The early church theologian Tertullian famously stated, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Here we see that persecution helps to spread the gospel and fulfill Jesus’ prediction at the beginning of Acts: “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria.”
Philip was one of the men chosen in Acts 6 to minister to the needs of the church. While not called apostles, Stephen and Philip both had unique apostle-like ministries. His ministry introduced many to belief, and it also attracted at least one other who liked spiritual power. Simon is identified as Simon Magus in the early church, and was recognized as an unbeliever and a heretic. That characterization seems appropriate based on what we read here. He believes that he can purchase the power of God, and is reprimanded by Peter: “you have no share or part in this matter because your heart is not right before God.” Some have trouble equating this Simon with Simon Magus because 8:13 says that “even Simon himself believed.” But does that mean saving faith? James 2:19 states that even demons believe that God is one and tremble with fear. So belief could easily mean something less that saving faith here. I think that it probably means that Simon professed belief, without actually being converted. That seems to make the most sense of the conflicting ideas we seem to have here.
What do we have happening here with the Holy Spirit? Why the delay in receiving the Holy Spirit? Perhaps it was to convince the apostles that yes, the Holy Spirit could even inhabit Samaritans! The Samaritans were thought to be descended from intermarriage between Israel’s northern tribes and pagan peoples relocated by Assyria. The faith that they espoused was hardly orthodox and was historically tinged with idolatry. By having the apostles present at the initial giving of the Spirit, it confirms that Samaritans can be a part of the kingdom! We’ll see something similar happen with the Gentiles in Acts 10.
How about you? Are there some people you think aren’t worthy of God’s love? That shouldn’t be saved? Remember what God says in His Word:
John 3:16 “For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
And also remember that some people can look the part; some people can pretend to be believers. But at some point their lack of faith will be revealed:
1 John 2:19 “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us, because if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But they went out from us to demonstrate that all of them do not belong to us.“
Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven—only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many powerful deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’”