On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.
9 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. 12 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”
24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”
25 After they had further proclaimed the word of the Lord and testified about Jesus, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.
THE OUTCOME OF OBSTACLES
Acts 8 drives home a truth that we all need to hear and learn. It is that God works to use the very obstacles thrown in the path of his followers to advance his plans and purposes.
Persecution following the stoning of Stephen resulted in the believers of Jesus being forced out of Jerusalem with the outcome that they were spread throughout the Roman Empire. That beautiful line about the scattered believers jumps off the page at us, “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” (Acts 8:4) There is an important little note in these verses that we must not skip over without pausing. Notice that we are told that those who were scattered abroad were not the apostles. Acts is careful to tell us that. These were ordinary, (if that’s the right word) like you and me. And yet they had gifts of the Spirit. But they would never have discovered their gifts if they had not been pushed out, and put to work. So, God used this pressure to place them in circumstances where they began to develop the gifts of evangelism, of witnessing, of helps, wisdom, knowledge, teaching, prophecy, and all the other gifts of the Spirit that had been made available to them.
Let me ask you a question, are you going through some kind of pressure, or obstacle today? If so, would you know this that it is not punishment for our sins, Jesus took our punishment fully, on the Cross. The pressure, the trials, and the problems that come may just be God's way of moving you, of pressuring you into a new experience, into a new understanding of his truth and of his equipment in your life, and giving you a new opportunity to put it to work.
In Acts 7 we were introduced to Saul, in Chapter 8 he is a driving force of the persecution of Jesus’ followers, and will soon see that he will become a prominent figure in the gospel. In this Chapter, we have a magician, now coming to faith in Christ. And then we see the gospel introduced to Africa. One of the apostles, Philip, obediently followed the leading of the Holy Spirit and left a revival in Samaria for the sake of one man, willingly bearing testimony to the Lord Jesus. Philip never once questioned the Holy Spirit’s leading, even though he was being used mightily in Samaria. He just did as he was directed and headed from a bustling, busy, reviving city out into the desert. We are told that he encountered a chariot and in getting close to the chariot he heard the rider reading aloud from Isaiah 53. Philip knew the Scriptures, and beginning there in Isaiah 53, he proclaimed the Jesus to this Eunuch and baptized him.
We see, in this chapter that that God works to use the very obstacles thrown in the path of his followers to advance his plans and purposes. Isn’t that a powerful truth for each of us, and for our beloved faith communities, that fills us with such amazing hope and expectation of what God will do in our lives, and through our lives, and through our Church too?