Sunday, June 21, 2020

Acts Study | Session 19 | 8:1-25

Today we take a look at Acts 8:1-25 where we look at why the apostles decided to stay in Jerusalem while many others were scattered as a result of the prosecution, why they message preached as simply Christ and not the crucifixion, Simon the Sorcerer, the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven, and why the apostles were sent to pray over the Samaritans.

Chapter 8
VERSE 1: And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. As a result of the persecution, the church that was in Jerusalem was scattered abroad, except the apostles. This begs the question, "Why?". I used to teach that God used persecution to scatter the church to take the gospel outside of Jerusalem to fulfill the Great Commission. If that is correct, the apostles were the most disobedient of them all! Also, those who were scattered, who did they preach to (Acts 11:19)? The church as we know it is not in view yet!

Of course, many have no problem today with second-guessing the actions of the apostles. I heard it all of the time in Bible College and in Seminary, e.g., they should not have chosen Matthias, Peter should not have quoted Joel 2, they should have already left Jerusalem in fulfillment of Mat 28:19 (note the works; go, teach, baptize), etc. (cf. Mar 16:15-18). And yet we have the audacity to insinuate that they were confused. I don't think so. How about taking the opposite approach of they knew EXACTLY what they were doing and you are confused because you are trying to force your theology into the text? It is only after you distance yourself from that kind of thinking that you are able to see it with fresh eyes, e.g., Matthew 24.

So, the question is, "Why were they remaining in Jerusalem?" This was by all accounts anywhere between four to five years after Pentecost. Here is the answer: they knew that before the Kingdom could come to Israel, all of Jerusalem and its leaders must repent and accept that Jesus Christ was the long-awaited Messiah. They had not done that yet. It would only be then, that God would use the nation of Israel to reach the Gentile nations as we discussed at the end of chapter 7!

All throughout the Old Testament, there is prophecy after prophecy in regards to this. Israel had to be saved first and that had to start in Jerusalem! Even then, understand, that had they accepted it, they still would have gone out only the Jew. The way I see it is that once the Jews excepted the Gospel of the Kingdom, he would then use them during the Kingdom to reach the Gentiles (Zec 8:20-23). This is when the nation would become a Kingdom of Priests!

VERSES 2-3: And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. (3)  As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. As I mentioned, Saul was not only there, he was leading it. Paul, in his conversion accounts, always mentions his horrible past in his dealings with his fellow Jews (Act 26:9-10). It seems apparent from the text in regards to Stephen's death that Rome tended to look the other way when it came to the Jews and their "religious" laws.

So why did the need Rome permission to crucify Jesus? Because prophecy required that the Gentile be involved (Psa 2:1-12; Psa 22:1-19; Joh 3:14 to name just a few. Also, the Jews would never have crucified him. Instead, they would have stoned him (Lev 24:15-16).

VERSE 4: Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. Remember that they were only preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom to Jews only (Act 11:19).

VERSE 5: Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. When I read this verse, I can't help but look back up to v.1 where it says, and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria. Remember Acts 1:8? Could this have been preemptive just in case Jerusalem would have repented?

Notice it says that Philip went down to the city of Samaria. Why down? It was north of Jerusalem. The Jews always referred to Jerusalem as up because it was the location of the temple of God (Luk 10:30; Joh 4:54; Joh 5:1; Psa 24:3). Jews going to Jersusalem were said to be making aliya or ascent.

It is also interesting to note that Philip, just like Peter and Stephen, preached Christ; not Christ crucified, but Christ. I emphasize that because there is a difference (1Co 1:17-18; 1Co 1:23). The focus of the Kingdom Gospel was not the crucifixion, but the person of Christ only. Subtle, but there was a difference because it predates the cross (Mat 16:15-16; Joh 11:25-27). Again, no mention of the cross; and it will continue with the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:35-37. This is the same message that Paul preached after his conversion (Acts 9:20). The Grace Gospel was not given to Paul until later.

As a final note on Samaritans, there were half Jew and half Gentile as a result of the intermarrying of the ones left behind during the Assyrian captivity. They were the descendants of the ten northern tribes and practiced a diluted version of Judaism, they were still Jews. This must be the case because the scattered Jews took the Gospel of the Kingdom to them (Acts 11:19).

Some say that it is significant that Peter and John had to lay hands on them in order for them to receive the Holy Spirit. The significance would be that they had to fall under the authority of the Jerusalem Church. Um, something to think about for sure.

VERSE 6: And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. Notice that miracles were still being used to convince the nation of the validity of the message (1Co 1:22).

VERSE 7: For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. Les Feldick points out at this point that Paul never addressed the issue of demonic possession; therefore, salvation is the only answer. Something to think about. I mean, all exorcisms are based on the Gospels.

VERSES 8-10: And there was great joy in that city. (9)  But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: (10)  To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. In these verses, we are introduced to one Simon the Sorcerer who was said to be the great power of God. Sadly, any power that he did have did not come from the God of Heaven, but the god of this world. I am reminded of the magicians in Pharoah's court who responded to the miracles of Moses. They did so by the power of Satan. I believe that all power on this earth comes from and by one or the other. The Ying and the Yang is a lie though.

VERSES 11-12: And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. (12)  But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Notice that they believed the preaching of Philip in regard to the things concerning the kingdom of God. Is there a difference between the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God? Some believe that the Kingdom of God is referring to the whole sphere of God's influence, earth, and space, while the Kingdom of Heaven refers only to his earthly kingdom. However, I believe they are one and the same because Jesus used the words interchangeably (Mat 19:23-24). Also, the other gospel writers did the same. The Kingdom of God is used 68 times in 10 different New Testament books. The Kingdom of Heaven is used 32 times in only the Gospel of Matthew.

Compare these verses: Mat 11:11-12 with Luk 7:28; Mat 13:11 with Mar 4:11 and Luk 8:10; Mat 13:24 with Mar 4:26; Mat 13:31 with Mar 4:30 and Luk 13:18; Mat 13:33 with Luk 13:20
Mat 18:3 with Mar 10:14 and Luk 18:16. In each case, Matthew used the Kingdom of Heaven and the others used the Kingdom of God. They clearly are referring to the same thing.

However, there are many that believe that the Kingdom of God belongs to the church and the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the nation of Israel. The kingdoms are different, containing different subjects, and only meet in the Millennial reign of Christ upon the earth.

VERSE 13: Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Notice that Simon is drawn to the miracles and signs. Why? Two reasons: 1. That was his schtick, and 2. That was the whole reason for the miracles and signs was to draw an audience.

VERSES 14-17: Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: (15)  Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (16)  (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) (17)  Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. The apostles are still at Jerusalem and they received word that Samaria had received the word of God. In response, they sent Peter and John to see what was going on, upon confirmation, they prayed for the new believers that they might receive the Holy Ghost. The question is why. Why did these people need to be prayed over by the apostles themselves when no one else was?

Amazing isn’t it? Why did God withhold the Holy Spirit from these baptized Samaritans believers until Peter and John came down? Go to John’s Gospel, Chapter 4. Here we have the account of Jesus and the woman at the well, and you all know the story (Joh 4:15-20). Notice our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Notice that they drew no distinction in regards to the importance of Jerusalem.

Historically, the reason behind that mentality had been drawn years before when the nation was divided between the north and the south between Rehoboam and Jeroboam. Those in the Northern Kingdom under Jeroboam had established a secondary temple and felt no need to go back to Jerusalem (1Ki 12:25-33).

I believe that the whole event was about the Samaritans understanding that Jerusalem was where they were to worship. Jerusalem was the headquarters for the Kingdom of Heaven and not Samaria. I also believe that Peter had to be involved per Mat 16:19.
Kingdom Church
Another point that needs to be made in regards to this event is that this event contradicts how God works in the Body of Christ, i.e., belief is followed by the indwelling Holy Spirit. This passage alone demonstrates that this was not that. Instead, these people were believed, where baptized, but still had not received the Holy Spirit, and it would be days, if not weeks later they would in response to the prayers of Peter and John. It is obvious that something unique was going on here. Peter said, repent, be baptized, and you will receive the Spirit, but not here. Today, belief is followed by immediate filling, no baptism required.

VERSES 18-19: And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, (19)  Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. By the way, this is where the word simony comes from. Webster defines it as the buying or selling of a church office. Simon was basically trying to purchase apostleship.

On that point, I believe that the office of apostle is closed. There are no apostles today. Certainly, there are people who do the work of apostleship, i.e., missionaries.
Notice back up in v.13 that Simon had already been baptized at the hands of the Philip. Does this mean that he had been truly converted? Obviously not. Interestingly, the modern church is still seeking apostolic authority and power.

VERSE 20-22 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. (21)  Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. (22)  Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. I believe these verses make it pretty clear that Simon's feigned belief and baptism was for financial gain for thy heart is not right in the sight of God (Rom 10:9-10). Then Peter tells him to repent therefore of this thy wickedness and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. Nowhere in Scripture do we find that Simon followed this advice. Actually, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Hippolytus, and Epiphanius all describe him as the founder of Gnosticism which is a counterfeit Christianity that believed they had superior knowledge over others in regards to spiritual things. The word means "having knowledge". Others reject that he was the founder, but was instead just described as one. Either way, it appears that he became an enemy of true Christianity.
VERSE 23: For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. That is not the description of a true believer.

VERSE 24: Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me. I find it interesting that he asked that they pray for him. Why did he not just pray for himself? I think it was unbelief (Mark 9:24).

VERSE 25: And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans. Why did they return to Jerusalem? Because they did not believe that they had a ministry to the Gentiles at this point until the King and the Kingdom had been accepted.

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