In Isolation Thoughts 2

Sunday 22nd August 2020

Music: YouTube- And can it be

Bible Reading: Acts 8.1-25

PROCLAMATION, PERSECUTION & POWER

At the end of ch 7, we saw the stoning of Stephen and there was a comment that the crowd laid their coats for Saul to look after. It seemed to be almost a throw-away comment with little relevance to the situation. Now we begin to see its relevance, as ch 8 opens with the comment that Saul approved of the killing of Stephen. He also suddenly became very active in the opposition to the early church by seeking out the believers and putting them in prison. In reaction to this we see that the believers spread out for their lives, only the apostles remained in Jerusalem. So the persecution and challenge continued, yet it is clear from the rest of the chapter that this meant the growth of the church in a much wider area. God uses man’s actions for His purpose, He can use any situation as a witness for the gospel.

Proclamation with Effect

We now have a series of accounts of the outcome of the persecution and spreading of the church into the wider regions beyond Jerusalem. The focus of attention moves from Peter & John and we find Philip as the new centre of attention. Philip went to Samaria and that region and preached that Jesus was the Messiah. This was a new sphere of witness as the Samaritans and the Jews were sworn enemies for centuries, yet it was to a Samaritan woman that Jesus spoke at the well-side concerning living water. We also know that the people of the town came and heard Jesus and believed He was the Messiah. So in one sense Philip was preaching to a people who were open to the gospel. It enabled them to break away from the historical conflict with the Jews and become united in the church. Philip performed miracles with the power of the Holy Spirit and the people were saved by faith in Jesus. this change had an immediate effect in that the city was now joyful and continued to listen to the teaching.

All was well until Philip came face to face with a man called Simon the Sorcerer.

Power at a Price

Here was a man who did tricks which impressed people. Note he also was very proud and boasted about his great ability. He was well known in the city at all levels of society, the people paid attention to him and his actions. So in one sense it was a great boost to the gospel for him to endorse what Philip was doing. It helped Philip to have this added attention and the effect was that many were saved by faith in Christ and were baptised and added to the church. Simon also believed, was baptised and added to the church community.

News of this church growth reached the apostles in Jerusalem and Peter and John came north to assess and assist the situation. It seems that the conversions were true but the Holy Spirit had not been revealed to the new believers, so the two apostles blessed the new converts and laid hands on them so they could receive the Holy Spirit.

This action made Simon think, this power would be useful in his line of work. He offered money to the apostles for this power, as he saw it. Peter was incensed at the offer; the Holy Spirit is a gift from God not merchandise to be purchased. He rebukes Simon, tells him that he is sinful and can have no part in the church ministry. He is not right with God and needs to repent. Simon pleads for forgiveness, then disappears from the scene. The preaching continued for a while, then Peter & John went back to Jerusalem, at the same time used the journey to preach in the villages they passed through on their journey.

There are a number of lessons for us in these incidents:

  • God can use any situation for His purpose, even the most unlikely ones.
  • Faithful preaching of the truth of the gospel will always have results. Jesus had laid the foundation for this revival in Samaria. Philip and later Peter & John were able to build on it.
  • The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to the church as it is the universal presence of God in the world.
  • Salvation and all its benefits cannot be bought, it is a gift from God

We need to use the gifts God has given us in every situation, trust God to use any situation for His purpose. We must be open to His leading.

Prayer

Music: YouTube- In Christ Alone


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