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                   "CONVERSIONS IN THE BOOK OF ACTS"

                        The Samaritans (8:4-25)


1. With the preaching of the gospel and its reception by many, the 
   Lord's church grew rapidly in Jerusalem...
   a. 3000 souls were added after the first gospel sermon - Ac 2:41
   b. Following the second sermon, the number grew to about 5000
      - Ac 4:4

2. What was the gospel message that sparked the conversion of so many?
   a. One that centered on Jesus Christ, proclaiming His death, 
      resurrection, exaltation, and eventual return!
   b. A message that expected the following response from those who 
      1) Faith in Jesus as both Lord and Christ - e.g., Ac 2:36
      2) Repentance from sin - e.g., Ac 2:38; 3:19
      3) Turning to God, with baptism for the remission of sins as the
         first step - e.g., Ac 2:38,41; 3:19

3. Preaching this message was not without controversy...
   a. Some took issue with the message of Christ's resurrection 
      - Ac 4:1-3
   b. Persecution against the church in Jerusalem became progressively
      1) Peter and John were at first simply threatened - Ac 4:21
      2) Soon after all the apostles were beaten - Ac 5:40
      3) Then Steven was stoned to death - Ac 6:8-7:60
   c. Steven's death led to widespread persecution, and the dispersal 
      of many Christians from Jerusalem - Ac 8:1-3

4. But as Christians were scattered abroad, so was the gospel!
   a. The Christians went everywhere, "preaching the word" - Ac 8:4
   b. Among those was the evangelist Philip, whose preaching provides
      us with two examples of conversion
      1) "The Samaritans" - Ac 8:4-25
      2) "The Ethiopian Eunuch" - Ac 8:26-40

[In this study, we shall examine "The Samaritans", whose example of
conversion and follow-up is one of the more challenging ones found in
the Acts...]


      1. He preached Christ to them - Ac 8:5
      2. Multitudes heeded the things he spoke - Ac 8:6a-12
         a. Having heard and seen the miracles which he did
            1) Such as casting out unclean spirits, healing the
               paralyzed and lame
            2) Though previously they had been impressed by a sorcerer
               named Simon
         b. They believed Philip as he preached about the kingdom of
            God and the name of Jesus Christ
         c. They were baptized, both men and women
      3. Even Simon the sorcerer was converted - Ac 8:13
         a. He too believed and was baptized
         b. He continued with Philip, amazed at the miracles and signs
            Philip was doing

      1. The apostles sent Peter and John upon hearing of the
         conversion of the Samaritans - Ac 8:14
      2. Peter and John imparted the Spirit to the Samaritans - Ac 8:
         a. While the Samaritans had been baptized, they had not
            received the Spirit
         b. Through prayer and the laying on of the apostles' hands,
            they received the Spirit
      3. This power to impart the Spirit became a stumblingblock for
         Simon - Ac 8:18-24
         a. He sought to buy the ability to impart the Spirit - Ac 8:
         b. Peter rebukes him strongly, and calls upon him to repent
            - Ac 8:20-23
         c. Simon asks Peter to pray for him - Ac 8:24
      4. Peter and John preached the gospel in many villages in Samaria
         on their return to Jerusalem - Ac 8:25

[The example of the Samaritans' is really quite remarkable, and for 
several reasons. This is the first preaching of the gospel to those not
fully Jews (Samaritans were half-breeds, and disdained by most Jews; 
cf. Jn 4:9). But also because of the questions that are raised, some
of which I hope to address as I offer...]


      1. The gospel message preached by Philip
         a. We are told that he preached "Christ" - Ac 8:5
            1) This undoubtedly included Christ's death, resurrection,
            2) I.e., the same things Peter preached about Christ in 
               Acts 2 and 3
         b. We are told that he preached "the things concerning the 
            kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ" - Ac 8:12
            1) What things concerning "the kingdom of God"?
               a) John, Jesus, and the apostles had earlier taught the
                  kingdom was "at hand" - cf. Mt 3:1; 4:17; 10:7
               b) Later, Paul and John wrote of the kingdom as present 
                  - Col 1:13; Re 1:9
               -- As the expression "kingdom of God" literally means 
                  the "reign of God", it is likely that Philip spoke of
                  the rule and reign of God now present in the Person 
                  of His Son Jesus Christ - cf. Mt 28:18; Ac 2:36; 5:31
            2) What things concerning "the name of Jesus Christ"?
               a) Most likely that repentance and remission of sins 
                  were now being proclaimed in His name - Lk 24:47
               b) And from the response of the Samaritans, we conclude
                  that included whatever Jesus commanded - cf. Ac 8:12
                  with Mk 16:16
      2. The response of the Samaritans
         a. Note first that they "heeded the things spoken by Philip",
            implying obedience on their part - Ac 8:6; cf. He 5:9
         b. Later we are told that they "believed" and "were baptized"
            - Ac 8:12
            1) Like Peter, Philip faithfully fulfilled the Lord's 
               commission - Mk 16:15-16
            2) Heeding the things spoken by Philip therefore included

      1. Was Simon truly converted?
         a. Many deny that he was, because of what happened afterward
         b. But Luke (the author) says Simon "also believed"
            1) I.e., he believed just as the others did
            2) Therefore his faith was just as real as the rest of the
         c. While there may be many fanciful traditions concerning 
            Simon outside of the Bible, the indication of Scripture is
            that his conversion was sincere
      2. Simon is an example of how fallen Christians can be restored
         a. He was told to "repent" and "pray" - Ac 8:22
         b. When a Christian sins, therefore, he needs not to be 
            baptized again, but to repent and pray, confessing his 
            sins- cf. 1Jn 1:9
      -- Simon reveals how quickly Christians can be overtaken in sin,
         but also how they can obtain forgiveness and be restored!

      1. Many questions are raised by what we read...
         a. Why is it that the Samaritan's received baptism by Philip,
            but not the Spirit?
         b. What does it mean "that they might receive the Holy 
         c. What did the apostles have that Philip did not?
         -- The challenge is to reconcile what we read here with what
            is revealed elsewhere
      2. As I seek to understand this passage, the following 
         observations are made...
         a. Whatever Luke meant to "receive the Holy Spirit"...
            1) It required the apostles' laying on of hands
               a) Philip could not impart it, making it necessary for
                  the apostles to come
               b) Simon could see that it was through the apostles' 
                  laying on of hands the Spirit was given - Ac 8:18
            2) It was something visible or audible
               a) It caught Simon's attention, who sought to buy the 
                  ability to impart it
               b) It was clearly something miraculous (perhaps speaking
                  in tongues)
            -- But was it actually the Spirit Himself, or something the
               Spirit gives?
         b. Elsewhere we learn that one receives the Spirit upon 
            obedience to the Gospel
            1) As indicated in Ac 2:38; 5:32; 1Co 12:13; Ep 1:13-14;
               Ga 4:6
            2) Whose indwelling is necessary to being a Christian - Ro
            -- Since the Samaritans had been baptized (Ac 8:12,16), I
               believe it is fair to assume that they had received the
               Spirit Himself as any Christian would
      3. Therefore I offer the following explanation...
         a. The expression "receive the Holy Spirit" is a metonymy for
            receiving a miraculous gift from the Spirit
            1) Metonymy - A figure of speech in which one word or 
               phrase is substituted for another with which it is 
               closely associated
            2) E.g., as in Washington for the United States government
               or of the sword for military power
            -- What the Samaritans had not received, then, were any 
               miraculous spiritual gifts that the Spirit bestowed 
               - cf. 1Co 12:1-11
         b. The apostles had the ability to impart spiritual gifts
            1) Paul hoped to impart such a gift to the Romans - Ro 1:11
            2) He had imparted such a gift to Timothy - 2Ti 1:6
         c. The ability to impart spiritual gifts was limited to the 
            apostles, which explains:
            1) Why Philip could perform miracles, but not pass the 
               ability on to others
               a) The apostles had laid hands on him earlier - Ac 6:5-6
               b) Like Steven, Philip could then do miracles - Ac 6:7;
            2) Why it was necessary for Peter and John to come
               a) If spiritual gifts came simply by praying, why send 
                  for Peter and John?
               b) It took an apostle for the spiritual gifts to be 
         d. It was this ability to impart spiritual gifts that Simon 
            wanted to buy!
            1) He was not content to receive a spiritual gift
            2) He wanted that apostolic ability to impart spiritual
               gifts! - Ac 8:19


1. The conversion of the Samaritans is simple and straightforward...
   a. We learn that when Christ is preached, believed, and heeded,
      people will be baptized - cf. Ac 8:5-6,12
   b. What we read in verse 12 is as simple and direct as the
      commission under which Philip preached:

      "But when they believed Philip as he preached the things
      concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ,
      both men and women were baptized." - Ac 8:12

      "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved" - Mk 16:16

2. The follow-up of the Samaritans may be challenging...
   a. It has been described as one of the most extraordinary passages
      in Acts
      1) It has been used to teach all sorts of conflicting doctrine
         related to confirmation, sanctification, and spiritual gifts
      2) We must be careful not to draw conclusions that are contrary
         to the rest of the Scriptures
   b. But we can still glean important lessons concerning conversion
      1) Conversion requires that one "heed" (obey) the Word of God
      2) Such obedience involves believing and being baptized
      3) Conversion does not remove the temptation to sin
      4) When we fall, restoration does not require re-baptism, but
         repentance and prayer

In our next study, we shall follow Philip as he is led by the Spirit to
teach just one individual, a queen's treasurer who is on his way home
from a journey to Jerusalem...
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