The eighth chapter of Acts gives a detailed record of a true New Testament preacher, an evangelist, carrying the gospel from Jerusalem to another town: “Philip went down to Samaria, and preached Christ to them.”
Everyone in town believed Philip’s preaching. They were, then, “believers.” They accepted the preaching of Philip–Philip preached Christ–so they “accepted” Christ. Many had devils cast out, many were healed, and there was great joy. These people were having church! Even Simon the sorcerer believed and followed Philip around watching all the miracles.
Jesus said that except a man is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. From all that we have read in the Scriptures so far, “born of water” is baptism in the name of Jesus and “born of the Spirit” is the in-filling of the Holy Ghost evidenced by speaking in tongues. Philip is a true man of God who was converted by Peter’s gospel and certainly not a false prophet. Did water and the Spirit play a part when Philip preached Christ?
Acts 8:12: “When they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” Careful examination reveals that preaching Christ amounted to preaching the “kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.” While we aren’t given any of the words that Philip preached, we can know from the response of the people that he preached Jesus-name baptism. The Samaritans were baptized in the name of Jesus as the direct and only response to Philip’s preaching of the name of Jesus Christ. Verse 16 proves that he baptized in the name and not the titles. Okay, there’s the water.
Philip preached the birth of the Spirit, too. Verses 14-16 tell us that when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the gospel, they sent Peter and John to pray for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost, for as yet He had fallen on NONE OF THEM, only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Philip preached New Testament salvation just like Peter did, and the Samaritans obeyed the same way the people in Acts 2 obeyed Peter. The people believed, were baptized in Jesus’ name, and now are waiting, tarrying, for the Holy Ghost.
Isn’t this curious? This takes place some years after the church was established on the Day of Pentecost. This is the same Church Age that we live in today. The people had devils cast out, they were healed, they had great joy, they were believers, they were baptized, and they accepted Christ, but they DID NOT have the Holy Spirit. They must not have received it the moment they recited the sinner’s prayer. And they cannot enter into the kingdom of God without it.
Here’s another curious thing: Simon the sorcerer never offered money when he saw healing. He didn’t offer money when he saw devils cast out. But when he saw the people receive the Holy Ghost, he pulled out his wallet. What did Simon observe that impressed him so? Would Simon pay money if he saw someone receive the Holy Ghost in your church?
After studying the events in Samaria, the following questions are offered to provoke thoughtful consideration:
1. If a person is “saved,” has his sins forgiven and receives the Holy Spirit automatically when he “accepts” Christ, as it is preached today, why wasn’t Simon saved? Simon “believed also” (like the other Samaritans) and was baptized. When he offered money, Peter didn’t just say to him, “Oh, that’s a mistake, Brother Simon. You’re not supposed to think that way, now that you’re saved.” No, Peter told this baptized believer that he had no part in the matter.
According to most Baptists, a person doesn’t have to do anything to get saved and then, once he is saved, he couldn’t shoot his way out of it. Why wasn’t Simon saved upon acceptance? If he was saved when he accepted Christ as his personal Savior, how did he get unsaved when he offered money?
2. If baptism is not essential to salvation, why was that the Samaritans’ only direct response to Philip’s preaching? When they believed what he preached, they were baptized. And how does this incident compare with Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:16, Luke 24:47, and Acts 2:38?
3. Why did Philip baptize the people in the name of the Lord Jesus, instead of the titles Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?
4. How did Philip and the apostles know that the Samaritans had not received the Holy Ghost? There had to be an instant, recognizable sign. What was it? It had to be something other than accepting, other than believing, other than miracles, and other than baptism, because all these were listed but expressly did not show that they had received the Holy Ghost. I challenge anyone who believes that receiving the Holy Ghost is automatic, with no accompanying physical sign, to answer.
5. Why did the Samaritans not receive the Holy Ghost automatically as soon as they believed and trusted Christ, the way it is taught today?
6. At what point in history did people begin to receive the Holy Ghost and have their sins forgiven automatically at the moment they accepted Christ? And how would such a change relate to Jesus’ command to take the gospel that began on the Day of Pentecost to every nation and every individual on earth?
7. If your pastor went to another town and preached Christ to the people, would he preach the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ? Would he baptize them in the name of the Lord Jesus? Would the converts receive the Holy Ghost? Would anyone notice if they received it? Could anyone tell if they hadn’t? Would your pastor preach the gospel just like Philip, Peter, Ananias, and Paul did in the church in the Bible?