“Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.”
Saul was a member of the Sanhedrin. Eventually he will be the twelfth apostle, the one who will take the place of Judas Iscariot. There are three factors in the background of Saul of Tarsus. In Philippians 3:4-9 we discover that he had a greatness of background. In I Timothy 1:12-16 we discover that Saul was the worst man who ever lived as an unbeliever. As an unbeliever he was religious and self-righteous, and he performed many horrible deeds in the name of religion. The worst people in the world right now are religious people. Next to that the worst people are self-righteous people. Self-righteousness plus religion is the great enemy of God, and this is Satan’s great trump. The first evil of Saul of Tarsus which we see in this passage is the fact that he was glad that Stephen was dying. The phrase “was consenting” in the Greek means that this was Saul’s attitude and continued to be his attitude for some time.
The great persecution of the Church was led by Saul of Tarsus. This persecution began in Jerusalem. From there the believers were scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. This scattering made it possible for other churches to be formed.
The phrase and on that day is important here. After the death of Stephen great persecution came on the church in Jerusalem, but the phrase also has another significance; it refers to the fact that as long as a member of the human race is alive there is hope for his salvation. Sometimes the people who give the greatest resistance to the gospel at first, once they accept Christ as saviour, they have a great change because of their appreciation of Bible doctrine. This is exactly what happened to Saul of Tarsus. Stephen was actually the first great theologian of the Church. We know this from the message he gave in Acts chapter seven. Now Stephen was dead and Saul was consenting to his death, and it was Saul who would take the place of Stephen as the theologian of the Church. How can you take the worst sinner who ever live and make him the greatest of the apostles? It is done by grace; it is done by doctrine. Doctrine is the great converter; it is doctrine that changes things.
“Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. So there was much rejoicing in that city.”
In the eighth chapter we have what some refer to as the Samaritan Pentecost. Up until this chapter it appeared that the church would be a Jewish monopoly, but this is one of several chapters which indicate that Jews and Gentiles are all in the same body. The Samaritan Pentecost is important for two reasons as a test case. First because the Jews hated the Samaritans and they had an antagonism which had been going for several hundred years. It would be very interesting to see if believing Jews would evangelize those who were normally despised. Secondly, there was the fact that the Samaritans were a very strange race: half Jew and half Gentile. The question was, ‘Are those who are Gentile in part and Jew in part just as much in the body of Christ as those who are Jews when they become believers?’ So we have the Samaritan Pentecost to show that those who are half-Jew and half-Gentile are just as much in the body of Christ as the Jews. Therefore there are some strange things which will go on in Samaria in order to prove this test case.
Everywhere Philip went he was communicating the Gospel. Remember that Philip was in a Greek city, and in order for Philip to get any kind of a crowd it was necessary for him to present a badge of authority from God. He performed a few miracles because in this way attention was focussed on the Gospel. Philip performed miracles for one purpose: to focus attention on the Gospel, so that people could believe in Jesus Christ and have eternal life. The miracles are always mentioned in this connection.
A Greek city was always filled with demons because the Greeks had a system of religion that brought about demon possession. (I Corinthians 10:20-21) The devil’s false communion table is idolatry and the Greeks always had a system of temples and idolatry, and there was always a great amount of demonism connected with Greek life. As a matter of fact there are ventriloquist demons who when they possess a person, cause an unbeliever to speak in other languages. Demons have the ability to cause certain types of diseases, and the removal of the demon means that the disease is removed.
Joy is mental attitude happiness, a happiness which cannot be destroyed by the things of this life. Joy is not emotion, it is mental stimulation, mental happiness. All people do not have joy when they are saved. Whether a person has joy or not depends on a lot of conditions. We can almost reproduce the conditions here at Samaria. First of all it is a Greek culture. It is an all-Greek city, although the people are half-Jew and half-Gentile. They are the victims of demon activity. When a demon possesses someone the individual becomes very miserable and the misery can take several forms. It can be mental misery—Mark 5 or it can take a physiological form. In this particular case the demon was removed, volition goes into operation, they become positive and express it by faith in Christ; and as a result of faith in Christ they have joy. In this city many of the people were suffering from all kinds of illnesses caused by demon possession. Now, as a result of faith in Christ, not only are they saved but they have good physical health.
“Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, “This man is what is called the Great Power of God.” And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts. But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed.”
Practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria is not quite correct. Simon was a sorcerer not a magician; he is a person apparently under the power of Satan who was performing fantastic miracles on his own. We know this from the Greek word for magic which is “pharmakia” meaning the use of drugs, spells, potions, incantations, etc. He was also one of the famous people involved in Gnosticism. He was actually the Devil’s evangelist. The Devil has preachers according to II Corinthians 13.
Simon was part of the Gnostic system, the prevalent Greek philosophy at the time. It is very difficult for a great and popular unbeliever, a person who had all the people in the city praising him, a person who had been living for perhaps years and years on approbation and power lust, to become a believer. The citizens regarded him as the greatest person in the city, and this stimulated the approbation lust of Simon. Astonished them with his magic arts means they were amazed. He amazed them for a long period of time.
Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. It was inevitable that Philip would come into contact with Simon. Philip had a ministry and an impact on the city of Samaria because he stuck with the good news of the Gospel. He didn’t make an issue out of sin.
The word name in the Greek refers to a person. So he emphasized the Person and work of Jesus Christ. And as a result of his preaching the people responded with faith. Then they were baptized in water to identify with Christ. He kept on baptizing people, repeating the ritual of baptism many times. These people had believed in Christ and were saved. The person was put into the water and this is identification with Christ in His death. When Christ died on the Cross our sins were poured out on Him and judged. So going into the water was a picture of identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.
As he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed. In verse 13 we see that even Simon responded to the Gospel. He was impressed by the power which Philip demonstrated, which was divine power. Human power is always impressed with divine power, and that was the story of Simon the sorcerer. And he kept on being astounded by the power of God.
All demons are fallen angels under the command of Satan, in contrast to elect angels under the command of God. Satan is the ruler of demons. (Matthew 9:34, 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15) Demons are called ministers of Satan. (Luke 4:32-36, 9:1, 4:2; John 10:21) Demons are well-organized under Satan. (Ephesians 6:10-12) There is rank and authority in Satan’s organization. Every angel is smarter than all human beings. Believers cannot be demon-possessed but can be demon-influenced, which is the infiltration of Satanic thought into the soul or the substitution of emotion for thought. The believer enters demon influence through the various stages of reversionism. (I Timothy 4:1; Ephesians 4:17)
Hebrew words for demons:
Greek words for demons:
Satan uses certain demons to produce disease in human beings, Matt 12:22; Lk 13:16; Acts 10:38. Demon influence attacks the body through demon-induced illness. When the mentality of the soul is in certain conditions, it brings on certain kinds of diseases. Because of Satan’s power, he is the source of disease, death, and miracle cures, Psalm 109:6-13. As a result of demon possession, certain abnormal activities occur. Satan uses demons to do many of the following.
Satan uses human healers. Satan orders the removal of a demon induced illness and the person appears to be cured. Satan is a source of abnormal behavior through demon possession. Things such as: Convulsions - Mark 1:26, 9:20. Abnormal violence - Matthew 8:28. Abnormal strength - Mark 5:4; Luke 8:29. Raving, screaming - Mark 5:5. Self-mutilation - Mark 5:5. Foaming at the mouth - Mark 9:20; Luke 9:29. Nakedness in public - Luke 8:27. Living among dead bodies - Mark 5:3. Grinding the teeth - Mark 9:18. Trying to destroy oneself - Matthew 17:15.