And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.
(with Acts 14:19; Acts 9:1; Acts 23:12, etc.)
The Smiter Smitten.
We learn from these texts:—
I. That a man's life comes back upon him.
II. That a man's Christian experience must be affected by the unchristian life he has lived. In reviewing these statements in the light of history and revelation we see (1) that the distribution of penalties is God's work and not man's; (2) that under all the apparent confusion of human life there is a principle of justice; (3) that the greatest sufferings may be borne with patience and hopefulness.
Parker, City Temple, vol. ii., p. 113.
Acts 8:3(with Acts 20:28)
Saul and Paul.
The change in the heart and life of Paul shows:—
I. The marvellous power of the grace of God.
II. The difference between sanctifying human energies and destroying them.
III. The possible greatness of the change which awaits even those who are now in Christ.
Parker, City Temple, vol. ii., p. 173.
References: Acts 8:5-8.—New Outlines on the New Testament, p. 84. Acts 8:5-13.—E. M. Goulburn, Acts of the Deacons, p. 234.
Acts 8:8A Christian City.
It is manifestly true that an aggregate of individuals may possess, in its own peculiar way, the spiritual character which the individual possesses, and a city, like a man, have and exhibit Christian faith and Christian righteousness and Christian love.
I. Look first at faith, then. Perhaps this seems hardest to establish. Look at this city where you live. It is a Christian city, a believing city, and why? How do you know it? It is not because an occasional document is solemnised with the name of God, it is not because a few verses of your Bible are read in your public schools; it is because that spirit which has never been in the world save as the fruit of Christian faith prevails in and pervades its government and social life—the spirit of responsibility, of trust in man, and of hopefulness for the great human future. Those are the real spiritual results of Christian believing. They are not found in heathenism. It does not come by accident; it has entered into us through the long belief of our fathers, which we ourselves do still keep, in spite of all our ecclesiasticisms and disputes,—the believing in a humanity created by God, redeemed by Jesus Christ, inspired by the Holy Spirit. If we doubt this, we doubt whether a city can have and show a Christian faith.
II. Righteousness. Every city has a moral character distinguishable from, however it may be made up of, the individual character of its inhabitants. This is seen in two ways: first, in the official acts which it must do—acts of justice or injustice, of deceit or candour, by which it appears as a person acting with official unity among its sister cities. But even more, its moral character appears in its power and influence, in the moral atmosphere which pervades it, and exercises its power upon all who come within it. A Christian city is not all a dream. Already we have a city with enough of Christ in it feebly to turn away from its gates some vices which once came freely into the old city. Very far off, but still in the same direction, we can see the city so completely filled with Christ, that no sin can come in, nothing can defile it, "neither whatsoever worketh abomination or maketh a lie."
III. Love. The charity of a city is a distinct testimony to one thing which has been wrought into the convictions of that city, and that one thing is the value of a man, and that conviction has come nowhere except out of Christian faith. Deepen a city's Christianity, and the city's charity must deepen and widen too.
Phillips Brooks, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiii., p. 369.
References: Acts 8:8.—C. J. Vaughan, Church of the First Days, vol. i., p. 280. Acts 8:9-25.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 429. Acts 8:14-17.—Bishop Barry, Cheltenham College Sermons, p. 24. Acts 8:14-26.—E. M. Goulburn, Acts of the Deacons, p. 254. Acts 8:17.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 225; R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 2nd series, p. 131. Acts 8:21.—G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 424. Acts 8:22.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 39; C. J. Vaughan, Church of the First Days, vol. i., p. 298. Acts 8:26.—G. Matheson, Moments on the Mount, p. 55. Acts 8:26-30.—E. M. Goulburn, Acts of the Deacons, p. 276. Acts 8:26-39.—E. Bersier, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 98. Acts 8:30.—Outline Sermons to Children, p. 218; Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 305; Contemporary Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 27; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 52; C. J. Vaughan, Church of the First Days, vol. i., p. 316. Acts 8:30, Acts 8:31.—J. Baines, Sermons, p. 241; E. M. Goulburn, Acts of the Deacons, pp. 295, 313. Acts 8:30-33.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx., No. 1792. Acts 8:31-36.—E. M. Goulburn, Acts of the Deacons, p. 336. Acts 8:32, Acts 8:33.—E. M. Plumptre, Church Sermons, vol. i., p. 337. Acts 8:35.—E. Cooper, Practical Sermons, vol. iii., p. 17; W. Hay Aitken, Mission Sermons, vol. i., p. 87. Acts 8:36.—T. Thain Davidson, Sure to Succeed, p. 147; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 56. Acts 8:37.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 240. Acts 8:39.—Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. viii., p. 220; J. H. Evans, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 13; J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 10th series, p. 186. Acts 8:39, Acts 8:40.—E. M. Goulburn, Acts of the Deacons, p. 361.
And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.
Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
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.
And there was great joy in that city.
But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one:
To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God.
And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.
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.
Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.
Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.
Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.
Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.
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 they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.
And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.
And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,
Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.
Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?
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.
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:
In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.
And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
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?
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.
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.
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.
But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.