Acts 8 vv 4 25
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  • I often think we get a bit reluctant as modern, Western Evangelicals to get involved with any intentional evangelism because we have some pretty preconceived ideas about how it should go and how things should work out.Now, by ‘intentional evangelism’ I mean deliberately setting about the process of telling people who are without Christ the something if not everything that they need to hear and come to terms with in order to come to Christ and be saved.Now, that involves not a theoretical but a practical, personal awareness of THEIR sin and their resulting inability to earn their own salvation or get themselves saved.It involves not a theoretical understanding of faith but a practical and ultimate personal reliance for all their needs on the Christ Who saves, secures and sustains His people.More than that, it involves the practical and personal re-orientation of life and lifestyle in a direction that follows the Christ we have become absolutely committed to as the absolute visible example of the sort of life God would wish us to lead. In short this means that overcome by His mercy and grace we become disciples and followers of Jesus Christ Himself.And each of us will need to reckon with those broad generalisations at a different point, so one person is going to feel the Gospel shoe pinch their existing lifestyle where it touches on our sexual ethics, another where it pinches on our dishonesty or tax fraud, or greed, or indiscipline, or uncontrolled anger, or arrogance and pride.I’m saying the exact subject matter of our conversations in the process of intentional evangelism may vary, just as the sort of people we encounter and seek to bring to Christ will vary but Biblically the responses we get will fall into certain very similar categories … and our appreciation of the teaching of Scripture at this point, our expectations as to what will happen and therefore our persistence in following Christ ourselves at this point (and He was the intentional evangelist par excellence, by the way!) will be lacking.It will be lacking when things do not turn out as we expect, not because something is wrong but because our expectations (as 20th century Western Evangelicals) of where it will lead are what’s wrong!In practice we tend to expect to reach people like us, with an inoffensive message, which elicits a completely amiable and polite response and wins us friends the world over, bringing people like us to think the way that we think and do as we do and join our cosy, comfortable Christian CLUB.Now tell me honestly: WHERE do you find that in Scripture?
  • “8 So there was great joy in that city.”But believe me, that’s really not ALL there was.
  • Stephen, one of the seven Hellenistic Jews elected to deacon the church in Acts 6 has been martyred.Philip, another member of the seven (6:5), undertakes a mission to Samaria. Was the Samaritan city he evangelized Gitta—Simon Magus's home according to Justin Martyr, who himself hailed from the region (Apology 1.26)—or Samaria's religious center, Shechem—which was also the site of some of John the Baptist's and Jesus' ministry (Jn 3:23; 4:4-42; Bruce 1988:165; Lake and Cadbury 1979:89)? Luke does not tell us.The syncretism and the mixed race of the post-Assyrian-exile Samaritans (2 Kings 17:24-41), together with the reciprocal reprisals against both Mt. Gerizim and Jerusalem worship centers in intertestamental times (Josephus Jewish Antiquities 13.255-58; 18.29), so heightened prejudice and animosity between Jew and Samaritan that the best that could be said for their relations in the first century was "Jews do not associate with Samaritans" (Jn 4:9).
  • Instead of the Davidic Messiah, the Samaritans looked forward to the coming of the taheb, "the restorer" (Deut 18:18), a herald of the last day—a day of final judgment, of vengeance and reward, when the temple of Gerizim would be restored, the sacrifices reinstated and the heathen converted (R. T. Anderson 1988:307). What Theophilus and we know about Samaritans from Luke's writings is a mixed picture that on balance is positive (Lk 9:52-56; 10:29-37; 17:11-19).Philip "preaches" (4:18-19/Is 61:1-2; Lk 24:47) the Christ in whose person the kingdom of God has come and by whose name it spreads. God accompanies this announcement with signs of healing (compare Acts 4:16, 22, 30; 5:12; 6:8; interestingly, signs are mentioned only two more times in Acts at 14:3; 15:12). In enemy territory, where false worship is practiced, it is not surprising that one encounters the spiritual powers behind such worship: evil spirits (NIV puts the literal rendering, unclean, in the margin; they are ritually unclean and make those whom they possess ritually unclean).God in his mercy does signs of his kingdom's advance in syncretistic Samaria, granting release through the herald of his liberating gospel. And tokens of the coming messianic age appear as well, when Philip heals the paralyzed and the lame (Is 35:3, 6; compare Lk 7:22; 5:24-25; Acts 9:33-34). No wonder the people paid close attention (prosecho may even have the sense "to attend to, i.e., to believe and act on"—compare 16:14—Lake and Cadbury 1979:89; but Haenchen 1971:302 doubts it).
  • Please notice in this account the primacy in mission (at the human level) of verbal communication in bringing people to the awareness of the truth that leads to salvation and following Christ.Words are used.It’s not ‘preach the Gospel – if necessary use words’.That (Biblically) is nonsense.Fine sounding sound bite.RUBBISH theology.(Oh DO be careful of this … Twitter is FULL of fine sounding sound bites that are actually RUBBISH theology, and it is not cool sounding sound bites but the TRUTH that sets you free).Truth.Preaching the Christ.Words are used.
  • Now who’d have believed THIS bit?!This is just (humanly) SO unlikely!What we need is really cool music.What we need is really influential people to endorse Christianity and give interviews and support campaigns.What we need is to make Christianity look really cool and laid back … unexceptionable and inoffensive.Phillip didn’t do that.He went down to a dodgy place and a really dodgy bunch of people and he preached Christ Himself to them and (the biggest miracle in the forthcoming list) by the mercy of God these people LISTENED to him!“When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said”
  • But if he’s going to first and foremost make it his business to preach the Christ to these guys, Phillip is going to do it the way Jesus did it … RISKY!This Gospel is good news to these people … and Phillip under God makes Good News to them of it!Now, of course, there are those in our oh-so-secular Western Evangelical culture who will feel uneasy with all this and insist that the nature of this first-time advance of the gospel across the cultural threshold to Samaria may primarily account for the signs' presence.But the fact that Philip faces a situation of spiritual encounter not unlike what pioneer church planters among unreached peoples face today should encourage us to expect the powerful working of the gospel in these situations as well.Simon is described by Luke as practicing magical arts with the effect that the whole population of Samaria, regardless of social standing, has been for a long time held in his sway, completely astonished at his power (8:9, 11; compare 2:7, 12; Philo De SpecialibusLegibus 3.100-103; Plato Laws 909A-B; Josephus Jewish Antiquities 20.142; Delling 1967:356-59). Simon capitalized on their attention and presented himself as the embodiment of the occult power. He received praise as if he were an angelic or divine supernatural being: "This is the power of God, [the power] that is called `Great' " (NIV has smoothed over the syntax but in the process has altered the second title).But the arrival of the Gospel in his city has put Simon in a rather difficult position … just as it challenges the established religious system wherever it goes.The first thing these Samaritans learned was that the Gospel's power is superior to the Magic of a person like Simon the Sorcerer!How will he respond?After all, he is the one who’s been winning a large and (in line with contemporary cultural expectations, no doubt) profitable following by means of his occult empowered magic stunts.And along comes Phillip … doing all these signs!Because that’s the big thing here … these weren’t stunts, they were signs.Phillip has been doing the signs of the Messiah as described in Isaiah’s prophecy as the paralysed and lame were healed with a word in the Name of Jesus, the Messiah Whose empowered and sinless life and subsequent atoning death personally fulfilled the prophecies of God’s coming Saviour.So the Samaritans believe the gospel of the reign of God in the powerful name of Jesus and are baptized. Simon believes, is baptized and devotes himself to Philip. The one who amazed the Samaritans (8:9, 11) is now himself continually amazed at Philip's signs and great miracles (compare the title in 8:10).And today when God chooses to do signs and wonders through his servants as his church advances, the immediate "quantitative" effect, amazement, may be expressed in outward profession of belief and even baptism. But if the signs and wonders, when combined with the Spirit-empowered preaching of the word of salvation, do not have a "qualitative" effect, regeneration, then the convert will adopt a syncretized Christianity. Jesus will be no more than a magical name, though the most powerful one. What makes the difference is repentance from a magical mind set through an affirmation of the sovereign power of God, who grants salvation blessings when and where he will. We must affirm that it is not the power of miracle, so easily seen in our unregenerate mind set as magic, that saves us, but the power of the Word of God which by the Spirit we receive, believe and follow and so are liberated (Krodel 1986:165; Lk 16:29-31; Jn 2:23-25).
  • It’s that emphasis on credible signs following the preached Word that Luke (who wrote Acts) depicts for us as authenticating Phillip’s Gospel preaching.Now, I confess that personally I find this a little challenging of my prevailing pattern of faith and practice.So are we sure this is what Luke is saying here?Apostolic practice was to preach (primarily) and then to authenticate the message with clear manifestation of (not just testimony to) the works of the Messiah?Are we sure?Well the whole point is for us to follow Jesus, right?In his church-founding sermon on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, this is what Peter preaches: “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross …”And how does Jesus of Nazareth go on to be accredited by God to the people of Jerusalem in the next few chapters?Peter and John heal the crippled beggar at the Beautiful Gate at the Temple.And in those early days at Jerusalem this was quickly established as the normal situation:“12 The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders(Q) among the people. And all the believers used to meet together(R) in Solomon’s Colonnade.(S)13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people.(T)14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.(U)15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by.(V)16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil[a] spirits, and all of them were healed.(W)(The Apostles Persecuted)17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party(X) of the Sadducees,(Y) were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.(Z)19 But during the night an angel(AA) of the Lord opened the doors of the jail(AB) and brought them out.(AC)20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.”So when … fulfilling centuries of prophecy … the Gospel begins to spread out into the world and goes from the Jewish world into Samaria as persecution breaks out in Jerusalem … how does God accredit Jesus to the world?
  • Now … importantly it does NOT say all.Neither does it say those of faith, or BIG faith were all healed.But it does say MANY!And it says that these tremendous answers to what must have looked like RISKY prayers bears a close relationship to the credibility, authenticity and effectiveness of Phillip’s preaching Christ there: “When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said.”
  • This Gospel reaching didn’t just promise Good News to the poor … it delivered.The Lord Himself had replied to John the Baptist’s disciples along these lines just a few action packed years before … do you remember?Matthew 11
  • So here is the Lord Himself pointing to the way that He looks like the Biblically promised Messiah because He does the works of the Messiah … just as Isaiah described them.And Phillip is a follower of the same Messiah, so He goes about preaching that same Biblical Messiah and praying for God to accredit Jesus and His ministry in Biblical ways.Scary, isn’t it?!
  • And funnily enough the people were really happy about going to Phillip’s church, in fact listening to Phillip’s sermons was a pleasure!Because of Phillip’s ministry there, in fact we’re told that “… there was great joy in that city.”Now that really is authentic Biblical stuff, is that!Do you remember back at the outset when the angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds by night as they kept watch over their flocks by night He described right back there what the effect of receiving the coming Messiah would be?“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”And just about 33 years later Phillip (the Hellenised – Greek – Jewish believer in Jesus) goes down to a city in Samaria of all places, intentionally and faithfully preaches Christ in that apparently God-forsaken place.And what is the effect of that?Others hear and believe, and when they trust Christ, good is done to their souls and there is GREAT rejoicing in THAT place!I suspect we are quite happy with that aspect of the outcome?If Scripture did not bear the hallmark integrity of the voice of God, we could expect the account to start at v. 5 and stop right here.It doesn’t.We need to know that it doesn’t, notice that it doesn’t and LIVE with the implications of everything that both precedes and follows our most desired outcome and expectation.
  • Now, the first hint that things aren’t quite right arises when the ‘pure’, Jewish church up at Jerusalem sends envoys (two of it’s VERY best men) down to ‘unclean’ Samaria to see what on earth was going on.When they went there, they saw what appeared to be Biblical believing going on … amongst the Samaritans of all people, the Gospel going out from Jerusalem into all the nations the way the prophet Joel had prophesied and the way that Peter had Himself preached in Acts 2!But they put their finger on something interesting … these genuine seeming authentic believers had not yet received the Holy Spirit the way the Jewish believers had in the beginning.So what is God doing in this situation?This is the first recorded church out in the Gentile world, and they have not yet received the Holy Spirit … not until the leaders of the church at Jerusalem come down to Samaria to pray for them.They have properly heard the authentic message and repented and believed and seen the power of God at work.But they haven’t received the spirit of prophecy of Joel 2.
  • Jews and Gentiles BOTH … to the Jew first and then to the Gentile … TOGETHER in the Kingdom of God.That’s the idea.And Peter and John come down from Jerusalem so that there shouldn’t be two churches but one as the Gentiles get included together with the Jews in one racially inclusive church of God walking together in the power and the fellowship of the Spirit.
  • Intentionally proclaiming the Gospel entails intentionally including the diverse but genuine and …
  • Intentionally excluding the counterfeit.This part really is not going to be popular.Not anywhere.Not ever.But certainly not in philosophically and ethically relativist 21st century Wales.Get this … Peter and John are certainly not currying favour here!
  • Now, just notice a couple of things in this passage with me before we conclude:Intentional evangelism entails exposing what is NOT authentic Christianity as well as describing what is.None of us wants to be negative.None of us ought to be predominantly so.But none of us can afford to be condemned by the things we approve.Romans 14:22 – “Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves.”Romans 1: “32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”So there are several things going on here …Firstly (in green) Simon the Sorcerer is cursed with a curse formula a person like Simon would recognise.Then secondly (in gold) there’s a public and personal separation of the fake from the authentic.Thirdly there’s a serious attempt (in red) to bring the lost person into Christ’s fold … ‘you are actually way out in the cold, but do THIS and you’ll be safe in the warm’.Does it come off?We don’t know.We want it to.We expect it to.But perhaps deliberately Luke simply doesn’t tell us.We’re just not prepared that it might work out less happily.It might challenge our faith if it doesn’t.WHY?Because our expectations of the effect of our intentional evangelism in a lost and fallen world are often utterly unrealistic and completely un-Biblical.What is it that the Lord leads us to expect in response to communicating our faith?It’s the parable of the soils that I’m thinking of … but for a farmer not to work hard at tilling and sowing because the response will be mixed would be a travesty of a response to the hardship of his work and so is withdrawal from active intentional evangelism born of fear that the process will fall short of our unreasonable expectations.
  • So, Peter has NOT just expressed another viewpoint.He’s not opening a discussion over alternative approaches to an issue.Peter speaks as an authoritative representative of Christ.In fact he has used a curse formula against corruption and error.Is he addicted to popularity?Yes he is.Popularity with Christ!Is he afraid of giving offence?Yes he is.Afraid of giving offence to the King of all Kings.And if people are to genuinely repent and find Christ, then truth must be spoken … in love.
  • Peter and John might be forgiven for nipping away quietly for a rest.It hasn’t been an easy missionary trip for these two apostles.But they testified and proclaimed God’s Word thoroughly down in that Samaritan city, then returned to Jerusalem preaching the Gospel in many Samaritan villages as they passed through.City wide intentional evangelism.Rural intentional evangelism.Next time personal, individual, intentional evangelism.Where does this leave us?Making a good impression?Forming friendships?Influencing fish?YES!We’re not here to be bolsheviks, angular and irritating people!But it is too easy to lose sight of our proper point, purpose, motivation and mission.We’re here to be the authoritative but gracious, caring but clear heralds of the Gospel of Grace.Intend.Evangelise.Persist.

Transcript

  • 1. Welcome to Grace! “So in everything,do to others what you would have them do to you,for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12
  • 2. Acts 8:1-25• Introduction
  • 3. Acts 8:1-25“On that day a great persecution broke out against thechurch at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles werescattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly menburied Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saulbegan to destroy the church. Going from house to house,he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.4 Those who had been scattered preached the wordwherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city inSamaria and proclaimed the Christ there. 6 When thecrowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did,they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 Withshrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralyticsand cripples were healed.8 So there was great joy in that city.”
  • 4. Acts 8:1-25• Introduction• Phillip went down to Samaria, vv. 1-5a
  • 5. Acts 8:1-25• Introduction• Phillip went down to Samaria, vv. 1-5a• Phillip proclaimed Christ there, v. 5b
  • 6. Acts 8:1-25• Introduction• Phillip went down to Samaria, vv. 1-5a• Phillip proclaimed Christ there, v. 5b• The response of the crowds, vv. 6-8
  • 7. Acts 8:1-25• Introduction• Phillip went down to Samaria, vv. 1-5a• Phillip proclaimed Christ there, v. 5b• The response of the crowds, vv. 6-8 – Heard Phillip, v. 6
  • 8. Acts 8:1-25• Introduction• Phillip went down to Samaria, vv. 1-5a• Phillip proclaimed Christ there, v. 5b• The response of the crowds, vv. 6-8 – Heard Phillip, v. 6 • Words used
  • 9. Acts 8:1-25• Introduction• Phillip went down to Samaria, vv. 1-5a• Phillip proclaimed Christ there, v. 5b• The response of the crowds, vv. 6-8 – Heard Phillip, v. 6 • Words used • And listening happened
  • 10. Acts 8:1-25• Introduction• Phillip went down to Samaria, vv. 1-5a• Phillip proclaimed Christ there, v. 5b• The response of the crowds, vv. 6-8 – Heard Phillip, v. 6 – Saw signs, v. 6-7
  • 11. Acts 8:1-25• Introduction• Phillip went down to Samaria, vv. 1-5a• Phillip proclaimed Christ there, v. 5b• The response of the crowds, vv. 6-8 – Heard Phillip, v. 6 – Saw signs, v. 6-7 – Paid close attention, v. 6
  • 12. Acts 8:7“7 With shrieks, evil spirits came out ofmany,and manyparalytics andcripples were healed.”
  • 13. Acts 8:1-25• Introduction• Phillip went down to Samaria, vv. 1-5a• Phillip proclaimed Christ there, v. 5b• The response of the crowds, vv. 6-8 – Heard Phillip, v. 6 – Saw signs, v. 6-7 – Paid close attention, v. 6 – Good done to poor people, v. 7
  • 14. Matthew 11“When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, hesent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who wasto come, or should we expect someone else?”4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what youhear and see:5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who haveleprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, andthe good news is preached to the poor.6 Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account ofme.”
  • 15. Acts 8:1-25• Introduction• Phillip went down to Samaria, vv. 1-5a• Phillip proclaimed Christ there, v. 5b• The response of the crowds, vv. 6-8 – Heard Phillip, v. 6 – Saw signs, v. 6-7 – Paid close attention, v. 6 – Good done to poor people, v. 7 – Great joy, v. 8
  • 16. Acts 8:1-25• Introduction• Phillip went down to Samaria, vv. 1-5a• Phillip proclaimed Christ there, v. 5b• The response of the crowds, vv. 6-8• Including the genuine, vv. 14-17
  • 17. Acts 8:14-17“When the apostles in Jerusalem heard thatSamaria had accepted the word of God, they sentPeter and John to them.15 When they arrived, they prayed for them thatthey might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because theHoly Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; theyhad simply been baptized into the name of the LordJesus.17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them,and they received the Holy Spirit.”
  • 18. Acts 8:1-25• Introduction• Phillip went down to Samaria, vv. 1-5a• Phillip proclaimed Christ there, v. 5b• The response of the crowds, vv. 6-8• Including the genuine, vv. 14-17
  • 19. Acts 8:1-25• Introduction• Phillip went down to Samaria, vv. 1-5a• Phillip proclaimed Christ there, v. 5b• The response of the crowds, vv. 6-8• Including the genuine, vv. 14-17• Cursing the counterfeit, vv. 18-24
  • 20. Acts 8:18-24“When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the layingon of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 andsaid, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whomI lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you,because you thought you could buy the gift of God withmoney! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry,because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent ofthis wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he willforgive you for having such a thought in your heart.23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive tosin.”24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so thatnothing you have said may happen to me.”
  • 21. Acts 8:1-25• Introduction• Phillip went down to Samaria, vv. 1-5a• Phillip proclaimed Christ there, v. 5b• The response of the crowds, vv. 6-8• Including the genuine, vv. 14-17• Cursing the counterfeit, vv. 18-24
  • 22. Acts 8:1-25• Introduction• Phillip went down to Samaria, vv. 1-5a• Phillip proclaimed Christ there, v. 5b• The response of the crowds, vv. 6-8• Including the genuine, vv. 14-17• Cursing the counterfeit, vv. 18-24• Conclusion: persisting in intentional evangelism“When they had testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord,Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.” (v. 25)