Act 8:1  And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.

Act 8:2  And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.

Act 8:3  As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

Act 8:4  Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.


In view of the prophesied time of “repentance to Israel” that God was giving to His nation during the time covered by the opening seven chapters of the Book of Acts, (which specifically commenced on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 and concluded with Stephen’s ministry in chapter 7), there is indeed great significance to what is recorded immediately following the stoning of Stephen, beginning with the events that are recorded in Acts 8. For if God’s program with Israel was continuing on as had been prophesied, and as it was expected to do, then Acts chapter 8 and following naturally would set forth the record of the direct fulfillment of the prophesied events and activities that were scheduled to take place following the conclusion of the time of the “repentance to Israel.” But since this is not what Acts 8 and following relate, then what they set forth actually testifies to the fact that God did not do what was expected. And this is what makes the record of Acts 8 and following so highly significant.


Act 7:51  Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.

Act 7:52  Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:

Act 7:53  Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.

Act 7:54  When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.

Act 7:55  But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

Act 7:56  And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

Act 7:57  Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,

Act 7:58  And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.

Act 7:59  And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.


And indeed unprophesied and unexpected events, along with unusual activities, are the very thing that Acts 8 and following describe. In so doing they describe how that God did not follow the conclusion of His time of “repentance to Israel” with the next course of prophesied and scheduled events and activities in His program with Israel. Instead the events and activities of Acts 8 and following relate how that God started doing things that were ‘not according to the program,’ so to speak. By doing these things God purposely began to make it evident that His program with Israel was not continuing on as prophesied. In addition to this He began to make it apparent that He was not only beginning to do something different from what had been expected, but that He was doing something that entirely different.


Act 8:5  Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.

Act 8:6  And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.

Act 8:7  For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.

Act 8:8  And there was great joy in that city.


Now of course the most outstanding of the unexpected and ‘not according to the program’ events that were taking place at that time is what is recorded in Acts 9, when the Lord Jesus Christ unexpectedly comes back from heaven and God suddenly raises up Paul to be His brand new apostle to the Gentiles. In fact this unexpected and unprophesied event is more or less what defines what God did. For in view of the revelation of “the mystery of Christ” that God revealed to Paul we are given to understand and appreciate why it is that Acts 8 and following does not record the prophesied continuation of God’s program with Israel. For as God revealed to Paul, He has temporarily suspended His program with Israel in order to bring in a dispensation of His grace to the Gentiles. And He has done this for the fulfilling of a secret purpose He has in Christ that He had kept secret in Himself since before the world began.


Act 9:15  But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:

Act 9:16  For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.


But along with the raising up of Paul to be His brand new apostle. God did certain other special things immediately following the conclusion of the prophesied time of giving “repentance to Israel” that (1) not only made it evident at that time to those in His program with Israel that something unexpected was happening to their program, but (2) that also provided for Him to deal with those at that time who were in the process of responding positively to what had been going on in His program with Israel when He suddenly suspended it. And one of these special things that God did is what Acts 8 sets forth regarding Philip’s ministry. Now as you pointed out in your question, in order to appreciate the significance that is to be attached to the event of Philip’s ministry we need to recognize that God previously had given some very specific instructions to Peter and the rest of Israel’s apostles, (and also to the remnant of Israel at large), regarding exactly where they were to go in their evangelism, and also precisely when they were to go there, during the remainder of the climactic stage to Israel’s program. These instructions are set forth in the various commissions that the Lord gave to them during His ministry among them, and especially just before He returned to the Father.


Act 8:26  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.

Act 8:27  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,

Act 8:28  Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.

Act 8:29  Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.


And indeed these instructions are very specific. For example, though the apostles were instructed and commissioned to ‘go into all the world’ and to ‘go to all nations,’ the Lord did not tell them to do this randomly, or haphazardly, or all at once, or to do this in any old way that pleased them. Instead the Lord told them to do this in a very particular way, and to do it in a specific order. For example, as Luke 24:47 sets forth, though their commission and ministry would have them going to “all nations,” they would be “beginning in Jerusalem.” And as is set forth in Acts 1:8, they would be “beginning in Jerusalem,” and then they would deal with “all Judea,” then “Samaria,” and then “unto the uttermost part of the earth.” This is the order in which their ministry was to be carried out.


Luk 24:46  And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:

Luk 24:47  And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

Luk 24:48  And ye are witnesses of these things.

Luk 24:49  And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.


Now this specified order of dealing with Jerusalem first, then all Judea, then Samaria, and then unto the uttermost part of the earth, is not simply one of practicality. It is much more than that. Rather it is the order for the expansion of their ministry, (and for the spread of “the gospel of the kingdom”), that is in perfect accordance with how the prophetic events, (especially the signs), during the remainder of the climactic stage and the final installment of Israel’s program would be progressing. Those prophetic events and signs would be manifest first in Jerusalem, then in all Judea, then in Samaria, and then finally to all of the world. And in connection with this the ministry of the apostles, (along with that of the rest of the believing remnant of Israel with them), was to be timed so that it was carried out in conjunction with those progressively developing prophetic events and signs.


Act 1:6  When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

Act 1:7  And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.

Act 1:8  But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.


Wherefore putting it very simply, the apostles were to begin their ministry in Jerusalem, and they were to stay there and carry it out there, until the progressively developing events and signs during the final installment of the program told them to move their ministry into all Judea. Then they were to carry out their ministry in all Judea and stay there until the progressively developing events and signs told them to move into Samaria. And they were to minister there until the events and signs told them to move out into the nations of the world. Now it is the specific nature of these instructions, and their precise timing designed to correspond with the progressively developing prophesied events and signs that take place during the final installment in Israel’s program, that makes what Acts 8 records to be so significant. For the events and activities described in Acts 8 and following do not follow what God had prescribed. Everything up until the end of Acts 7 follows what God had prescribed ‘to the letter,’ so to speak. But following the conclusion of the prophesied time of “repentance to Israel” things began to change.


Act 8:25  And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.


And, once again, one of the obvious evidences that God was not now doing things ‘according to the program’ is Philip’s ministry to Samaria. For according to the commissions and instructions that God previously had given, Samaria was not yet due to be evangelized. Not only was Jerusalem not yet fully dealt with as had been prescribed, (which is why the apostles did not leave Jerusalem when the persecution arose, as Acts 8:1 states), but neither the prophesied signs and events that indicated the start of the final installment in the program had yet to occur, nor those that would tell them to leave Jerusalem and move into all Judea. Wherefore Philip’s ministry to Samaria was clearly ‘not according to the program,’ and neither was the way that God responded to those who believed his preaching, as verses 14–17 relate. So then by having Philip go to Samaria ‘not according to the program,’ God began to give clear evidence that His program with Israel was not continuing on as had been prophesied and as had been expected. Moreover He began to make it apparent that He was instituting some sort of a change. And by the rest of the unprophesied and unexpected events and activities that He did during that time God made it quite evident how great a change it was that He was making. For it was a complete change of programs, involving the temporary suspension of His program with Israel and the ushering in of a new unprophesied and different dispensation of His grace to the Gentiles.


Act 8:14  Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:

Act 8:15  Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:

Act 8:16  (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)

Act 8:17  Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.


Keith Blades

Enjoy The Bible Ministries

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