Archive for the ‘Daily Bible Study & Questions’ Category

Acts 8:9-25 Give Me Some of That!

We are continuing on with Philip in Samaria. Reading my bible helps, they tell me that this Philip wasn’t the apostle Philip like I had said the last time. I’m no great bible scholar or historian so I will take their word for it.

Today we meet another “character” in Samaria that Philip ran across. It is “The Great Simon” who was a magician. He spent many years fooling the people with his magic. He had them convinced that what he did came from God. He himself knew the truth but he wasn’t about to share it with his audience.

Simon hears Philip’s teaching and watches the works that he is doing. Everyone is listening to Philip and believing what he is teaching. They are even committing to Philip’s teaching through the outward sign of baptism. This was one of the first things new believers did after professing belief in Jesus and asking for forgiveness from their sins. “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). That was Peter’s answer on Pentecost when asked by those listening to that first sermon what they must do. The Samaritans are following those instructions too.

Simon appeared sincere in his belief and followed it with baptism too. He also followed wherever Philip went. He was blown away by the miracles he was seeing. I’m wondering what he actually thought about the miracles he was seeing. Was he always trying to figure out the “tricks” Philip used? Was he attributing the miracle to Philip or Jesus whom Philip preached about? Did he notice there was a difference between Philip and the new believers?

Word of all that was taking place in Samaria had reached the apostles in Jerusalem. They come down to check it out. I’m curious as to what they were expecting to find. Were they excited to hear that the Samaritans had believed in the same gospel they had? Were they going for the purpose of checking it out or for praying for them to receive the Holy Spirit? We know what they did once they got there but what was their intent when they left on that journey?

When they got there I’m certain they were excited! So many new brothers and sisters in the faith! Jesus didn’t exclude these people and neither would they. They prayed that the rest of Jesus’ promise and God’s presence would inhabit these brother and sisters the same as it did with their counterparts in Jerusalem. This group was technically of Jewish decent so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to welcome them into the fold.

Simon watched all the activity and paid close attention to the process. He was still trying to “peek behind the curtain.” He watched the hands so closely that he missed the heart behind it. The apostles were praying for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit out of love for them and for Jesus, not as some ritual that had to be performed to be able to check all the boxes.

We are not told that Simon received the Holy Spirit or even that the apostles prayed for him to do so. I don’t know if he was at the end of the line or if they recognized his heart’s condition even before he opened his mouth. What he witnessed though convinced him he wanted a part of this.

As the Holy Spirit was only present after the apostles’ prayers and laying on of hands, Simon assumed that they had some special talent that allowed them to perform this task. Maybe he thought it was part of their “higher ranking.” Whatever it was he wanted in on it. He thought he might purchase; after all, that’s how most magicians acquired their newest tricks. Did he want this talent so he could make money with it by offering it to others or was he planning on giving it out as freely as the apostles were?

Peter’s response was swift and strong. This was NOT for sale! Even the idea of buying God’s gifts was repugnant. I wonder what would have happened if Simon had asked that the apostles pray for him to also be able to share this gift. His money was no good! It only proved the condition of his heart.

I won’t judge Simon’s heart but the Spirit appears to have done so through Peter. “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God” (verse 20-21)… “I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity” (verse 23). Instead of being filled with love towards his fellow new believers Simon was jealous of Philip, Peter and John. He was no longer center stage in his region. He had been upstaged by true power. He lost his hold on the people. Could they now see him for the fraud he was?

Simon’s response tells me that Peter was right on. Simon didn’t repent of his attitude. Nor did he pray to the Lord for his own forgiveness. He asked that Peter pray for him and intercede on his behalf with God. If he really had the change of heart associated with receiving Jesus he would have asked HIS Savior himself. Outwards signs with no inward change.

The gift of sharing the Holy Spirit through laying on of hands and prayer didn’t die with the apostles but was given freely to those who believe. The Spirit is still available today to all who truly believe. This is the kind of heart God can use to do great things! Greater than Simon ever imagined.

Father God, forgive me for the times I was a Simon. Someone who put on the pretense of a changed life without the actual heart change. Thank You for getting through my exterior and taking up real residence in my life. Thank You that I can come to You when I mess up and don’t have to ask someone else to bring my needs before You. Help me be able to see the motives of the heart with those I deal with. Help me know when to stand strong and call it out and when to gently come along side and steer them to the truth they are missing. Steer me to the truth I’m missing too Lord.

Acts 8:4-8 The Word Spreads

The longest journey starts with a single step

We saw the tide turn on the church the last time we were together. Their message was NOT popular with the religious leaders but the people were lapping it up. With the stoning of Stephen though the religious leaders are on a roll and prepared to stamp out the new church wherever they encounter it, especially in Jerusalem. So the body has broken up into smaller pieces and is reestablishing itself outside of Jerusalem.

Today we get to see one of the results of the disbursement of the church. Philip, one of the twelve apostles has gone on a short “missions trip” to Samaria. This is certainly one place the religious leaders won’t follow him. They are adamantly against associating with any Samaritan. But the apostles learned directly from Jesus that they were to love these people and bring the word to them too. Read more »

Acts 8:1-3 The Aftermath

Notice the beginning structure of a nest?

We have just witnessed Stephen being stoned to death. He received this “sentence” because he professed belief in Jesus as the Messiah. He had committed NO crime and was not guilty of any offense worthy of death. For the new church, first blood has been shed. Not the first drops of blood, as the apostles were beaten on previous occasions. I am also NOT discounting Jesus’ blood being shed. His blood paved the way for the possibility of the church. But this was the first person recorded as killed for his faith in Jesus Christ. So what happened next?

Attitudes and behaviors changed on BOTH sides of the conflict at this crossroads. On the side of the new church, it brought about a disbursement of the people. “They were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles” (verse 1b). The apostles remained in Jerusalem but those who didn’t live in Jerusalem previously left the city for their own protection. Read more »

Acts 7:54-60 Stephen Meets Jesus

Grace under pressure in spades

We are at the conclusion of Stephen’s story. I have no doubt that Paul/Saul relayed this story to Luke after he himself came to know Jesus. Who else would have been in attendance to witness how Stephen met Jesus. I also believe the Holy Spirit burned this event into Saul’s memory that day. I want to take us into that council room personally today and see it through firsthand eyes. We will need to back up a little bit to have a better view of that day.

Stephen has been serving the people for a couple of months now in his new position. He makes certain that EVERYONE is included and that no one goes hungry or without. He is also praying for people and they receive their healing through the working of the Holy Spirit. He is becoming well known among the community. You hear people speaking about his works anywhere you go in Jerusalem. Read more »

Acts 7:1-53 Stephen’s Testimony

The Spirit’s witness through Stephen

Stephen stands before the council accused of blaspheme. The specific charges were “this man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law” (verse 13). Well, let’s see how Stephen answers these charges.

The first thing Stephen does when asked to answer the charges is to address everyone in attendance (and judgement of him) as respectfully as possible. Stephen takes the charges very seriously and in answering them he starts at the beginning of the Jewish history, with Abraham, to lay a firm foundation for his testimony. He doesn’t give them his personal conversion testimony but God’s account of how the law was delivered and how the “holy place” was established and what their own ancestors, and themselves, did with what God had given them. Read more »