Scripture Reading: Acts 8:14-35

In this message we shall continue to consider the patterns presented in chapter eight of Acts.


Acts 8:14-16 says, “Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who went down and prayed for them so that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them, but they had only been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.” In these verses we see a matter of great importance. The scattered saints had done a good job in preaching the gospel. They had migrated with the gospel, and Philip had strengthened their preaching of the gospel. As a result, a marvelous work was done. But although the Lord did much through the preaching of the scattered saints and Philip the evangelist, He reserved one thing—the economical Spirit. According to 8:14-16, the Samaritan believers had not yet received the economical Spirit. Peter and John were sent to them and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit economically.

To Prevent an Attitude of Independence

In these verses we have an important pattern related to the gospel work. From this pattern we see that the gospel work should not be independent of the Body of Christ. The scattered saints and Philip the evangelist carried on a very good work. But if the Lord had not withheld something, they might have been encouraged to be independent. They might have said, “Peter and John, we are doing the same thing that you are doing in Jerusalem. Whatever you can do, we can do also.” In order to prevent such an attitude of independence, the Lord withheld the economical Spirit.

A Particular Case

According to 8:15, Peter and John prayed for the Samaritan believers to receive the Holy Spirit. The situation here is different from that in 2:38. The apostles preached and ministered Christ, but when their hearers repented and believed in Him, they received the wonderful Spirit of the Triune God. This implies that this Spirit is just the resurrected and ascended Christ Himself. The receiving of the Spirit in 2:38 is both essential and economical, in a general and all-inclusive sense. It differs from the receiving of the Spirit in 8:15-17, which is particularly the receiving of the Spirit falling upon the believers economically.

Acts 8:16 tells us that before Peter and John came, the Holy Spirit had not fallen upon the believers in Samaria. This does not mean that those new believers had not received the Holy Spirit within them essentially when they believed in the Lord. According to the teaching of the New Testament in Ephesians 1:13 and Galatians 3:2, they should have received the Holy Spirit essentially when they believed for their regeneration (John 3:6, 36). But they had not yet received the Spirit economically to identify them with the Body of Christ. The reason the Holy Spirit did not fall upon them outwardly and economically was that the apostles, through whom the practical establishment of the church was initiated in Jerusalem, might come to bring them into identification with the Body of Christ. This case is different from those in the house of Cornelius, who received the Holy Spirit when they believed in the Lord, both essentially within them for regeneration and economically upon them for baptism into the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13) and identification with the Body of Christ. That was because the gospel was preached then directly by Peter, who played the main role in the initiation of the practical establishment of the church.