Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes


Philip in Samaria
Pastor Steve Schell
Acts 8:4-13
People need a God who actually does something. We live in a world filled with varieties of invented gods and philosophies. They only exist because of someone’s imagination. They make great claims but provide no proof they exist. We’re told to trust them, and after we die it will all become real. How many different theories about life and death have you heard? Undoubtedly, the answer is, so many (and they all contradict one another) that you may have been left wondering if reliable truth about the spiritual world exists anywhere, or is all religion just guesswork? And before someone answers, “Well, at least we know Christianity is true!” May I ask how we know that? What caused you to entrust your eternity to Jesus Christ? Yes, Christianity is a beautiful religion, and by comparison (my judgment) most of the religions of the world look like something a human invented, but what could you turn to and say, “See, this isn’t something we invented in our minds. It’s true, here’s proof!” Now, I know in the final analysis we all have to walk by faith. Nothing can be absolutely proven to the philosophical skeptic. But still there are many who walk with God in deep assurance. So, how far is God willing to go to prove Himself to human beings? Do we dare ask for proof or will such presumption make Him angry (if He’s there)? Philip, preaching in Samaria, gives us an answer.

What happened? (Acts 8:4-13)
• (v6) “The crowds gave heed to the things being said… as they heard and saw the signs he was doing”
- Unclean spirits coming out
- Paralyzed and lame healed

Simon the Shaman
In verse 10 Luke tells us that before Philip arrived, all, from small to great, “gave heed” to Simon because of the sorceries he did. The people of Samaria needed help and Simon offered power. They were tormented by demonic activity and many were sick and injured, and if people can’t get help from God, they’ll look elsewhere. And there is power in other religions. Paul says its source is demonic (1Co 10:20), but it’s power nonetheless.
What we see happening in Samaria is a classic example of what missionaries call a “power encounter.” Who’s stronger your god or mine? And we see here how easily Jesus wins those battles, when we let Him. Yet, sadly, Western Christianity has turned our faith into a cold, powerless, secularizing force. We go all over the world telling people demons don’t exist and God doesn’t do miracles anymore. But, we say, people better believe our doctrine because if they don’t they’ll go to hell! “God doesn’t prove Himself anymore, you’ll just have to trust us.”

Open doors
People need God, but not everybody knows it. The need they know they have, may be their need for protection or a job or healing or for the nightmares to stop. Few realize how much they need their sins forgiven. There is something in the human heart called pride that sees the sin in others very clearly but not our own. It has to be pretty bad before we’ll use the word “sin” to describe our own behavior. Yet God is willing to meet people in the area where they know they need help. He enters through any door we’ll open because He’s kind and loves us, but of course He hopes that kindness will lead us to repentance (Ro 2:4). Jesus put it into perspective when He asked “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mk 8:36). Each of us needs something far greater than health, safety or provision. We need mercy. We need a Savior. But we may not know that yet.

Proving He’s real
God isn’t afraid to prove Himself to us. In fact it’s the normal way He deals with people in the Bible. There are many examples of God proving that He’s real, and that he’s good, before He asks someone to submit to Him as their Lord.
• Ex 19:1-8 You’ve seen all I’ve done, now will you enter into covenant with Me?
• Jn 10:37, 38 “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.”
• He delivered and healed (Mt 8:16)
• He spoke words of knowledge (Jn 4:17, 18)
• He performed signs (Lk 5:4-11; Jn 20:30)
But Jesus also refused to perform sign for some who asked.
• Mt 12:38-42: 16:1-4

He doesn’t do magic tricks. He only does works that are consistent with his character, and when He knows someone is open to the truth. If a person will honestly pray, “God if you’re real, show me,” in His own way and timing, He will.

But some people aren’t asking honestly. They demand miracles as a way of avoiding God. They demand a sign which they hope won’t be done so they can pretend they gave God a chance and He failed. Usually there is an underlying agenda. They don’t want to see that God’s real, because if they do they will be forced to submit to Him, and change.
• Jn 3:19-21 “…he who practices the truth…”
• Someone who’s honestly seeking the truth
To show proofs to the deliberately hard-hearted only brings great condemnation.
• Lk 16:28-31 “’No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead’” (Lazarus and the rich man).

Counting the cost
God is asking people to make a very costly decision. If we want Him to save us we must trust our eternity to His Son Jesus and surrender everything, serving Him for the rest of our lives. And He doesn’t ask people to make this decision without proof. For those who trust the Bible, the Bible is proof enough, but there are many who don’t know about the Bible and for someone to say “it’s in the Bible” isn’t enough for them. So, we still need God to show Himself powerful in our day. And the good news is He will. He hasn’t changed.

Application
So what does this mean for us as believers? Do we all have to become miracle-workers to prove to people that God exists? No, we just have to do our part. He’s the only one who can prove himself to anyone. Here are some lessons we learn by watching Philip in Samaria:
1) We aren’t responsible to produce miracles, but we are responsible to pray for those who ask. Philip didn’t chase people down. He must have told them about Jesus and then ministered to someone as the Spirit led him, and once God moved, people just kept asking for help.
2) It’s important for each of us to learn to pray with faith and authority. Spiritual ministry is an essential part of witnessing. “Can I pray for you?” often comes before leading someone to salvation.
3) We must recognize that when Jesus says “go into the world” it is not just to speak, it’s also to minister. The two go together. He wants to “confirm” what we preach.
“And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed” (Mk 16:20).
4) We won’t be afraid to encourage someone to pray “Lord, if you’re real please show Yourself to me,” because we know if it’s a sincere request He’ll do something amazing in that person’s life. He’ll speak to them in a way they can hear.

All authority (Mt 28:18-20)
He doesn’t send us out to just preach a message. We aren’t left powerless having to persuade everyone with the eloquence of our words. We go out clothed with His authority. This is why the Great Commission starts out with these words, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (v18), and ends with these words “…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (v20). Everything belongs to Him, just as the promised land belonged to Israel, but they still had to fight to take what God had given them. Here’s one of the promises Jesus must have had in mind when He said this: “I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance. And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.’” (Ps 2:7, 8)

Like soldiers, we go out into the world and extend the boundaries of His authority. Only we don’t fight people, we fight the enemies of God:
• Deception | Ignorance | Disease | Demons | Injustice | Poverty | Loneliness

And we don’t use swords, spears or guns, we use:
• Truth | Healing | Deliverance | Generosity | Community

And this is what it sounds like when we win:
“So there was much rejoicing in that city.” (v8)
“But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike” (v12).

Closing prayer
• Eyes: open my eyes to see what You are doing
• Ears: open my ears to hear what You are saying
• Hands: anoint my hands to minister your power to the sick and harassed and broken-hearted

Questions
1) Can you remember a moment when you suddenly realized, “Wow! He’s real!” Would you share that with us?
2) When did you realize you really had sinned and desperately needed forgiveness? For some this is an easier question than others.
3) Have you laid hands on anyone to pray for them? Tell us about the most recent. How did you pray? What happened?


 


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