In Acts chapter 8, the Samaritans don’t receive the Holy Spirit until the apostles lay hands on them. Why?
Acts 8:5-17 says, “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city. But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But 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. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.”
The Book of Acts is a Book of transition. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit did not indwell believers, but just came upon them to empower them for service. In David’s case, the Holy Spirit remained with him, but in Saul’s case, the Holy Spirit left him. I Samuel 16:13,14 says, “Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD CAME UPON DAVID FROM THAT DAY FORWARD. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah. BUT THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD DEPARTED FROM SAUL, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.”
By the time that the transition was complete in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit would indwell believers, and would remain with them until the day that their bodies are redeemed. John 14:16,17 says, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, THAT HE MAY ABIDE WITH YOU FOR EVER; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for HE DWELLETH WITH YOU, AND SHALL BE IN YOU.” Ephesians 4:30 says, “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby YE ARE SEALED UNTO THE DAY OF REDEMPTION.”
In the case of the Samaritans in Acts 8, the Lord probably handled it that way because of their background. II Kings 17:22-34 says, “For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not from them; Until the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as he had said by all his servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day. AND THE KING OF ASSYRIA BROUGHT MEN FROM BABYLON, AND FROM CUTHATH, AND FROM AVA, AND FROM HAMATH, AND FROM SEPHARVAIM, AND PLACED THEM IN THE CITIES OF SAMARIA INSTEAD OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof.
And so it was at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they feared not the LORD: therefore the LORD sent lions among them, which slew some of them. Wherefore they spake to the king of Assyria, saying, The nations which thou hast removed, and placed in the cities of Samaria, know not the manner of the God of the land: therefore he hath sent lions among them, and, behold, they slay them, because they know not the manner of the God of the land. Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, CARRY THITHER ONE OF THE PRIESTS WHOM YE BROUGHT FROM THENCE; AND LET THEM GO AND DWELL THERE, AND LET HIM TEACH THEM THE MANNER OF THE GOD OF THE LAND. Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the LORD. HOWBEIT EVERY NATION MADE GODS OF THEIR OWN, AND PUT THEM IN THE HOUSES OF THE HIGH PLACES WHICH THE SAMARITANS MADE, every nation in their cities wherein they dwelt. And the men of Babylon made Succothbenoth, and the men of Cuth made Nergal, and the men of Hamath made Ashima, And the Avites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burnt their children in fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim. So they feared the LORD, and made unto themselves of the lowest of them priests of the high places, which sacrificed for them in the houses of the high places. They feared the LORD, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence. Unto this day they do after the former manners: they fear not the LORD, neither do they after their statutes, or after their ordinances, or after the law and commandment which the LORD commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel.”
The Lord wanted to make it clear to the Samaritans that becoming a Christian was not just adding another religion to the many that they already had. The truth was coming down to them from Jerusalem, and they needed to recognize it, accept it, and humble themselves. Consider the conversation that Jesus had with the Samaritan woman at the well. John 4:5-26 says, “Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. THERE COMETH A WOMAN OF SAMARIA TO DRAW WATER: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. OUR FATHERS WORSHIPPED IN THIS MOUNTAIN; AND YE SAY, THAT IN JERUSALEM IS THE PLACE WHERE MEN OUGHT TO WORSHIP. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. YE WORSHIP YE KNOW NOT WHAT: WE KNOW WHAT WE WORSHIP: FOR SALVATION IS OF THE JEWS. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.”
Notice how she was looking to “their mountain” for the truth — not to Jerusalem. Jesus made it very plain to her that “salvation is of the Jews.” Lest there be another rerun of what happened in the Old Testament (Samaritans having their own religion and then mixing it with the true faith), God withheld the Holy Spirit from them until the Jewish leaders of the church came from Jerusalem. That let the Samaritans see the true picture, and was something that should keep them humble.