Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Acts 8:4-40

Philip, one of the seven, went to Samaria and proclaimed Christ to those he met. He healed the sick and cast out demons. Luke says that the crowds "with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip" (8:6). One would think that this might have something to do with Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman a few years earlier (John 4).

A sorcerer named Simon watched Philip and was jealous. For many years he was the one with great powers, and everyone gave him attention. Even so, he was curious about the two-fold message that Philip was preaching: (1) good news about the kingdom of God and (2) the name of Jesus Christ. Many believed and were baptized, among them Simon the Sorcerer.

Word quickly spread back to Jerusalem, and Peter and John were sent to see it for themselves: the Samaritans had believed! They also came to lay hands on these new believers and pray that they might receive the Holy Spirit. When Simon observed this, he quietly went to Peter and John and offered them money if he too could do this. Peter rebuked him and warned him to repent. Simon obeyed.

Some time after this an angel appeared to Philip and told him to go back towards Jerusalem and down to Gaza, which was a coastal city. He didn't tell him why, and Philip didn't ask. He just obeyed. On his way he ran into an Ethiopian eunich who worked for Queen Candace. He was on his way back from Jerusalem, where he had journeyed to worship. Philip saw that he had the Scriptures opened to Isaiah. Luke points out that the Spirit told Philip to go closer to the Ethiopian's chariot. Again, Philip obeyed.

Philip then asked a simple question: "Do you understand what you are reading?" The Ethiopian was obviously hungry to know truth, but indeed did not understand what he was reading. In fact, he said that he would never understand it unless he had someone to help him understand. The chariot stopped, Philip got in, and he looked to see what the Ethiopian was reading. It was from Isaiah 53. Luke says that Philip began with this Scripture and told the Ethiopian the good news about Jesus.

Right about this time they drove by a small body of water. The Ethiopian asked Philip if he could be baptized. Right after he came out of the water, he looked around and Philip was gone. He had vanished. Philip found himself in Azotus, about twenty miles north of Gaza. Understandably a little excited, Philip headed back to Caesarea (another 40-60 miles north), preaching the gospel to all he came in contact with.

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