By James Carter Houchen
The Acts of the Apostles bring great significance to those outside of the body of Christ and those who are faithful members of the Lord’s church who are enjoined upon teaching the truth of God’s will. The stoning of Stephen, a devout man of God, closes out the seventh chapter of Acts. Those who stoned him for preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ laid their coats at the feet of Saul.
The eighth chapter of Acts begins with “Saul of Tarsus,” later name the Apostle Paul, bringing persecution among the first century Christians in Jerusalem. As a result, the church was scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. Saul continued imprisoning men and women of the faith, bringing havoc on the church. Though men were scattered everywhere, the Scriptures tell us that they “went everywhere preaching the Word” (v. 4). Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to the people. As the multitudes heeded the things spoken of by Philip and saw the miracles performed as confirmation of the Word, there was “great joy in that city” (v. 8).
Simon Was Saved
Among the multitude of people present was a man named Simon, “who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming he was someone great.” After Philip had preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women believed and were baptized. In verse 13, the Scriptures record the conversion of Simon. He too believed and was baptized and continued with Philip in fascination with the miracles and signs which were done.
Simon Fell From Grace
Simon “saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given,” so he offered the apostles’ money for this gift. Peter then replied, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money . . . your heart is not right in the sight of God.” Simon responds with a penitent heart and prayerful attitude, equivalent to what should be the actions of a faithful child of God who errs in his walk with God.
As a child of God, the importance of daily communion with the Lord through the avenue of prayer cannot be over- emphasized or underestimated. Truly we are saved by the grace of God through faith (Eph. 2:8). However, it is clear from this chapter that a prayer of repentance to our Father in heaven through Christ Jesus is the means by accessing this grace that God gives his children when they transgress his law. Yet, there are some children of God who will perish upon the day of judgment because they have not repented of their sins. If a lesson is apparent from the story of Simon, is it not the importance of recognizing when we fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23)? Perhaps our hearts too, at times, are not right with God. In recognizing this fact, we can pray that God will forgive us. David said in Psalm 51, “For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight: that you may be found just when you speak, and blameless when you judge.” Let the words of David’s prayer of repentance to God be the words that echo in our hearts when we separate ourselves from God through sin. Those who approach sin with grief and sorrow, striving diligently to walk righteously and let their bodies, “be a living sacrifice” as they serve God, will be pleasing to him.
The Conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch
The apostles continued teaching in many villages of the Samaritans. Verse 26 records that, “an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, ‘Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’” Here, in the verses that follow, lies the account of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch. The eunuch had been in Jerusalem to worship, and was returning on the road toward Gaza. Sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. Philip approached the chariot asking the question, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied that he could not understand unless someone guided
him. The place in the Scripture which he was reading was this: “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he opened not his mouth. In his humiliation his justice was taken away. And who will declare his generation? For his life is taken from the earth.” The eunuch asked who this passage was speaking of, and then Philip opened his mouth and preached Jesus to him. As they traveled, the eunuch spotted water and asked, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Philip told the eunuch, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And the eunuch confessed, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. And the Scriptures record that the eunuch “went on his way rejoicing.”
It is a safe assumption to conclude that many people in the religious world claim salvation. Yet, they delete or make additions to the very steps taken by those first century Christians who were taught by the apostles who were filled with the perfect teaching of the Holy Spirit. Verse 35 records Philip preaching Jesus to the eunuch. In preaching Jesus, the next words we have recorded that leave the mouth of the eunuch are, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” In preaching Jesus, it is evident that water baptism was preached as a means of reaching the blood of Jesus. It is through this death, burial, and resurrection that we are saved (Rom. 6:4). Upon hearing the word (Rom. 10:17; John 6:45), belief in Christ must be present (Heb. 11:6; John 8:24), there must be repentance of past sins (Acts 2:38; 17:30-31), and the name of Christ must be confessed (Acts 8:37; Rom. 10:9-10). Then upon your faith, you must be buried in the waters of baptism (Mark 16:15-16; Rom. 6:3-5; 1 Pet. 3:21) for the remission of your sins. The Lord then adds to his church (Acts 2:47) daily those who are being saved. To the child of God who lives faithfully (Heb. 10:23-26; Gal. 5:16-26) while upon this earth, “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54).
May I add, that it is the truth by which we shall be judged (John 12:48), therefore, let us preach it and teach it (salvation) like we read it from God’s inspired book (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:21). The discussion of such a vital issue can be rewarding to those who are honestly seeking the truth. “Seek the Lord, while he may be found” (Isa. 55).