Bryan R Braswell
The Book of Acts is The Right Source of Information
Concerning conversions of how to become a Christian and member of the Lord’s Church, the book of Acts is where we find our examples. This is where we find every account of those who obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine, the gospel that is the power of God unto Salvation (Romans 1:16; 6:17). Nowhere else in the Biblical text will you find, by way of example, the church in its establishment, origin, work, and conversion of her members, in a nutshell form. In this book alone we find the historical accounts of fulfilling Jesus’ great commission to the apostles as recorded in the later parts of the gospel accounts. In that commission Jesus spoke of the responsibility the apostles would have beginning in Jerusalem and waiting for the promise of the Holy Spirit to empower them to go and preach the gospel to the entire world and to every creature (Luke 24:44-49; John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13; Acts 1:1-14). Is this book we find how Jesus accomplished his promise of establishing the church (Matthew 16:18). In Acts we find how the church was to be organized and operate under the authority of the "apostles doctrine" upon its establishment (Acts 2:41-47; 14:23; 20:7). The book of Acts is indeed a powerful statement of inspiration set in order to pattern ourselves after as members of the church of Christ (II Timothy 3:16,17).
When contemplating how one must be saved, there are different sources one could consider. First, one might consider what their parents say. Second, you might look to what other "religious" leaders say—traditions of men. Or, thirdly you might gaze into God’s word and define by way of Biblical example and authority what He says you must do to be saved (Acts 2:37-38). In this study we want to look at the account of those in Samaria as found in Acts 8:5-25.
Exposition of Acts 8:5-25
Samaria is a very interesting place for our study. Jesus had told his apostles approximately two years before not to go into the way of the Gentiles or Samaria when "preaching the kingdom at hand" (Matthew 10:1-7). This message was of course a preparatory message to get the people ready for the establishment of the kingdom/church in Acts 2. Samaria was a culturally mixed pagan area. Because of problems that date back to the time of the Divided kingdom when Jeroboam took ten of the tribes of Israel and established false worship in Dan and Bethel, this area was the region of Samaria or where the "Northern Kingdom" was established (I Kings 11-12). The Northern Kingdom was first to go into Gentile Captivity, and as a result never to be restored. This all was the result of their rebellion against God. Nevertheless, there would be a certain remnant of "Jews" or what was known as the Samaritans because of their mixed relationships and marriages with the Gentiles. This area was highly despised by the Jews of the Southern kingdom of Judah.
When Jesus gave the partial commission He did not want his apostles to go into that region. Only upon one occasion Jesus Himself is found there while on His way to Galilee. He had to pass through this region because it was on the way to His home—Galilee (John 4:1f). It is during this time that He teaches the woman of Samaria about the time and hour when the true worshippers would worship the Father in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24). This discussion is related to her confusion about where and how to worship because of the problems from the past division dating back nearly a thousand years.
Upon Jesus’ great commission of Matthew and Mark (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-20) they explicitly teach that the great commission would go beyond the boundaries mentioned in the context of Matthew 10 and would effect "every creature."
According to the statement made in Acts 1:8 (which makes for a good outline for the book of Acts) Jesus said to His apostles before ascending to the Father, "…ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Herein is the progression and process to take place as the apostles will go and preach the gospel to the entire world and to every creature—Samaria is where we end up in Acts 8.
It is after the martyrdom of Stephen and persecution incited by the Jews again in Acts 7 that lead the brethren from Judea and Jerusalem into the regions of Samaria (Acts 8:1). Upon this persecution we are introduced to Philip who "went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ unto them"(Acts 8:5).
Practical Lessons From This Context
What are some of the lessons we can learn from this context? The first thing we can learn from this is that despite the physical persecution they went everywhere preaching the word (v. 4). When they were under severe attack from the evil forces of Satan they didn’t lay down and die. They went everywhere and preached the gospel of Jesus Christ, knowing that God would work things out. They didn’t bow down or compromise the truth because society disagrees with the truth. Maybe it was their conviction and confidence because of the devout Stephen who preached to his death in Acts 7 that helped motivate them. We need more Stephens in the church of our Lord today.
Second, when Stephen went to Samaria he preached Christ (v.5). Some have said that that’s what we need to do today, and I agree. But the question is: what does it mean to preach Christ? Some have the idea that preaching Christ is a concept leaving out the doctrine or fellowship principles of Christ message. By closely examining the context Philip not only preached the name of Christ, but also the kingdom of Christ which would represent rules of government in the body, organizational concepts, and all things that pertain to the ruling, and authority of Christ and His church (v. 12). It is also noted that based upon the preaching of Christ and the kingdom the Samaritans responded (v. 12). The clarity of the message was unmistakable and those that heard it received it with gladness and readiness of mind to be active participating members of the body of Christ based upon their obedience. The message of salvation includes the message of the one true church. We must make sure before baptizing one that they understand this role as a Christian.
A third lesson we can learn from this context is the difference between pseudo miracle workers and the real miracles of God and their purpose. Simon the Sorcerer (v. 9) of long time bewitched the people of Samaria claiming to do magic and trickery to deceive them. Just as the magician today has to study, practice, and purpose to do these acts of trickery, so it was the art during this time (vv. 9-12). The miracles in the Bible all centered around one thing and that was the confirmation of the word of God (Mark 16:20). Philip was able to do the true miracles of God so the people of Samaria could and would be convinced (v. 6). Simon on the other hand had done things he had studied and practiced so he could be considered a man of greatness. But when the true miracles and message were tied together of Philip, there was no doubting its power, significance and purpose. Those today that stand on stages and deceive the hearts of the simple with these so called emotional experiences and quick fixes that deal with tooth aches to toe aches should consider the purpose and point to the miracles in the Bible. I ask the question, what are those today converting people to? The miracles Philip did were so undeniable that Simon himself converted to the truth (v. 13). I wander what the people thought then? Well, nevertheless Simon still has a difficulty with power, because it states that he "wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done" (v. 13b). This problem will culminate in verses 19-24. When Peter and John heard that Samaria had received the word (v. 14) they came down to lay their hands on them so that they might be partakers of the Holy Spirit (vv. 15-17). It was when the apostles laid their hands on some, not all; Simon offers to pay money for this power, or authority, or "gift," and is strongly rebuked by Peter (vv. 18-24). Peter refuses his offer by saying "thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God…because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money" (vv. 20-21). It is the conviction of this author that the "gift of the Spirit" found in Acts 2:38 (in connection with their obedience to the gospel) is the same here (vv. 14-20) and that only the apostles could administer the "gift" and this was all for a purpose. Thus the purpose of the "gift" was to confirm, to be perfected, to be fully established until that which was perfect was to come—the Perfect law of Liberty—the fully revealed and fulfilled gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:20; Ephesians 4:7-15; Romans 1:11; I Corinthians 13:8-13; James 1:25; Romans 1:16). Miracles have ceased, prophecies are through, and we are completely under that which has fully been revealed (II Peter 1:3; Jude 3; James 1:18-25). The purpose of miracles and things of that nature during the first century were to confirm and convict the believers of the word of God. Jesus prayed, "Father sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth," and Paul said to take the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God"(John 17:17; II Peter 1:3). The Spirit is referred to by Jesus as the "Spirit of Truth," thus the Spirit revealed the truth, confirmed the truth, and today we have all the truth we need or we are without hope (John 15:26; 16:13).
Those today that claim to perform miracles and such should prove it. Have them come out and raise the dead, or heal someone with a deadly disease, or mend a compound fractured leg bone instantaneously and miraculously and quit deceiving the hearts of the simple!
The Final lesson is that even though the apostles were men of divine authority invested in the truth, they were not to high minded after their visit to Samaria to go throughout the region and evangelize the area of pagans (v. 25). Christianity isn’t about one victory. Christianity is about humility, and perseverance in preaching the gospel to the lost of all nations and races. No matter who you are, you must be fully assured of your responsibilities as a Christian. If a lectureship is your duty and obligation do it with all your heart and ability and make the right application. If a gospel meeting is your opportunity do all you can to reach all people in the area. We must preach the gospel, and that focus and direction must be balanced to both lost and saved. Let’s not lose our balance in preaching and teaching the gospel to the world. It’s our privilege and honor.
Please e-mail me (Bryan Braswell) if you have any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
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