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Not for sale: The Holy Spirit and His power
Acts 8:1-25

Last week we began to study the Book of Acts together. Acts recounts for us the first 30 years history of the Church. Acts was written by Luke. He was most likely a Gentile convert. He was a Doctor and traveling companion of Paul.

As we discovered, Acts 1:8 is the key verse of the Book of Acts.

Therein Jesus says to his disciples "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

All of the events and accounts of the Book of Acts flows out of and is built upon this verse -referencing the power of the Holy Spirit and the MISSION of the church.

Today we are going to consider a most fascinating passage- Acts 8:1-25.

Acts 8:1-25 follows the first big act of persecution against the church (the martyrdom of Stephen) and features one of the church's first Deacons-- a man named Philip--going up to Samaria and preaching Christ there. While there Philip encounters a sorcerer named Simon Magus who in the end mistakenly thought he could buy the power and gift of the Holy Spirit.

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LESSONS OF THE TEXT

1. God sometimes uses PERSECUTION to spread the Gospel of Christ Acts 8:4

One of the things this text answers for us is this question-- "How did the Gospel come to be spread far and wide beyond Jerusalem?" The answer is a surprising one-- PERSECUTION

While the disciples had it in their hearts to obey Jesus and go into all the world to preach the Gospel, it was not really until the church was persecuted that the Gospel began to be spread far and wide.

Acts 8:4 says "Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went"

God has often used persecution to build and spread his church. For example, in 1952 the Communists drove the foreign missionaries out of China. Churches were burned down and many Christians were arrested and killed and sent off to work camps. However, instead of dying, instead of God's people being silence, the church grew-- meeting in homes and spreading (to this day).

Observation: Persecution rather than destroying the church refines it. Persecution invariably results in the spread of the church

Application: We must resolve to stay faithful to Jesus and the Gospel no matter what. We must purpose in our hearts not to be silenced in our testimony about and for Jesus

Interesting verse: "...everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" 2 Timothy 3:12

2. The message of forgiveness and peace with God -through faith in Jesus-is for all people

In Acts 8:5 it says; "Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there." Acts 8:5

Significance of Philip going to Samaria

-Jews typically hated Samaria and the Samaritans.
-Samaritans on an ethnic level were considered to be half breeds and mongrels (for following the Babylonian invasion of the Northern tribes of Israel the remaining Jews intermarried with the peoples the Babylonians settled in the land).
-The Jews also despised the Samaritans because they had built a competing temple, had rejected all the Old Testament books except the first 5, and they had mixed their faith with some of the other religions of the land.

Point: The Gospel is for all people. Jesus transcends borders, social standing, class, economics, the shade of ones skin, ethnic barriers.

Galatians 3:28 says; "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

The message of Jesus is not just for people we like. The message of Jesus is for our enemies-- it is for those who have sinned against us.

The Church became multi cultural by Philip's preaching

God's vision for the church is people from every nation, tribe, people and language coming together in the worship of Christ. Revelation 7:9

3. Not everyone who claims to be a Christian is one

Acts 8:9-25 recounts for us the sad tale of the not so great, Simon Magus, enemy of the church

Our text tells that while Philip was proclaiming Jesus in Samaria that a man named Simon-- also known as Simon Magus- took notice of Philip. Simon took notice because he saw Philip performing incredible miracles. This intrigued Simon because he was sorcerer who was immersed in the occult- and who by the power of Satan had done some things-- so much so that people viewed him as semi divine

Philips miracles were so impressive to Simon that he followed Philip wherever he went--- going so far as to profess a faith in Christ, even being baptized

The apostles of Jerusalem, hearing that the people of Samaria had accepted the word of God, sent Peter and John (the same John who had earlier wanted fire called down on the Samaritans for their unbelief. Luke 9:54) to Samaria.

As the text tells us, Peter and John, when they arrived prayed for the new believers that they might receive the Holy Spirit. Following their prayers, they laid hands on the believers who had come to faith in Jesus by the preaching of Philip, and they received the Holy Spirit.

When Simon saw what Peter and John did, Philip dropped off his radar and Peter and John became the objects of his focus.

Note v.18-19 "When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostle's hands, he offered them money and said, "Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit"

Peter, having great discernment, and seeing that Simon was just a pretender as it regarded his being a follower of Christ absolutely blasts Simon saying "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!"

After being hit with Peter's rebuke, which included a call to repentance, the best Simon could come up with was "Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me" And this is it about Simon in the Bible

While this is all the Bible says about Simon, early church history has lots of stories about Simon and how after his being rebuked, he became an opponent to the apostles and the church

The unanimous report of Christian writers from the 2nd century is that Simon carried on as a sorcerer and an opponent to the Christian faith.

St. Justin of Rome described Simon as a man who, at the instigation of demons, claimed to be god. Justin further said that Simon went to Rome during the reign of the Emperor of Claudius and by his magic arts won many followers so that these erected on the island in the Tiber a statue to him as a divinity with the inscription "Simon the Holy God."

History records that a group of people called Simonians existed in the 2nd century. The Simonians were a gnostic sect who regarded Simon Magus as their founder. They disappeared around the 4th century


FURTHER NOTE

We should be careful not to quickly judge whether someone is a Christian or not.

2 Timothy 2:19, said within the context of 2 people abandoning the faith, says; "Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness."

As it regards the genuineness of our faith in Jesus, Matthew 7:15-23 teaches us that we are known by our fruit.

4. The Holy Spirit

Acts 8, following the pattern of Acts 1:8 is all about the power of the Holy Spirit- as manifested in the life of Stephen, the Apostles, and the believers.

Reminder

-We need the Holy Spirit's filling.
-We need to be in tune with the Holy Spirit.
-In order for our service for Christ to be effective we need the power of the Holy Spirit
-We must be careful to not grieve the Holy Spirit
-We cannot control the Holy Spirit!
-The Holy Spirit's gifts and power cannot be bought (this was Simon's great error)

5. A special note on the Samaritan believers experience of receiving the Holy Spirit v.14-17

There are several passages in Acts wherein the Holy Spirit is depicted as being received by the laying on of hands by the Apostles. There are also passages that show the Holy Spirit being received as people repented of their sins and put their faith in Christ.

The depiction of the Holy Spirit being received by the laying on of hands by the Apostles is sometimes confusing because it makes us wonder if we are missing out on something if someone didn't lay their hands on us.

Question to consider:

Why didn't the Samaritans receive the Holy Spirit as other people did when they put their faith in Jesus? (See Galatians 3:2) Why did the Apostles have to come and lay their hands on them?

a. The answer has something to do with the hostile past that the Jews and Samaritans had
b. The answer has something to do with Apostolic authority being established over the church
c. The answer has to do with the church being one. As Galatians 3:28 says; "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

If the Apostles had not gone then it's possible the Samaritans might have carried on separate from the Jewish believers (as had happened historically between Jews and Samaritans). By this working of the Holy Spirit, they were bound together as one.


Further: The laying on of hands is a Biblical practice that we sometimes forget/ignore (see James 5:13-18; Hebrews 6:1-2, etc)

CONCLUSION

1. How did the church spread? God used persecution

Don't let persecution stop you from sharing your faith. Share the message of Jesus

God uses persecution to refine and spread his church

2. The message of Jesus and the Gospel is for everybody-- friends and enemies alike.

3. Not everyone who claims to be a Christian is one

Simon, for a short time appeared to be a follower of Jesus-- but he wasn't. By his fruit he was known.

4. Without the Holy Spirit's power, our service for Christ will mean little.

As Jesus said "Apart from me, you can do nothing".

We need the filling and power of the Holy Spirit.