The Spirit Works In Samaria

Philip went to a large city in Samaria & preached to the people there that Jesus was the Messiah promised by God (249).    God used Philip to bring healing to many paralyzed & lame people, and to expel evil spirits from many other people. So there was great joy in that city.  And when they saw the miracles that were done, crowds of people began paying closer attention to what Philip said.

A man named Simon lived there; for a long time he had astounded the Samaritans with his magic tricks. He claimed that he was someone great, and everyone in the city, from every class of society, had been paying close attention to him.  “Simon has the great power of God,” they had said.

But when Philip came, many people believed his message about the good news of God’s kingdom & about Jesus Christ.  Many men & women were baptized to show their allegiance to Jesus.

baptism

Even Simon the magician was baptized.  From then on, Simon stayed close to Philip & was astounded when he saw the great wonders & miracles done by God through Philip.

The witnesses in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had received the word of God, so they sent Peter & John to them.  When they arrived, they found that the new believers in Samaria had been baptized with water for the forgiveness of their sins, but they had not yet been filled with the Holy Spirit.  So Peter & John laid hands on them & prayed that they would receive the Holy Spirit.

spirit

And as they prayed, so it happened; God’s Holy Spirit invaded & took over the lives of the new Samaritan believers!

Simon the magician saw that the believers had received the Holy Spirit when John & Peter placed their hands on them.   So he offered money to Peter & John, saying, “Give this power to me too, so that anyone I place my hands on will receive the Holy Spirit.”

But Peter rebuked Simon: “You are in danger of going to hell, for thinking that you can buy God’s gift with money!  You can have no part in our work, as long as your heart is not right with God. Your sinful envy is obvious.  You need to repent & pray that God will forgive you for even thinking of such an evil plan.”

Then Simon said to Peter & John, “Please pray to God for me, so that I may not go to hell.”

After they had shared their testimony and proclaimed God’s message, Peter & John went back to Jerusalem. On their way they preached the good news about Jesus in many villages of Samaria.

 

(249) Acts 8:5-25

Stephen Murdered!

As the council members heard Stephen’s accusation, they became furious, grinding their teeth at him in anger (248).

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven & proclaimed, “I see heaven opened & Jesus standing at the right side of God!”

With a loud cry the council members covered their ears with their hands, so as not to hear what they considered Stephen’s blasphemy. At once, they all rushed at Stephen, dragged him outside the city (Jerusalem), and began stoning him! The executioners left their cloaks in the care of a young man named Saul.

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As they kept on stoning Stephen, he called out, “Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then Stephen knelt down & prayed in a loud voice, “God, please do not remember this sin against them!”  And after he said this, Stephen died.

Devout Christians buried Stephen & lamented his death.  But that event was only the beginning of an extended persecution of the church in Jerusalem.

As a result of this persecution, Jewish Christians were scattered to various regions of Judea & Samaria, as illustrated by the ministry of Philip.

CNM14-Philip

However, the original 12 witnesses continued public ministry in Jerusalem.

The believers shared the gospel in every place to which they were scattered.  So God used this persecution — not to silence the good news about Jesus, but to proclaim it to more people in more places!

 

(248) Acts 7:54-8:4

Stephen’s Message: Accusation

Stephen concluded addressing the council of Jewish elders (247).

“Nevertheless, our ancestors had the tent of God’s presence with them in the desert. It had been made according to the pattern that Moses had been shown by God.

“After Moses died, our ancestors carried this tent with them, as Joshua led their successful invasion of the promised land.  The tent stayed among the people of Israel until the time of King David.

“David asked God to allow him to replace the tent with a temple for the God of Israel. But God had planned for David’s son Solomon to build him the temple.

temple

“However, we know that God does not live in temples built by men.  A prophet wrote that God once said: ‘Heaven is my throne & the earth is my footstool. What kind of temple could you possibly build for me?  Did not I myself make all things?'”

Suddenly, Stephen was moved by the Holy Spirit to accuse the religious leaders of Israel. “How stubborn you are!  How deaf you are to God’s message! You are just like your stubborn ancestors.  You also resist the Holy Spirit of God.

“Was there any prophet that your ancestors didn’t persecute? They killed all God’s messengers, including the ones who long ago announced the coming of his servant Jesus. And now you have betrayed & murdered Jesus, too!

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“You have received the inspired scriptures from God, yet you have refused to obey them!”

 

(247) Acts 7:44-53

Stephen’s Message: Moses (Prophet)

Stephen continued addressing the council of Jewish elders (246).

“After 40 more years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the Arabian desert near Mount Sinai. Moses was amazed & went near the bush to get a better look.

burning bush

“Then he heard God’s voice: ‘I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob.’  Moses trembled with fear & didn’t dare look up. God said, ‘Take your sandals off, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. I have seen the cruel suffering of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groans, and I have come down to set them free. Now I will send you to Egypt.’

“Moses was initially rejected by the people of Israel; ‘Who made you ruler & judge over us?’ they kept asking. But Moses was the one whom God sent to lead the people & set them free.

“As he led them out of Egypt, Moses was used by God to do miracles & wonders in Egypt and at the Red Sea and then for 40 years in the desert.

Moses-parting-the-Red-Sea

“Moses was also the one who said to the people of Israel, ‘God will send you a prophet, just as he sent me, and he will be one of your own people.’

“Moses received God’s living messages to pass on to us. But, repeatedly, our ancestors refused to obey him; they pushed him aside and wished that they could go back to Egypt.

“Once, while Moses was talking with God on a mountain-top, the Israelites said to his brother Aaron, ‘Make us some gods who will lead us. We do not know what has happened to your brother, Moses, who brought us out of Egypt.’  It was then that they made an idol in the shape of a calf, offered sacrifice to it, and had a feast in honor of what they themselves had made.

The Broken Tablets

“So God turned away from the children of Israel & gave them over to worship the stars of heaven.  This was written in the book of the prophets: ‘People of Israel, it was not to me that you sacrificed animals for 40 years in the desert. Instead, you worshiped idols like Molech & Rephan, your star god.  For this, I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.'”

 

(246) Acts 7:30-43

Stephen’s Message: Moses (Prince)

Stephen continued addressing the council of Jewish elders (245).

“When the time drew near for God to keep the promise he had made to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt had grown much, much larger.  At that time, a king who had not known Joseph began to rule in Egypt. This king was cruel, forcing our ancestors to kill their baby boys.

“Also at that time, Moses was born, a very beautiful child. He was cared for at home for three months, and then the king’s daughter adopted him & brought him up as her own son.

Moses 1

“Moses was taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians and became a man great in words and deeds.

“When Moses was 40 years old, he saw one of his fellow Israelites being beaten by an Egyptian.

Moses 2

“Moses took revenge on the Egyptian by killing him! He thought that surely his own people would understand that God was going to use him to set them free, but they did not understand.

“The very next day, Moses saw two Israelites fighting, and he tried to make peace between them.  ‘Listen, men,’ he said, ‘you are fellow Israelites; why are you fighting like this?’  But one of them pushed Moses aside. ‘Who made you ruler & judge over us?’ he asked. ‘Do you want to kill me, just as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?’

“When Moses heard this, he knew he had to flee from Egypt, or face execution by the king for killing the Egyptian guard.  So Moses went to live in Saudi Arabia, where he married & had two sons.”

 

(245) Acts 7:17-29

Stephen’s Message: Joseph

Stephen continued addressing the council of Jewish elders (244).

“In time, Jacob’s ten older sons became jealous of their younger brother Joseph & secretly sold him to be a slave in Egypt.

Joseph-sold-as-slave

“But God was with Joseph and brought him safely through all his troubles.

“When Joseph appeared before the king of Egypt, God gave Joseph a pleasing manner & wisdom, so that the king made Joseph governor over the entire country & the royal household.

“Then there was a famine all over Egypt & Israel, and our ancestors could not find any food.  When Jacob heard that there was food in Egypt, he sent his ten older sons, our ancestors, on their first visit there.  On their second visit, Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and the king of Egypt came to know about Joseph’s family.

“Joseph sent a message to his father Jacob, telling him & his whole family, 75 people in all, to come to Egypt.

joseph-and-his-brothers-300x224

“So Jacob moved to Egypt, where he and his sons lived the rest of their lives.  When they died their bodies were taken back to Israel, where they were buried in the burial place originally established by Abraham.”

 

(244) Acts 7:9-16

Stephen’s Message: Abraham

The High Priest asked Stephen if the accusations against him were true.  The Holy Spirit inspired Stephen to respond — first, by turning their focus toward God & all that he had done for the children of Israel (243).

“Brothers, please, hear me. God told our ancestor Abraham to leave his relatives & his residence in Iraq, saying, ‘Leave your family & country and go to the land that I will show you.’  So Abraham first moved to Haran; after Abraham’s father died, God directed him to move further on, until he arrived here in Israel.

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“At that time, God didn’t give Abraham any part of Israel as his own, not even one square foot of ground.  But God did promise to give all of Israel and the surrounding lands to Abraham & his descendants, even though Abraham then had no children.

promised land

“God told Abraham: ‘Your descendants will live in a foreign country, where they will be slaves & will be badly treated for 400 years. But then I will judge & punish the people who enslave them, and afterward your descendants will come out of that country & will worship me in this place.’

“God also gave to Abraham the ceremony of circumcision as a sign of this covenant promise. So Abraham circumcised Isaac a week after he was born; Isaac circumcised his son Jacob; and Jacob circumcised his twelve sons — the famous ancestors of our race.”

 

(243) Acts 7:1-8