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God is on the Move (Part 2)
a commentary on Acts 8 (Interpretation)
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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God’s mission to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth is officially underway. It is almost like the disciples and the early church in Jerusalem are the small forest fire that is still manageable. But in our passage this week, God sends a strong wind and the forest fire is about to take off.
Let’s jump back into our passage and break down what exactly I mean!
God Advances the Gospel in Samaria
First, as we know, God sends the gospel into Samaria.
But there are a few really powerful pieces we shouldn’t miss that I think Luke is trying to point out here.
First, God used the persecution of Saul to expand the gospel. I wonder if Paul looked back at that moment when he wrote Romans 8:
“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 CSB).
Second, when the gospel began to scatter, did God send the elite task force, the disciples, into the new territory to spread the gospel?
Nope, he sent the ordinary Christians. Those that heard the gospel, believed in Christ, received the Holy Spirit, and were led to share the gospel wherever they went.
Because they all realize it’s not about the person. They are all weak humans. It’s about the power of the Holy Spirit residing in each of them!
The most beautiful part to me is how powerful the grace of God is. Philip went into this area where Jews and Samaritans are enemies and began to preach about Jesus, the true Messiah.
And they all received the good news with open arms. I don’t see one verse here that mentions persecution. They received it better than the Jews in Jerusalem!
Many of them saw the wonders the Holy Spirit led Philip to do and believed and were baptized.
Which leads us to our next topic.
The Power and Importance of the Holy Spirit
Remember our question from yesterday?
Why didn’t these new Samaritan converts receive the Holy Spirit upon their profession of faith?
I’ll be 100% honest, I don’t know if we have a 100% confident answer. But there are definitely a lot of skeptical answers I believe to be wrong.
Some more charismatic people believe that this is kind of how the Holy Spirit works. They think that you first believe in Christ and then later on you can seek out more spiritual experiences like speaking in tongues or something.
Eh…I don’t see evidence anywhere for that one.
Others think that a believer can simply be genuinely saved but not have the Holy Spirit.
That doesn’t really make sense at all either. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to those who believe, Paul talks about it too.
Some people think, ok, maybe it’s just the Samaritans then. They were saved and they had a tiny bit of the Holy Spirit. All they lacked were spiritual gifts and that’s what they received from the disciple's prayers.
That seems odd too, and why wouldn’t the text say that then?
Finally, some people believe that the Samaritan’s faith was a sham much like Simon the Sorcerer’s.
I don’t think that’s true either.
The reality that I believe could be true is to recognize that we are still in the very early stages of the church. Many of these people were already bamboozled by Simon the Sorcerer, which means there was probably other black magic going around too.
So the disciples probably just needed to witness the Holy Spirit coming onto the new believers so that they could be credible witnesses. So there was no question that the power the Samaritans now held was from God, not a demonic force.
There would be no question that these bitter enemies were now brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.
It also shows how important and powerful the Holy Spirit really is.
Simon’s jealousy for it also reveals that he, a sorcerer, recognized how powerful God’s Holy Spirit really was.
But as Peter makes very clear to Simon, the Holy Spirit isn’t for sale. He’s not our personal genie granting our every wish. We are talking about the omnipotent Creator of the universe. His power dwelling in us is not something we get to control and wield.
The disciples realized this, chastised Simon, and realized this is so important they needed to witness these new believers so there would be no doubts.
God Advances the Gospel to the Ends of the Earth
The really amazing example we see in Acts 8 is how often these Christians share the gospel. They take every advantage imaginable and never make an excuse.
Persecution? No worries, we’ll share the gospel in Samaria.
The disciples came to pray over these new converts and then headed back to Jerusalem. But, of course, on their way, they stopped at many villages to share the gospel.
Everywhere these people went, they were sharing the gospel despite past prejudices, persecution, or inconvenience.
Then, finally, we see Philip get a command from God to head south into the desert to share the gospel with the Ethiopian.
This shouldn’t be understated.
Philip was the one that started this amazing revival in Samaria, people are being baptized left and right, he’s healing people, and taking care of the needy.
He is clearly doing God’s work already.
And then he gets the call from God to leave?
Don’t you think it was tempting to wonder if that was really God? Couldn’t it have been the devil trying to get him to walk away from God’s work? Could he have made excuses saying he’s already doing amazing things, I’m just going to stay?
But no. He got up and went just like God commanded.
And God once again used Philip to bless the Ethiopian.
See, Philip was a man after God’s heart and he loved God’s people. Whether it was a crowd of people like in Samaria or a single rejected man who needed to know Jesus.