Online Bible Commentary
The Special Blessing
Acts 8:9 But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, 10 to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, "This man is the great power of God." 11 And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. 13 Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done. 14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. (NKJV)
The New Testament Church has just begun to form itself. The disciples of Christ were led by the apostles as they preached the gospel in the temple and met in private homes in Jerusalem. The time is the early thirties.
Peter and John have been previously harassed by the Jewish religious leaders. But now the persecution has become very grave. Stephen has been stoned to death by these religious leaders, and Saul, later to be renamed Paul, witnessed the event.
The stoning of Stephen began a great persecution of the church. Many of the disciples in Jerusalem fled to other lands to preach the gospel. The persecution actually spread the gospel.
Philip departed Jerusalem for Samaria. Samaritans were Jewish people who had intermarried with Gentiles. They were held in contempt by Jews, but not by the apostles. Philip took the gospel to them.
In Samaria, Simon, a well known magician, practiced sorcery “and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great” (v. 9). The people proclaimed: “This man is the great power of God” (v. 10). They had followed him, paying him money for his services, “for a long time” (v. 11). Simon had a nice business going for himself, claiming to possess the power of God.
But then Philip came on the scene. Philip preached the gospel to the Samaritans and they believed in the power of the real God (v. 12a). As a result of Philip’s preaching “men and women were baptized” (v. 12b).
Simon was one of those who “believed“ and was baptized (v. 13a). He began to follow Philip and “was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done” (v. 13b). Simon’s magic was no match for the miracles of God. Seeing the people flock from him to Philip, Simon seemed to be saying: “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”
Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem, the apostles heard of Philip’s work in Samaria and sent Peter and John (v. 14). Upon arriving, they found that, although the Samaritans had been baptized, they had not received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. So Peter and John blessed the new believers by laying on of hands and praying for the Holy Spirit to come upon them (vv. 15-17).
It is not clear why the Samaritans were required to have the special blessing from Peter and John before they were indwelled by the Holy Spirit. As seen on the Day of Pentecost, believers are indwelled by the Holy Spirit upon their belief in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. It is believed that the Lord required this special blessing to show the Jewish believers that Samaritans were just as much a part of the church as they were, due to the contempt that Jews had for Samaritans.
In the eyes of God, people are not distinguished by the color of their skin or their country of origin. They are only seen as believers or unbelievers, Christians or non Christians.
The New Testament Church reflected this view, even though some churches down through the centuries did not abide by the example that the Lord established through the special blessing of Samaritans. As Christians, we are to see people as the Lord does, as either Christians or non Christians, nothing more, nothing less.