Updated: Jun 19, 2020
Stephen’s death was only the beginning. A wave of persecution was being unleashed on the community in Jerusalem-- and the church was scattered to Judea and Samaria (Jerusalem was the capital city; Judea and Samaria were the regions to the north and south of Jerusalem. Judea and Samaria were approximately 100km apart-- for reference, Singapore is 50km from east to west.)
Philip Proclaims Christ in Samaria
4 Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. 5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6 And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was much joy in that city.
Simon the Magician Believes
9 But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. 10 They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11 And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.
14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” 24 And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”
25 Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.
Is there a verse or passage that stands out to you? Why? Take a moment to pray about those verses.
Verse 13 says that Simon “believed” and was baptised. However, it later becomes clear that Simon’s faith was misplaced. The object of his faith was the power of signs and wonders. He was amazed and excited, but being amazed and excited is not the same as saving faith. Signs and wonders are merely a signpost pointing to Jesus, and Simon never looked further than the signpost. As John Piper said, “He missed the glory and beauty of Jesus Christ, who was crucified and rose again so that we could be reconciled to the Father. We can have all the spiritual experiences possible by looking at the finger of power. But until we turn to the Lord himself, there will be no true faith.”
Take a moment to check your heart. Have you pursued spiritual experiences and moral standing more than God himself? Repent and ask God to help you change. What are some ways that you can refocus on Christ?
In the beginning of this passage, we see God using persecution to further the mission of the church. What was meant for evil, God turns for good. Even as we are “scattered: today, how can we continue to share the good news of Jesus Christ? How will you share Christ with the people around you?