Practical Reflections on Acts - 8:20-35

Acts 8:20‑35  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 9
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.”
21. “Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.”
Man’s outward religious appearance, diligent efforts at good works, reasonings and philosophies of his mind—none are of value to God. Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart (1 Sam. 16:77But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)). Let us ever remember that “He knoweth the secrets of the heart” (Psa. 44:2121Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart. (Psalm 44:21)).
22-23. “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.”
The wickedness hidden inside (“gall”) and visible outside (“bond”) Simon had completely bound him. Yet God, in infinite, loving grace held open a place of refuge—but it must be entered through the door of repentance. How vitally, eternally important is true repentance before God!
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.”
Poor, blinded Simon! There was only one safe path open to him. He must bow before God as the publican in a prior day, saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:1313And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. (Luke 18:13)). Sadly, like King Saul (1 Sam. 15:15-3015And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed. 16Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the Lord hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on. 17And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel? 18And the Lord sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed. 19Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the Lord, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the Lord? 20And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal. 22And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 23For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king. 24And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice. 25Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord. 26And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord hath rejected thee from being king over Israel. 27And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent. 28And Samuel said unto him, The Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbor of thine, that is better than thou. 29And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent. 30Then he said, I have sinned: yet honor me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord thy God. (1 Samuel 15:15‑30)), there was evidently no personal reality. He desires Peter to pray for him—to make things right with God for him. Fatal error! “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:55For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; (1 Timothy 2:5)).
25. “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.”
How beautiful to see the grace of God at work. It took a great persecution to scatter the gospel from Jerusalem to Samaria, by disciples fleeing Jewish religious hatred. Now, as some disciples return to Jerusalem, they too preach the gospel. The persecution resulting from Stephen’s martyrdom is still used of God to bring blessing!
26. “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.”
While many preached the gospel as they fled from Jerusalem, Philip does not seem to have done so. He is referred to as the evangelist in Acts 21:88And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. (Acts 21:8). He is evidently exercising his evangelical gift when he goes (not “flees”) to Samaria to preach the gospel. After his work there is accomplished, the Lord (not “persecution”) sends him to another location.
All believers are to do the work of an evangelist—whether in the daily tasks of life or resulting from persecution of the enemy. We are to be instant in season and out of season.
Those who have been given the gift of an evangelist, however, have but one guide—the Lord’s voice. Philip’s path shows the Spirit’s leading (rather than guidance by circumstances—see Psalm 32:8-98I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. 9Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee. (Psalm 32:8‑9)) in his travels to Samaria, then to the desert, and finally when taken to Azotus.
27-28. “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.”
How often in our lives, in order to bless us, the Lord must strip away all that we rest in—position, ability, wealth and friends. Then, placing us in desert circumstances where there is no distraction nor visible means of support, He shows through His Word where the source of true blessing is found.
The eunuch, with the intense longing of an unfulfilled heart, had made a difficult and, no doubt, expensive pilgrimage to the place where he naturally expected to find heart satisfaction. Yet he was returning as empty and unsatisfied as he had come. But in that desert wasteland, he was finally to discover true heart satisfaction.
29. “Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.”
The Spirit’s leading and a willingness to identify with those in need are two essential requirements for evangelizing. “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them” (Luke 15:22And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. (Luke 15:2)).
30. “And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?”
We find here three more essential elements of evangelization—eagerness to share, willingness to listen, and ability to discern real soul needs.
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.”
A sixth essential element of evangelization is humbleness. Philip took the low place until he was invited to come up and help the seeking eunuch.
32-33. “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.”
Nothing the eunuch had observed in the proud, unbelieving religious display at Jerusalem corresponded to the divine prophecy of Isaiah 53.
34-35. “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.”
A seventh essential element of evangelization is preaching Jesus. May God ever fill the hearts, minds and lips of all who evangelize with that precious name which is above every name.
Ed.