Jesus told the truth when He said, 'You will be my witnesses in Samaria' Introduction Note how what can seem like commands are first of all statements about reality. E.g., 'you will be my witnesses'; or 'God blessed them and said, be fruitful and multiply'. What God requires He also enables. Since it's 'how it is', it's also 'what we do'. Indicatives shape imperatives. Since we are witnesses, we witness. [difference between medical student and doctor] Samaria: massive ethnic division dating back to pre-exilic times. Samaria went bad first and was destroyed for it. It was considered 'half-caste' at best ever since. So it was striking when Jesus spoke to a samaritan woman. And when He made a samaritan the 'good guy' in Luke 10. Magic? See google ngram; we are as interested as ever. Halloween still a massive point in the year. Feeds off something, at some level. [just checked Amazon UK's bestseller lists; within religion & spirituality, there are a number of books on magic, tarot, and zombies within the top 40] 8.3-8 The gospel reaches Samaria with much joy V4 they were 'gospeling the word' [neighbour, meals, colleagues, trading/business, playgroups] Unnamed, everyday Christians. Before Philip, who perhaps gathered and gave empowered preaching and unity, and joined the dots. They were there first, doing gospel life. This is where we fit in. Do you accept this identity as witness? Could your conversation be described as 'gospeling the word'? Are there fragments littered here and there in your conversation? One big idea we've been seeing in Dig Deeper is the simple principle of getting the Word of God into everyday. It is capable of answering and altering the questions people have. v6 with one accord. This is the work of God - like it was in Jerusalem with one accord. [pray for this favour from God in Gateshead!] V7-8 the work of JESUS the CHRIST is continuing. T he rule of Jesus demonstrated. Unclean spirits cluster at key turning points. Note the sequence: sincere regard for this 'good news', this announcement from God v6. And the consequence is great joy v8. Beginning with 'joy' is a subtle counterfeit of the true gospel, which begins instead with fear, awe, weightiness, sincerity. Great joy is a result of looking at God Himself. Do you want more joy? Ask God for a bigger view of who He is, for a clearer grasp of His gospel. 8.9-25 The Holy Spirit is given to Samaritan believers V12 Philip preached good news about the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus. Literally, as he 'told the gospel about the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus Christ.' Shorthand for the whole plan of God summed up in the gospel events; it's the unifying theme. You simply cannot separate 'the gospel' from the whole Bible; it's the central hub that holds all the spokes together. Mentions women - why does he need to? Doesn't mention children. Yet elsewhere Luke mentions women and children - coming with the Ephesians to wave Paul off. v12-13 Simon, wielding the great magical power, recognises here is something far greater. T he strong man is plundered by the stronger man; the worker of magic bows to a greater Power. v14-17; did Peter and John come down to inspect? To give the Spirit? As expression of partnership? To support Philip? The apostles don't control the Spirit, so they can't have had 'apostolic confirmation' in mind. [cf signs and wonders done by Stephen etc]. Instead, they've come to further the work that Philip began; cf John the Baptist and Jesus. In fact, see v15 they prayed that they might receive the Holy Spirit. v17 this 'special dispensing' of the Spirit is for when a new region or group receives the gospel; Acts 10 gentiles, Acts 19 John's disciples, and here the samaritans. The giving of the Spirit is awaited in Acts 2 but comes 'automatically with faith' here in Acts 10. You never see a true believer in Acts longing to receive the Spirit too - except at pre-pentecost. Both Pentecostalism and Catholicism make the error of two-stage initiation. First by baptism, then by Spirit-baptism (either through priestly confirmation, or through experience). But Biblically what happens here is being presented as not the norm! But it's also not really accurate to say Luke is giving a one-stage process - e.g., that they hadn't really believed first of all, or that they had already received the Spirit but now received 'additional graces' or even 'miracles'; both argue from silence in the text. Instead, Luke is presenting this clearly as not the norm, either of apostolic teaching or apostolic practice. cf Acts 2.38-39 or Romans 8.9, 1 Corinthians 6.19, Galatians 3.2, 3.14, 4.6. Indeed, 'only' in v16 (and 'not yet' too) imply something is unusual about all this. In fact, maybe this is why the apostles come down to check things out. And this is abnormal practice; the Jerusalem apostles don't seem to travel around doing inspections on evangelism. Why couldn't the Spirit have been given through Philip's preaching? Stott notes that this was a moment of great advance, but also great peril: 'Would the long-standing rift be perpetuated? The gospel had been welcomed by the Samaritans, but would the Samaritans be welcomed by the Jews? Or would there be separate factions of Jewish Christians and Samaritan Christians in the church of Jesus Christ?...There was a real danger of...forming a new and separate church for themselves. Is it not reasonable to suggest (in view of this historical background) that, in order to avoid just such a disaster, God deliberately withheld the Spirit from these Samaritan converts? The delay was only temporary, however, until the apostles had come down to investigate, had endorsed Philip's bold policy of Samaritan evangelism, had prayed for the converts, had laid hands on them as a sign to the whole church, as well as to the Samaritan converts themselves, that they were bona fide Christians, to be incorporated into the redeemed community on precisely the same terms as Jewish converts...it had to be demonstrated to the Samaritans beyond any shadow of doubt that they had really become members of the church, in fellowship with the original pillars...An unprecedented situation demanded quite exceptional methods.' (Stott, p157-158) 'Special legitimisation' here due to the potential for controversy over Samaritans entering the community of faith; just as with Gentiles soon. V14-17 the gift of the Spirit authorised to samaritans too. This here is an initial (and thus one-off) marker of the gift to the samaritans (as it will be to gentiles a few chapters later). We aren't told how they knew they'd received the Holy Spirit. v18 when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of their hands. He mistakes instruments (God gave through their hands) for ownership (but He is still the Spirit of God!). The Spirit is not for sale. Instead, He is a gift given by God's sovereign grace. v19-23 The desire to 'control' power from God is so deep and pernicious. We see it even in how this passage is sometimes interpreted; that the apostles/early catholic church were hierarchically given this power to apply as they saw fit. Yet never do we have a passage suggesting they were in control of the miraculous working of the Spirit. And even Jesus in the gospels was recorded as, 'not able to do many miracles there.' FCF: The Spirit of God is not a power to be owned. Power and control seeking behaviour by compulsion, and by choice. Living in God's world trying to find some way to control Him by a formula. [prayer formulas, devotional techniques, worship techniques, church growth techniques]. Certainly, in seeking God there is blessing! But we must never come to God merely to 'get'. And when we look at Jesus we see something better than owning a great power. We see a king of love whom we can trust. We see a giver of good gifts. We delight that He has all power, since He is good. In His death He demonstrates His love to us, and assures our hearts. [did Simon really 'get' this? Where does your desire for power spring from?] In His resurrection/ascension He has secured the Gift that He gives freely to all those who ask! Living waters to those who thirst. You can't buy the gift of God. You can humbly ask! He gives grace to the humble (but opposes the proud). Simon a lesson to us, that our pagan attitudes are deep-seated and only removed by layers over time as we grow in the gospel. Do you want more of God? Do you want more for God Himself? Or you simply want to get things from Him - marriage, sex, money, children, respect, influence. [old colleague of mine who realised he only ever called his dad when he needed something from him] Often churches have unwittingly fed this tendency. 'Follow this formula for blessing'. 'I used to struggle like you do, but then I did XYZ and God has blessed me.' Putting people on pedestals. So often what God is doing in suffering (the seeming absence of his tangible gifts) is teaching us to love Him for Himself, not for His gifts. v24 does Simon truly repent? We don't know. He's just been told to (v22), yet he asks at the end that Peter pray for him - possibly still thinks Peter has a special power. Pagan attitudes are so deep-seated. Conclusion Jesus was telling the truth, and so He also spoke the truth that we would be His witnesses in all the earth. A witness is something that we first of all are. And since it's what we are, it's what we do. Sunday focus: gospel breaking new ground, and introducing prayergram. Psalm 67
3 Σαῦλος δὲ ἐλυμαίνετο τὴν ἐκκλησίαν κατὰ τοὺς οἴκους εἰσπορευόμενος, σύρων τε ἄνδρας καὶ γυναῖκας παρεδίδου εἰς φυλακήν. 4 Οἱ μὲν οὖν διασπαρέντες διῆλθον εὐαγγελιζόμενοι τὸν λόγον. 5 Φίλιππος δὲ κατελθὼν εἰς [τὴν] πόλιν τῆς Σαμαρείας ἐκήρυσσεν αὐτοῖς τὸν Χριστόν. 6 προσεῖχον δὲ οἱ ὄχλοι τοῖς λεγομένοις ὑπὸ τοῦ Φιλίππου ὁμοθυμαδὸν ἐν τῷ ἀκούειν αὐτοὺς καὶ βλέπειν τὰ σημεῖα ἃ ἐποίει. 7 πολλοὶ γὰρ τῶν ἐχόντων πνεύματα ἀκάθαρτα βοῶντα φωνῇ μεγάλῃ ἐξήρχοντο, πολλοὶ δὲ παραλελυμένοι καὶ χωλοὶ ἐθεραπεύθησαν• 8 ἐγένετο δὲ πολλὴ χαρὰ ἐν τῇ πόλει ἐκείνῃ. 9 Ἀνὴρ δέ τις ὀνόματι Σίμων προϋπῆρχεν ἐν τῇ πόλει μαγεύων καὶ ἐξιστάνων τὸ ἔθνος τῆς Σαμαρείας, λέγων εἶναί τινα ἑαυτὸν μέγαν, 10 ᾧ προσεῖχον πάντες ἀπὸ μικροῦ ἕως μεγάλου λέγοντες• οὗτός ἐστιν ἡ δύναμις τοῦ θεοῦ ἡ καλουμένη μεγάλη. 11 προσεῖχον δὲ αὐτῷ διὰ τὸ ἱκανῷ χρόνῳ ταῖς μαγείαις ἐξεστακέναι αὐτούς. 12 ὅτε δὲ ἐπίστευσαν τῷ Φιλίππῳ εὐαγγελιζομένῳ περὶ τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τοῦ ὀνόματος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ἐβαπτίζοντο ἄνδρες τε καὶ γυναῖκες. 13 ὁ δὲ Σίμων καὶ αὐτὸς ἐπίστευσεν καὶ βαπτισθεὶς ἦν προσκαρτερῶν τῷ Φιλίππῳ, θεωρῶν τε σημεῖα καὶ δυνάμεις μεγάλας γινομένας ἐξίστατο. 14 Ἀκούσαντες δὲ οἱ ἐν Ἱεροσολύμοις ἀπόστολοι ὅτι δέδεκται ἡ Σαμάρεια τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ, ἀπέστειλαν πρὸς αὐτοὺς Πέτρον καὶ Ἰωάννην, 15 οἵτινες καταβάντες προσηύξαντο περὶ αὐτῶν ὅπως λάβωσιν πνεῦμα ἅγιον• 16 οὐδέπω γὰρ ἦν ἐπʼ οὐδενὶ αὐτῶν ἐπιπεπτωκός, μόνον δὲ βεβαπτισμένοι ὑπῆρχον εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ. 17 τότε ἐπετίθεσαν τὰς χεῖρας ἐπʼ αὐτοὺς καὶ ἐλάμβανον πνεῦμα ἅγιον. 18 Ἰδὼν δὲ ὁ Σίμων ὅτι διὰ τῆς ἐπιθέσεως τῶν χειρῶν τῶν ἀποστόλων δίδοται τὸ πνεῦμα, προσήνεγκεν αὐτοῖς χρήματα 19 λέγων• δότε κἀμοὶ τὴν ἐξουσίαν ταύτην ἵνα ᾧ ἐὰν ἐπιθῶ τὰς χεῖρας λαμβάνῃ πνεῦμα ἅγιον. 20 Πέτρος δὲ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν• τὸ ἀργύριόν σου σὺν σοὶ εἴη εἰς ἀπώλειαν ὅτι τὴν δωρεὰν τοῦ θεοῦ ἐνόμισας διὰ χρημάτων κτᾶσθαι• 21 οὐκ ἔστιν σοι μερὶς οὐδὲ κλῆρος ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τούτῳ, ἡ γὰρ καρδία σου οὐκ ἔστιν εὐθεῖα ἔναντι τοῦ θεοῦ. 22 μετανόησον οὖν ἀπὸ τῆς κακίας σου ταύτης καὶ δεήθητι τοῦ κυρίου, εἰ ἄρα ἀφεθήσεταί σοι ἡ ἐπίνοια τῆς καρδίας σου, 23 εἰς γὰρ χολὴν πικρίας καὶ σύνδεσμον ἀδικίας ὁρῶ σε ὄντα. 24 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Σίμων εἶπεν• δεήθητε ὑμεῖς ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ πρὸς τὸν κύριον ὅπως μηδὲν ἐπέλθῃ ἐπʼ ἐμὲ ὧν εἰρήκατε. 25 Οἱ μὲν οὖν διαμαρτυράμενοι καὶ λαλήσαντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ κυρίου ὑπέστρεφον εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα, πολλάς τε κώμας τῶν Σαμαριτῶν εὐηγγελίζοντο.
3 But e Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he f dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Philip Proclaims Christ in Samaria 4 Now g those who were scattered went about preaching the word. 5 h Philip went down to the city 1 of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6 i And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him j and saw the signs that he did. 7 For k unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So l there was much joy in that city. Simon the Magician Believes 9 But there was a man named Simon, m who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, n saying that he himself was somebody great. 10 They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, o “This man is the power of God that is called p Great.” 11 And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had q amazed them with his magic. 12 But when r they believed Philip as he preached good news s about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, r they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And t seeing signs and u great miracles 1 performed, v he was amazed. 14 Now when w the apostles at Jerusalem heard that x Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them y that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for z he had not yet a fallen on any of them, but b they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then c they laid their hands on them and d they received the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, e “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God f with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for g your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, h if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in i the gall 1 of bitterness and in j the bond of iniquity.” 24 And Simon answered, k “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” 25 Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, l preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.