Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 8, 1955
NUMBER 18, PAGE 12-13b

Conversion Of The Samaritans

Hoyt H. Houchen, San Antonio, Texas

The second case of conversion in the book of Acts is recorded in the eighth chapter where we learn how the people in Samaria became Christians. As a result of a great persecution that arose against the church in Jerusalem, those that were scattered abroad went about preaching the word. Philip, an evangelist, was among that number and he went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed Christ to the people. (Acts 8:1-5.)

What did Philip find in Samaria ? He found people were eager for the gospel. There was already some groundwork laid for we learn from the fourth chapter of John's gospel that many of the Samaritans heard Christ and believed on him. (John 4:39.) The condition that . Philip found in Samaria is always encouraging to any gospel preacher, people whose minds are open to the truth, ready and willing to hear it preached. We are told in Acts 8:6, "And the multitudes gave heed with one accord unto the things that were spoken by Philip, when they heard, and saw the signs which he did."

But not only did Philip find people who were anxious for the gospel, but he also found opposition. Where reception of the gospel is favorable there is also opposition. We read in verses 9 and 10, "But there was a certain man, Simon by name, who beforetime in the city used sorcery, and amazed the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is that power of God which is called Great. And they gave heed to him, because that of long time he had amazed them with his sorceries." Sorcery has ever been used to hinder the work of Christ. People have always been excited by sensationalism. The mystical features of Spiritualism, the dramatic demonstrations of fortunetellers, and the fantastical claims that are made by "faith-healers" are successful in drawing multitudes of people. False teachers have always caused many people to be hindered from the truth and Paul predicted that they will continue to do so when he wrote to the young evangelist Timothy in II Timothy 4:34: "For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables." Simon advertised himself as "some great one" and the people had turned their attention to the man. When people are overcome by the power and influence of the speaker, they are converted to him. It matters not what a man's message may be, let him be a forceful speaker with a dynamic personality and throngs will be drawn to him. This is what Philip found in Samaria, people who were turned to Simon.

What did Philip do in Samaria? He worked miracles. We are told in verse 7 that "many of those that had unclean spirits, came out, crying with a loud voice: and many that were palsied, and that were lame, were healed." These miracles performed by Philip and others were confined to the infant stage of the church. They were to confirm the word that was being preached for as yet the New Testament was not completely written. (See John 20:30, 31; Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:3, 4.) These miracles were to cease (I Cor. 13:8-10), and now that we have God's complete and final revelation to man, the New Testament, miracles are no longer needed. In the days of Philip, inspiration was in the messenger; today inspiration is in the word. Instead of proving our message by miracles, we prove what we preach by the word. Furthermore, those today who claim the power to work miracles do not even approximate what Jesus and the apostles did. The modern "miracle-worker" does not instantaneously open the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf, and he does not raise people from the dead. Jesus said in Matthew 7:15, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. By their fruits ye shall know them." The miracles of Philip were genuine and they could not be questioned by the audience.

But not only did Philip work miracles, but he also preached Christ. Verse 5 says that he "proclaimed unto them the Christ." What did the preaching of Christ include? It included Christ's commands. It is impossible to preach Christ without telling people what Christ taught. Contrary to the popular belief that "there is nothing in a name," Philip preached the name of Christ for he knew that salvation is in that name and no other. (Acts 4:12.) He also preached the kingdom of Christ. He did not preach that the kingdom was yet in the future, but that it had come. (See Mark 9:1; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4.) The kingdom was to come with power, the power was to come with the spirit, and the spirit came on the day of Pentecost. So it is obvious from these scriptures that the kingdom came on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. The terms "kingdom" and "church" are interchangeable terms that are applied to the same institution (Matt. 16:18, 19; Heb. 12:28); therefore, when Philip was preaching the kingdom he was simply telling people about the church. Philip preached the kingdom of Christ and the name of Christ. (Acts 8:12.)

What were the results of Philip's work? The people believed, but not only they but Simon also. (Acts 8:13.) This belief resulted from the preaching of Philip for Paul wrote in Romans 10:17, "So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." Simon and the other people believed, but what else resulted from the preaching? They were baptized. "But when they believed Philip preaching good tidings concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women." (Acts 8:13.) Since these people believed and were baptized, they were saved because Jesus said in Mark 16:16, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved."

After their obedience of the gospel, the Samaritans received the miraculous measure of the Holy Spirit which was given by the laying on of the apostles' hands. (Acts 8:17.) As this measure was miraculous, it was confined only to the early church as was true of all miracles. The Holy Spirit which was received by the Samaritans by the laying on of the apostles' hands were the gifts of the Holy Spirit which are enumerated in I Corinthians 12:8-10. These miraculous gifts were to cease as already pointed out in I Corinthians 13:8-10. People today do receive the Holy Spirit when they obey the gospel. (Acts 2:38; 5:32; Gal. 4:6.) This is the ordinary measure of the Holy Spirit and it is not to be confused with the miraculous measure as was received by the Samaritans. That measure could only be bestowed by the laying on of the apostles' hands. Philip not being an apostle was unable to confer that gift. There are no living apostles now to give that measure, also it was confined to the time while the New Testament was being written. Revelation is completed; therefore, that measure has ceased.

These Samaritans did exactly what all other people did in the cases of conversion recorded in the book of Acts. They heard the word, they believed, they repented, and they were baptized.