Acts

8:14-25

2. The gospel reaches Judea and Samaria, 6:1-12:25

vi] The Samaritans receive the Holy Spirit

Synopsis

After the stoning of Stephen, the Greek speaking believers fled Jerusalem to avoid arrest. The persecution was not a general one; Palestinian believers were left alone. Philip went to Samaria and through his preaching and miraculous signs, a number of Samaritans became believers. The unusual feature of these conversions is that although they were "baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus", they did not "receive the Holy Spirit." This prompts a visit from Peter and John to sort out the situation.

 
Teaching

The acceptance of the gospel, and thus inclusion in the way by half-cast Jews, is authorized by the apostles Peter and John.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 6:1-7.

 

ii] Structure: This passage, Samaritans receive the Holy Spirit, presents as follows:

Philip's evangelistic ministry in Samaria, v5-8;

Philip's encounter with Simon Magus, v9-13;

The apostles ministry in Samaria, v14-17:

"they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit."

Peter corrects Simon Magus, 18-24;

The mission continues in Samaria, v25.

 

iii] Interpretation:

This episode serves to illustrate the movement of the gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Many Jews have accepted the good news and now we see half-cast Jews accept the gospel. For Luke, this passage serves to provide an apostolic authorization of this move. The Samaritan's belief, along with their failure to receive the Holy Spirit, provides the opportunity for apostolic involvement and thus, the apostolic authorization of this first outward move of the way by none other than Peter and John.

 

The failure of the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit. As to why the Samaritans had failed to receive the Holy Spirit at the time of their baptism is irrelevant as far as Luke is concerned. None-the-less, it is a rather strange occurrence. Charismatic commentators view the incident as further evidence of the two stages in a believer's walk with Christ: the reception of the Spirit for regeneration followed by the empowering of the Spirit for service, an empowering evidence by tongues through the laying on of hands. Conservative commentators are inclined to the view that Phillip's preaching was faulty and required apostolic input, 8:25.

Luke tells us that the Samaritans were "baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus", but what does this mean? A person's name represents their person / being / character, so "into a knowledge of / relationship with Jesus." The longer (trinitarian) version of the phrase "baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus" is found in Matthew 28:19, which, when read in context, seems to refer to something more than water baptism performed under the designation of the triune God. Is it likely that Jesus, who did not perform water baptism, would command his disciples to "make disciples" (by means of?) water baptism? It is more than likely that "immersing in the name" primarily involves preaching the gospel (= immersing into the person of Jesus), which, for those who respond, is followed up by "teaching", Matt.28:20. It is, of course, more than likely that this immersing in the gospel is integrally linked to the practice of immersing in water (as a sign of repentance) in the New Testament church, and that this immersing in the gospel was later institutionalized in pre-baptismal instruction. The unexplained use of this phrase in the NT. indicates its common usage - everyone knows what it means (everyone in the first century, that is!!!).

If this is correct, the point is that the Samaritan believers had heard the gospel, responded in repentance, which response was expressed outwardly in water baptism, that is, "they had been immersed into the name / person of the Lord Jesus." Yet, for some reason "the Holy Spirit had not come on any of them." Presumably this is evidenced by the fact that none of the Samaritans spoke in tongues in like manner to the believers in Jerusalem. It seems likely that this fact has prompted the visit of the apostle, although it is unstated. Anyway, the apostles visit and sort out the problem. Presumably the gospel message the Samaritans heard was somehow defective and needed sound apostolic teaching to enable a proper response of repentance and faith and thus the reception of the Holy Spirit, cf. v25. That Phillip's preaching was somehow defective is evidenced by Simon's warped understanding of the ministry of the Spirit, even though he had "believed", v13. Like Apollos, who "knew only the baptism of John", maybe Philip needed the apostles to explain "the way of God more adequately" to his converts. Certainly, as far as Luke is concerned, this is exactly what the apostles did; during their time in Samaria they "had testified and spoken the word of the Lord", v25. The Samaritans had been immersed (instructed defectively) into the person of Jesus, an immersion which included immersion (sprinkling or dunking) in water, but were not yet immersed in the Spirit. So, Peter and John make up what is lacking in the Samaritans' understanding of the gospel, just as Peter corrects the misunderstandings of Simon Magus, v18-24. Peter and John then pray for them, expressed in the sign of the laying on of hands, and "they received the Holy Spirit."

Interestingly, there is no mention of the pentecostal sign of ecstatic prophecy - "tongues". The Spirit is received upon believing, such is the promise and at this point in time, that reception was observable. The unusual nature of this event serves as an important theological marker, particularly as the way moves from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth / Rome. The gospel had touched Jews, advanced to Jews of the dispersion (Greek-speaking Jews), now to Samaritans (half-cast Jews), and soon to God-fearers and then Gentiles. The move to include Gentiles is marked by Cornelius' reception of the Holy Spirit, evidenced by his speaking in tongues, and it is interesting that there is no mention of tongue-speaking with the Samaritans. Still, given Simon's reaction in v18 to the reception of the Spirit, tongue-speaking is most likely evident.

 

Baptized with the Holy Spirit, filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues ("other tongues"). See notes on The Pentecostal Blessings.

 

iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

 
Text - 8:14

The mission in Samaria, v4-25: ii] Peter and John correct the evangelistic ministry of Philip, v14-17. Luke doesn't give us a blow-by-blow description of the apostles' ministry in Samaria, but in the end, they were able to pray for the Samaritan believers who then consequently received the Holy Spirit, outwardly enacted by the laying on of hands (an expression of prayer). Luke recounts Philip's ministry in v5-8, although he doesn't indicate any fault in his preaching which would have prevented the gift of the Spirit. As noted above, the authorization of Philip's ministry to half-cast Jews is the issue at hand.

akousanteV (akouw) aor. part. "when .... heard" - having heard. Temporal participle, as NIV.

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing the content of what the apostles heard; "the fact that."

hJ Samareia (a) "Samaria [heard]" - "Samaria" is the subject of "heard", and this obviously means "the people in the city of / in the district of Samaria"; "some people in Samaria", CEV.

dedektai (decomai) perf. "had accepted" - has received. The perfect tense indicating a past action with abiding results. They "received", in the sense of "believed."

ton logon tou qeou "the word of God" - In the sense of "the message from God."

apesteilan (apostellw) aor. "they sent" - Is this John, John the apostle or John Mark? John the apostle seems best.

 
v15

katabanteV (katabainw) aor. part. "when they arrived" - having come down. A temporal participle, as NIV. Note how a person "comes down" from Jerusalem to Samaria, "comes down", in height terms, although when used of say a large city like Jerusalem, it often refers to the journey, without any reference to height. In Australia, a person "goes down" South and "goes up" North, in direction terms.

oiJtineV "they" - those who.

proshuxanto (proseucomai) aor. "they prayed" - As is typical of Jewish prayer, it is associated with the laying on of hands which serves as an intimate expression of prayer for another. They prayed for whom? Obviously the Samaritan believers.

peri + gen. "for" - about, concerning. Reference.

oJpwV + inf. "that" - This construction usually forms a purpose clause, "in order that they might receive", but content is possible, ie. the construction forms a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what they prayed.

labwsin (lambanw) aor. subj. "they might receive [the Holy Spirit]" - Not that the Samaritan believers had resisted the Spirit, but that they had not, as yet, been given the Spirit. Given the Spirit in what sense? Is Luke referring to the regenerative coming / immersing of the Spirit, of the Samaritan's being born anew, or of the Spirit's ministry of gifting / empowering. Probably both together are in mind, of the reception of the promised blessings of the new age, of life and all that it entails. Somehow these believers were not believers in the fullest sense, and this due to defective preaching; see below. "Would be given the Holy Spirit", CEV.

 
v16

gar "because" - Expressing cause reason; introducing a causal clause explaining why Peter and John prayed that the Samaritans might receive the Holy Spirit.

hn epipeptwkoV (epipiptw) perf. part. "the Holy Spirit had [not yet] come" - he had [not yet] fallen. Periphrastic pluperfect formed by the imperfect verb to-be with the perfect participle, translated as a simple past/perfect tense - used for emphasis, stative aspect.

ep (epi) + dat. "upon / on" - Spacial; "on, upon."

autwn gen. pro. "[any] of them" - [anyone] of them. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

bebaptismenoi uJphrcon "they had [simply] been baptized" - they were/had been immersed. Again, a perfect participle, with an imperfect verb uJphrcon, "to be, exist", forming a periphrastic pluperfect, translated again with a simple past/perfect tense. The construction is used for emphasis, here stative aspect - a given state of affairs. The imperfect verb "exist", used instead of the verb to-be, takes the unusual position of following the participle. The important point to note is that both periphrastic constructions, in this verse, take the same tense form. It should never be assumed that the verb "immersed", usually translated "baptized", means "immersed in water." In the NT, the figurative use of the word is far more dominant than a literal "dunking under water", see below.

monon "simply" - only. "They had received nothing so far except", Knox.

eiV "into" - Elsewhere the phrase is used with the preposition en, (sometimes epi) since both prepositions are interchangeable. Numerous meanings are possible, but a spacial sense seems best, in the sense of, "immersed into/in the name." Destination is possible, as in "heading toward", or "into the property of", so Bruce.

 
v17

epetiqesan (epitiqhmi) imperf. "Peter and John placed" - they were laying, putting, placing. The imperfect here possibly expresses repeated action, iterative, but more likely prolonged action, durative. As noted above, the laying on of hands, although possibly serving as a commissioning, or the bestowing of a blessing, is likely to be a symbolic expression of prayer.

elambanon (lambanw) imperf. "they received" - they were receiving. Although unstated, it is likely that the Samaritans' reception of the Holy Spirit is evidenced by their being filled and speaking "in other languages" - tongues. "They were given the Holy Spirit", CEV.

 
v18

iii] Peter rebukes Simon Magus, v18-24. Luke doesn't tell us exactly what happened when the believers received the Spirit, but it was probably the usual "speaking in tongues and extolling God", 10:46. Simon Magus, a practitioner of religious magic, and supposedly a convert of Philip, 8:9-13, is so impressed by the phenomena, that he offers to pay for this power. By trying to buy the apostles "trick", Simon demonstrates the superficial nature of his conversion and by implication, the faulty nature of Philip's preaching. Simon shows he has no appreciation of the inward nature of the gospel. He is still stuck fast in his old unregenerate ways, "a captive to sin", and must "repent of this wickedness". Simon is terror struck and pleads with Peter to intercede with God on his behalf.

idwn (eidon) aor. part. "when [Simon] saw" - seeing. The participle is adverbial, temporal, as NIV. As noted above, for Luke, the reception of the Spirit is observable, probably in the form of tongue-speaking (being in the form of ecstatic prophecy), as witnessed on the day of Pentecost. Thus, Simon "observed that the Spirit was bestowed", REB.

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what Simon saw, "namely that ..."

didotai (didwmi) pres. pas. "was given" - is given. Probably an example of the divine passive, God being the agent.

dia + gen. "at [the laying on]" - though, by means of. Instrumental, expressing means; "the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles hands", NRSV.

twn apostolwn (oV) gen. "of the apostles" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive.

twn ceirwn (eir eiroV) gen. "hands" - of the hands. The genitive is verbal, objective.

proshnegken (prosferw) aor. "he offered" - he brought, offered. Used of offering a sacrifice. Simon Magus, who is a magician and "someone great", sees the bestowal of the Spirit as achieved by the laying on of hands, rather than, as Peter points out, something that is a gift. As someone who is paid for his magic, he is willing to pay for this power. Simon's thinking is certainly corrupt, and worse, is potentially corrupting for the church, although it is not necessarily soul destroying. Simon can always "repent of this wickedness", v22.

autoiV dat. pro. "them [money]" - [wealth] to them. Dative of indirect object.

 
v19

legwn (legw) pres. part. "and said" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "he offered"; "he offered ... and said."

dote (didwmi) aor. imp. "give [me]" - The aorist indicating urgency, immediacy.. "Let me have this power too", CEV.

exousian (a) "ability" - power, authority. Simon is asking that he might channel the Spirit to others.

iJna + subj. "so that .... [may receive]" - Forming a purpose clause "in order that ...... may receive the Holy Spirit."

w|/ ean + subj. "everyone" - Introducing a relative (w|/, dat. rel. pro., local, place; "upon whom") conditional clause, 3rd. class, where the condition has the possibility of being realized; "upon whomever, as the case may be, I lay my hands, then may he receive (lambanh/, hortatory subjunctive) the Holy Spirit." "So that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit", Moffatt.

 
v20

de "-" - but, and. Here adversative; "but Peter said to him", ESV.

eih (eimi) "may" - The optative of the verb to-be, usually expressing a wish, although possibly not so here. Probably a potential, or futuristic optative. See below.

eiV "[perish]" - to/into [destruction of you]. Here taking a spacial sense of to/toward/into and therefore "lead you to destruction", indicating "direction and thus destiny", Barrett. A desire for destruction is unlikely, since Peter's words are not a curse, as TEV, "may you and your money go to hell." Rather, it is more likely that Peter is underlining Simon's possible destination if he stays on his present path; "you and your money will both end up in hell if you think you can buy God's gift", CEV.

apwleian (a) "perish" - destruction, ruin. Often used of God's judgment upon a rebellious sinner.

sun + dat. "with [you]" - Expressing association.

oJti "because" - Here introducing a causal clause explaining why "you and your money will ...."

katasqai (kataomai) pres. inf. "[you thought] you could buy" - [you thought] to acquire, obtain. The infinitive forms an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what they thought; "for dreaming that you could buy the gift of God", Moffatt.

thn dwrean (a) "the gift" - Simon is trying to buy the ability to bestow the Spirit, but is this what Luke means by "gift" here, or is the Spirit the gift? The grammar suggests the first option, but theology the second.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - The genitive may be treated as verbal, subjective / ablative, source/origin; "the gift from God."

dia + gen. "with [money]" - through, by means of [wealth]. Instrumental, expressing means.

 
v21

soi dat. "you" - [there is not] to you. Dative is probably expressing possession. "This is a matter in which you have no share or part", Barclay.

en + dat. "in" - Expressing space/sphere; sphere of influence.

tw/ logw/ (oV) dat. "[this] ministry" - the word [of this]. Interesting that Luke defines the apostolic ministry as a "word ministry", not a "Spirit bestowing ministry", or a "water baptizing ministry." The central business of an apostle is preaching ("baptizing in the name"?). None-the-less, the word logos can mean "matter/business", and this is possibly what Luke intends here. What then is the business? Is it the laying on of hands business, bestowing the Spirit business, teaching business, etc.?

hJ kardia "[your] heart" - Inner being, inner self. The center of rational thought.

euqeia adj. "[your heart is not] right" - Predicate adjective. Literally "straight / direct" as opposed to what is crooked, or figuratively "just / right / upright", or taking an ethical sense "frank / honest / straightforward." An ethical sense is favoured by many, although being right/straight in one's alignment with God seems best, as NIV. "Your heart is all wrong in the sight of God", Moffatt.

enanti + gen. "before" - before, "In your orientation toward God."

 
v22

oun "-" - therefore. Drawing a logical conclusion, inferential; given his "wickedness", therefore, Simon must repent.

metanohson (metanoew) aor. imp. "repent [of]" - turn [from]. In the sense of turn around and face. "Change your way."

apo + gen. "of" - from [the wickedness of you]. Expressing separation; "away from."

thV kakiaV "[this] wickedness" - evil. Most translators opt for "wickedness", but identifying the particular evil is reasonable; "Get rid of these evil thoughts and ask God to forgive you", CEV.

tou kuriou (oV) gen. "[pray to] the Lord" - [pray, request, beg, ask of] the Lord. Genitive of direct object after the verb dehqhti, "pray". Simon is to ask for the grace of forgiveness which belongs to the Lord. Note v24 where "ask" is followed by the preposition proV "to / toward", which simply identifies the direction of the prayer. "Ask God whether you cannot be forgiven for your heart's purpose", Moffatt.

ei ara + ind. "-" - if perhaps / that perhaps [the intention of the heart of you will be forgiven to you]. Technically introducing a 1st. conditional clause where the condition is assumed to be true; "if perhaps, as is the case, he will forgive you the intent of your heart, then repent of this your wickedness and pray to the Lord." Yet, there is a good case to treat ei ara as if used instead of oJti, "that", but expressing uncertainty, "a doubtful expectation", Zerwick; "in the hope that perhaps", Moule IB. As such ei ara introduces an object clause, object of the verb dehqhti / dependent statement of perception expressing the hope of the prayer, so TNIV, "pray ... in the hope that he may forgive you."

soi "you" - to you. Dative of indirect object, lit. "will be forgiven (pas.) the intention of your heart to you"; "that the intent of your heart will be forgiven you."

thV kardiaV (a) gen. "[a thought in your] heart" - [the intent / purpose / design] of the heart [of you]. The genitive may be taken as verbal, subjective, or ablative, source/origin; "the thoughts that stem from the mind." Again, heart = mind. "For thinking such things as this", TEV.

 
v23

"I can see that you are jealous and bound by your evil ways", CEV.

gar "for" - for, since, because. Expressing cause/reason; introducing a causal clause explaining why Simon needs to repent.

oJrw (oJraw) pres. "I see" - "It is plain to me", Barclay.

o[nta (eimi) pres. part. "that you are" - being. The participle serves to introduce an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what is plain to Peter.

eiV "full of" - to, into [gall of bitterness]. Probably here equivalent to the preposition en, "in", so "full of", as NIV, although the common spacial sense may be intended, particularly of movement toward, so "heading toward", "I see you are destined for."

kikriaV (a) gen. "bitterness" - [gall] of bitterness. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "gall / poison"; "full of bitter poison." It is possible that "gall" takes a figurative sense here, so "I see you are destined for bitter wrath", but it is generally accepted that Peter's words are an allusion to Deut.29:17b, describing heathen worship, so "on the way to tasting (either "destined for" or "full of it", see above) the bitterness like gall which godless worship brings", Barclay.

adikiaV (a) "[captive to] sin" - [chain, bond] of unrighteousness, wrongdoing. Again, the genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "bond"; "an evil bind." "You are in the bonds of iniquity", NAB.

 
v24

The Western text adds that "Simon kept on weeping all the time Peter was speaking", Bruce.

de "-" - but, and. Connective; "and".

apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "then [Simon] answered" - answering, replying [Simon said]. Treated by some as a redundant attendant circumstance participle and therefore untranslated, but possibly serving to form a temporal clause, as NIV.

uJmeiV pl. "you [pray]" - you. Emphatic. The "you", plural, obviously means Peter and John.

proV + acc. "to [the Lord]" - Spacial; "toward = to."

uJper + gen. "for" - Expressing advantage; "on my behalf, for the sake of." Is Simon the magician looking to a stronger magician to get him out of hot water?

oJpwV + subj. "so that" - that [...... may come upon me]. This construction usually forms an adverbial clause, final, expressing purpose; "in order that." Indicating a fear of retribution, and this with the later tradition of Simon Magus and his evil ways, may indicate that his repentance was not genuine. Luke makes no comment on the matter, and so we are best to treat his repentance as genuine.

w|n gen. rel. pro. "[nothing you have said]" - [nothing] of which [you have spoken]. The genitive is adverbial, reference / respect, so Cully; "nothing, with respect to what you have said."

 
v25

iii] The preaching of the gospel in Samaria - transitional comment, v25. Having fully proclaimed the gospel and witnessed the outpouring of the Spirit on the Samaritan believers, Peter and John return to Jerusalem to report the news that the gospel is on its way to the ends of the earth.

men oun "after" - This construction may indicate a change in subject matter; "so then", Zerwick. This possibly means that the "they" is Peter, John and Phillip, although would Phillip return to Jerusalem? "Peter and John returned to Jerusalem", NIV, is assumed. "Then after they had throughly testified and talked over the Lord's teaching, they went back to Jerusalem", Berkeley. It is of course possible that we have a contrasting men ... de construction, with de replaced by te giving an adjunctive "and also on the other hand", rather than an adversative "but on the other hand." If read this way oun would be transitional and left untranslated. Luke is simply telling us that the apostles' "were returning", imperf. and "were preaching", imperf. "Having testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, and also preached the gospel in many Samaritan' villages on their way home."

oiJ diamarturamenoi (diamarturomai) aor. part. "they had testified" - the ones having testified, declared. The participle serves as a substantive.

lalhsanteV (lalew) aor. part. "proclaimed" - the ones having spoken. The participle serves as a substantive. Together the two substantive participles give the sense "those who had testified and spoken the word of the Lord."

tou kuriou (oV) gen. "[the word] of the Lord" - Variant "word of God." The genitive may be taken as adjectival, possessive, "the word that belongs to the Lord", or ablative, source/origin, "the word that comes from the Lord."

euhggilizonto (euaggilizw) imperf. "preaching the gospel" - were communicating. The imperfect indicating durative action; "continued to tell the good news in many Samaritan villages", Williams.

 

Acts Introduction

Exposition

 

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