm the doctrine of Philip, and establish the young converts in it, and to form them into a Gospel church state, and ordain ministers over them.

{7} Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:

(7) Peter, not chief but as an ambassador sent from the whole company of the apostles, and John his companion, according to the authority which was committed unto them, strengthen, encourage, and build up the churches of Samaria, whose foundation had been laid before by Philip.

Acts 8:14-17. Οἱ ἐν Ἱεροσ. ἀπόστ.] applies, according to Acts 8:1, to all the apostles, to the apostolic college, which commissioned two of its most distinguished members (Galatians 2:9).

Σαμάρεια] here also the name of the country; see Acts 8:5; Acts 8:9. From the success which the missionary labours of Philip had in that single city, dates the conversion of the country in general, and so the fact: δέδεκται ἡ Σαμάρεια τὸν λόγον τοῦ Θεοῦ.

The design of the mission of Peter and John[223] is certainly, according to the text (in opposition to Schneckenburger), to be considered as that which they actually did after their arrival (ver.15): to pray for the baptized, in order that (ὅπως) they might receive the Holy Spirit. Not as if, in general, the communication of the Spirit had been exclusively bound up with the prayer and the imposition of the hands (Acts 8:17-18) of an actual apostle; nor yet as if here under the Spirit we should have to conceive something peculiar (τὸ τῶν σημείων, Chrysostom, comp. Beza, Calvin): but the observation, Acts 8:16, makes the baptism of the Samaritans without the reception of the Spirit appear as something extraordinary: the epoch-making advance of Christianity beyond the bounds of Judaea into Samaria was not to be accomplished without the intervention of the direct ministry of the apostles. Comp. Baumgarten, p. 175 ff. Therefore the Spirit was reserved until this apostolic intervention occurred. To explain the matter from the designed omission of prayer for the Holy Spirit on the part of Philip (Hofmann, Schriftbew. II. 2, p. 32), or from the subjectivity of the Samaritans, whose faith had not yet penetrated into the inner life (Neander, p. 80 f., 104), has no justification in the text, the more especially as there is no mention of any further instruction by the apostles, but only of their prayer (and imposition of hands[224]), in the effect of which certainly their greater ἐξουσία, as compared with that of Philip as the mere evangelist, was historically made apparent, because the nascent church of Samaria was not to develope its life otherwise than in living connection with the apostles themselves.[225] The miraculous element of the apostolic influence is to be recognised as connected with the whole position and function of the apostles, and not to he referred to a sphere of view belonging to a later age (Zeller, Holtzmann).

δέδεκται] has received: see xvii. 7; Winer, p. 246 [E. T. 328]; Valcken. p. 437.

καταβάντες] namely, to Samaria situated lower.

οὐδέπω γὰρ ἦν] for as yet not at all, etc.

μόνον δὲ βεβαπτισμένοι κ.τ.λ.] but they found themselves only in the condition of baptized ones (not at the same time also furnished with the Spirit).

[223] Which Baur (I. p. 47, ed. 2) derives from the interest of Judaism to place the new churches in a position of dependence on Jerusalem, and to prevent too free a development of the Hellenistic principle. See, on the other hand, Schneckenburger in the Stud. u. Krit. 1855, p. 542 ff., who, however, likewise gratuitously imports the opinion that the conversion of the Samaritans appeared suspicious and required a more exact examination.

[224] Acts 8:15, comp. with Acts 8:17-18, shows clearly the relation of prayer to the imposition of hands. The prayer obtained from God the communication of the Spirit, but the imposition of hands, after the Spirit had been prayed for, became the vehicle of the communication. It was certainly of a symbolical nature, yet not a bare and ineffective symbol, but the effective conductor of the gifts prayed for. Comp. on Acts 6:6. In Acts 19:5 also it is applied after baptism, and with the result of the communication of the Spirit. On the other hand, at Acts 10:48, it would have come too late. If it is not specially mentioned in cases of ordinary baptism, where the operation of the Spirit was not bound up with the apostolic imposition of hands as here (see 1 Corinthians 1:14-17; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Titus 3:5), it is to be considered as obvious of itself (Hebrews 6:2).

[225] Surely this entirely peculiar state of matters should have withheld the Catholics from grounding the doctrine of confirmation on our passage (as even Beelen does).

Acts 8:14. ἡ Σαμ.: here the district; Weiss traces the revising hand of St. Luke (but see on the other hand Wendt, in loco). There is nothing surprising in the fact that the preaching of the Gospel in the town should be regarded by the Apostles at Jerusalem as a proof that the good news had penetrated throughout the district, or that the people of the town should themselves have spread the Gospel amongst their countrymen (cf. John 4:28).—δέδεκται τὸν λόγον τοῦ Θ.: the phrase is characteristic of St. Luke, as it is used by him, Luke 8:13, Acts 11:1; Acts 17:11, but not by the other Evangelists—it is found once in St. Paul, 1 Thessalonians 1:6 (cf. Acts 2:13 and Jam 1:21). In the mention of John here, as in Acts 3:4, Weiss can only see the hand of a reviser, since the beloved disciple is mentioned with Peter in a way for which, as Weiss alleges, no reason can be assigned, Acts 3:4; Acts 3:11, Acts 4:13; but nothing was more likely than that Peter and John should be associated together here as previously in the Gospels, see Plumptre’s note on Acts 3:1.

14–25. Peter and John sent down to Samaria. Conduct of Simon Magus

14. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem] The whole twelve still abiding there (Acts 8:1) and evidently all taking their part in the administration of the affairs of the Church, though it does not fall within St Luke’s purpose to notice what each did or said.

heard that Samaria had received the word of God] There was a communication kept up between the fugitives from Jerusalem and the twelve even from the first. Samaria here means the district, for although Philip’s preaching was in one city, the newly-baptized would spread abroad in every part, and carry the teaching forth as the woman of Samaria did her “new learning” (John 4:28). They had received the word of God as their countrymen before, so as “to know that this is indeed the Christ the Saviour of the world.”

they sent unto them Peter and John] We gather from this passage that there was no special preeminence assigned to any among the twelve in these earliest days. Peter and John were sent forth on their mission by the decision of the whole body. These two were probably chosen for such a work, as they had taken the most active part and in concert (Acts 3:1) in establishing the Church in Jerusalem.

Acts 8:14. Δέδεκται, had received) Δέδεκται, ἐδέχθην, δεχθήσομαι, are often used in a Passive signification; ch. Acts 15:4; wherefore in this place the verb may he interpreted, was made to receive. Yet it is more simple to take it received. Comp. ch. Acts 17:7 (ὑποδέδεκται).—ἀπέστειλαν, then sent) He who is sent, is sent either by a superior or an equal. The authority of the apostolic college was greater than that of Peter and John individually. In our days the Pope of Rome would not be said to be sent by any one.

Verse 14. - The apostles (see ver. 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. Acts 8:14Samaria.

The country, not the city. See Acts 8:5, Acts 8:9.

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