It had been the command of Jesus before his ascension that his disciples should take the gospel further afield than Jerusalem and Judea. So far in the Book of Acts the account has focussed mainly on what the church in Jerusalem was doing. But in chapter 8 Luke records the first attempts to take the gospel elsewhere.
The providential cause of the spreading of the gospel was persecution of the church in Jerusalem. While the persecution was painful to experience, it was a method that Jesus allowed in order for his church to make progress. This has often been the case with regard to expressions of opposition to his cause.
Luke’s description also reminds us that many stories concerning the growth of the church will not be told to others until Jesus returns. All he says is that those who were scattered preached the word wherever they went. Yet we can see that although they were scattered they retained a shared purpose, which was to pass on the message about Jesus. The kingdom grew despite intense opposition because Jesus in heaven used his people to witness for him in new places.
Luke details that Philip preached about Jesus as the Messiah. This would have been the same message as he would have declared previously to Jews. Perhaps it was the fact that the Samaritans were looking for a messiah that caused him to focus on Jesus in this way. Whether it was or not, he was guided by the Spirit to speak about Jesus to a people who would not have known very much about him.
Philip gained their attention through the signs that he performed. Two signs are mentioned – deliverance from demons and healing of paralysed and lame individuals. The obvious feature of these miracles is that they were obvious. People saw them taking place and realised that they were signs that God was present.
Who performed those signs? Philip was the instrument but Jesus was in charge, and worked through the Spirit to cause people to listen to his servant. There was no dubiety here about the authenticity of what had happened. The listeners realised that Philip had a type of power not found on earth.
Yet the signs were only signs. The central feature of Philip’s preaching was the focus he had on Jesus. As a true preacher, Philip ensured that his listeners knew about Jesus. Hearing about Jesus and observing his power at work through his servant caused many to believe the message, and to experience the joy that accompanies salvation.