The Samaritan Pentecost
By: Frank G. Tunstall, D. Min.
Philip the deacon was among those expelled from Jerusalem by the Jewish ruling authorities who used expulsion as a tool to try to control the spread of the gospel (Acts 8:1). Philip went to one of the towns in Samaria and “proclaimed the Christ there” (Acts 8:5). Jesus had blazed the trail among Samaritans, as is revealed in the story of the Samaritan woman (John 4). Jesus sacrificed His life to save Samaritans too.
Philip was one of the seven deacons who blossomed into an evangelist. Large crowds were attracted to His ministry resulting from “the miraculous signs he did” (Acts 8:5-8). The people listened to his preaching and even heard the shrieks of “evil spirits as they came out of many.” A “large number of paralytics and cripples” were also healed (Acts 8:7). Luke summarized the result: “There was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:8). A Spirit-filled evangelist had come to their village and was working miracles in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The town sorcerer, Simon, witnessed what was happening. He too “believed and was baptized” (Acts 8:9-13).
The Samaritan Pentecost (Acts 8:14-25).
When the apostles in Jerusalem heard about the Samaritan revival, “they sent Peter and John to them.” The apostles prayed for the people “to receive the Holy Spirit,” and it happened when Peter and John “placed their hands on them” (Acts 8:14-17). Dr. Luke recorded nothing did or did not take place akin to the kind of physical activity at the Upper Room Pentecost that included a loud rushing wind, cloven tongues of fire, and speaking in tongues or languages.
This Samaritan break-through marked the Holy Spirit’s movement into an ethnic group who were blood relatives to the Jews, but they were not true sons of Abraham. The reason was their ancestors dated back more than six centuries to the time of the Assyrian Captivity of the kingdom of Israel. As the years rolled on, many of these captured Jews had intermarried with the pagan population of Assyria; however, they did hold to the Pentateuch (the five books of Moses). They also built their own Temple on Mt. Gerizim.
Simon makes his move (Acts 8:13-24).
Simon the sorcerer had confessed Jesus as the Son of God. After his baptism Simon followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw” (Acts 8:13).
The work of the Holy Spirit bringing Samaritans to Jesus did not go unchallenged. Satan moved in, seeking to destroy the revival by mixing it with sorcery.
Simon at best was weak in his commitment to Jesus Christ and His miraculous death and resurrection. Simon obviously had not cut all ties to his sorcery. His doublemindedness meant the devil could manipulate him – and Satan did (John 8:44).
Through the centuries of the Lord’s church many have wanted to merge the gospel with pagan idolatry. But a blended gospel is always a compromised and heretical gospel. Jesus towers head and shoulders over all rivals and leaves no room for a blended gospel. To this day, the way of the cross remains the only path to peace and eternal life with God in His heaven (Acts 4:12).
When Simon witnessed the Holy Spirit being “given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands,” he saw it as something he could market. Simon offered Peter and John money “so that everyone on whom I lay my hands,” he said, “may receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:18-19). Clearly, what Simon witnessed involved the laying on of hands.
Peter shot back at him: “May your money perish with you because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!” Peter spoke with Holy Spirit boldness that was a trademark of his apostleship. “You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin” (Acts 8:22-24).
“Pray to the Lord for me,” Simon responded, “so that nothing you have said may happen to me” (Acts 8:24).
Sorcery is the practice of using occultic tools such as incantations and spells, seeking to control people. Sorcery is dependent on satanic and demonic effort to tell the future and summon evil spirits. People are often hurt with curses and spells. This practice is specifically forbidden in Holy Scripture (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:26; Galatians 5:20; Revelation 18:23).
The difference is huge between sorcery as the work of the devil, and miracles, signs, wonders, and prophecies wrought by the Holy Spirit. In a nutshell, sorcery destroys with satanic enslavement. In fact, all the devil knows how to do is to steal, kill and destroy (John 8:44). The Holy Spirit liberates by bringing people to Jesus’ cross where they can repent and find forgiveness for all their sins. Jesus gives life, abundant life (John 10:10).
Did Simon repent and totally forsake his sorcery? The Bible does not answer the question. Peter did describe Simon as “full of bitterness and captive to sin” (Acts 8:23). What is most important is that sorcery was not successful at disrupting the work of the Holy Spirit in the Samaritan revival.
Speaking in tongues as the initial evidence a person has received the Holy Spirit.
Four outpourings of the Holy Spirit are recorded in Acts of the Apostles. The Upper Room Pentecost (2:1-47), the Samaritan Pentecost (8:4-24), the Gentile Pentecost
in Caesarea (10:1 – 11:18), and the Ephesian Pentecost (19:1-7). Three of the four include speaking in tongues as the initial evidence: the Upper Room Pentecost,
the Gentile Pentecost at Caesarea, and the Ephesian Pentecost. Tongues-speaking is not recorded at the Samaritan Pentecost, but neither is it denied. An argument
from silence cannot, as a principle of Biblical interpretation, be used to draw a conclusion either for or against speaking in tongues in the Samaritan Pentecost.
However, a hint is in the record.
According to Dr. Luke’s narrative:
- Great miracles were taking place in Samaria led by the Holy Spirit who was guiding and empowering Philip’s ministry.
- No Samaritans received the Pentecostal baptism until after Peter and John arrived, having been sent by the apostles in Jerusalem.
- It was at this point “Simon saw” something that made him know “the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles hands.”
- One can honorably conclude what Simon witnessed was speaking in tongues.
- If a person does not accept this conclusion, he is left to wonder why Dr. Luke thought it important to use the phrase at all, “Simon saw.”
- It is obvious what Simon so foolishly wanted to purchase from the apostles had to be unique and attractive enough for Simon to believe people would pay him handsomely to get it. It is also probable Simon wanted to weave the gift into his sorcery.
- How would Simon himself know a person had received the gift of the Holy Spirit if he witnessed no striking phenomena like speaking in tongues?
- If Simon had succeeded, the gospel of Jesus would have been very compromised and Satan and all of hell would have been shouting with glee. But the devil lost again.
The Azusa Street Pentecostal outpouring of 1906-1909 launched the Pentecostal revival that became the greatest spiritual awakening in the Lord’s church in the 20thcentury. The fathers of the movement concluded speaking in tongues was the initial evidence of a person being baptized in the Holy Spirit. By initial is meant the first evidence, while accepting other evidence follows, one of which is boldness in witnessing. With this strong Biblical evidence, the classical wing of the Pentecostal revival holds to this day to the initial evidence doctrine as a cornerstone teaching.