Acts 8:12

WWII Iwo Jima memorial. State Capitol, Texas.

Friday, 17 June 2022

But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. Acts 8:12

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen).

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

A contrast to the past few verses concerning Simon is now introduced. He practiced sorcery and astonished the people, having duped them to believe that he was the great power of God and so on. However, Philip is again brought into the narrative now, saying, “But when they believed Philip.”

The word “they” is referring to the people in the city of Samaria. Simon was a highlight among them, but something new has been introduced that goes beyond their adoration of him. As it next says of Philip, “as he preached.”

It is the same word, euaggelizó, used in verse 8:4. It means “to preach the good news.” There it said –

“Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.”

Contained in that preaching of good news is “the things concerning the kingdom of God.” Some manuscripts, and thus some translations, omit the words “the things.” As such, it reads, “the good news about the kingdom of God.” Either way, the subject of the kingdom of God is considered a part of the good news of Jesus. As such, it is important to understand what this is referring to.

There cannot be a kingdom without a king. In the case of the kingdom of God, it is the good news that Jesus is the King over an entirely new realm. Not only has he replaced Adam, but He is seated in authority over His people.

This kingdom is referred to throughout the epistles. Paul mentions it in Romans 14:17; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; 15:24, 50; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 1:13, 4:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Timothy 1:17, 6:15 (Jesus the King); 2 Timothy 4:1, 4:18.

It is also mentioned in Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, and Revelation. The concept of a kingdom is likewise mentioned throughout Acts as having been preached by Jesus, as well as by both the apostles and disciples who ministered to the Jews, and by those who ministered to the Gentiles.

Having said that, care must be taken to understand that the kingdom referred to can, at times, mean a literal, physical reign of Christ on earth during the millennium, or it can refer to the kingdom of God that is a spiritual kingdom. What is being referred to now is the spiritual kingdom that is also preached by Paul in Acts and that is referred to in the epistles as well. This is evident from the next words, “and the name of Jesus Christ.”

The kingdom of God is the rule and authority of God in opposition to that of Satan, the ruler of this world and its present system. Jesus Christ is the King of the kingdom of God. He is the fulfillment of everything necessary to return man to the anticipated restoration of the perfection that was lost at the fall.

Adam was like a king over the realm of the world. He lost that right and authority, and Jesus Christ has regained title to it. This applies to those who put their trust in Him, and it is this that is methodically explained in the epistles, but which is also referred to in Acts. It is what Jesus spoke of prior to His crucifixion –

“Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.’
37 Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are You a king then?’
Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’” John 18:36, 37

Of this kingdom that Philip proclaimed, it next says, “both men and women were baptized.” This is the outward sign of being accepted into the kingdom of God. It is a rite that was commanded by Jesus, after His resurrection (meaning after the introduction of the New Covenant), and thus it is applicable to all people: Jews, those of Samaria, and Gentiles (as will continue to be seen in Acts).

The rite itself is not necessary for salvation, but it is necessary for obedience to the Lord. To not receive baptism is to violate the prescriptions set down by the Lord, of which two are recorded, baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Life application: There is a heresy that has crept into the church over the years which has already been addressed earlier in the Acts commentary, but it is a good time to review it. It is most prominently known as hyperdispensationalism. It is taught in varying degrees and with some false teachings held to by one pastor and more of them held to by another.

In general, it departs from sound doctrine in that it teaches that baptism (meaning water baptism) is not a necessary part of the life of a believer. And yet, these same people will say that it is right to observe the Lord’s Supper. The same Lord, Jesus, who mandated one also mandated the other. He did so at (or after) the inauguration of the New Covenant, of which He spoke of at the Last Supper.

As there is one New Covenant, and as it applies to both Israel (Jeremiah 31:31 & Hebrews 8:8) and to the Gentiles (1 Corinthians 11:25 & 2 Corinthians 3:6), then the mandates of that covenant by the One who established it, equally apply to both.

Hyperdispensationalism, however, goes further down Heresy Highway by proclaiming that there are two different gospels, one for the Jew and one for the Gentile. But Paul explicitly states in 1 Corinthians 15:11 that his gospel is the same as the gospel preached by Peter and the other apostles.

Along with this, hyperdispensationalists will claim that Jesus is not the King over the Gentiles and that the title should not be used of Him in this manner. Instead, they claim that this is a title that belongs to Him over the Jews and that the “kingdom” for them is an earthly one. However, as noted above, if one proclaims a kingdom – as Paul does – then there must be a king that reigns over it. The exact same kingdom that Christ rules over (as noted in the list provided above) is proclaimed by all of the apostles in one united voice.

Another erroneous point taught in hyperdispensationalism is that the church did not begin until the preaching of Paul. A key and main point of the book of Acts is to show that this is not true, but that what God is doing is not dependent on Israel as a key point of what being in the “church” means.

Rather, what belongs to Israel concerning the Old Testament promises is a separate thing altogether. The church began with Christ’s work. It was proclaimed from Acts 2 on, but Israel the nation missed what was going on. From there, the message (the same gospel message) slowly gravitated toward the Gentiles as Paul’s ministry took hold.

If you know anyone who is caught up in these false teachings, let them know that they should first question their own salvation. Have they believed the one (and only) gospel as outlined in 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4? If so, they should then question their obedience to the Lord. He has given commands concerning our responsibilities in the salvation He provides. To refuse these is a mark of disobedience to His spoken word.

Finally, they should be properly instructed on what the “kingdom” means and who the King of that kingdom is. In this, you will be helping them out of a truly heretical cult that has arisen, and which divides the body of Christ and brings shame upon what He has done for His people.

Lord God, help us to have sound doctrine. The church did not begin when Paul began preaching. It began when You established it through the giving of Christ Jesus for our sins. Help us to be responsible in our theology lest we be found inept in our doctrine. Above all, thank You for Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.