Acts 8 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of Acts 8)

Verse 2

[2] And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.

Devout men — Who feared God more than persecution. And yet were they not of little faith? Else they would not have made so great lamentation.

Verse 3

[3] As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

Saul made havoc of the Church — Like some furious beast of prey. So the Greek word properly signifies.

Men and women — Regarding neither age nor sex.

Verse 4

[4] Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.

Therefore they that were dispersed went every where — These very words are reassumed, after as it were a long parenthesis, chap. xi, 19, Acts 11:19 and the thread of the story continued.

Verse 5

[5] Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.

Stephen — Being taken away, Philip, his next colleague, (not the apostle,) rises in his place.

Verse 9

[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:

A certain man — using magic - So there was such a thing as witchcraft once! In Asia at least, if not in Europe or America.

Verse 12

[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.

But when they believed — What Philip preached, then they saw and felt the real power of God, and submitted thereto.

Verse 13

[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.

And Simon believed — That is, was convinced of the truth.

Verse 14

[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:

And the apostles hearing that Samaria — The inhabitants of that country, had received the word of God - By faith, sent Peter and John - He that sends must be either superior, or at least equal, to him that is sent. It follows that the college of the apostles was equal if not superior to Peter.

Verse 15

[15] Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:

The Holy Ghost — In his miraculous gifts? Or his sanctifying graces? Probably in both.

Verse 18

[18] And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,

Simon offered them money — And hence the procuring any ministerial function, or ecclesiastical benefice by money, is termed Simony.

Verse 21

[21] Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.

Thou hast neither part — By purchase, nor lot - Given gratis, in this matter - This gift of God.

For thy heart is not right before God — Probably St. Peter discerned this long before he had declared it; although it does not appear that God gave to any of the apostles a universal power of discerning the hearts of all they conversed with; any more than a universal power of healing all the sick they came near. This we are sure St. Paul had not; though he was not inferior to the chief of the apostles. Otherwise he would not have suffered the illness of Epaphroditus to have brought him so near to death, 2 Timothy 4:20.

Verse 22

[22] Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.

Repent — if perhaps the thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee - Without all doubt if he had repented, he would have been forgiven. The doubt was, whether he would repent.

Thou art in the gall of bitterness — In the highest degree of wickedness, which is bitterness, that is, misery to the soul; and in the bond of iniquity - Fast bound therewith.

Verse 26

[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.

The way which is desert — There were two ways from Jerusalem to Gaza, one desert, the other through a more populous country.

Verse 27

[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,

An eunuch — Chief officers were anciently called eunuchs, though not always literally such; because such used to be chief ministers in the eastern courts.

Candace, queen of the Ethiopians — So all the queens of Ethiopia were called.

Verse 28

[28] Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.

Sitting in his chariot, he read the Prophet Isaiah — God meeteth those that remember him in his ways. It is good to read, hear, seek information even in a journey. Why should we not redeem all our time?

Verse 30

[30] And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?

And Philip running to him, said, Understandest thou what thou readest? — He did not begin about the weather, news, or the like. In speaking for God, we may frequently come to the point at once, without circumlocution.

Verse 31

[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.

He desired Philip to come up and sit with him — Such was his modesty, and thirst after instruction.

Verse 32

[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:

The portion of Scripture — By reading that very chapter, the fifty-third of Isaiah, many Jews, yea, and atheists, have been converted. Some of them history records. God knoweth them all. Isaiah 53:7

Verse 33

[33] In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.

In his humiliation his judgment was taken away — That is, when he was a man, he had no justice shown him. To take away a person's judgment, is a proverbial phrase for oppressing him.

And who shall declare, or count his generation — That is, who can number his seed, Isaiah 53:10; which he hath purchased by laying down his life?

Verse 36

[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?

And as they went on the way they came to a certain water — Thus, even the circumstances of the journey were under the direction of God. The kingdom of God suits itself to external circumstances, without any violence, as air yields to all bodies, and yet pervades all.

What hindereth me to be baptized? — Probably he had been circumcised: otherwise Cornelius would not have been the first fruits of the Gentiles.

Verse 38

[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.

And they both went down — Out of the chariot. It does not follow that he was baptized by immersion. The text neither affirms nor intimates any thing concerning it.

Verse 39

[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.

The Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip — Carried him away with a miraculous swiftness, without any action or labour of his own. This had befallen several of the prophets.

Verse 40

[40] But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.

But Philip was found at Azotus — Probably none saw him, from his leaving the eunuch, till he was there.