And You Will Be My Witnesses
Acts 8 July 23, 2000
Boundaries, barriers, and barricades.
They are all around us in life.
They can be protective, but most often we think of them as hindrances to what we would like to do or accomplish.
How have you encountered them in your life?
We also encounter these boundaries and barriers in the proclamation of the gospel.
Last week we discussed the witness of Stephen.
The question we addressed in that passage was, "What steps might the Holy Spirit require of us as we live out our faith in Christ?"
The answer we discovered was that we may be required to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.
The H.S. may call upon us to present the truth of Christ to difficult people.
The H.S. may call upon us to suffer false accusation for the truth of Christ.
The H.S. may call upon us to defend the truth of Christ in the public arena.
The H.S. may call upon us to sacrifice our lives for the truth of Christ.
We saw many parallels in Stephen's life with the life of Christ.
He became the first martyr.
Stephen had to overcome some barriers in his own flesh, I'm sure, to become that kind of a witness.
And the witness of his life eventually overcame the boundary of hatred in Saul.
This morning's passage in Acts 8 tells us about Philip, the first evangelist.
And this passage begs a further question about overcoming boundaries and barriers.
In what ways can we anticipate the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit to help us in our partnership of proclaiming the gospel?
I. Cycle One
A. Narrative (vv. 1-8)
Animosity between the Samaritans and the Jews:
1) Separation of the 10 tribes from Jerusalem, Judah, and Benjamin after the reign of Solomon and the disruption of the monarchy.
2) This became racially fixed with the destruction of the city of Samaria by Sargon of Assyria and the policy of deportation and mixing of populations.
3) Intensified in Judean eyes by Samaritan's opposition to rebuilding Jerusalem temple after Babylonian exile, and by their erection of another temple on Mt. Gerizim about the time of Alexander the Great.
4) They identified themselves with the Sidonians and joined with the Seleucids against the Jews.
5) Sealed for the Samaritans by John Hyrcanus's destruction of the Mt. Gerizim temple and the city of Samaria.
6) Samaritans refused Herod's offer to rebuild their temple along with his reconstruction of the Jerusalem temple.
7) The Jews lumped the Samaritans along with Idumeans and Philistines as the three most detested nations.
Was Philip's conversion of the Samaritans inadequate that they had to receive the Spirit from the apostles?
Haven't we understood from God's Word that the Holy Spirit is received when one believes in Christ as Savior?
It was important for the Samaritans in particular to connect with Jewish apostolic authority.
They received what they needed from the Jews and the Jews were able to give them what they needed.
God had worked in ways that were conducive not only to the reception of the good news in Samaria but also to the acceptance of these new converts by believers in Jerusalem.
God had worked in a way that promoted both the outreach of the gospel and the unity of the church.
When we are called upon to proclaim the gospel, we can count on the Spirit's wisdom and power to overcome cultural barriers.
II. Cycle Two
A. Narrative (vv. 9-25)
Simon Magus thought himself someone great.
Many Greeks were synthesizing the various Greek gods into one universal male deity and the goddesses into another female one.
Simon is said to have claimed to be the incarnation of the male form of the deity, while his consort, Helena, was its female form.
Justin mentions that he was accompanied by Helena, a former prostitute whom he called his "First Idea".
Irenaeus said that Helena was in reality, according to Simon, the mother of all the angelic orders, but when she came under the bondage of her own progeny he had become incarnate to free her, and to bring all men to faith in himself.
Simon Magus was quoted by Jerome as saying, "I am the Word of God, I am the Comforter, I am the Almighty, I am all there is of God."
He derived his own trinitarian formula according to Justin. Simon revealed himself in Samaria as Father, among the Jews as Son, and among the Gentiles as Holy Spirit.
Eusebius said Simon was the author of all heresy. He was the heretic par excellence of the sub-apostolic age.
Simonians were early Christian gnostics.
"Simony" came to mean the buying and selling of ecclesiastical offices.
Simon became the arch-antagonist of the apostle Peter and prolonged arguments between Simon and Peter are reported in extra-canonical literature.
It is said that Peter devoted himself to undoing the havoc caused by Simon in numerous places.
These encounters appear in other forms in the gnostic writings "Acts of Peter and Paul" with Rome as the center of the conflict.
Peter finally conquers the heretic, who dies and fails to rise again.
Simon's cult in Samaria may well have been the seed of the later aberrations of the Simoniani.
The cult became part of the wider 2nd century Gnosticism.
Luke's account in Acts presents this as an early encounter with Satan and his instruments of evil, but is presented in a way that there is a certainty of a continuing victory for Christ and his church.
Origen was able to say in the 3rd century that the Simoniani had dwindled to insignificant numbers.
See 2Peter 2 about false teachers. It may have been Simon that Peter had in mind.
As in Ananias and Sapphira, no one can cheat the Spirit, and here with Simon, no one can own the Spirit.
Was Simon truly converted? I don't think so.
When we are called upon to proclaim the gospel, we can count on the Spirit's wisdom and power to overcome spiritual barriers .
III. Cycle Three
A. Narrative (vv. 10-40)
When we are called upon to proclaim the gospel, we can count on the Spirit's wisdom and power to overcome physical barriers .
In what ways can we anticipate the Spirit's application of providential wisdom and power in our partnership of proclaiming the gospel?
We can anticipate the Spirit's providential wisdom and power to be applied in overcoming cultural, spiritual, and physical barriers to proclaiming the gospel.
We can count on the Spirit's power and wisdom to give us the visa/passport, the interpreter, and the plane ticket to accomplish his purposes.
When it comes to proclaiming the gospel, all we have to do is claim it, and leave the rest to the Pro.
Closing Hymn: #415, He Giveth More Grace