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Mar 3 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 28, 2016 – Acts Chapter 8

The Word Goes On the Road

Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him.
But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. 
Acts 8:1-4

Intro: In this chapter we are going to get lessons in evangelism

I rarely address this subject and for a number of reasons

  1. Both “personal” and programmatic evangelism have been overemphasized
    • the term “Great Commission” never appears in the Bible
    ◦ the great commandment (and second) do appear–in Jesus’ teaching
    ◦ but they are often ignored or merely given lip service
    • John 3:16 is a foundation for thinking theologically about evangelism
    For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
  2. Step-by-step methods of “soul-winning” miss the point
    • it is typical that in our western world we reduce evangelism to a “science”
  3. Evangelism is less about what we do than who we are
    • the hypocrite’s preaching betrays rather than supports the gospel
    Klyne Snodgrass, in discussing the parable of the Good Samaritan said, “The parable, like most of Scripture, is concerned with identity. In effect, when people asked Jesus ‘What do I have to do?’ he asked in return ‘What kind of person are you?’ . . . what we are cannot be torn from what we do.”

To be clear: Evangelism is the communication of the evangel, with the intention to persuade people to receive the message, respond with faith and repentance, be forgiven their sins and become followers of Jesus Christ.

Evangel is “gospel” in the New Testament, meaning a good message or good news
– evangelizo is to evangelize – bring good news
• this word occurs five times in this chapter and is associated with four other words:
1.) the word, 2.) the Spirit, 3.) baptism and 4.) rejoicing (the effect of receiving it)
– to evangelize is to tell the story of Jesus
• but those who tell it must have a personal experience of salvation through Jesus
◦ they are witnesses of Jesus’ power to transform a human life
◦ this has been emphasized in Acts from the start (1:8, 22; 2:32, 40; 3:15; 5:32; etc.)

Verses 1-4, Incentive to take the word on the road

Here’s something you won’t find in any Guide to evangelism:

To Pastors: The way to motivate your congregation to get out of the church and preach the gospel, do something to bring such intense persecution that they are driven from the church. Or set the building on fire.

– verses 1-4 could have been a fitting conclusion if placed at end of chapter 7
• their purpose here is to provide a transition to the events of this chapter
• perhaps there is benefit in seeing the gospel thrive under the shadow of persecution

Stephen’s death unleashed a flood of pent up rage
– we do not know persecution
• at least not like believers at other times and in other places
• I grew up in a denomination that considered itself persecuted
◦ it wasn’t persecuted, but we were criticized and ridiculed for being weird
– there’s no need to go looking for persecution
• if we don’t live in a time of persecution, let’s not create it
◦ but neither is it right to avoid persecution at all costs
◦ and at the very least we are to:

Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. (Heb. 13:5)

• follow Jesus as authentically as you can and you will come under attack
◦ and most likely, the assault on you will come from other Christians

An odd effect that we will see repeated in Acts:
– Christians in distress, forget their own suffering and devote themselves to others
• in fact, this was built into Paul’s mission for God
• in response to Ananias’ objection to praying for Paul, Jesus told him,

Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;  for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake. (Acts 9:15-16)

Verses 5-8, A city in Samaria catches fire

Philip may have been heading for Caesarea
– it’s where he arrives at the end of this chapter and where he later settled (Acts 21:8)
• we note that Philip was proclaiming Christ
◦ the heart of his message was the person of Jesus
– notice the one accord in which the Samaritans listened to Philip
• it means to share the same passion, to have one mind and purpose
◦ we have seen this before in both positive and negative examples
one impulse in 7:57 (same word) moved the Council in exactly the opposite direction
• giving attention reminds us that attention is always a gift people grant us
◦ that it is sometimes given us calls for gratitude and respect
◦ their attention had been drawn to Philip by miraculous phenomena

Verses 9-13, A local celebrity joined the movement

Simon’s magic had “astonished” people in that area
– the locals had been giving Simon their attention prior to Philip
– he used his skills to promote himself, claiming to be someone great
• sounds like one of our current presidential candidates
• I wonder if his supporters given his candidacy sufficient serious thought
◦ what it would mean to put a megalomaniac in the White House?
◦ it did not go well with Rome when Nero was Emperor
(nor, in recent history, has it gone well for Cambodia, Uganda, Haiti, or North Korea)

But back to the good news in verse 12, which is related to:

  1. the kingdom of God — this term can be used interchangeably with eternal life
    • for example, Mk. 10:17, 23, 30; Jn. 3:3, 5, 15-16
    ◦ this becomes ours through Jesus Christ
    ◦ his person, ministry, life, death and resurrection
    • the good news is that you are invited to enter God’s kingdom
  2. the name of Jesus – his name is not transcendent
    • it exists within world of our experience; we can speak it
    • it serves as a bridge to God and his transcendent kingdom
    ◦ we will see later in Acts how Jesus responded when called upon by name

– Simon, the magician who had astonished the crowds, was himself astonished

Verses 14-17, Too much has been made of this brief passage

Theologians have wrestled over what looks like a two-stage salvation process
– this can be fairly easily resolved if we follow the prepositions
• Jesus told his disciples the Spirit was with them and would be in them (Jn. 14:17)
◦ we may assume the Spirit entered them when He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (Jn. 20:22)
◦ then Jesus told them they would receive power when the Spirit came upon them (Acts 1:8)
– to be saved is to have the Spirit living within us
• but at times the Spirit comes upon us to empower us for his work
• then we do something that is beyond our capability

Francis Schaeffer explained, “Though we today are immediately indwelt by the Holy Spirit when we accept Christ as Savior, being indwelt is not the same as having the fullness of the power of the Holy Spirit. . . . Christians today are to follow the same order [as the disciples]: to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit at salvation and to know something of the reality of the power of Christ through the Holy Spirit–and then to work and witness. . . . There are to be many ‘fillings.’”

◦ this is especially for evangelizing, exercising spiritual gifts in church, and glorifying God
– what happened in Samaria, is the word was combined with the Spirit
• we can think of the word as candle and the Spirit as flame
◦ there is the revealed truth and the breath that gives it life
• we need to realize this when we tell others about Jesus
◦ the Spirit adds something to our words that we cannot duplicate
◦ an “evangelism course” cannot prepare us for this
◦ we prepare ourselves by sanctifying Christ as Lord in our hearts (1 Pet. 3:15)
◦ this is why we don’t want clever clever evangelistic gimmicks

. . . and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power (1 Cor. 2:4)

Verses 18-24, Simon the magician got the wrong idea

Perhaps Simon want to retain his “star” status among the local populace
– we can feel the hard edge of the severe reprimand Peter gave him
• I hear an echo of Jesus’ severe reprimand of Peter, even calling him “Satan!”
◦ and this occurred immediately after Jesus changed name
◦ (what was Peter’s name before Jesus changed it?)
• Peter was rebuked for his wrong idea — he had not set his mind on God’s things
◦ Simon’s wrong idea was that he thought he could could purchase the gift of God
◦ sadly instances of mistaking God’s thought for ours are normal
– the “authority” Simon wanted did not belong to Peter and John
• they weren’t performing a trick or illusion
• Simon’s magic had been about himself
◦ what the apostles did and preached was not about themselves (2 Cor. 4:5)
◦ and they did not do it for money (2 Cor. 2:17)

Verses 25-40, Peter and John made their way back to Jerusalem

Meanwhile, Philip was deployed to Gaza where he met a foreign diplomat
– the Ethiopian was reading the prophet Isaiah
• Philip asked him if he understood what he was reading
• people find the Bible difficult to understand
◦ Dad described his ministry as putting the Bible within reach of the average Christian
– the Ethiopian asked Philip whether Isaiah was talking about himself
• this was an observant question
• very similar to this encounter was Jesus’ teaching in Nazareth (Lk. 4:17-22)
◦ he also read from Isaiah
◦ though Luke said people were impressed by his message he recorded only one line

Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

◦ in similar fashion, Philip began with the Isaiah quote and preached Jesus

Evangelism is introducing people to Jesus

Conc: When we evangelize, our message is not:

“Look at me. I’m the type of person God produces”
– rather, I am the type of person God accepts anyway
• I am not God’s best child, but I am still his child
◦ our credibility is not our perfection but our honesty regarding our imperfections
• and that in spite of them, God takes us as his own
– Philip was a refugee from persecution
• but when he saw the great need in Samaria he could not help himself
◦ he had to speak out — he had to share the good news
• do you think you cannot do the same? You can — you will

When you see other people struggling, and that they are held down by something that once held you down, but you won that battle through Jesus Christ, then you will want to speak up. In fact, you will find it impossible to repress the urge to share the story of your encounter with Jesus.

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