Another day with The Acts Challenge 2019, and today is day 8! Have you kept up so far? If not, here’s a list of what you missed, and you can catch up whenever you want.
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Stephen is buried
(Vs. 1) And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.
(Vs. 2) And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
Verse one tells us that the entire church became scattered during this time of persecution… EXCEPT for the apostles. They still had a church to build, not made with hands, and not set in any specific building. They accepted the commission for such a time as this and even in burying their friend, Stephen, that Saul and agreed to kill, they still preached the Good News of the Gospel.
Saul Continues Making Havoc
(Vs. 3) As for Saul, he made a havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
(Vs. 4) Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.
Even scattered by the unrelenting persecution of Saul and his bunch, Christians continued to preach the word. That One good Word, Jesus. No matter where they were scattered, that is exactly where the preaching would take place.
Philip Sent by God
(Vs. 5) Then Philip went down to a city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
(Vs. 6) And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
(Vs. 7) For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.
Again, just as we saw in one of the readings in the past few days, here is another that was NOT of the original “twelve” who was able to do mighty miracles. If the “miracles, signs, and wonders” died out with the original 12 disciples, one of two things has happened. Either the Bible is false, or the perception of some people doesn’t line up with the Truth.
Because the Bible isn’t wrong.
Philip cast out unclean spirits, healed those that were sick with palsies and that were lame. They were all healed. To have a palsy (Strong’s G3886) meant a person was paralyzed, feeble, or sick.
(Vs. 8) And there was great joy in that city.
Samaria and Simon
(Vs. 9) 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:
(Vs. 10) To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God.
For someone, in the days of the Apostles, to be likened to a God, was not a completely uncommon thing. It seems it was a time that people, just as they had in the wilderness, when Moses “disappeared” up on Mount Sinai, wanted SOMETHING to worship.
It is, as we know, and innate need that can only be satisfied with Jesus Christ. However, for those that don’t know, or don’t want to know, Him, then they will attempt to suffice with various different things, trying to fill that void.
What’s more, when people have that kind of spiritual and supernatural appetite, there is always someone who is more than happy to oblige. Just as this Simon did, there are many people today still doing the same thing. Bewitching people and cause them to see these people as something supernatural in and of themselves.
Of course, people will say that about those truly commissioned by God, but the difference is, they won’t accept it. They will pass the glory from themselves, towards God, where it SHOULD BE placed, while people like Simon will soak up all the attention and worship they can get.
(Vs. 11) And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.
(Vs. 12) 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.
(Vs. 13) Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.
How could anyone sees the miracles of God taking place and not believe? How can they hear the Gospel message and not believe on the One that died to pay our sin debt?
Well, Simon finally heard and believed. Verse 13 says he continued on with Philip, in wonder, watching the miracles and signs. This is not an uncommon place for a new believer to be, but how we move on from that place is crucial. And Simon went in the wrong direction.
Peter and John Sent to Samaria
(Vs. 14) Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
(Vs. 15) Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
(Vs. 16) (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
(Vs. 17) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
There is so much proof throughout the Word that the Baptism of the Holy Ghost is a crucial point in the life of the believer! Here is one such time, when the new believers in Samaria received the Word, and it was so important that they receive the Holy Ghost, that Peter and John were sent to pray for them in that regard.
If the Holy Ghost were granted “when someone is saved” then there would have been no need for Peter and John to make that trip. If it were just a common part of “believing” then it would already have taken place.
No, the Baptism of fire comes separately, after believing. Not necessarily before or after baptism, as the Scripture shows examples of both. But rather is it is a separate and very important aspect of salvation. There are too many instances in which it is mentioned for that not to be the case.
Simon Wants the Power for Himself
(Vs. 18) And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
(Vs. 19) Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
In a classic case of “going back to his old ways,” Simon reached out to the apostles, offering to pay them for the ability to lay hands on people so that they could receive the Holy Ghost. He saw great power… he saw potential fame, and probably even money-making opportunity, with people still hanging on the love of worshiping so many different gods and idols. He was willing to pay for fame like that, an opportunity that would more than likely make his money back plus some.
Peter Rebukes Simon
(Vs. 20) But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.
(Vs. 21) Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.
Peter cut no corners in telling Simon that his heart wasn’t right before God. In other words, if he remained in this line of thought process, not only would his money perish, but so would he!
This speaks volumes to the fact that we have to have our hearts right before God, especially in relation to the deep things. Whether we understand or not, something it’s just not relevant with regard to what we’ve already said and done.
Simon Receives the Rebuke
(Vs. 22) Repent therefore of this wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
(Vs. 23) For I perceive that thou are in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.
(Vs. 24) Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the LORD for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.
Peter was nothing if not blunt, and made it plain that if Simon was to have any hope of forgiveness, he was going to have to repent. It was obvious to Peter, whether through revelation from God or outward words and actions by Simon himself, that there was something in Simon’s life that was making him bitter and enslaved to sin.
Philip Led by God to Gaza
(Vs. 25) And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.
(Vs. 26) And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.
(Vs. 27) And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem to worship,
(Vs. 28) Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.
(Vs. 29) Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
How many times have we felt called to go to this place, or that place? And how many times have we actually gone? Who knows what kind of things God could accomplish in this day and age if He had access to just a few bold people who would GO and DO and SPEAK on His behalf!
Philip Explains the Word
(Vs. 30) And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?
(Vs. 31) And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
(Vs. 32) The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:
(Vs. 33) In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.
(Vs. 34) And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
(Vs. 35) Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
I absolutely love this verse 35, because it talks about preaching Jesus from the Old Testament. Of course, we all know there are plenty of Scriptures predicting the birth, death, and resurrection of our Lord. But there are so many more that simply speak to the embodiment of Jesus on this earth. And when it says that Philip “started” at this Scripture, I can only imagine he spent a while preaching so much more.
The Ethiopian Eunuch Baptized
(Vs. 36) And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
(Vs. 37) And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
(Vs. 38) And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
This is one of the many Scriptures that, in plain English, make it abundantly clear that “sprinkling” is NOT the way baptism is to be done. In fact, the word baptism itself is translated from the Greek, baptizo (Strong’s G907), and literally means, “to dip, immerse, submerge, or overwhelm.”
In fact, one of the best ways to show the difference between “dipping” (or “sprinkling) and actual baptism, is by reading the Pickle Recipe made famous by 2nd Century poet and physician, Nicander. He wrote that to “pickle” or “ferment” vegetables, they first had to be “dipped” (Greek word, “bapto”) into water that was boiling. This had to be followed by a “soaking” (Greek word, “baptizo”) in the brining liquid.
Philip Caught Away
(Vs. 39) And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
(Vs. 40) But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, til he came to Caesarea.
Have you ever used the “it’s just too far away” excuse when you feel like God has called you to go somewhere? I know I have! The things is, when God calls someone, He equips them as well, in every measure, with everything needed.
Gaza, where God had sent Philip to catch up with the Ethiopian Eunuch, and Azotus, where he was found after being caught away, are roughly 32 miles apart. Do we believe that Philip was caught up and removed that far away, with no harm coming to either? We must, because the Word of God is Truth, every Word, as God is not a man that He should lie.
Do we believe that God could “catch people away” in this day and age? We must, because the Word tells us Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, and forever!
So what’s stopping us from serving, when and where the Lord calls us? Whatever it is, let’s just give it to Him today!
Please feel free to share your thoughts below! And thank you for reading!
Ever In His Service,