The Believers Are Scattered
October 19 - Nº 292 Acts 8:1-25
Just before Jesus ascended into heaven, he informed the apostles that their role was to share the good news of his resurrection. They were to start in the city of Jerusalem, then go into the provinces of Judea and Samaria, and ultimately spread the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection all over the world. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would give them the power to do this (see #286 - The Disciples' Commission and Jesus' Ascension). Yet two years after Jesus had gone back into heaven, none of the apostles had ventured outside of Jerusalem. Their work and their witness were all within that one city. However, when Stephen was stoned (see #291 - Stephen, the First Church Martyr), everything changed. The believers in Jerusalem began to experience great persecution. Saul (who later became the apostle Paul) had witnessed Stephen’s death and even held the coats of those who participated. He led an angry mob of men who dragged believers out of their homes and threw them into prison. Because of this, many believers fled from the city and were scattered across the surrounding provinces. Wherever they went, they shared the message of Jesus. Philip, one of the new deacons (see #291 - Stephen, the First Church Martyr), ended up in a city in Samaria. Soon he began preaching there. The Holy Spirit gave him the power to cast out demons and heal the lame. His message and his miracles brought great joy to that city. As the people listened to Philip, they believed what he taught them about Jesus, and they were baptized. Up until that time, many of the citizens in Samaria had been devoted followers of a man named Simon. He amazed them with his witchcraft and occult magic. He boasted that his power came from God, but it really came from Satan. When he heard Philip’s testimony, he too believed that Jesus was the Messiah and wanted to be baptized. Simon followed Philip everywhere. He was astonished by the miracles Philip performed. When the other apostles in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had welcomed the gospel message, they sent Peter and John to meet with them and welcome them as fellow believers. After they arrived, the apostles prayed for the new believers and asked God to send them the Holy Spirit. (Although they had been baptized, the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them.) Then Peter and John laid their hands on the people, and they received the Holy Spirit. Simon, the sorcerer, was amazed at what he had just seen. He offered Peter and John money and said, “Give me this power so I can lay my hands on people and give them the Holy Spirit.” Peter replied, “Your money will be destroyed and so will you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You can have no part in this ministry because your heart is not right with God. You must repent and pray that He will forgive you and free you from your evil desires. It is wicked to think you can make money from God’s supernatural gift!” Simon immediately cried out, “Please pray for me! I don’t want the things you have said to happen to me.” Peter and John stayed in Samaria for a while and preached God’s Word. They gave testimony about Jesus in many of the villages. Then they headed back to Jerusalem.
God’s gifts are not for sale! Simon wanted to use God’s power for his own personal gain. We should not listen to anyone who offers us spiritual blessing in exchange for something that will benefit them. We must freely give what we so freely received!