Sermon for July 18, 2021

Not everyone that believes the Gospel are Saved

Acts 8:3-23

Acts 8:3-23

3 But Saul was going everywhere to destroy* the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison.4 But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went. 5 Philip**, for example, went to the city of Samaria and told the people there about the Messiah. 6 Crowds listened intently to Philip because they were eager to hear his message and see the miraculous signs he did. 7 Many evil* spirits were cast out, screaming as they left their victims. And many who had been paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.

9 A man named Simon had been a sorcerer there for many years, amazing the people of Samaria and claiming to be someone great. 10 Everyone, from the least to the greatest, often spoke of him as “the Great One—the Power of God.” 11 They listened closely to him because for a long time he had astounded them with his magic.12 But now the people believed Philip’s message of Good News concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. As a result, many men and women were baptized. 13 Then Simon himself believed and was baptized. He began following Philip wherever he went, and he was amazed by the signs and great miracles Philip performed.

14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had accepted God’s message, they sent Peter and John there. 15 As soon as they arrived, they prayed for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit. 16 The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, for they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John laid their hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit.18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given when the apostles laid their hands on people, he offered them money to buy this power. 19 “Let me have this power, too,” he exclaimed, “so that when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!”20 But Peter replied, “May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! 21 You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God. 22 Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive your evil thoughts, 23 for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin.”

* destroy-ελυμαινετο (pronounced eh-lume-ia-veh-tow)(lumia means to outrage, to corrupt), from λυμαινω (pronounce luma – in- new), to destroy, devastate, ravage, signifies the act of ferocious animals, such as bears, wolves, and the like, in seeking and devouring their prey.  This word is only used once in the whole Greek New Testament.

**Philip is one of the seven original deacons, along with Stephen who had just been martyred by Saul.  Explains why Philip is in Samaria and not Jerusalem or anywhere in Judea, this would be beyond Saul’s reach as having authority.  Stephen was killed in Jerusalem (Acts 6:7).

Though Luke does not say (the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles is, or should be considered, as one work), it is possible that the persecution is directed specifically against Hellenistic Jewish Christians, and those who share Stephen’s views, those who downplay the importance of the temple. At least, the Hellenistic believers are the ones whose work Luke now begins to describe (8:4; 11:19). Williams[1] says,

We need not understand by the word all that every member of the church left the city; verse 3 shows that they did not. Luke is prone to use “all” in the sense of “many” (see Acts 9:35). But even of those who left, many may soon have returned. [Ibid., 151.]

This point is indicated by the fact that the apostles, who seem supportive of Jewish institutions such as the temple, are not forced to flee Jerusalem (8:1). Also, we find disciples in Jerusalem a short time later (9:26). This round of persecution apparently does not last long. Luke soon notes that the church throughout Judea, Samaria, and Galilee is living in peace (9:31). Later we will see that the church in Jerusalem is flourishing under the leadership of James. He is called James the Just and is known for his piety and respect for Jewish institutions. (But even he will be martyred under the urging of the high priest in A.D. 62.) Richard Longenecker[2] points out:

With the martyrdom of Stephen, the Christians of Jerusalem learned the bitter lesson that to espouse a changed relationship to the land, the law, and the temple was (1) to give up the peace of the church and (2) to abandon the Christian mission to Israel. [page 353.]

“Luke intertwines his story of the Samaritan mission with that of a famous local religious personality named Simon, generally called Simon Magus or Simon the Sorcerer (Magician). He looms large in the writings of second-century Christians as the first heretic, troubler of the church, and founder of Gnostic Christianity. The early Christian theologian Irenaeus (A.D. 120-202), bishop of Lyons, France, calls Simon the originator of several heresies. [Against Heresies 1:23.] Justin Martyr, a native of Samaria who died around A.D. 165, says that his countrymen revered Simon as “the first god” or God above all. [Apology 1:26.] Luke notes a similar belief about Simon, saying he is known as “the Great Power” (8:10). According to Justin, Simon goes to Rome during the reign of emperor Claudius (A.D. 41-54), where his feats of magic bring him great honor.

Exactly how the Simon of Acts 8 is related to Simon Magus of later legend is not clear. So much myth has gathered around his name that it is difficult to assess his real importance. If the Simon of Acts 8 is Simon Magus, and he is anywhere near as prominent as later writers say he is, then Luke may have good reason to include him in his account. By the time Luke writes, Simon and/or his followers may be well-known opponents of the church. Simon may even be claiming to be part of the church, teaching in its name. After all, “Simon himself believed and was baptized” (8:13). Luke may want to make clear to his readers that Simon has no relationship with the Christian community, nor does he have the approval of the apostles and Holy Spirit — despite the fact that he (or his followers) claim Christian roots.”[3]

Proverbs 14:12-18

12 There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. 13 Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief.14 The faithless will be fully repaid for their ways, and the good rewarded for theirs.15 The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.16 The wise fear the Lord and shun evil, but a fool is hotheaded and yet feels secure.17 A quick-tempered person does foolish things, and the one who devises evil schemes is hated.18 The simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.

[1] [David J. Williams, Acts, New International Bible Commentary (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1990)

[2] [Richard N. Longenecker, “Acts,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 9 (ed. Frank E. Gaebelein; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1981)

[3] Paul Kroll, a journalist working for Grace Communion International. Copyright Grace Communion International. The research was done in the mid 1990s, but all articles were edited in 2012 by Michael Morrison, PhD, professor of Biblical Studies at Grace Communion Seminary.

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