Saturday, March 15, 2008

Conversions Spread Outside the Jewish Community

Acts 8

1Saul agreed that the killing of Stephen was good.

Troubles for the Believers

On that day the church of Jerusalem began to be persecuted, and all the
believers, except the apostles, were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.

2And some religious people buried Stephen and cried loudly for him. 3Saul
was also trying to destroy the church, going from house to house, dragging out
men and women and putting them in jail. 4And wherever they were scattered,
they told people the Good News.

Philip Preaches in Samaria

5Philip went to the city of Samaria and preached about the Christ. 6When
the people there heard Philip and saw the miracles he was doing, they all listened
carefully to what he said. 7Many of these people had evil spirits in them, but
Philip made the evil spirits leave. The spirits made a loud noise when they came
out. Philip also healed many weak and crippled people there. 8So the people in
that city were very happy.

9But there was a man named Simon in that city. Before Philip came there,
Simon had practiced magic and amazed all the people of Samaria. He bragged
and called himself a great man. 10All the people—the least important and the
most important—paid attention to Simon, saying, “This man has the power of
God, called ‘the Great Power’!” 11Simon had amazed them with his magic so
long that the people became his followers. 12But when Philip told them the Good
News about the kingdom of God and the power of Jesus Christ, men and women
believed Philip and were baptized. 13Simon himself believed, and after he was
baptized, he stayed very close to Philip. When he saw the miracles and the
powerful things Philip did, Simon was amazed.

14When the apostles who were still in Jerusalem heard that the people of
Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15When
Peter and John arrived, they prayed that the Samaritan believers might receive
the Holy Spirit. 16These people had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus,
but the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them. 17Then, when the two
apostles began laying their hands on the people, they received the Holy Spirit.

18Simon saw that the Spirit was given to people when the apostles laid their
hands on them. So he offered the apostles money, 19saying, “Give me also this
power so that anyone on whom I lay my hands will receive the Holy Spirit.”

20Peter said to him, “You and your money should both be destroyed, because
you thought you could buy God’s gift with money. 21You cannot share with us in
this work since your heart is not right before God. 22Change your heart! Turn
away from this evil thing you have done, and pray to the Lord. Maybe he will
forgive you for thinking this. 23I see that you are full of bitter jealousy and ruled
by sin.”

24Simon answered, “Both of you pray for me to the Lord so the things you
have said will not happen to me.”

25After Peter and John told the people what they had seen Jesus do and after
they had spoken the message of the Lord, they went back to Jerusalem. On the
way, they went through many Samaritan towns and preached the Good News to
the people.

Philip Teaches an Ethiopian

26An angel of the Lord said to Philip,” Get ready and go south to the road
that leads down to Gaza from Jerusalem—the desert road.” 27So Philip got ready
and went. On the road he saw a man from Ethiopia, a eunuch. He was an
important officer in the service of Candace, the queen of the Ethiopians; he was
responsible for taking care of all her money. He had gone to Jerusalem to
worship. 28Now, as he was on his way home, he was sitting in his chariot reading
from the Book of Isaiah, the prophet. 29The Spirit said to Philip, “Go to that
chariot and stay near it.”

30So when Philip ran toward the chariot, he heard the man reading from
Isaiah the prophet. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

31He answered, “How can I understand unless someone explains it to me?”
Then he invited Philip to climb in and sit with him. 32The portion of Scripture he
was reading was this:

“He was like a sheep being led to be killed.

He was quiet, as a lamb is quiet while its wool is being cut;

he never opened his mouth.

33He was shamed and was treated unfairly.

He died without children to continue his family.

His life on earth has ended.”

Isaiah 53:7-8

34The officer said to Philip, “Please tell me, who is the prophet talking
about—himself or someone else?” 35Philip began to speak, and starting with this
same Scripture, he told the man the Good News about Jesus.

36While they were traveling down the road, they came to some water. The
officer said, “Look, here is water. What is stopping me from being baptized?”
38Then the officer commanded the chariot to stop. Both Philip and the officer
went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 39When they came up out of
the water, the Spirit of the Lord took Philip away; the officer never saw him
again. And the officer continued on his way home, full of joy. 40But Philip
appeared in a city called Azotus and preached the Good News in all the towns on
the way from Azotus to Caesarea.

The Holy Bible, New Century Version


Persecution against the church after Stephen's death forced Believers to go beyond Jerusalem to share the gospel. Philip was the first example of such missionary activity.


The gospel is for everyone regardless of ethnic group. Therefore, Believers should be ready to witness to anyone who may be seeking.


You've heard the voice whispering your name, haven't you? You've felt the nudge to go and sensed the urge to speak. Hasn't it occurred to you?

You invite a couple over for coffee. Nothing heroic, just a nice evening with old friends. But from the moment you enter, you can feel the tension. Colder than glaciers, they are. You can tell something is wrong. Typically you're not one to inquire, but you feel a concern that won't be silent. So you ask.

You are in a business meeting where one of your coworkers gets raked over the coals. Everyone else is thinking, I'm glad that wasn't me. But the Holy Spirit is leading you to think, how hard this must be. So, after the meeting you approach the employee and express your concern.

You notice the fellow on the other side of the church auditorium. He looks a bit out of place, what with his strange clothing and all. You learn that he is from Africa, in town on business. The next Sunday he is back. And the third Sunday he is present. You introduce yourself. He tells you how he is fascinated by the faith and how he wants to learn more. Rather than offer to teach him, you simply urge him to read the Bible.

Later in the week, you regret not being more direct. You call the office where he is consulting and learn that he is leaving today for home. You know in your heart you can't let him leave. So you rush to the airport and find him awaiting his flight, with a Bible open on his lap.

"Do you understand what you are reading?" you inquire.

"How can I, unless someone explains it to me?"

And so you, like Philip, explain. And he, like the Ethiopian, believes. Baptism is requested and baptism is offered. He catches a later flight and you catch a glimpse of what it means to be led by the Spirit.

Were there lights? You just lit one. Were there voices? You just were one. Was there a miracle? You just witnessed one. Who knows? If the Bible were being written today, that might be your name in the eighth chapter of Acts. (From When God Whispers Your Name by Max Lucado)


Is there anyone you are not willing to tell about Jesus? Is there any place you are not willing to take the Good News? Ask God to give you the willingness and the courage. Let him direct you where he wants, not where you want.


Witnessing - Acts 13:46-47; Romans 1:14-16; 10:8-9: 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Galatians 2:7-9: 2 Timothy 1:8; 1 Peter 1:23-25.

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