Holy God, slow to anger, wise to judge, mighty to deliver, I come to hear Your Word now.
Read Acts 8:4-25
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth” (Isa. 49:6).
The result of the opposition in Jerusalem was that the church was scattered—but far from hindering its mission, this enhanced it. One of the paradoxes of history is that the church often grows under persecution. The Spirit who inspires and enables God’s mission is not held back by the efforts of people. Indeed, it’s possible that Luke wants us to understand that the church had been slow to obey the injunction to go into the entire world, and that it’s the Spirit who takes the initiative.
Like Stephen, Philip, although appointed to a practical task (Acts 6:1-7), discovers and exercises new gifts. His ministry, as so often in the New Testament, combines proclamation focused on the arrival of Messiah (5), together with signs. It is the pattern and theology of the New Testament that signs will follow and confirm the word (Heb. 2:1-4). We may not agree on what that means in practice today, but at least we can agree that our mission involves both proclamation and demonstration. It is a denial of the Gospel when our words are not supported by action.
The focus in these two chapters is on two of the seven appointed to support the apostles. The apostles remain the ultimate authority, so when word of the work in Samaria reaches Jerusalem they come to check it out. Having recognized that God is at work, they pray for the Spirit to come. The reception of the Spirit is always seen as an essential part of the conversion experience, although sometimes, as here and in Ephesus, there is a time lag (Acts 19:1-7). Simon’s desire for the ability to confer the Spirit on others is motivated by thoughts of personal gain, but the Spirit cannot be manipulated for our own ends.
How might your church’s discipling of new Christians reflect more effectively the conviction that they have received the Spirit and now live in him?
Spirit of the Living God, You make Christ real to me and give me the desire to share my faith. I release my life to fulfill Your saving purposes.
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