Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

05/01/16 Sermon - Holy Spirit Come

“Holy Spirit Come”

Acts 8:1-25

 

I have here a deck of Tarot cards. These cards are generally used by psychic readers to offer those who pay to have their future described, in order to find the power to cope with life. I had a New Testament professor, at Fuller Theological Seminary, John Drake, who told us about how he and another NT professor would go to New Age fairs, in Australia, with their tarot cards, two chairs and a card table, and set up a booth to read people’s future. It turns out that on each of the cards is an appropriate figure or sign that directly correlates to someone or something in the Scriptures. So whenever a card came up, they would go directly to the Scripture that card represented and begin sharing the Gospel story. Tarot card readers, crystals of New Age devotees and the amulets of a witch doctor are common in many societies today. Just as they were in the first century.

We left off in the book of Acts last week, in Chapter 7, which ended with the stoning to death of Steven, a Greek Jewish Christian, who was the first martyr for the Christian faith. His stoning causes the remaining Hellenists to fear for their lives and so we find the Hellenist Jewish Christians scattering. In particular, Luke tells us about Philip, one of the seven, along with Stephen, who had been chosen to assist with taking care of the Greek speaking widows, back in chapter 6. Philip chooses to travel to Samaria.

There is some history concerning the Samaritans that will  be helpful to understand the story. Samaritans were known as “half-breeds” and had been in conflict with the Davidic Messiah Jewish people since the Assyrian exile, in 722BC. There was a long history of animosity and prejudice between Palestinian Jews and Samaritans. The biggest conflict had to do with where they each thought the holy place of Israel was located. The Samaritans believed it was on Mount Gerizim, whereas the Palestinian Jews believed the holy place was Jerusalem. Luke tells us that Philip began preaching Christ, as the person in whom the kingdom of God had come.

We also need to remember that Jesus had told the disciples that his message was to be spread to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem.

Up to this point, the disciples had been sharing the gospel to the Jews in Jerusalem, then they advanced to the Jews of the dispersion, the Greek-speaking Jews, now they are going to the Samaritans, the half-cast Jews, and soon to the God-fearers and then to the Gentiles.

God accompanies Philip’s announcement with signs of healing. Many people hear Philip’s preaching and Luke writes that they believe and are baptized, However, there was no outward sign that they had received the Holy Spirit.

Luke doesn’t go into the reasons why the Holy Spirit had not come to the Samaritan believers, but we do read that news about the conversions and baptisms of the  Samaritans had spread back to the believers in Jerusalem. So they send two of the apostles, Peter and John, to Samaria. The first thing the apostles do, is pray to the Lord, that the Spirit may fall on the Samaritan believers, and as they lay hands on them, the believers receive the Holy Spirit.

Amazing!

Especially to a man named Simon.  Simon was already the most popular sorcerer in Samaria. He had a regular business going on amongst the Samaritans. One would think that he would have wanted to run Philip out of town, for cutting into his business. We read that Simon hears what Philip had to say and notices the healing he has been able to perform, and instead of being jealous and wanting to get rid of him, Simon becomes a believer and is baptized. Yet, like everyone else, he does not initially have the power of the Holy Spirit, until the apostles come and lay on hands and pray. Simon immediately wants to learn how to lay on hands and give others the Holy Spirit. So he offers the apostles money in trade for the authority to grant the Holy Spirit to whomever he lays hands on.

Purchasing a priesthood in the first century was common practice, especially in the Jewish temple.

But the apostles understood correctly, that God’s kingdom was not for sale. It was free grace, and would not be seen as cheap grace.

Peter let’s Simon know that his heart is not right before God. Simon had one foot in eternity, but his heart and mind were still focused on the ways of the world. What Simon needed to do was to recognize the seriousness of his lost condition and seek repentance.

What are we to do with this description of Samaritans coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, but not receiving the Holy Spirit?

Up to this point, there has not been a need for the laying on of hands in order to receive the Holy Spirit.

Does that mean it is possible for us today?

Can that leave us to wonder, “What about me? Have I received the Holy Spirit?”

Especially those of us who have not been part of the Pentecostal movement, where one may ask, “Did you speak in tongues when you were converted?”

The consistent teaching of the apostles and their customary practice was that the giving of the Holy Spirit is a birthright of every Christian, received at conversion (Acts 2:38, 1 Co. 12:3, 13).

There is no consistent pattern for a second-state giving of the Spirit by the apostolic laying on of hands. Therefore the Samaria experience should be viewed as unique, not normative.

This leads me to ask, So what was the reason for it’s happening at this time in Samaria?

To this regard I believe it was done to create “unity”. Unity in the church of Christ among people whose history and ancestry was chuck full of schisms, schisms along every line that could exist within a people group.

The Jews of Jerusalem and the Samaritans had detested each other for centuries.

By sending Peter and John, two of the apostles, to be a part of the confirming of the Samaritan converts, the invitation from God was cemented and did not leave any space for a division between the Jews and the Samaritans. It was great that Philip was able to preach in Samaria and share the gospel, and even greater that there were those there that chose to believe, but the idea of the Samaritans being accepted into the first century church which was made up of entirely Palestinian Jews was daunting. Luke demonstrated that the Jerusalem church was sanctioning the conversions from Philip’s preaching by offering the laying on of hands and the giving of the Holy Spirit.

The focus of unity is one of Luke’s themes throughout the book of Acts. This unity began with believers of the feuding Jewish faith, the Jews from Jerusalem and the Greek speaking Jews. Now even the Samaritans were given the same theological foundation.  From there the body of Christ spread into all of the world, and the concept of unity, among all humans, was best stated by Paul in Galatians 3:28,

“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise.”

Did you catch that last phrase? If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, we are all in the same family.

As members of the family of God, I would like to encourage you to consider two items of thought from today’s passage.

 

The first item focuses on the personal aspect of our faith. The apostles address Simon by warning him about the consequences of not embracing the gospel wholeheartedly. Simon thought the power of the Holy Spirit was something he could buy. That was how things were done up to this point, and still done today. Peter’s response made it quite clear that for those who think they can have “the best of both worlds” they are only fooling themselves. 

The relationship with God, through Christ, could not be bought, traded or pretended. Because God is able to judge the heart, we are told in 1 Samuel 16:7,

 

"Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 

 

Take some time this week and analyze your heart. Are you playing the world game, looking good on the outside, striving to be seen as having it all together, when honestly, your heart seeks other things more than it seeks after God?

The irony is, that the very things we strive for, and hold on to so tightly, oozes through our fingers. Yet when we give the throne of our heart over to God, who knows us better than we know ourselves. We are able to enjoy the things that He gives us because we aren’t so busy holding on to them.  

The second item I believe this passage focuses on is a community thing. It is the idea of unity.

The first century wasn’t the only time period where people of different cultures, backgrounds and identities were attempting to worship God together, in harmony.  In 1 Corinthians 12:13, we are told that we are baptized into one body and that each of us is gifted uniquely for

 a wonderful blend of diversity,

not individualism,

within unity,

not uniformity.

 

Just as the Jerusalem Jews were able to accept the Samaritans as brothers and sisters, in Christ, so we, as 21st Century Christians need to open our hearts and our doors, to all others who are part of the family of God. They will know we are Christians by our love and our unity, the working together, to further the kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven. We need to celebrate our unique contributions under the wings of the universal Lordship of Jesus Christ. United we stand, divided we crumble.

May we be found living, Working, loving and worshipping side by side with all who abide under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

 

Let’s pray.