Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ to them.…
I. A LARGE MEASURE OF SUCCESS. We must consider:
1. The special obstacles in the way, viz.
(1)the people of Samaria were to some extent alien; they were likely 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.
(2) They were under the spell of a skilful and powerful impostor (vers. 9-11).
2. The means by which success was gained.
(1) Philip presented to the people the one great truth which they needed to know: he "preached Christ unto them" (ver. 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.
(2) The preached truth was confirmed by striking and gladdening proofs of Divine power: they gave heed," seeing the miracles which he did" (ver. 6); and great wonders were wrought in their midst, so numerous and beneficent that "there was great joy in that. city."
3. The magnitude of the success.
(1) They gave unanimous attention: "with one accord they gave heed" (ver. 6).
(2) They believed and avowed their faith: "they were baptized, both men and women" (ver. 12).
(3) The impostor himself made profession of faith (ver. 13).
4. Confirmation of it, both human and Divine.
(1) Human: the apostles sent down Peter and John, who witnessed and owned the work as genuine (vers. 14, 15).
(2) Divine: the Holy Ghost descended upon them, in (doubtless) miraculous bestowments (ver. 17).
II. A SERIOUS DISCOURAGEMENT. There is no more disheartening 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 Samaria when Simon made the miserable exhibition of himself recorded in the text (vers. 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 (vers. 20-23), which evidently affected and even affrighted the sorcerer (ver. 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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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 "returned to Jerusalem" (ver. 25). They had not forgotten Simon's 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 gathered, the good work they had wrought in Samaria. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.