The Surprising Work of God – Acts 8:4-25

By John Bellingham on June 2, 2013
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The Surprising Work of God

Acts 8:4-25

The eighth chapter of Acts contains three different surprises which remind us of the inclusive nature of Biblical Christianity, the terrible hazard of false conversion and the freedom of the Spirit in accomplishing the work of salvation.


I. A Surprising Revival (vv. 4-8)

1)     Power of God is displayed in verbal proclamation of His Word

a.   Preaching (euagelizomai) – v. 4

b.  Proclamation (kerusso) – v. 5

2)     Philip’s scandalous ministry in Samaria

a.   Samaritans were hated by the Jews

b.  Philip’s gospel ministry illustrates the inclusive nature of God’s Covenant

c.   Philip’s gospel ministry resulted in joy!

3)     Are we proclaiming the Word as we go and trusting in its power to save the lost and to bring great joy to our city?


II. A Surprising ‘Conversion’ (vv. 9-13, 18-25)

1)     Simon the Magician (aka. Simon Magnus)

a.   Described by Luke as a ‘magician’ (v. 9)

b.  Claimed to be divine (vv. 9-10)

c.   Early Church Fathers considered him to be the founder of a false religion called ‘Gnosticism’

2)     Outward Evidence of Simon’s ‘Conversion’

a.       He believed Philip’s message

b.      He was baptized in water

c.       He pursued discipleship with Philip

3)     Internal State of Simon’s Heart

a.       His faith was rooted in signs and wonders rather than in Jesus Christ and the gospel

b.      His heart was full of greed and ambition

c.       His repentance was not genuine

4)     The Real Danger of False Conversion

a.   Intellectual affirmation of the gospel is not enough

b.  Baptism in water is no guarantee of salvation

c.   Genuine conversion is shown by its fruit!


III. A Surprising Spirit Baptism (vv. 14-17)

1)     Baptism of the Holy Spirit in Chapter 8 does not seem to correspond with Acts 2:38

a.   Acts 2:  Repent à Baptized à Holy Spirit

b.  Acts 8:  Repent à Baptized à Laying on of  Apostles’ Hands à Holy Spirit

2)     Why was the gift of the Spirit delayed in Acts 8?

a.   Answer #1:  God normally saves people in two distinct stages (Pentecostal/ Methodist)

Problem:  Contradicts other Scriptures

b.  Answer #2:  The initial conversion of the Samaritans was not genuine

Problem:  No clear evidence from the text

c.   Answer # 3:  The initial conversion of the Samaritans was genuine, but the outward manifestation of the Spirit was delayed

Problem:  No clear evidence from the text

d.  Best Answer: The unique cultural situation in Samaria required a unique solution from God in order to avoid a racially/culturally segregated Church!

Acts 8 reminds us of the freedom of our sovereign God and His wisdom in accomplishing the miracle of salvation!

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