GOD ESTABLISHES HIS CHURCH IN THE WORLD
Wanting a Piece of the Action
Jerry A Collins
Are we to win the world for Christ or be a witness of Christ to the world?
Where is our Samaria today that we are to reach?
Was Simon a believer or unbeliever?
Recently I was mesmerized as I watched the Master’s Golf tournament, the first major golf tournament of the year. The drama unfolded the last nine holes of the fourth and last round. The winner, Mike Weir, won in a playoff. While receiving his award afterward, he said he used to practice hitting balls into lake Huron, being from Ontario, Canada, dreaming of playing in the Masters. He wanted a piece of the action we could say. I also dreamed of being part of the Masters action while watching it that day. There is an awful lot of action taking place in Acts 8 as the church begins to expand from Jerusalem. What can we learn about wanting a piece of that action?
1. OPPOSITION SCATTERS THE CHURCH AND WIDENS HER TESTIMONY OF CHRIST 1-4
This persecution was signaled by Stephen’s martyrdom. This section begins with persecution and ends with proclamation. Ironically, this opposition was God’s method of fulfilling His promise in 1:8. Tho opposed to God’s thoughts, Saul becomes the instrument God uses for His own purposes. That the church may be a witness of Christ to the world. That witness now includes Judea and Samaria! There was still a church in Jerusalem but now it would spread to the surrounding districts. The apostles are singled out as remaining in Jerusalem leaving the primary Jewish influence there while loosing her Jewish distinctiveness the church spread further away. Some courageous people took time to bury Stephens body with loud lamentation, amounting to a public protest of his death vs. 2 and in contrast Saul was making havoc of the church. It sounds like the tactics of Sadaam Hussein. (1) This forces the church out of Jerusalem (2) makes the church depend upon God and not the apostles who God had sent. God used these circumstances to teach the new community of faith to wider her testimony of Christ in new areas of ministry vs. 4. God does the same thing with us when he forces us to move along to new opportunities, new ministries, new locations, new relationships. It also widens our testimony and impact for Christ.
2. THE TESTIMONY OF ONE CAN HAVE A FRUITFUL IMPACT 5-8
Yesterday, I was scattering grass seed in several bare spots in my yard. It is like God is reaching down into his seed-filled sack, Jerusalem, and is flinging His seed into His field so that this seed might become fruitful where it lands. Philip illustrates the impact of the fruitfulness of just one of these seeds. Here is the first instance of the Gospel’s efforts to break down ‘race’ barriers and unite men of diverse nations into a single body. Philip ‘went down’ and spiritually he was one who ‘went down’. (1) He condescended in accepting waiting on tables in Acts 6; (2) in his willingness to witness to but one single person in the desert after successful city evangelism; (3) as a Jew lowering self in preaching to Samaritans going down to their city, a place Jews avoided. (4) Yet message of Christianity is of One who ‘came down’ to meet our need. First, they heard the truth and listened to it vs. 6. Second, he confirmed his message with miracles. There was clear evidence of the power of God in His life. Wherever the gospel goes, there is liberty! Third, There was a lot of joy vs. 8. Instead of resentment and bitterness against him as a Jew God gave them joy. Evidence that this was a work of God. Racial barriers are set aside. The gospel is not designed for a Jew as a Jew but for a man as man, created in the image of God. It is for the whole world.
3. THE IMPACT OF THIS TESTIMONY DRAMATICALLY CHANGES PEOPLES LIVES 9-17
Here Samaria and Jerusalem are to be contrasted. While Jerusalem has rebellion and unbelief it was not afflicted with superstitiousness and sorcery. It seems that in pagan ignorant religion, superstition and magic prevail. Where the truth is known, even tho disobeyed, it’s Power still tends to drive these things underground. (1) Here we can see the density of that darkness. Sorcery or magic which is the use of supernatural forces to control and/or manipulate nature for personal uses contrary to God. First, this delusion knew no bounds of class or status vs. 10. From the smallest to the greatest. Second, it had proved to be tenacious and enduring vs. 11. Simon had gotten attention for a long time. While boasting he was someone great vs. 9, the people agreed with him vs. 10. (I just heard of a church pastor being challenged about his teaching and someone commented that maybe the hypnosis has finally been broken referring to hios hold over the people). (2) The liberating power of the gospel 12-13. The kingdom of God is mightier than the kingdom of darkness. Baptism a decisive step for Samaritans renouncing their former superstitions and linking with name of Jesus. Both they and Simon believed and were baptized. Everyone comes to the kingdom the same way! (3) A contrast between the past and the present 14-17. Whereas in Simon they thot they had ‘the great power’ now in the HS they really did find that. They are about to receive the HS from the hands of the apostles. This unusual method, different than today for believers who receive the HS immediately, happened for at least 3 reasons. (1) Authenticated this new work of God to the apostles. (2) Philip’s ministry validated God working amongst the Samaritans. God does some strange stuff! (3) Prevented schism and rivalry. Had the HS been given there exactly same time as in Jerusalem may have solidified Samariatn error of down-grading the place of God’s name and kept both groups separate. Fact that apostles came gave official welcome and recognition to both groups that God was in this. 4. THE CHANGE CAN TRANSFORM EVEN THE WORST OF SINNERS 18-24
A debated issue, Simon was a believer. (1) He believed just like all the others had 12-13. (2) He brings into his Xian life, as we do, the erroneous outlook of his past 18-19. Since money had secured the exercise of his powers in the past he thot it could now secure God’s as well. (3) Peter warns him of what he is heading for vs. 20 of the ruin to his life and soul which such an attitude would bring. Like Annanias and Sapphira had. (4) Elevating money in one’s heart makes it suspect before God and unable to participate in what it is God is doing vs. 21. (5) A heart enamored of money will be poisoned by the sorrows and disappointments it will bring (1 Tim 6:9-10). Perhaps this severe language results from the severity of Annanias and Sapphira being fresh in mind of Peter. (6) The only remedy there is, is to repent vs. 22, no forgiveness without it. Simon’s quick response was a sign that he had vs. 24. (Unlike A & S) While ’simony’ has become a name for a corrupt practice, Simon did not deserve it. It is even possible that his request for prayer from Peter meant that the remainder of his life was fruitful, a prayer God was likely to answer from Peter.