Summary of passage: A man named Simon had been practicing sorcery and amazing the people in Samaria. He was boastful and loved the people’s attention. They thought him divine. But then Philip shows up, preaching the Good News, and performing real miracles. So Simon follows Philip everywhere, trying to learn his secrets (not truly believing in miracles himself).
The apostles Peter and John traveled to Samaria to pray for the people to receive the Holy Spirit. Simon, seeing this, offered to pay for the ability to give people the Holy Spirit as well. Peter tells him to keep his money for his heart is wicked, to repent and pray for forgiveness. Peter and John return to Jerusalem, stopping in many Samaritan towns along the way.
An angel tells Philip to follow the road to Gaza. Along the way, he meets an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official to the Queen of Ethiopia. He is reading the book of Isaiah. Philip asks him if he understands and the eunuch said, “How can I unless someone explains it to me?”
He was reading Isaiah 53 where Isaiah is speaking about Jesus so Philip explained this to him. Philip baptized the eunuch and the Spirit of the Lord whisked Philip away to Azotus where he continued preaching until he reached Caesarea.
Isaiah 53: BSF Lesson 24 discussed Isaiah 53 in detail last year. I have included the links to my posts for your convenience which includes the summaries. We spent a whole week on this passage, which should indicate its importance. Click here, here, and here.
6a) Simon had been practicing sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He was boastful and loved the attention of the people. The people said he had divine power and Simon was full of himself and pride. But when Philip arrived and started doing real miracles, Simon jumped aboard the band wagon, eager to find out his secret. He followed Philip everywhere and even was baptized in Jesus’ name. But his true motives are revealed when he offers to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit so that he may begin to give the Holy Spirit himself. He is full of greed, manipulation, and self-aggrandizement.
b) One cannot deceive the Holy Spirit. He knows your heart and your true motives. Only those who are worthy will have the Holy Spirit within. Those who are evil will not. Simon was not struck down for his manipulation like Ananias and Sappira were but he was denied God’s gift.
7) The Lord specifically put Philip on the path to Gaza in order to encounter the Ethiopian eunuch who was struggling to understand God’s word. God saw this man’s heart and he was so important to Him (as we all are) that he sent Philip to him. Philip baptized him so that he may have the Holy Spirit. His soul was saved that day and God had wanted it.
Side Note: I think Ananias a prime example of this in Acts 9 as well–an ordinary man used by God for His purposes.
On the other hand, Simon had an evil heart and God saw through his human manipulations and denied him the Spirit.
God will go out of his way to win you over to Him.
8a) The passage is about Jesus as we analyzed in Isaiah Lesson 24 last year. Jesus was all of those things that Isaiah describes: pierced for our transgressions, despised and rejected by men, and crushed for our iniquities. We, the sheep, had turned our own way so God laid on Jesus all of our sins.
Conclusions: 1 Peter 2:24-5 sound eerily like Isaiah 53:4-6.
Great emphasis on how each of us is important in God’s eyes even if we’re not important in others’. God loves us when we feel unloved and God cares when no one else does. He goes out of His way to lead us even when we don’t see it. God may send someone (such as Philip) to lead us in the right direction.
God is everywhere: in our pain and our sorrows, our miseries and our triumphs. He’s in people. He’s even present in your dog when the only love you may feel is in his greeting every day. (Sorry. Had to throw that in there. I just wrote a column of 900 words for this week on the beauty of dogs. They are truly gifts from God and serve purposes to which most of us dog-lovers cannot even put into words. Again, the infinite wisdom of God who gave Adam Eve and who gave all of us companion animals (also cats, birds, fish, etc)).
God will use whoever or whatever He needs to to get your heart. We must remember that.
Maps: When I found this map, I almost burst out of my chair! For me, I’m a visual learner and I need to see where these people were standing when all these events occurred (hence the plethora of map links on my site). I love the Internet for this very reason: I can see things!
This map shows clearly Philip’s walk from Samaria to Gaza and then where Azotus lays and his return path to Caesarea. Of course, we don’t know exactly where Philip met the Ethiopian on his journey but at least now I can visualize him walking which way!
Final thought: My study Bible again points out that with the conversion of the Ethiopian, he became the first African convert to Christianity. Philip is once again responsible for breaking the mold and showing others what is possible beyond the borders.
It’s hard for us to imagine a small world but Ancient Judea was definitely so. People rarely traveled and led a simple life. Life was hard and the main focus was on getting food to survive the next day for most people. The mindset of these early evangelists was probably contained to the world they knew: Judea. The idea of converting other nations was probably very foreign to them and hard to grasp.
So in this mind-set it’s easy to understand how God just picked up Philip and placed him in Azotus and how God had to tell Philip where to go because Philip himself wouldn’t have thought to do so.
God knew the vastness of His world and His people but the people of those times did not.