Today: [Acts 8:] Philip Does a Disappearing Act! In Acts 8 we find Saul of Tarsus committing himself to breathing out slaughter against the church and Philip, a lowly deacon being used to bring the gospel to an entire city. Philip is not an apostle. He is a member of the rank and file among the church, and yet he is used to do mighty things just as you indeed will be used as you yield to the Spirit of God as Philip did.
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[Act 8:1-25 KJV] 1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 And devout men carried Stephen [to his burial], and made great lamentation over him. 3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed [them] to prison. 4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. 5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. 6 And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed [with them]: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. 8 And there was great joy in that city. 9 But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: 10 To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. 11 And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. 12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. 14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: 15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: 16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17 Then laid they [their] hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. 18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, 19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. 20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. 21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. 23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and [in] the bond of iniquity. 24 Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me. 25 And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.
In verse 1 we find Saul standing in agreement with the stoning of Stephen and actually sanctioning it when it takes place. Something about witnessing this even troubles Saul to the degree that he changes his life’s direction and devotes himself to persecuting believers throughout Judea and Samaria. The danger was so great that it required very devout men to make burial arrangments for Stephen. In spite of the hostility against the faith, these men made great lamentation over Stephen’s body, so much so that it was worthy of mention in Luke’s narrative. During this time Saul is forcing his way into the homes of new believers to seize men, woman, and children, carrying them off to prison for their faith. Under normal conditions, this would have suppressed the faith but instead, the Christians in Jerusalem flee the city, spreading the message of Jesus in the region.
Another of the seven deacons by the name of Philip travels to Samaria where Jesus encountered the woman and the well. He enters the city and preaches Christ to them, who they would be familiar with from Jesus own personal visit among them not long ago. The response to the message of the cross was monolithic. Verse 6 declares that the people with one accord gave heed to Philip’s preaching which was attended by many miracles of deliverance and notable healings of paralytics and the lame. Why did God send Philip to Samaria? It was doubtless because there was a sorcerer there holding sway over the city with many false signs and wonders. For all the reception the city gives Philip, verse 10 states that every person in that city gave heed to Simon from the least unto the greatest of them. Have you thought about how that came about? When Jesus met the woman at the well, there is no mention of Simon. Yet the people were very receptive to the account of the woman at the well experiencing Jesus telling her everything she had ever done. We tend to think when a people group respond well to words of knowledge or signs and wonders that is a good thing, and it is, but this hunger for the supernatural also set this city up to be deceived by Simon.
One valuable lesson to learn is not everything spiritual is godly. Simon was very spiritual and was a profound teacher. If he hadn’t been teaching profound things, it would not be stated that the city was giving heed to him. We need to pay attention here. People today discern very little between genuine anointing and charisma. There are times when the magnitude of presence in the room or in a service may be very intense and seemingly spiritual, but it is all based on performance values and emotionalism. What is the focus? Does it point people to Jesus? Would you be able to tell the difference? It is also worth noting that God didn’t send Peter or one of the other apostles to Samaria. He sent Philip, one of the rank and file of the early church, a deacon full of the Holy Ghost who was tasked with helping to administrate the care of the poor in their midst. What Philip did, he did as a believer not with any distinct or separate anointing as an apostle. Things that we tend to look to select leaders to do in bringing an outpouring of the Spirit did not include any of them in this instance. Philip is a believer demonstrating what a believer is capable of who submits themselves to the leadership of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus ministered in this city but what Philip did was of greater magnitude. As Jesus promised upon sending the promise of the Father, Philip is doing the greater works ministry.
In verse 13 we see that Simon the Sorcerer also believes and commits himself to Philip in great wonder of the miracles and signs that are taking place. He believes, but he doesn’t change his mind about spiritual things. Not everyone that joins to a move of God is going to be a positive influence upon it. In Acts 16, the woman possessed with a spirit of divination loudly and with great fanfare followed after Paul, endorsing his ministry and bringing many people to what God was doing, but she was possessed with a demon and ultimately had to be dealt with. When God begins to move in your life in unusual ways, pay attention to what is going on around you and don’t make assumptions about those coming around whether they are with you or not. The enemy knows how to destroy the work of God and not paying attention will create problems.
The apostles hear about what is happening in Samaria and come down to pray with the new converts that they might receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost. They lay their hands on them, and the people receive. Simon sees this and wants to purchase this ability. Here is a question for you: what did Simon see? Today people teach even in Full Gospel churches that it is not necessary to speak in tongues to be baptized in the Holy Ghost. When the apostles laid hands on the people, something happened to them. Something manifests that is so compelling that Simon thinks “I would like to buy that ability…” In other words, the apostles didn’t just pronounce these people baptized in the Holy Ghost, there was something of an evidentiary nature that took place. This is something that could be seen and heard and was dramatic in nature. It is no doubt that every one of those that had hands laid on them spoke in tongues just as happened on the day of Pentecost. It is also possible that tongues of fire appeared on their heads as well. Let’s not leave that part of the experience out. We tend to think that the tongues of fire were only for the 120 in the beginning, but there is no indication that this was ever God’s intention. Believe for the best!
After Simon approaches the apostles and offers them money, Peter rebukes him, and he is stricken with blindness. Let me ask you a question, what is the difference between Simon offering the apostles money and the apostles receiving money and offerings given to them which was a common thing by this time among the believers? Isn’t it just as evil for the apostles to receive money as it is for Simon to try to give money for the wrong reasons? I make this point because there are people who claim if you receive payment for any reason at all that you are committing the sin of Simon the Sorcerer. Is this true? This is such a common controversy that it is called “Simony” when someone wants to impugn the motive of a minister because they receive offerings. The question is motive. What Simon did was for his own dark reasons. The apostles received vast sums of money, and it was right and fitting that it should be given by the people and received by the apostles because the hearts of the givers and the receivers were toward the furtherance of the kingdom and that makes all the difference. Remember that next time someone with their false wisdom and high sounding opinions begins to criticize ministers for receiving financial resources from those supporting them.
[Acts 8:26-40 KJV]
26 And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. 27 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, 28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. 30 And Philip ran thither to [him], and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? 31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. 32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: 33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. 34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 36 And as they went on [their] way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, [here is] water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. 39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.
In verse 26 we find that an angel from the Lord has attached himself to the ministry of Philip. In the 1950’s a minister by the name of William Branham claimed that an angel from God had connected likewise to his ministry, and great signs and wonders were demonstrated in Branham’s life for many years. Branham is resoundingly condemned as a false prophet for this reason, but the question is, do we see any biblical precedent for angels being present in a man’s ministry? If an angel was manifestly connected with Philip and his work for Christ why is it considered unscriptural if something similar was claimed in Branham’s case? Always go the scripture. Is there a scriptural precedent? If there is then wait upon the Lord. Pray things out. Don’t make snap judgments just because what a man or woman does in the name of Christ is controversial.
As the angel goes with Philip, he sees an important Ethiopian sitting in his chariot reading a scroll of Isiah the prophet. The Spirit of God prompts Philip to speak to the man. Notice that it isn’t the angel that speaks to Philip but the Spirit of God. Angels cannot take the place of the Spirit in our lives. They may be present but pay attention whether or not they get in the way of what God is saying or not, and you will have discernment as to what kind of an angel you are dealing with. Philip joins himself to the eunuch, and the man gives his life to Jesus and is baptized immediately. He isn’t baptized by an apostle, he is baptized by a believer, by Philip himself. Have you ever baptized anyone? You should. Don’t let your life be lived out and go to heaven without leading someone to Christ and baptizing them into the faith, hopefully, many someones. This isn’t just the privilege of those ordained to full-time ministry; it is your privilege as well.
When the eunuch comes up out of the water, Philip is nowhere to be seen. Can you imagine feeling someone baptize you and bring you out of the water and then you are the only one there, with no sign of your baptizer? That is what happened to the eunuch. Where is Philip? Have you considered translation as a form of transportation? Philip is whisked away to at least two more locations, preaching and teaching the word of God and seeing many come into the kingdom. This is the testimony that we all want. Not just as ministers with a license to preach but as believers in Jesus. You are eligible. You have a ministry as well. Don’t allow anyone or anything to convince you that you can’t do such things or don’t have permission from heaven. The permissiveness of heaven was upon Philip, and it is upon you as well to do exploits in Jesus’ name!