1 And Saul approved of their killing him. Referring to Stephen from chapter 4
And on that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.
9 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. 12 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
The truth is I could sit on this passage for an hour but I want to highlight a few things we should all take away from it this morning.
We discover through Saul, that even though he was the number one enemy of the Christian church and of Jesus Christ, no one is beyond the mercy and Grace of God.
We learn that no matter who we are, what we’ve done, or how violently we may have lived against Christ and his kingdom…GOD, through that grace, can make us mighty vessels FOR the kingdom, rather than enemies against it…just like with Saul, who became Paul.
We discover that through His grace, demonstrated through the work of Jesus Christ on Calvary's cross, we are all worthy of a new name…AMEN? Because the FINISHED work of Jesus has infinitely more power than any deed of darkness we may have ever done. Infinitely more power than whatever you may be struggling with today. Infinitely more power than anything in your life that has or is grieving the heart of God, even if today!
We discover in verses 4-8, that when living for Jesus gets tough, true disciples don't run and hide, they don't play undercover Christianity. They don't allow the “cancel culture” of the day to silence them or squash their faith! Regardless of the persecution that might come, under the power of the Holy Spirit, true disciples keep preaching the gospel and revealing its power. Because blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake for THEIRS is the Kingdom of God!
Listen if you want to REAP the kingdom, and all it has… you have to sow it!
Finally, these few verses are the ultimate reminder that unless we are willing to GO’, therefore, and preach the gospel, everywhere…the world in which we live will remain under the control of the deceptions and the darkness of the devil and the Spirit of Simon.
By understanding that the "Great Commission" to every believer, is not just to "come to church" or to "have church": the great commission is to "BE THE CHURCH".
It is to BE the body of believers who are willing to GO into the workplace, and GO into the school, and GO into the campus, the neighborhood, the restaurant or grocery store, and Shine the light of the Gospel: where there will always be a Simon in control, until we do.
So GO and BE THE CHURCH! Today's devotion takes us to Acts chapter 8, where we find the church in Jerusalem, coming under intense persecution following the stoning to death of Stephen, who was the head deacon of the church in jerusalem.
We also find that all of the persecution coming against the church was headed by Saul of Tarsus, who we would later come to know as the Apostle Paul. However, in verse 3, at this moment in his life, he was wreaking havoc on the city, trying to cleanse it of Christianity and all the followers of Jesus Christ.
And in verse 4, because of the persecution that Saul was bringing, we find that all the disciples, and followers of Christ, were being scattered to the surrounding cities, preaching the gospel everywhere they went, namely in Samaria.
We also find in verse 9, in the same city of Samaria, a sorcerer, or a warlock, by the name of Simon, who was considered to be in control of the city, deceiving the people through the powers of darkness…Enough so that he was called the Great Power of God…And He loved his Greatness!
But his greatness came into jeopardy when Philip stepped into the city and began to preach the gospel and demonstrate the true power of God and his Kingdom. The greatness of Simon slipped away when Philip began to share the Power of God unto Salvation…which is the word of God.
And this passage demonstrates the desperate need for the Gospel of Jesus.
Lord, as we enter into 2023, help us to be more than those who go to church, help us to BE THE CHURCH that GOES: a body of believers, who are willing to GO therefore into all the earth, sharing the Gospel and overcoming the spirit of Simon, even in the face of persecution. Amen!