Persecution crashes down upon the young Church in Jerusalem, scattering her members across Judea, Samaria, and beyond. As they flee, they preach the Gospel and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. This study focuses in on some amazing developments that unfold as the Gospel is preached in Samaria.
And as we rejoin our study in the Book of Acts in chapter eight, stephen has just been stoned to death after a sham trial before the Sanhedrin, the ruling religious council in Jerusalem. His execution marks him as the first martyr of the Church. In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul would later write that the Gospel came first to the Jew and then to the Greek or the Gentile. Stephen's execution seems to mark the final time the Jews were collectively as a people presented with the Gospel, only to reject it. And as a result, the time arrived for the Gospel to move outward to the Gentiles.
Most scholars reckon verse one places us around three years after Pentecost and the events of Acts. Chapter two, we read the first sentence sorry, we read the first sentence in verse is in our previous study, and so we'll pick things up. In the second sentence it says, on that day underlying on that day, the day of Stephen's execution, a severe persecution broke out against the Church in Jerusalem and all except the apostles were, and then underline the rest of this sentence, scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria. All scholars agree that pretty much everybody who had a home outside of Jerusalem, so all those who came originally for the feast of Pentecost three years ago and ended up staying because this amazing thing called the Church happened, all of them head back to their old homes that would have included all of the Hellenistic Jews. That means all the Jews who were not ethnically Hebrew, but were still religiously Jewish.
So Greek Jews, Ethiopian Jews, people from all over the world who are not Hebrew Jews, but of different nationalities, they all unquestionably headed to their homes. And most believers believe that sorry, most scholars believe that those believers who had lived in Jerusalem previously might have taken a little bit longer, they might have delayed a little bit more. When the persecution hit, those who had homes in other places kind of said, we feel like we need to go back to our homes. Those who had homes in Jerusalem said, yeah, we probably need to go. Let's just see how bad it is.
And we'll see that they likely filtered out of Jerusalem over the coming days and weeks when they realized this persecution was especially vicious. And yet it says, all except the apostles were scattered. And so we're going to lean toward taking that at face value. It doesn't mean it was one day. On the day that Stephen was executed, on the day that persecution broke out, everyone left.
It meant that was the end result. When this thing had run its course over the coming days and weeks, the apostles and their families were the only ones who stayed. And this hit me because I'm a pessimist by nature. And so when I come to Church and attendance is low, my first thought is like, well, I know what happened. Half the Church has recanted their faith and walked away from Christianity.
That's obviously what happened. That's obviously where everybody is. And then someone has to come to me and say, well, Jeff, I happen to know for a fact this person is going to a family wedding this week, and this person has obviously not recanted their faith. And they walked me back from the edge of the cliff, and I go, okay, okay. All right.
I can buy that. Now, you try to imagine this, the Jerusalem Church where the apostles are getting together, and they're like, okay, so what was attendance last Sunday at all different churches meeting in homes? It would have been something like 32,483. Persecution breaks out next Sunday. They have their staff meeting the following Monday.
What was the tenants this week? 217. I think we might need to cancel that youth summer camp that we were planning. Just 99 9% of the Church is gone from Jerusalem in a matter of days and weeks. It happens fast.
And the apostles don't blink. They just stay there. And I kind of can't help thinking they might have thought, this is it. We're just going to all die in Jerusalem, and then Jesus is probably going to come back. So, I mean, we had a good run.
Three years, same length as the ministry of Jesus. Seems symmetrical. We had a good run here. They all just stay there, and we forget that they weren't clueing in what was going to happen next. They eventually would put the pieces together, but I don't think there's any indication at this point.
They were like, oh, persecution exactly on schedule. Everyone stayed cool. Nobody panicked. They stayed to their credit. But I think they probably stayed because they thought they were going to stay and die for Jesus in Jerusalem.
Stephen's execution unleashes a wave of persecution against the Church, so severe that practically overnight, the Church goes from tens of thousands to just the apostles and their families. And from this point on, the Jerusalem Church will consist almost entirely of Hebrew Jews, as opposed to the previous mix of Hebrew and Hellenistic Jews. The apostles stayed because the Lord told them to. But I also think they were extra determined to not abandon the name of Jesus in Jerusalem a second time, as they had done previously on the night when Jesus was arrested, they had scattered. If you remember what the gospels tell us, and this time they were saying, we're not leaving.
We're going to stay and die for Jesus if that's what it's going to be. In verses, one raises a difficult question. If you're being persecuted for your faith, should you flee as most in Jerusalem, or should you stay as the apostles did and serve as an enduring witness in the face of persecution? I suspect the question may become relevant to our lives sooner than many of us realize. The answer is, whatever the lord tells you, however, the Lord leads you.
And I say that because it will become clear in our text that both those who stayed and those who fled were being led by the Lord. He was working through both groups. The key is to seek the Lord in prayer and fasting in his word, and then obey as you believe the Lord is leading you. But no matter what ending we sense from the Lord, we must ensure that we are prepared to suffer for Jesus, to be imprisoned for Him, to be willing to die for Him. We cannot say, well, I really, really don't want to suffer for Jesus, so that must mean I'm supposed to flee.
Thank you for making that clear, Holy Spirit. That's not how it works. Be prepared to obey Jesus whatever it costs, and then obey Jesus whatever it costs. Would you write this down? Believers facing persecution are to make big life decisions, the same way every believer is called to live daily, submitted to the lordship of Jesus.
It doesn't matter if it's a big, life-altering decision or if it's just a daily decision. We're supposed to live every day under the lordship and guidance of Jesus. And so, when big questions come into our lives, we should simply do what we do every day, which is submit to God and His Word. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill us, ask the Holy Spirit to lead us and obey Him as best we know how. Verse two, it says devout men buried Stephen and mourned deeply over him.
Despite this wave of persecution, Jerusalem was still a mission field. And we see that in verse is because these devout men were likely not Christians. They were not believers. Luke uses the term devout elsewhere in his Gospel and the Book of Acts to refer to pious Jews. The most likely explanation is that these were friends of Stevens from the Hellenist synagogue that he attended in Jerusalem who had not yet converted to Christianity.
Their loud lamentations were actually forbidden by the Mishnah because Stephen had been condemned and executed by the Sanhedrin. So for these men to do this was tantamount to making a public protest about the death of Stephen. They were saying, we believe this man was wrongly executed by the Sanhedrin. There was still the hope of evangelism among sincere individual Jews in Jerusalem, and these would be the kinds of men that the apostles would reach out to in the days ahead. Verse three.
Saul, however, was ravaging the church. He would enter house after house, drag off men and women and put them in prison. So, consumed by a demonically inspired hatred of Jesus and having received authority from the chief priests, saul continued to spearhead this wave of persecution against the Church. He was literally going from house to house, kicking down doors, dragging out Christians and taking them away to be tried before the religious leaders on charges of blasphemy. Paul will later confess that he would even press the sanhedrin to issue the death penalty where possible.
Verse one and verse three understand this are happening simultaneously. As I mentioned earlier, the Jerusalem church is being scattered as Paul is persecuting them, and they scatter all the way down to the place where only the apostles and their families are left in Jerusalem. Saul, after getting every Christian he can get his hand on in Jerusalem, likely starts going to the nearby towns like Bethany, where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived, and then going out into further away towns in the southern part of Israel known as Judea. And then we learn later that he goes all the way to foreign cities to persecute them. The sweet fellowship among believers that they had shared in homes for three years, the sweet fellowship over meals together and times of prayer together, singing together, having the holy Spirit speak to one another through words given by the Lord.
All of that was completely dismantled in Jerusalem. The church was completely broken apart in Jerusalem. Before Stephen's arrest and execution, only the apostles had been subject to persecution from the religious authorities. But that changed under Saul's direction, and anyone in Jerusalem associated with Jesus became a target. And then anyone just outside of Jerusalem associated with Jesus became a target.
Anyone in Judea, anyone in Israel, anyone in a nearby country. Jesus had warned his disciples of this, telling them, a servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you, and they will ban you from the synagogues. In fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. And that's certainly what Saul thought he was doing, serving God by persecuting blasphemers.
Paul, as I said, will later write that he pursued them even to foreign cities like Damascus and Syria. Such was his misplaced zeal. In his letter to the Galatians, paul was frank about what his goal had been. It was to destroy the church. That was his goal.
Through all this, the Lord Jesus remained seated on his father's throne at his right hand, glorified in heaven over all things and holding all things together. And we see evidence of that in verses four, which provides a crucial detail about those who were scattered. It says so those who were scattered went on their way, and then underline this, preaching the word, they went on their way, preaching the word. Those who fled Jerusalem did not do so with their faith in Tatters. They left absolutely on fire for Jesus.
And everywhere they went, they shared the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. And people got saved. And as they returned to their villages and towns, they formed little churches in each of these places. The church in Jerusalem was seemingly dismantled almost overnight. But also overnight, the network of the church suddenly exploded, and there were churches all over Judea samaria and other parts of Israel.
The picture you should have in your mind is an enraged Saul and Sanhedrin trying to stamp out the fire of the church in Jerusalem, unaware that the harder they stamp their feet, the more embers they launch into the sky, which are caught by the wind and land all over the place, starting little fires everywhere. These believers wanted to be used by the Lord. They listened to the Holy Spirit and they boldly shared the Gospel every time he prompted them to. And we must do the same. We must want to be used by the Lord, we must listen to the Holy Spirit.
And we must be unafraid to share the Gospel when he prompts us to do so at work, at school, perhaps in prison one day, wherever the Lord leads us. And here's what's so amazing. Do you remember what Jesus told his disciples in Acts in verses eight, before he ascended back to heaven? I put it on your outlines. He said, you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
We've seen Jerusalem minister two in Acts chapters two through seven. In Acts eight, verse one, we read that all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria. The progression is clear. Jerusalem, check. Judea, check.
Samaria, check. And soon to the end of the earth. Jesus didn't say, I will give you the option to be my witnesses. He said, you shall be my witnesses. In what must have felt like a chaotic and perilous time, the Lord's plans were coming to pass exactly as he ordained them, exactly as he said they would.
Remember? This was one of Stephen's points to the sanhedrin in Acts chapter seven. The people of God don't get to dictate to God the manner in which he should fulfill his promises. We don't get to tell God that he's made this promise and this is how he needs to fulfill it. He does it however he wants.
And in this way, the Jerusalem church was just like us. They liked being comfortable. Talk about a universal passion shared by all men and women, right? We like to be comfortable. Nobody who is enjoying the sweet fellowship, the sweet queen in Jerusalem was thinking, oh, maybe I should just leave this and go somewhere else in Judea and Samaria and take the Gospel there.
No one was thinking that. They were thinking, this is great. This is heaven on earth. I love eating at other people's houses. I love praying together.
They were thinking, this is great. It took the persecution of Acts eight one to bring about the Lord's promise from Acts one eight. Thank goodness we're not like them, though. Thank goodness the Lord never has to speak to us through our circumstances because we are just so in tune with Him, open to the spirits, leading and quick to obey. These guys were rookies.
I am indeed being facetious because for most of us, most of the time, it takes a job loss, a broken relationship, an injury or some other uncontrollable circumstance to get us to move from a place that's comfortable to a place God is calling us that might not be quite as comfortable. When and if that happens in your life, trust the Lord. Trust the Lord. He is always working for your good. It may be less comfortable where he calls you, but it is better wherever he calls you.
Trust the Lord. Verse five. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. This is not the Apostle Philip, who was one of the Twelve and would have stayed in Jerusalem. This Philip is one of the seven Hellenistic Jews, full of faith and the Holy Spirit, chosen to oversee the care of the widows.
In Acts chapter six, like Stephen, his faithfulness led the Lord to entrust him with an even wider ministry. And when we check in on this Philip much later in the Book of Acts, we find that at that time he's come to be known as Philip the Evangelist. Now, before we go on, we need to understand the significance of Samaria, of her people, and why it was such a shocking and amazing thing that the Gospel was being shared there. And so we need to understand a little bit of the history of Samaria. It's located about 40 miles, or 64 km north of Jerusalem.
In the Book of First Kings, we were just actually reading this recently in our home groups. We read that God judged Solomon for worshiping false gods. And the judgment was that Solomon's son, Raya Bohem, who took the throne after him, was made by the Lord to listen to some bad advice which led the ten northern tribes of Israel to rebel against his leadership and split off from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, who stayed in the south in Judea around Jerusalem. The result after the split was a southern kingdom around Jerusalem and then a northern kingdom of Israel that included Samaria. And further north in Israel, the city of Samaria would be built by King Amri to be the capital city of the Northern Kingdom.
After around 150 years of rebellion against God and worshiping pagan idols, the Lord sent judgment on the Northern kingdom in the form of the Assyrians, who conquered the city and brought an end to the Northern kingdom. Around 722 BC, the Assyrians had a devilishly brilliant policy that was designed to weaken the territories they conquered and reduce the likelihood of future rebellions. You see, what they would do is they would relocate most of the people from the territory they just conquered to other territories that belong to the kingdom of the Assyrians. And then they would take some of the people from those other territories and import them to this territory they had just conquered. Mixing cultures and ethnicities together.
And as a result, the cultural and ethnic identity of the territory they had just conquered would be completely eradicated within a couple of decades. And when there's no unique cultural and ethnic identity, the odds of an uprising are significantly decreased. And so in this area of Samaria, the resulting mix of Jews and Gentiles became the ethnic race known as the Samaritans. They were looked down on and despised by pureblooded Hebrew Jews as halfbreeds and dogs. The Jews would go out of their way to avoid Samaritans.
The spiritual results of this mix of cultures in Samaria are described this way in Scripture. It says they feared the Lord, but they also worship their own gods according to the practice of the nations from which they had been deported. So they had this group of people, and collectively, they kind of worshiped Yahweh and kind of worshiped other gods too. Not okay. In 538 BC.
King Cyrus of Persia released Judah, those exiles taken from the southern kingdom, and he allowed them to return to Judea and Jerusalem to rebuild it. And so when they got around to rebuilding the temple, some of the Samaritans said, hey, we want to help because we also worship your God. And the Jews from Judah said, it's a no for me, dog. And that snub became another longstanding, sore point between the pure blooded Jews and the Samaritans. Now, understandably, the Samaritans wanted nothing to do with Jerusalem after that.
They didn't want to go there to worship at the temple or participate in the annual feasts. Why would they want to? Everyone looks down on them when they go there. So they adopted Mount Garrison in Samaria as their sacred location, and they built their own temple there, and it served as a substitute for Mount Zion, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. They also chose to only recognize the Torah, none of the books of the prophets or anything like that.
The Torah is the first five books of the Bible, and they developed even their own version of it, the Samaritan Pentatute, which differs significantly from the Masonic text upon which our Old Testaments are based. They claim then that they too, followed the law of Moses. In the late 2000 century BC. A Judean high priest named John Hercanus undertook a military campaign coming up from the south of Israel against Samaria, in which he showed up, destroyed a bunch of their towns, tore down their temple, enslaved a bunch of their people, and added their territory to his kingdom. That did not help relations.
Now, when we get to the MidFirst century BC. All of that becomes irrelevant, because the Romans come in and conquer all of Israel, samaria, Judea, the whole thing. By the time we get to the ministry of Jesus and the Book of Acts, the animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans has existed for centuries. When Jews have to travel from southern Israel to northern Israel, they don't go through Samaria. They go around it.
When they see a Samaritan coming, they get out of the way lest there be any physical contact. They refuse to even acknowledge them by looking them in the eye, they look away. We see this all colorfully illustrated in Luke, chapter Nine, where we read this about Jesus. I put it on your outlines when the days were coming to a close for Him, that's Jesus to be taken up. In other words, it was getting close to the time when he would be crucified.
He determined to journey to Jerusalem. At this time, Jesus and his disciples were up in northern Israel. He sent messengers ahead of himself. And on the way, they entered a village of the Samaritans to make preparations for him. But they did not welcome him because he determined to journey to Jerusalem.
So here's what happens. Jesus sends a couple of his followers, go ahead of us, get us some hotel rooms at a place in Samaria. And they're already like, seriously? We're going to go through Samaria, not around it okay, Jesus. So these guys go into the Samaritan town, go into a hotel.
Owner says, welcome, welcome, honored guests. Where are you headed on this beautiful day? Jerusalem. Get out your Hebrew thoughts. That's the interaction that happens.
When the disciples James and John saw this, they said, so when they hear about this, they say, Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven and consume them? So James and John are like, Jesus, if you're taking requests for your next miracle, might we suggest empowering us to kill all the Samaritans in that town who wouldn't give us some hotel rooms with fire from heaven? But he jesus turned and rebuked them. He's like, knock it off. And they went to another village.
That cracks me up, too, because Jesus isn't like, I couldn't do that. He's like, no, I'm not going to do that, obviously. And they went to another village. So, yeah, things were testy, and it gives you some insight into how even the disciples of Jesus viewed Samaritans at that time. But to their credit, by that time, the Samaritans had finally purged their land of false gods, and they were worshiping Yahweh exclusively.
But in their own confused way. That's why Jesus told the woman at the well, you Samaritans worship what you do not know. He's like, you're worshiping Yahweh, but you don't really get it. When we understand the history and play, we understand why it would have been shocking to Jesus'disciples when he chose to travel through Samaria instead of going around it. And we understand why it would have been shocking for Jesus to strike up a conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, and even more shocking that he chooses to reveal to her that he's the Messiah.
For indeed, the Samaritans were looking for the Messiah. The woman at the well told Jesus, I know that the messiah is coming. When he comes, he'll explain everything to us. The Samaritans were perfectly positioned for the Gospel, which is why when Philip shows up in their land and begins teaching scripture says that he was proclaiming the Messiah to them. He was saying, The Messiah has come and he's come for you as well.
It's not an accident that Philip, who was a Hellenistic Jew, is the one who goes and ministers in Samaria, because the prejudice is still so deep in the Hebrew Jews that they're going to look for every way to not do that. But the Hellenistic Jews, they don't have that same sort of ethnic rivalry with the Samaritans. So they're like, wherever we go, we're just going to tell people about Jesus. Around seven years after meeting Jesus at the well I'm sorry, not seven years, it's likely around four years after meeting Jesus at the well. I wonder if that same woman was present in the crowd when Philip showed up and began saying, jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, he's here, it's done.
I like to think she was verse. Is says the crowds were all paying attention to what Philip said as they listened and saw the signs that he was performing for unclean spirits crying out with a loud voice came out of many who were possessed and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. As we've shared before in the ministry of Jesus and the apostles, god worked miraculous signs and wonders to authenticate the message they were teaching. It lined up with the Scriptures and it was accompanied by a demonstration of the Spirit's power. And one of the miracles worked was the casting out of demons.
For many tormented, possessed people, philip's actions were a fulfillment of Jesus words to his followers when he told them, these signs will accompany those who believe in my name. They will drive out demons. While a Christian can never be possessed by a demon, a nonbeliever can still be possessed. Today, a believer can be oppressed. But that's a story for another day.
It still looks a lot like it did in the Book of Acts. In many third world countries and places like our brothers in the Petros network are ministering right now in first world countries and the West, I guarantee you it happens just as much, if not more. It just looks different because Satan adapts his strategies for different situations at the time of the Book of Acts. And in third world countries today, possession that results in outlandish physical manifestations serves to intimidate people. It serves to make them fear the kingdom of darkness and its power feeding into their superstitions.
In more educated parts of the world, somebody who is apparently possessed in displaying outward physical manifestations would be dismissed as having a psychiatric disorder. We've got meds for that and it wouldn't affect culture the same way. Because we have so many philosophical naturalists in our society, the supernatural explanation would be discounted from the very beginning, discarded, and so it wouldn't serve the same effect. So Satan works differently in places like Canada and the States, possessing people and using them to affect culture in a different way. And again, a conversation for another day in greater detail.
But when Philip was casting out demons, it was sending a clear message to the Samaritans that the power of God was greater than the power of darkness that was possessing these people. It was a straight example that the power of God in Philip was greater than the powers of darkness that were in these people. Because when Philip commanded those demons to flee in the name of Jesus, they obeyed. Jesus is greater. That was the point of this miracle being done.
Whenever the gospel invades our lives, whenever the light of Jesus bursts into our lives, it triggers conflict with the powers of darkness. Satan is not generally a passive observer. When a person gives their life to Christ, he doesn't just generally say, well, oh well, well played, guess I'll back off now. He goes to war with our souls. Many of us have experienced this, many of us have walked through this.
Some of us are experiencing it even right now. Philip's casting out of demons what was a moment when the war in the spiritual realm trickled over into the physical realm and it foreshadowed what was about to unfold between Philip and a magician named Simon. And it's really fun to call him Simon the Sorcerer because it's just more catchy. So I might do that. It says in verses eight regarding the preaching of Philip of the Gospel and the response from the people I love.
Verse eight. So there was great joy in that city. There was great joy in that city. The gospel had come to Samaria. People were being set free, both spiritually and physically.
They welcomed the news that the Messiah had come. There was revival in Samaria, a great spiritual awakening. Verse nine. A man named Simon had previously practiced sorcery in that city and amazed the Samaritan people while claiming to be somebody great. They all paid attention to him, from the least of them to the greatest.
And they said, this man is called the great power of God. They were attentive to him because he had amazed them with his sorceries for a long time. The people of Samaria viewed Simon as something akin to a god among men, or at least as close to that as one could get in Samaria without being accused of blasphemy. And the text tells us that Simon not only welcomed the praise, but he initiated it claiming to be somebody great. He was a celebrity in Samaria.
He had a cultlike following. Now we know from scripture that demonic powers can work miracles. We see this clearly with Johns and Gentra the magicians in Pharaoh's court. In the Book of Exodus. They do real magic.
They really did make. Their staffs turn into snakes using occultic power. This is why we don't just blindly follow signs and wonders. We follow the preaching of the truth. When the word is proclaimed, signs and wonders can.
Verse is an authentication, as it did during the ministry of Jesus and the Apostles. But signs and wonders alone can come from a demonic source. And in the book of Exodus, we see that Jonathan John Bruce use a magic that can't ever help or heal anything. All they can do is duplicate the miracles that God works through Moses on an increasingly smaller scale until they can't keep up anymore. And even when they could, how is it helpful to have more snakes or more water turned into blood or more frogs?
It isn't helpful. And that's the way it is with all supernatural powers outside the power of God. It's real. But two things are important. Firstly, it cannot compare to the power of God.
There's no scale of measurement upon which you can place the power of God and anything else. There's no way you can compare them. But the second thing we notice is that only the power of Jesus can help and heal all other supernatural powers. Ultimately only further entangle, enslave and put us in bondage. It's very real, but it doesn't help.
It only does more damage. Was Simon simply an illusionist? Or was he someone who was working real signs and wonders by demonic powers? We don't know. But we do know why he did it to draw attention and praise to himself and to have power over the people.
In Samaria, verse twelve then says, but see, that tells you whatever is about to happen next is going to mess things up for Simon. But when they the Samaritans believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. See, when people turn to Jesus, the things that have power over their lives begin to lose that power. That power is broken or begins weakening dramatically. And we see here again the standard model in scripture for New Testament salvation.
When people believe and place their faith in Jesus, their next immediate step is baptism. If you have placed your faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior and have not been baptized, you must do it. You must do it. I cannot be any clear on this. It's what Jesus and the Word calls us to do.
Don't dilly dally, don't delay. Hear me on this. We tell our kids this from the time they're born. Delayed obedience is disobedience. Delayed obedience is disobedience.
If that's you, the great news is you can just check the box on your connect card that says I want to be baptized. BJ will send you a link to our short baptism course on the website, and then we'll get you baptized. We'll do it. And all God's people who have abatem and then baptized already said Amen. That's right.
Verse 13. Even Simon himself believed. Would you underline believed? And after he was baptized, he followed Philip everywhere and was amazed as he observed the signs and great miracles that were being performed. Simon believes what Philip is teaching.
Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is God. Simon gets baptized and he begins following Philip around because he just can't wrap his head around the things that he's seeing. The sick are being healed. Those with troubled minds are finding peace.
Demons are being cast out with a word. And Simon is thinking, man, compared to what I was into, this stuff is on a whole nother level. I mean, how is Philip doing this? Verse 14. When the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.
So, somebody gets a message back to the apostles in Jerusalem and it probably sounded coveting, like, you guys are not going to believe this. People are turning to Jesus and ending to the Gospel in Samaria. This would have been like somebody coming to us and saying like, "Hey, Jeff and BJ, you guys need to hop on a plane because you're never going to believe what happened. People are turning to Jesus in Prince George. It's happening. It's happening right now. Unbelievable." And so, the apostles talk about it, and they agreed to send down Peter and John to go check things out. And their heads had to be spinning already because they're thinking, "Samaria? 'Like the half-breeds? They're getting saved there?!"
Verse 15. After they went down there, they prayed for them so that the Samaritans might receive the Holy Spirit, because he had not yet covet down on any of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Now isn't this interesting?
Because when we studied the baptism of the Holy Spirit back in Acts chapter two, we learned that the Holy Spirit takes up residence. He indwells a person at the moment of their salvation, the moment they placed their faith in Jesus. Yet here in Samaria, that's not what happened. They were saved and baptized, but had not yet received the Holy Spirit. Why?
I suggest because the Lord wanted Peter and John, two of the apostles, to be present to witness the moment when the Holy Spirit was given to the Samaritans, because it would serve as undeniable evidence that the Samaritans were receiving the same Holy Spirit that had been poured out on the Jews in Jerusalem. There was no class system in the kingdom of God because despite their love for Jesus, the apostles were unquestionably, still dealing with the remnants of their cultural upbringing and worldview programming that had taught them Samaritans and Gentiles or dogs. They're second class citizens. God doesn't love them. He made them to be kindling for the fires of hell.
This is how they were raised. And it doesn't just magically go away. Jesus is transforming their hearts and minds, but it takes some time, and we'll see that playing out in the rest of the Book of Acts. It's a little hard for them to wrap their heads around this idea that the gospel is going to the Samaritans, it's going to go to the Gentiles. They're not opposed to it, but it's outside of their natural thinking.
And so the Lord chose to use the Samaritans to make it clear that he was giving the same Holy Spirit to every person who places their faith in Jesus. It was undeniable. It was incontrovertible evidence. Peter and John were watching it happen with their own eyes. Unquestionably.
They get there and they can sense the Holy Spirit telling them, pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit, and they obey and they see it happen. And as I was working on the sermon and just thinking and praying and studying, I was so struck by the profound nature of the reconciliatory work that was accomplished when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Samaritans. Because you have to picture this in your head. The hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans was centuries deep. Centuries deep.
And I'm sure every single one of those Samaritans grew up feeling like a second class citizen. It didn't matter how much between themselves. They told themselves, yeah, we don't care. Forget those Jewish guys. They did care.
And it did hurt. I know it did. It hurt having Jews step out of the way every time that they came closer past each other on the road. It hurts being the constant target of prejudice and racism. The solution was not reparations.
The solution was not endless counseling or going deeper into their Samaritan roots. The solution was not adopting a permanent victim mentality. The solution was Jesus who showed up and said, I'm making something new. My church. And my church is going to reflect my kingdom.
For in my kingdom are people from every tribe and tongue and nation. And the way I'm creating my church is by purchasing her with my own blood. I've shed it for the Jew, the Samaritan and the Gentile. I've shed my blood for every tribe and tongue and nation, and I will put the same spirit, my spirit, in every person who accepts the invitation to come into my kingdom. And as I do this, as I create this new entity called the Church, there will no longer be in my kingdom jews and Samaritans and Gentiles.
They'll only be adopted sons and daughters of my father. When Peter and John saw the same Holy Spirit that dwelled in them, fill the Samaritans standing before them, and when the Samaritans realized they had been given the same Holy Spirit that was in Peter and John, there was reconciliation between those Jews and those Samaritans. The blood of Jesus shed on the cross covered all the sin that had led to that generational brokenness, and it began to heal these wounds that ran deeper than can be described with words. And I'm sure there were embraces shared between people who only months earlier would have been unwilling to even look each other in the eye. There are some miracles that are impossible apart from the grace of God.
And I'm not saying that it was all instantly healed and forgotten. I'm not saying that forgiveness wasn't a journey for most of the Samaritans. But I am saying that in that moment, through Jesus, forgiveness became possible, healing became possible. He made a way, he forged a path, and those who chose to follow him on it found healing on that path.
You're smart enough to make the connections yourselves. In our world today, there are so many situations between individuals and groups, politically, ethnically, nationally, where the pain runs deep, centuries deep. Sometimes the history runs deep, the prejudice runs deep, and the only real hope is Jesus. Everything else is a half measure. Everything else is a half measure because nothing can heal the deep wounds of the heart other than Jesus.
Nothing else but the blood of Jesus. And I'm not saying some of those things aren't needed or aren't just, but can we just be real to say in any situation, do you think when you've had trauma that goes back generations and you were raised by traumatized parents and traumatized grandparents, you think somebody can write a check to make up for that?
They can't. Nothing can. Nothing can. Only the blood of Jesus can heal those deep, deep wounds. The Gospel reconciles where nothing else can.
Christians don't believe that every person is equally precious because it's a nice idea. Christians believe every person is equally precious because Jesus has valued every person as equally precious by shedding his blood for them and dying for their sins. And Jesus invites all people to be part of his family because he wants all people to be part of his family. And he proves it by giving the same Holy Spirit to all who accept his invitation. The Gospel paints pictures like we find here in Acts chapter eight.
Where the same John who three and a half years earlier was asking Jesus to empower him to commit some light ethnic cleansing on his behalf. Is now seen embracing the same Samaritans he feared. Even touching. Laying his hand on their heads and praying for them to receive the same Holy Spirit that God had given him. Praying, Jesus, please do for them what you've done for me.
Please put us in the same family, your family. The presence and loving actions of Peter and John would have astounded the Samaritans, and perhaps as far as signs and wonders go, been second only to the moment when they receive the Holy Spirit.
Please make a note of this. The Gospel reconciles where nothing else can. The Gospel reconciles where nothing else can. Verse 18 when Simon the Word saw that the Holy Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostle's hands. Now, this interests me because it tells me that when the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit, something happened that was externally visible.
And this makes sense if the reason God delayed giving them the Holy Spirit was so that Peter and John could witness it. Because whatever that outward manifestation or manifestations were, it proved to Peter and John that the Samaritans had received the same Holy Spirit they had received in Jerusalem. And therefore it seems logical that the manifestation would have been what the apostles had seen in Jerusalem as an outward evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit speaking in different tongues as the Spirit enabled them, declaring the magnificent Acts of God. And if you have any questions about that, you can go online and watch or listen to the whole Bible study we did on the gift of tongues. Back in Acts chapter two, it says when Simon saw that the Spirit was giving on through the laying on of the apostle's hands, he offered them money, saying, give me this power also so that anyone I lay hands on may receive the Holy Spirit.
Simon's astounded by what he sees, but he doesn't think, oh, praise God. Instead, he thinks, I got to learn how to do this, because this would really spice up my act. I mean, people would go nuts. I would make a fortune. The cult of Simon would jump into the big leagues.
The dynamics remind me of the time when Jesus was in Bethany with his disciples at the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. John twelve records a beautiful act of worship by Mary, who pours out a bottle of expensive perfume upon the feet of Jesus and wipes his feet with her hair. And Jesus would comment that unbeknownst to her, Mary had acted prophetically, anointing Jesus body as it would be for his coming burial. But Judas, a Scariot who had later betrayed Jesus, said, why wasn't this perfume sold for 300 daenerys given to the poor? And then we read he didn't say this because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief.
He was in charge of the money bag and would steal part of what was put in it. You see, no one who truly loved Jesus would ever complain if someone worshiped him extravagantly and at great cost. In a similar way, no one who was truly saved would intentionally scheme to use the Holy Spirit to bring themselves fame and wealth and power. Jesus said it like this a good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.
And that's why we see Peter respond strongly to Simon's request to buy the ability to give people the holy Spirit. It was blasphemous and moronic to suggest that anything of God's could be purchased with money. You think God is short of cash? Like what are you going to offer him? But Peter told him may your silver be destroyed with you because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money.
Unbelievably, our modern translations had actually softened Peter's words. A more accurate translation would be to hell with you and your money. That's what Peter says. And this touches on one of the key differences between the Gospel and the origins of all other religions and belief systems. It's also one of the great apologetic evidences for the Christian faith.
When evaluating belief systems, I encourage every critical thinker to ask this question how did the founder of the movement stand to benefit from creating the movement? Did he become rich? Did it bring him political power? Did he form a harem or develop some sort of theology that allowed him to indulge in his sexual fantasies? Did he conquer and rule over new lands and territories with his new found power?
In pretty much every case, every religion and belief system, it doesn't take very long to find an unspiritual motive for the founder. And then there's Jesus and his followers. What does Jesus get for founding Christianity? A false trial? A wrongful conviction?
The people he preached to, chanting for his death. He gets beaten, scourged, spat upon and crucified. Where's the motive? Where's the motive? And then here's what gets really crazy his followers who were with him, who ran for their lives when he was arrested and were fully aware what happened to him on the cross all pull a 183 days later and testify that he rose from the dead, appeared to them and filled them with his Holy Spirit 40 days later.
And do you know what that gets them? Persecuted, thrown in jail, beaten, chased down by Saul Ostracized from Jewish communal life. Some of their families lose everything they have to flee. And all of the apostles except for John, die martyr's deaths swearing to their final breath that Jesus is alive. Where's the motive?
There's only one motive and possible explanation that makes sense of the facts of history. They were telling the truth. They were telling the truth. They really did see Jesus alive after death, meaning that Jesus really was who he said he was god in the flesh. And we see here early in the history of the church there was an opportunity to commoditize the Gospel message, but such a suggestion was repulsive to the apostles.
They preached a salvation that was the gift of God and could not be purchased with money. To state the obvious, that's not the position you take and this is not the Bible you write if your goal is to get rich and powerful by inventing a fake religion.
Peter continues rebuking Simon in verse 21 saying you have no part or share in this matter because your heart is not right before God. Therefore, repent of this wickedness of yours and pray to the Lord that, if possible, your heart's intent may be forgiven. For I see you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by wickedness. All signs point to Simon not being saved. Record scratch.
But how is that possible? Verse 13 tells us he believed he was baptized. When the Bible talks about belief, it's talking about more than intellectual ascent. It is talking about more than simply recognizing that it is true that Jesus is God and has risen from the dead. James wrote that the demons believe and tremble.
Satan and the demons and the gods of the nations all believe that Jesus is God. They all believe that the Bible is the word of God. They all recognize that reality. They all know he rose from the dead, and yet we know they are not saved. So, what's the difference?
The difference is that the belief the Bible speaks of is not only acknowledging the truth but also responding to it. By placing your faith in Jesus to save you from your sins and then following him as Lord. We cannot be saved by simply agreeing that it is true that Jesus is God. We must welcome and accept his offer of salvation by placing our faith in Him as our Savior. And we must agree that in doing that, our lives now belong to Him, which means we willingly follow him as our Lord, as our Master.
This is why our brother James told us that faith that doesn't transform the life is not saving faith. Writing what good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can such faith save him? And faith, if it does not have works, is dead by itself. James wasn't saying that we're saved because of stuff we do.
He was saying that genuine salvation is accompanied by regeneration. God's spirit coming into our lives as he did the believers in Samaria when Peter and John laid their hands on them. And it is impossible for the Holy Spirit to come into your life and for there to be no transformation in our behavior. It's impossible. Faith that doesn't transform the life is not saving faith.
Satan, the demons, and the gods of the nations do not willingly serve Jesus as their Lord. They are in active rebellion against him, even though they believe. Simon's words and actions reveal that. Simon believed, but Jesus was not his Lord. He couldn't deny the power and the reality of what he saw Philip, Peter, and John do, but he didn't want to respond to it by following Jesus.
He wanted that same power for himself, for his fame, for his glory. His motives were luciferian. Had Simon been genuinely saved, he would have realized that God could use him to give others the gift of the Holy Spirit. The only difference is it would have to be for God's glory and not his. All he would have to do is preach the gospel, as the Spirit called him to, and proclaim as Peter did in Acts chapter two.
Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. As Paul would later write in Ephesians, you're saved by grace through faith, and this is not of yourselves. It is God's gift, not from works, so that no one can boast. The Christian never goes to bed more content than when he can say in honesty, Jesus was glorified in my life today. That's a good day.
Days don't get better than that. If you want to be used by God to minister to others, you must understand that Christians are in the business of bringing glory to Jesus. That's the business we're in. Would you write that on your outlines? Christians are in the business of bringing glory to Jesus.
And we see more evidence of Simon's unregenerated Spirit in his response to Peter in verse 24. Pray to the Lord for me, Simon replied, so that nothing you have said may happen to me. Peter told Simon the solution to his condition, wherein he was bound by wickedness, was to repent and pray to the Lord. Simon's reply is no, you pray to the Lord for me. Simon doesn't want to love and serve Jesus, but he doesn't want to experience the consequences of rejecting Jesus.
And we see this sadly very often in those who recognize that, yes, the intellectual arguments for Jesus are unquestionable. All the evidence points to this being true. But they don't want to serve Jesus as Lord. They reject the path of righteousness. But then they want the church and believers to step in and bring relief and help when they experience the consequences in their life of rejecting Jesus.
I don't want to follow Jesus. I want my sin. But I don't want to deal with the natural consequences of choosing sin over Jesus. Can you help? That's who Simon was.
We're almost at the end here, but would you turn with me in your Bibles to second Corinthians, chapter seven, verses eight? Second Corinthians, chapter seven, verse eight. Paul is responding to a report he received from Titus, who told him about the effect his first letter had on the church. First Corinthians is a letter full of rebukes corrections and calls to repent, because that's what the church at Corinth needed to hear at that time from their founding pastor. Paul writes in two Corinthians, chapter seven, verse eight even if I grieved you with my letter, I don't regret it.
And if I regretted it, since I saw that the letter grieved you yet only for a while, I now rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance, for you were grieved as God willed, so that you didn't experience any loss from us. For Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret. Here's the key. But worldly grief produces death. For consider how much diligence this very thing, this grieving as God wills, has produced in you.
What a desire to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what deep longing, what zeal, what justice. In every way, you showed yourselves to be pure in this matter. You see, worldly grief just wants to escape the consequences of sin. I don't want to deal with the shame that comes with sin. I don't want to deal with the destroyed relationships.
I don't want to deal with the blowback of my sin. And I'm grieving over that. Worldly grief is the shame you feel when you get caught or exposed. You're not really sorry, you just want the consequences to stop. That's worldly grief, Godly grief wants to be made right with God.
It wants to experience his forgiveness. It wants to be washed by the blood of Jesus and delivered from the power of sin and given freedom from condemnation that only Jesus can give. And to then use that freedom to follow Jesus on the narrow path that leads to life. Satan entices here's the trick of the enemy. Satan entices you to sin.
And when he entices you, he says, it's not that big of a deal. And then once you sin, Satan shows up to pile on the shame. You are the worst person in the world. How could you do that? Jesus calls you to repent when you fall and step back into the light so that you can be set free of shame and guilt and condemnation.
Shame comes from the enemy and drags you further away from God. But conviction comes from the Holy Spirit and pulls you back to God.
Finally, we read in verses 25. So after they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they traveled back to Jerusalem, preaching the Gospel. In many villages of the Samaritans. Peter and John don't leave the same men they were when they first arrived in Samaria. On their way back, they stopped everywhere they can, telling every Samaritan they can about Jesus and praying for them.
Belief alone cannot save you. Please hear me on this. Belief alone cannot save you. Baptism cannot save you. Hanging out with genuine believers cannot save you.
The only way to be saved is by placing your faith in Jesus as your Savior and surrendering your life to Him as your Lord and your Master, receiving His Spirit in you, changing you from the inside out, and then be baptized. And because I love you, I have to ask are you saved? Are you saved? When you hear even the demons believe and tremble, do you know within yourself, yes, I know I've placed my faith in Jesus. I know his spirit is in me.
Do you know that? Or do you go, I don't know. I don't know if the Holy spirit is in me. I believe Jesus is God. I believe this is real.
That's why I'm here. But I don't know if I've ever viewed Jesus as the One who has control of my life. I don't know that I've ever given my life to Him and said, you're in charge. I don't know that I actually have a spirit because I love you. I have to tell you, be sure he loves you.
He died for you, and his invitation is open to you to come and be part of his family, to be adopted into his family. The life and the hope and the healing and the peace that you are looking for can only be found in Him. Everything else is a half measure. Everything else is a half measure. So if you don't know Him, turn to Him today and give your life to Him.
Even as we close in prayer in a minute, as we worship in the coming time, say that to Him. Jesus, I want to give my life to you. Come into my life, put your spirit in me, and then just let me or BJ know after the service that you've done that we just want to talk with you and give you some things to help you get going in your walk with God. But don't leave your unsure of whether or not you're saved. And if you're experiencing Godly grief today because the Holy Spirit is convicting you, respond to it.
Jesus isn't heaping shame on you. Conviction is different. Jesus is calling you back to Him to set you free from the power of sin. Say yes to that invitation. Accept it, receive it.
You can be delivered from that even in this coming time before you leave today. And then lastly, I just want to remind us, miraculous reconciliation is possible when two people who love Jesus come together. It's possible through the Gospel, through the blood of Jesus. There are things that are only possible through the blood of Jesus. It's true.