AM May 22nd Acts 8

May 22nd    Acts 8   (Judea & Samaria - To the Gentiles) Persecution increases


1: And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2: And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3: As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

Philip in Samaria

4: Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. 5: Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. 6: And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7: For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. 8: And there was great joy in that city. 9: But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: 10: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. 11: And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. 12: But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13: Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. 14: Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: 15: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: 16: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17: Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. 18: And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, 19: Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. 20: But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. 21: Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. 22: Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. 23: For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. 24: Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me. 25: And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.

It seems from scripture that persecution comes in waves. And here Luke describes a great persecution which broke on the church of God at Jerusalem. It seems that the immense blessing of God on the message of the Gospel was going to be tested in the furnace of suffering and the effect will be the scattering of the disciples and greater glory to God. Stephen was buried by godly men and there was great mourning over his burial. The Church had lost a very great man of God. Saul inspired by the murder of Stephen set out on a project of arrest and imprisonment of christians everywhere he could find them. The believers like all Jews were used to travel and so they took to the countryside. They thought that being absent for a while was the best escape from persecution. When Saul arrived at hundreds of Christian houses he found them empty. Philip the Deacon went down to Samaria to preach the Gospel and he found great success as Christ himself had found a Sycar. Philip preached but he also performed many miracles as proof of his apostolic authority. The people where overcome by joy in the knowledge of these Messianic signs. Simon the sorcerer, who previously used his powers to bewitch the people became a believer and was baptised. Peter and John were sent by the Apostles down to Samaria to pray that the Holy Spirit might come upon the people. This act of public association healed the separation between the two streams of blessing. Simon when he saw that the Holy Spirit was given by the laying on of hands by Peter offered him money so that he might have it too. But Peter gave him a very severe rebuke. Simon was shocked and repented and pleaded with Peter for him to pray for his forgiveness and that the judgment of God might not fall on him. Peter and John returned to Jerusalem preaching in many of the villages of the Samaritans on their way.

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