Acts Ch. 8: Persecution from Saul

In this teaching, we are going to look at the persecution that Saul did against the early church. When I was working on this teaching, I was hoping to cover both chapters eight and nine, but I decided to cover each chapter individually. As always, I do encourage you to take some time and read chapter eight in its entirety and study on it yourself.

The Start of Great Persecution from Saul

I have already gone over the subject of persecution from the Book of Acts several times, and we are now going to look at another example of it. As we look at chapter eight, we will not only see some persecution, but also some important revelation knowledge that plays out regarding true salvation and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In my last teaching, we talked about the deacon Stephen’s death from chapter seven. As we begin chapter eight, we will see how things rapidly progress. Acts 8:1 (NKJV) tells us, “Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.”.  Stephen was stoned to death in chapter seven for blasphemy against God and the law. Following his death, a great time of persecution comes on the early church.  Acts 8:3 (NKJV) continues, “As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.”. At the end of my previous teaching, I mentioned we will see Saul’s importance play out regarding persecution. Saul was the main driving force behind the persecution of the church, however as we continue in the Book of Acts, we will see a great turn of events occur for Saul.  Acts 8:4 (NKJV) goes on to tell us, “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.”. Because of the persecution taking place, the people become scattered and go and preach the word in different areas outside of Jerusalem. I feel it is inspiring to see that the people here did not let the idea of persecution stop them from spreading the message of Jesus Christ. This should be inspiration to all of us!

Philip Goes to Samaria

Acts 8:5 (NKJV) continues to tell us, “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them.”.  Samaria was an area that was looked down upon by the Jews. By Philip reaching out to Samaria and ministering to their people, this became a big step for the early church. Acts 8:6-8 (NKJV) tells us, “And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.  For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed, and lame were healed.  And there was great joy in that city.”. These few scriptures just briefly describe the signs that took place during Philip’s ministry in Samaria. As a reminder signs through the manifestation of the Holy Spirit (tongues, healing, prophecy, miracles, etc.) are sign’s for unbelievers, hence why every believer needs to be baptized in the Holy Spirit! These signs that take place in Samaria will be what causes many people to accept Jesus Christ. Acts 8:9 (NKJV) goes on to tell us of a problem that Philip encountered, “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,”. Philip was encountering someone involved with sorcery, his name was Simon. Let me ask you a question, what would you do if you were ministering to a group of unbelievers and one of them turned out to be a practicing witch? Would you give up, or would you allow the Holy Spirit to use you to minister to that person? Acts 8:10-11 (NKJV) goes on to tell us, “to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the great power of God.”  And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time.”. Not only was Philip dealing with a sorcerer, but he had to deal with Simons followers too. This goes to show us that Philip did encounter some resistance while ministering in Samaria, but he continued because he had a power inside of him, and that was the Holy Spirit. Acts 8:12-13 (NKJV) goes on to tell us, “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.  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.”. Because of Philip’s ministry to the people of Samaria through the power of the Holy Spirit, many people accepted Christ, along with Simon. Just as a side note in these two verses the people believed and accepted Christ and then were water baptized. As we will read on, we will find a small issue arises with Simon, that is a great reminder to all Christians today.

Salvation and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit are Separate!

There are so many different denominations of Christianity out there today. Many churches today will argue on the idea of salvation and the baptism of the Holy Spirit (not water baptism) being two separate events in ones walk with the Lord. Churches not believing and practicing in the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the reason why many churches are weak today! Why are so many people sick in the church today? We have simply got caught up in our own self-made theology and traditions, rather than what the Word of God says. So, let’s take some time and clear this issue up by looking at an example in the Book of Acts. I am going to outline a few scriptures below, and underline some keywords:

  • Acts 8:13 (NKJV): “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.”.

    Notice it says that he believed and then was baptized, this is a reminder that salvation and water baptism are two separate events.
  • Acts 8:14 (NKJV): “Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them,”.

    Notice it says they had received the Word of God, which is simply the message of Jesus Christ. Some synonyms for the word receive are: to be given, to be presented with, and to accept (my favorite one for this scripture)

These two scriptures above point us to salvation being its own event in ones walk with the Lord. This is also one of the most important events, because you must be born again to inherit the Kingdom of God! Romans 10:13 (NKJV) says, “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”.  So now let’s look at another event that takes place that is separate from their salvation and water baptism in Samaria.

  • Acts 8:15 (NKJV): “who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.”

    The Apostles pray over them so that they might receive the Holy Spirit, just like the Apostles did in the Book of Acts, when they were in the upper room.
  • Acts 8:17 (NKJV): “Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.”.

    Again, the Apostle lay hands on them and pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit. Notice this takes place after they receive and accept the Message of Jesus Christ.

If you go back to the Gospel of John and read chapter twenty you will see this is where the Apostles had received their salvation and were able to go out and continue the ministry of Jesus. However, as we get the Book of Acts, they receive the Helper, the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:4 (NKJV) tells us, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”. This infilling of the Holy Spirit came after they received their salvation. This brings another important point up about context in the Bible, it is important to know the order of events in the Bible so you can read the Bible in a clearer context.

Importance of True Salvation

Continuing on in the Book of Acts, Acts 8:18-19 goes on to say “And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money,  saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.””.  Simon’s true heart is shown here, he wants to only impress people with his impartation of the Holy Spirit. As we all should know having the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in your own personal ministry are not meant to impress people, but to bring people to Christ and help edify the church.  Acts 8:20-23 (NKJV) continues, “But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money!  You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God.  Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.””.  Simon did believe in the message of Jesus Christ, but as we see from the previous verses he was not truly converted. This brings up another important point, which is true salvation. Often the church can get too distracted at trying to bring new people in that we forget about true conversion when one comes to know Christ. Too many churches have got it wrong today. They want to attract new people in by carnal means. So, if you bring people in using carnal means, and keep them attending your church by carnal means, are they truly saved? Do people truly love Jesus or do they just like how popular the church is on social media, or how good the music sounds, or how nice the stage looks during worship? The modern church today has lost its focus on true salvation. While all these other aspects of the church have their own role, there is nothing more important than a true and clear message of salvation that is consistently preached to the unbelievers, rather than the watered-down Gospel of Accommodation that is mainstream today. Colossians 3:5-11 (NKJV) reminds us, “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,  and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.”.  This is something that we always need to be constantly reminded of as we minister to people individually and look to grow our churches.

Final Thoughts..

If you continue reading chapter eight in the Book of Acts you will see that Simon does repent, and in verses 26-40 you will see that Philip goes and witnesses to an Ethiopian Treasurer, and that is another great testimony we see in the Book of Acts. In my next teaching, I will continue onto chapter nine, and we will look at a turn of events regarding Saul. Again, I encourage you to take some time to read chapter eight in its entirety, and please check back for my next teaching in chapter nine!