Advancing the Conversation of Jesus
Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.
NOTE that it was the scattering of the church of Jesus, due to the great persecution against them, that spread the Gospel message outside of Jerusalem.
Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. So there was much rejoicing in that city.
Philip’s ministry was interrupted by a powerful local magician by the name of Simon: But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed. Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit.
Remember that the first time we see the Spirit come upon the believers in Jesus was in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). But now there are other believers, Samaritan believers in Jesus, who need the Spirit to come upon them. The apostles sent Peter and John over to Samaria to oversee this first-time baptizing of the Holy Spirit coming upon them. By Peter and John coming from Jerusalem, this kept the continuity of the Spirit’s work. Later we’ll see the Spirit coming upon a group of Gentile believers and then He will come upon a group of John’s disciples. All of these were first-time events of the Holy Spirit coming upon believers to not only be with them, but to dwell within them eternally. Now, whenever a person becomes a believer, the Spirit comes upon him/her at this initial moment of faith.
So, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans. But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, “Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road.) So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” [And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea.
This entire passage is a series of divine appointments: – Philip went into the normally forbidden area of Samaria and found an incredible response to the message of Jesus. – Even Simon, the magician, came to Jesus. – The message spread throughout the surrounding villages in Samaria where Peter and John went preaching on their way back to Jerusalem. – Philip was sent for an appointment the Lord already had set up with the Ethiopian Eunuch, who was searching out the Scriptures. – Then, the chapter ends with Philip being sent down to Azotus for other appointments from their up the coast to Caesarea.
It seems the more pastors and leadership heads you have, the greater the distance is between leadership and the people. In fact, if you are becoming so large and so organized, you may run the risk of being too cumbersome or find yourself putting all your energies into making your “service” most attractive for the many spectators you will inevitably be producing. Maybe the early fellowship was on to something after all. Maybe this simplicity of leadership is at the core of why the early fellowship grew so fast and did so in multiples.
DIVINE APPOINTMENTS happen continually in our lives. Some are scheduled appointments that you know you are facing for the day. Some are spontaneous appointments where you know the people, but you didn’t know you would be seeing them. And others are surprise appointments with people you don’t even know. This is why I teach a very basic life principle: WHEREVER YOU ARE, BE ALL THERE WITH JESUS AS YOUR PARTNER! Divine appointments: God sets them up; all you must do is show up! That’s the best way to fulfill your primary purpose in life: TO LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND TO LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.