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God is on the Move (Part 1)
a commentary on Acts 8 (Context)
Thank you, Lord, for this day. May it be used for your glory!
Good morning everyone and welcome back to Biblit!
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I learned something interesting about quantum entanglement and quantum mechanics.
Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the details…I don’t understand the details anyways.
But the idea starts with taking 2 electrons and “quantum entangling” them (don’t worry about what that means, I have no idea). It’s just some physics phenomenon you can do to things. Like saying if you take a magnet it can stick to metal. Quantum entanglement is just a property that exists.
Then when you have 2 entangled electrons, you can take one of them and shoot it like 100,000 lightyears away. Into some far-reaching galaxy.
You can then take the electron you still have and turn it and thanks to this physics thing the other electron galaxies away will turn in the same way in that same exact instance!
Isn’t that wild!? It’s like a weird teleportation communication thing.
Maybe I’m a nerd, but I think that’s super cool! Especially because God created that. We have been on earth for however long and still are discovering wild realities that God created!
Well, in today’s Biblit…right at the end…we get to witness something just as amazing as quantum entanglement, all powered by the Holy Spirit.
Let’s jump in!
Alright, if you recall from our very first Biblit in Acts 1, we talked about Jesus’s words:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 CSB).
I told you all that the first 7 chapters covered Jerusalem. Well, today we move into a new section covering Judea and Samaria.
Remember, Jerusalem was a land that hated the disciples and the gospel of Jesus. We saw a lot of persecution over the last 7 chapters, culminating in the first martyr for Jesus, Stephen.
Now we move into some new territory where the people (Samaritans) already hated the Jews before Jesus was ever in the picture.
Samaria had a mix of Jewish and Gentile people; however, most other Jews considered them to be dirty Jews. If I’m correct, they looked down on Samaritan Jews even more than Greek Jews.
In fact, the Samaritans kind of had a twisted Jewish religion; they were Jews but added their own flair. Not unlike the Jews in Jerusalem if we’re being honest.
The Samaritans had their own version of the Bible, they had their own temple, and they had a totally different view of who and what the Messiah would look like.
The important thing, though, is that both Jewish groups had a disdain for each other.
So we’ll see how this goes!
Why Judea and Samaria?
This first small section shows what actually pushed the gospel message out of Jerusalem.
And the answer was Saul.
Not only will he become the answer to Stephen’s prayer, but he is also falling right into God’s sovereign will to push the gospel message globally.
We are told that Saul agreed in putting Stephen to death and that after his death a severe perseuction broke out against the Chrisitans. Everyone scattered except for the disciples.
Where did they scatter? Judea and Samaria!
After this short but wild intro, we focus in on a new character: Philip.
Now, if you’re thinking, “hey, Philip is a disciple right?” You would be correct, there is a disciple named Philip. But…that’s not who this guy is.
Remember Acts 6, when the deacons are called to take care of the widows? One of those men was Stephen who we saw killed last time. But another of those men was a man named Philip from Caecarea.
Most theologians agree that this is probably the same guy. The first clue is that we already read everyone scattered except for the disciples. They stayed in Jerusalem.
When we pick up on Philip, we see him in Samaria sharing the gospel and healing people.
And despite the disdain of these two cultures, the Samaritans react with great joy to the healings and accept the gospel message Philip is sharing!
In fact, there is another man in the town named Simon. I’ll call him “Simon the Sorcerer” because we’re told he practiced sorcery.
By the sound of it, he was pretty good and amazed many a Samaritan. In fact, the people believed he had superpowers from God.
But the second Simon heard the gospel from Philip, he immediately “believed”, followed Philip everywhere, and even got baptized!
Simon’s Big Mistake
Well, word gets around to the disciples back in Jerusalem that the gospel message is spreading throughout Samaria and people are getting baptized!
Shocked (I’m sure) Peter and John rush out there to pray over the newly baptized Christians so they may receive the Holy Spirit.
This brings up a great question…why didn’t they receive the Holy Spirit when they first believed? Why did they need the disciples to pray over them?
That is a great question indeed, and one we’ll answer tomorrow.
But for now, we know that is exactly what happened. Peter and John came to Samaria, prayed over the new Christians, and then they received the Holy Spirit.
And who made the same observation? Simon.
Simon sneakily went over to the great Peter and John and offered them money to teach him that same power. He wanted to be able to give the Holy Spirit to anyone he touched too.
Peter saw straight through Simon and chastised him for having these evil motives in his heart.
We aren’t exactly sure what Simon’s intentions were. But I can assume from his past, he most likely saw the power of the Holy Spirit working the many signs and miracles and knew deep down it was way more powerful than anything he had done as a sorcerer. I’m guessing he was enthralled with the power and wanted it for himself.
I’m guessing he didn’t truly care about a relationship with Christ yet…he just wanted the power of Christ.
Peter calls him out in a big way, saying he was poisoned and bound for wickedness. He tells Simon to run off and take his dirty money, for he has no part in this because his heart is twisted with evil intentions.
But Simon responds in a humble way:
“Pray to the Lord for me,” Simon replied, “so that nothing you have said may happen to me.” (Acts 8:24 CSB).
We don’t know yet what happens to Simon or if Peter prayed for him, but it certainly sounds sincere to me. Maybe I’m just naive.
Either way…we move on.
The Gospel Continues to Spread
Next, we pick back up with Philip.
The Lord speaks directly to him and tells him to:
“Get up and go south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza” (Acts 8:26 CSB).
I wish God spoke that clearly to me sometimes, haha!
So Philip does exactly as God commands, and what happens next is mind-blowing.
First, he runs into a man whose name we don’t get. But we know he is an Ethiopian man, a eunuch, and a high official for the queen of Ethiopia, Candace.
He is a man from a foreign country with a pretty powerful position of authority over the country. Sounds perfect for spreading the gospel in a global way!
Furthermore, Ethiopia was in the far reaches of Africa. Today we could fly there in a day. But back then in their culture, Ethiopia was considered the ends of the earth. Much like where Jesus told the disciples to take the gospel.
Hmm…it’s all coming together!
Lead by the Spirit, Philip approaches the chariot with this Ethiopian man only to find him reading none other than the book of Isaiah!
Now, Isaiah was a particularly interesting book for eunuchs. See, eunuchs were not “full” Jews either. I’m learning a lot of Jewish people were not allowed to be full Jews. Although, the eunuch thing was from God’s actual law in Deuteronomy 23.
Eunuch’s were allowed to go to the temple, but they were not allowed to go into the temple.
So a lot of eunuchs felt rejected by their own people. However, they loved the prophecies in Isaiah because of this one in particular found in Isaiah 56:
“For the Lord says this: ‘For the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, and choose what pleases me, and hold firmly to my covenant, I will give them, in my house and within my walls, a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters. I will give each of them an everlasting name that will never be cut off.’” (Isaiah 56:4-5 CSB).
So that sets the stage pretty well, right?
When Philip enters the scene, however, the man is confused about another particular prophecy in Isaiah:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb is silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who will describe his generation? For his life is taken from the earth.” (Acts 8:32-33 CSB).
Well, as you may have guessed, that prophecy is all about Jesus, but this Ethiopian man had no idea.
Philip takes the opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus starting with that prophecy. The man not only totally understands, but he believes in Christ and has the chariot pull over so he can get baptized!
Then to make matters even wilder, as soon as Philip is done baptizing the man, the Spirit of the Lord snatches Philip up and brings him to Azotus which is near his hometown of Caesarea!
Yes…we just witnessed God use teleportation! How amazing is that!? What is the Ethiopian thinking at this point!?
Then the chapter closes. Tune in tomorrow for some more thoughts on this wild chapter and we’ll dive into what the Spirit is teaching, what Luke is telling us, and what it all means!